How To Run A Pet Competition That People Want To Enter!
Have you ever thought about running a pet competition for your ideal customers?
But then you thought, “Why would I do that? Who would be interested?”
There are lots of pet competitions out there and are people really that bothered about them?
You may be thinking your town is too big, too small, there aren’t enough pets, no one would enter…and so on.
Well, those are ALL just excuses.
Your competition will not fail because of any of those reasons, it will fail because:
- You don’t put enough thought into it.
- There is no reason for people to enter their pets – the competition is not compelling enough.
- You don’t plan the competition.
- You run the competition over too short of a time period.
- You don’t invest in promoting your competition.
- The prize is not well thought out.
- There is nothing unique about your competition.
Done correctly a pet competition can be a real boost for your business:
- Increase the number of loyal social media followers that you have.
- Create brand awareness.
- Give credibility to your business.
Done correctly this can be an annual pet competition that you can build on year after year.
The last pet competition that I ran for our pet sitting and dog walking business generated a huge amount of brand awareness and loyal advocates for our business.
Our official stats from the last competition we ran were:
new likes on Facebook
new subscribers to our email list
One of the main reasons the competition was so successful was that it was well structured and organised.
It’s important to have a very clear plan of what you want to achieve before you start so you can have everything in place to ensure the competition’s greatest success.
This guide will take you through all the elements of a good pet competition and help you come up with a plan for your own competition.
And not just any competition – a good competition.
So let’s get stuck in and start planning your pet competition.
Note – through the guide you will see in red examples from my most recent pet competition. These will help you when putting together your own competition.
Note – through the guide you will see in red examples from my most recent pet competition. These will help you when putting together your own competition.
Decide on a Concept
What is the reason for your competition?
It’s really important that you decide what your end goal is for the competition.
Keep in mind the type of people you want to enter their pets. If you are not clear on your ideal customer, I would spend some time figuring that out now so you can be sure who you are targeting.
You need to realise from the start of planning that you are running a business and keep your overall business goals in mind.
Are you looking to simply gain new followers on Facebook or are you looking to create brand awareness? Maybe you are doing it to raise money for a charity or as a recognition of your appreciation of your current customers.
Whatever it is – decide beforehand. If you have a clear vision, it will make it easier to plan out how you want the competition to run.
I would strongly suggest that a competition be used to increase brand awareness and authority in your area.
There will be a cost (both time and money) involved in running the competition, so it’s important that you bring in business as a result of the money you spend on the competition.
Example – Right from the start of setting up our pet competition, I knew that it needed to bring in customers. The goal was to increase our brand awareness resulting in more paying customers.
A competition can be fun – but you shouldn’t just do it for the fun of it.
Example – My annual pet competition is called The Nose of Tralee, inspired by a famous Irish beauty contest The Rose of Tralee. It’s run at the same time as the Rose of Tralee and I follow a very similar format to their competition.
People relate to it, they find it fun and just like girls all over Ireland want to be the Rose of Tralee for the year, pet owners want the Nose of Tralee crown for their pet.
Choosing a name for the competition
Picking a good name for your competition is key to its success. Make the name memorable.
Cutest Puppy or Most Awesome Dog really isn’t going to cut it. You need to think of something that stands out in your area and tie the competition into that in some way.
The name needs to be something that people can connect with. Maybe you have a famous park, statue, football team, competition in your area that you can in some way link to the competition. Be careful, though, that there is no copyright on any names that you decide to use or to link to the competition.
Can you run the competition parallel to a prestigious competition in your area? Or maybe follow a similar format to a well-known competition?
You will get better press out of a competition that has a quirky and clever name rather than something like ‘New York’s Cutest Dog Competition’ – it’s probably already been done and it probably wasn’t that great!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to take time to get this right. If you are planning to run the competition annually, you want a competition name that people will remember.
How are you going to involve your community?
Your community is the people that you want to become your customers so involve them!
Something that your community can relate to and become involved in will mean more to people. You want people to share your competition and be excited about it. For this to happen, they need to care about the competition.
