What could be better than winning free stuff? There are tons of competitions and contests out there for small businesses to take advantage of. Whether you’re a service company or sell products, there’s opportunities out there for you to win cash, free computers, and free services! So why not take advantage of them! You’d be surprised how easy it can be to enter these competitions.
Last night I received an email from a stranger who saw we recently won The Big Reboot, a competition put together by Toshiba, Intel, and Staples for powering small business. The email was from a small business owner who was wondering if it would be “worth his time” to enter a contest to win a technology makeover consisting of $10,000 in prizes. I couldn’t believe that he was asking me if it was worth his time. The competition was so simple to enter, it probably took five minutes. I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t put in five minutes to possibly get a return of $10,000 in prizes.
Ok, so there’s a bit more to winning than just spending five minutes filling out the entry requirements, but it really doesn’t take anything special. I’ll share with you our 8 secrets to winning business competitions and contests.
- Read the Judging Criteria!
- Write Like a Champ!
- Be Personable!
- Meet the Criteria… and Say It!
- Fit Into the Theme!
- Size Up Your Competition!
- Share It!
- Make Sponsors Happy!
1. Read the Judging Criteria
Read the judging criteria! So many people are just lazy and don’t even know what they’re entering into. They enter a contest or a competition and think that’s all there is to winning, but there are always key factors in what defines a winner versus a loser. It’s often outlined on the website or in the contest/competition rules, so read them! I recommend reading as much as you can about the contest/competition, understanding the background of the sponsors, and digging into discovering what are the defining factors that separate the winners from the losers. After you figure out what the judges really want, you can meet and exceed their expectations.
2. Write Like a Champ
Concise with no typos. Enough said.
You don’t need to be Edgar Allen Poe and write a master piece, but make sure that you write well. Use friends and employees to proof read and correct any spelling errors. Make your writing concise and to the point. Don’t use technical terminology unless the competition is industry specific and demands that you do so. You should also make it personable and relate to the contest.
3. Be Personable
Let the judges know you’re a person / a team. You may be entering the competition for your small business, but the judges can’t relate to a restaurant or retail store. Judges are people and they relate to a person pursuing their dream. By making your entry personal, they’ll be able to relate to you, and see your passion.
A judge isn’t going to fall in love with a company, but they will fall in love with a story about an entrepreneur with a small brick-n-mortar business following their dream. Tell your story and let people fall in love with who you are and what you stand for, after all your small business is an extension of who you are as an individual.
With that being said, NEVER lie in your stories and entries. Honesty is something that should always be your guiding compass, and cheating is never acceptable in any situation.
4. Meet the Criteria… and Say It!
5. Fit Into the Theme
Secret tips four and five go hand-in-hand. If there’s a theme to the contest be sure to fit into it. Contests often have themes, and with themes come keywords, phrases, and terms that relate to the theme. Be sure to use those elements throughout your entry’s story.
Sometimes these keywords won’t be the exact same as you use on a daily basis in your business or industry, but it’s ok to stray away from those standard phrases you use on a daily basis and replace them with the theme’s keywords.
6. Size Up Your Competition
Just like you size up your business’ competitors, do the same in contests and competitions. Figure out as much as you can about the and determine their strengths and weaknesses. Determining these factors can help you discover ways to win that you weren’t thinking about before. After reading our competitor’s entries in The Big Reboot, we determined that we had to strengthen our story and emphasize why we were ultimately more deserving of receiving a $10,000 technology makeover. If we didn’t review our competitors and make adjustments we might have lost the competition.
7. Share It!
A lot of contests involve voting as a contributing factor to determining the winner. Be sure to share it across all of your social networks, but never overwhelm your friends and followers. One way to help create a balance is to share the competition and ask for votes across a different media outlet everyday. That way your followers for each network won’t become overwhelmed.
The key to getting votes is making it personal. Yes, we’re back to that topic. People don’t vote for companies, people vote for people, values, and passion. Make your posts sharing the contest personal and explain to your followers why you need their help, how they can help, and what happens if you win. More importantly don’t be afraid to ask people for their help. Here’s a list of people you can ask to help you:
- Customers - As customers come into your store tell them your story and then politely ask them if they would help you continue to pursue your dreams and build your business by voting for you.
- Friends & Family - Ask your close friends and family for their support, you can even directly email or call them individually.
- Old College Buddies - Remember that fraternity/sorority, or club you joined in college? Well hit those old friends up and let them know what you’re up to and ask for their support. Plus it’s a great opportunity to catch up with one another.
- Forums - Are you a part of an online forum? Ask your fellow forum friends to vote for your business.
- Clubs & Hobbies - Are you a club member somewhere or have a hobby? Use those as networking opportunities to meet new people, tell them your story, and ask them to help support your dream by voting.
- Kids - I know you never go to PTA meetings. How do I know? Well I’ve gone to PTA meetings and only a select group shows up, but hey that’s a free networking opportunity (and you usually get cookies out of it too). Maybe your kids are in Boy Scotts or Indian Princesses or play a sport. Go to practices and meetings and network. Tell them about your story and ask them to help by voting for you.
8. Make Sponsors Happy
Our Story and The Big Reboot
How is your business Powering Innovation, and how could this technology makeover help your business?
Yapay is innovating the way consumers and merchants communicate with one another through its dynamic loyalty rewards program.
Yapay provides consumers and businesses with an aggregated dynamic loyalty and rewards program and a tiered loyalty and rewards program. As an aggregated points program, Yapay provides the value consumers are seeking in a loyalty and rewards program by allowing them to earn points at any participating vendor and redeem their points at any participating vendor. Yapay’s tiered loyalty and rewards program allows vendors to track their top customers and reward their customers on a tiered spending basis.
Utilizing an innovative mobile technology, known as near field communication (NFC), Yapay simplifies the loyalty redemption process from a card swiping method to a mobile application. The mobile application features social media gamification elements, encouraging users to share and refer to their friends their favorite vendors, the discounts they’ve received, the items they purchase, and rewards they are earning.
Yapay is a startup that was recently founded by two Chapman University students. College is tough enough on a small budget, but imagine financing your own startup while attending college. For these two college graduates, money is short; they may have recently graduated, but they dedicate their time and life savings to being innovative pioneers in the upcoming realm of NFC. By receiving a Big Reboot from Toshiba, Intel, and Staples, Yapay will be able to continue to innovate on ultra-thin, super-light Ultrabooks, powerful Core i5 processors, and premium office supplies, but more importantly, Yapay will be able to continue to innovate on an ultra-light budget.
Honors and Awards:
1st Place, Chapman University Business Plan Competition
Semi-Finalist, California Dreamin’ Business Plan Competition
Housed in the Chapman University Incubator Program