Above all, there should be a great desire for their pet to win the competition.
How often will you run your competition?
I recommend making your competition an annual event. Consider the time of year you are going to run it to get the most out of it.
Doing a competition at Christmas, for example, is probably not going to do as well. People are busy, they have a lot going on and might not have the time to get involved. You probably don’t want to compete for attention with Santa!
Also, don’t rush the competition. Let it run over a few months. You need to build excitement around it and make sure lots of people enter.
You also want to get as much press out of it as possible.
What is compelling about your competition?
A competition which gives the finalists and winner prestige at the end of it will be a lot more successful. People love their pets and if they knew that their pet was going to be crowned the winner of X competition for the following year, it will mean a lot more to them. They will WANT that title.
If you create levels in your competition, maybe by area or county or suburb, you will create a certain amount of internal competition. For example, people will get behind the finalist from their area and share the competition to ensure they win. You will be surprised how competitive people become.
Look at X Factor and how people vote for people from their hometown. They don’t know the person, they might not even be the best contestant, but they have a connection with them because they are from the place they grew up!
This is what you want for your competition.
Example – The Nose of Tralee pet competition allows entries from 32 counties in Ireland. Initially you are competing with other entrants from your county, but when you make it to the final 32 you are then competing with other counties. This is when it gets exciting because people want to get behind their county and make sure they win.
What is your budget for the competition?
Unless you have 20,000 to 30,000 Facebook fans, thousands of Twitter followers and a huge email list, you will need to spend money on promoting your competition. So I would set aside a minimum of $500 to run the competition.
You will need money mainly for advertising – which I would suggest doing through targeted Facebook ads. But there will also be some money required for prizes.
We gave finalists a sash and asked them to take photos wearing it for the final round of judging. It was a great way to get people involved and also an amazing way to get our logo in every photo. All sashes had our logo printed on them. There is, of course, a cost to doing this – so you need to plan out your budget beforehand.
Decide on a Structure
What levels will there be in the competition?
I would suggest three levels to your competition for greatest exposure. It will give the competition longevity and more people will see it. It also means you build some excitement. People are delighted to get to the finalists’ stage and once that happens you can create a Facebook group for all of those people.
Over the years, you will have a large Facebook group of loyal fans. (Note – Do not be tempted to let every entrant into the Facebook group. It needs to be an elite group of finalists. Remember – not everyone will be happy their cat or dog didn’t win!)
Announce the winner!
- Level 1 – Initial Entry – 2 to 3 weeks of allowing people to enter, followed by 2 to 3 weeks open to public vote.
- Level 2 – Finalists – Top 3 with the most Facebook votes from each area/county/suburb are selected to be judged by the judges. The judges then select a finalist from each area/county/suburb.
- Level 3 – Winner – Finalists are selected to go to a public vote which takes place over 2 weeks.
How will you manage the competition?
I would suggest a Facebook app to run your competition. I have used both Shortstack and Woobox to run a competition and Shortstack is, by far, the better option for its mobile version.
Do not try to run the competition through likes on your Facebook page. It looks unprofessional and it won’t work. You need to spend the money using an app.
How are people going to vote?
You need to have an element of public vote and judging. The public vote will get people sharing the competition to gain votes (so more people will hear about it) and the judges add a certain amount of credibility to the competition.
Judges should be 2 or 3 respected people in your community. Don’t ask friends or family to be judges.
Example: For the Nose of Tralee, we had 3 judges in the first year (a photographer, an author, and a comedienne). For the second year, our first year winner ‘Buster the Dog’ joined the judging panel.
What are the prizes?
There should be a minimum of 2 prizes – a main prize for the winner and a runner up prize. You can ask people to sponsor the prizes. For example, ask a photographer to give a photo shoot as the main prize or a pet store to give a hamper.
Be careful about the size of the company that you ask to give prizes – you don’t want your own business to get swallowed up by the status of a larger company. Remember this is your competition to promote your company – so you need to be the headliner.
Example: The Nose of Tralee main prize is a photo shoot with your pet, plus a pet sitting voucher. Runner up prize is a pet goodies hamper and a pet sitting voucher.
Incorporating the Competition Into Your Website
The competition needs to be clearly advertised on your website. There should be a dedicated page to explain everything about the competition
There should be details for people to enter, how the competition works, VERY CLEAR terms and conditions, and information for any press to use if they are writing about the competition.
Make it easy for people to learn what your competition is about.
I would recommend purchasing the URL for your competition name. Then if you are doing advertising, you can use the URL for any promotional literature.
It will also make it easier when giving out the name. All you need to do then is redirect that URL to the page on your website where everything is detailed.
Example: I purchased www.NoseOfTralee.com for the competition and directed it to the competition page on our pet business website.
Blog Posts/Press Releases
Just like you should be doing to promote your own business and services you offer, you need to blog about the competition.
Blog posts should include what the competition is, how people enter, why their pets want to enter, interviews with all the judges, interviews with the finalists, promotion of the winner etc.
The more you blog about it the more content you have to share.
Example Blog Posts:
It’s really important to create good promotional images to share on social media and to use in your advertising.
Keep in mind that you will want to use the images for Facebook ads, so remember the 20% rule when it comes to text. Have the images branded with your logo and include the hashtag and URL for the competition.
Make sure you change all of your social media headers to promote the competition and direct people to the competition page.
Promoting the Competition
Don’t be overwhelmed by all the things you can do to promote your competition. Pick a couple and do them well!
Use Blog Posts/Press Releases
Share your blogs posts everywhere and send them to the press.
I would recommend getting a list of press email addresses ready beforehand so you have your email list ready to send off. Also get a list of press set up on Twitter so you can send out the press release to your Twitter list of PR people.
Maybe tweet out to celebrity pet owners in your area and see if you can get them on board to retweet your articles about the competition. Twitter is a great way to reach people that you wouldn’t normally be able to have a conversation with.
Make sure you have specific press releases to send out and some good quality images to send along with them. You will need to have a press release ready for announcing the finalists and for the winner. Get everything ready so that you don’t miss out on vital press coverage.
You need to send them the day things happen – otherwise, it is yesterday’s news!
Contact the radio stations
Try to get on the radio and tell them about your competition. If the name of the competition is quirky and fun then they will want to tell your story for you.
If you contact the radio station with your ‘me me me’ story then they will not cover your story. Instead, make it about this fun competition for pet lovers.
Create a board on Pinterest for your competition and pin all of the images to it. You should pin little and often on Pinterest – so remember this.
Pinterest will be vital for next year so you can refer back to the competition and show the success you had.
Make sure to pin all of your blog posts there as well – you want people to hear about your competition on Pinterest as well and to encourage them to enter.
Create a hashtag
Whatever you decide to call the competition that is your hashtag. So every time you mention the competition on social media you should use that hashtag.
When you are selecting your competition name, I would check the hashtag and see what it is already being used for. You don’t want to choose a hashtag only to find out when you come to use it that it’s being used for something undesirable!
Use Facebook Albums
As people enter you need to make albums of images on Facebook so people can see all the entrants. These images are vital for promotion and to keep people interested in your competition.
Upload entries weekly or create a video to promote them.
You can only post 2 to 3 pictures on Instagram per day, so I would use promotional images. Take some of the best entrants’ pictures and overlay your hashtag and encourage people to enter.
Add the competition link to your bio for the duration of the competition and tell people to enter using that link.
Checklist For Your Competition
- Decide on a name.
- Get your structure organised and write the rules of the competition.
- Set up your website page. Example: www.NoseOfTralee.com
- Create promotional images.
- Create a “Coming Soon” ad and get people to register to sign up for early notification via email.
- Choose a Facebook app to manage the competition.
- Set everything up and test that it all works.
- Launch with a series of ads to get people to enter.
- Promote, promote, promote!!