Using Competitions For Publicity, Credibility And Marketing

Aaron Dwyer is the owner of Web Smart Central, a Brisbane based web hosting and development firm, committed to small business online success. He came up with an idea to run a competition to drum up publicity for his business, establish credibility and produce some valuable content (a case study) that he can further leverage in marketing materials both on and offline. Here is the story as written by Aaron…


As the owner of a small web hosting and web development business and a budding entrepreneur, I have been thinking for a while about how to promote my business for free and at the same time build awareness and help others with their business websites. The holy grail of promotion because it costs little, improves my credibility and brings in more customers. My target market is small businesses that already have an online presence.

Joan Stewart from (which if you are new to publicity and PR like me, I highly recommend you get her newsletters or read her blog) recently wrote about an annual “Oldest Furnace Contest” run by a US furnace company which generated a lot of free local publicity. This sparked my interest and I thought I could do something similar.

I later read about a US web development firm that did an Extreme Website Makeover contest. That clinched it for me. I figured that doing something like that for Australia only (to niche it down to my target market) would work, and not only get free publicity for my business but actually help business website owners at the same time with their websites. was born. It is an online contest looking for failing Australian business websites, with the internet public voting for who they deem to be the most deserving for a renovation makeover. The winner will be awarded a complete website renovation to the value of $2,000. The contest runs this month (February 2006) with entries being accepted for the first half of the month and then voting for the winner in the second half. I may run it again, pending the response to the first one.

The difference with this contest compared to others is that the whole process will be documented and posted to the site so that everyone can benefit. I don’t understand why people choose to hide this sort of information. Most people crave information but will still pay someone else in the end to do the work. It is an effective marketing strategy even if you are worried about giving away your “insider secrets”.

No matter how much website information is out there, there are still business owners especially small business owners creating their websites (either DIY or paying a web firm or friend) that not only fail to offer their visitors a positive experience, but even worse, succeed in turning potential clients away.

Being in the web industry I talk with business owners and responses like this are very common.

“A Website? Yeah – We Got One Of Those Three Years Ago, and it Hasn’t Helped One Bit”

“The Internet Sucks – We Don’t Get Any Business From It”

Invariably they are not approaching their internet presence with any defined goals other than to have a website to keep up with their competition or just to say they have a website. They’ve ticked the box on the to-do list, and moved on. No wonder their websites are failing to be profitable for their businesses.

So why do a contest like this? Simple, to build awareness of your business in such a way that is news worthy and piques peoples interest to get publicity. You need to have something of value or uniqueness to offer the readers or viewers of whatever medium you’re going for. You also need to have a good reason for doing it, be passionate about it and try to make it fun. That way when the journalists call to get the story straight then that will stand you in good steed to win them over and get your story told.

This is truly a marketing exercise that has given me lots of areas to learn and grow and push my boundaries. From concept, to setup, to writing news releases that actually work, and to making contacts with newspapers and TV stations and fellow internet businesses, whom I normally wouldn’t do business with.

I’ll leave you with this. To avoid business website suicide, there are only 3 goals you need to focus on and achieve from your web site. You want as many people as possible to visit your site to:

  1. Give you a phone call
  2. Happily give you their email address, so that you can build up trust with them for future sales
  3. Or, buy something from your website – and give you their money

Without achieving at least one of those results you’re missing out on opportunities everyday.

Anyone can take a spin on this sort of contest and make it apply to your business, offline or online. Get to it and take action.

About Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

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  • Lee

    I have considered running a competition for cafenation, but I want to build some traffic first.

  • Hi, Yaro. This is a great idea. I’ve been thinking of running a contest or give-away for my blogcast at some point. One issue I’ve been wrestling with is the legality. The Internet is an international medium, and so I’d either have to limit the contest to my own country (the U.S.) or comply with the laws of every country. Even just in the U.S., there are 50 states and innumerable counties and cities. Do any of these have unusual laws regarding contests? And what about ensuring the fairness of the contest? If it involves judging or a random selection, is there anything special I need to do aside from providing an audit trail?

    Do I need to hire a lawyer? (Gack!)

    It would really be cool, if it’s cost effective, to farm out the legal and mechanical issues to a contract house that specializes in such things. They run the drawing and give-away, in exchange for some fee. But I’ve never heard of such a service.


  • Good idea, Aaron. I am looking forward to seeing how much business this generates for you.

  • Tim – I think you are perhaps a little too paranoid over the legalities of running a competition. Unless you are giving away some very big prizes it just wouldn’t be worth it for anyone to sue you.

    Take Aaron’s example above of a competition of $2000 value. If anyone felt wrong done by and wanted retribution realistically the most they could go for would be $2000 and that’s certainly not worth the hassle of hiring a lawyer and making a case etc

    If your prize is $50,000 it might be a different story.

    I used to run simple competitions and I let my staff decide winners (forum moderators and contributing writers) or used a basic web based survey form to let my readers choose a winner. The survey form certainly wasn’t 100% accurate but since the prizes were often worth less than $200 no one really made a fuss and the winner was always really happy.

  • […] I wrote an article for Yaro’s blog on using competitions for publicity, credibility and marketing. […]

  • If mainstream media attention is obtained for the competition, then with a prize of $2,000 then the flag is being waved for various state gaming and promotions departments to take interest – in particular NSW, Vic, Tas, ACT and ESPECIALLY SA.

    This could result in fines.

    Smaller stuff they seem to ignore (I know on my various websites I have run competitions over the years (great for building email lists and extra traffic from promo sites) with total prize values in the low hundreds, and have never had any trouble.

    However when dealing with people for SMS competitions that we also provide a service for – a permit is ALWAYS needed for those states that require them.

  • Yes, I’m not so much concerned with someone claiming civil damages. I’m more concerned with someone filing a criminal complaint.

    However, there are two additional factors. Firstly, give-aways like contests and drawings happen all the time informally on the web, and most of these have no official terms of entry. So there’s strength in numbers in that any random contest is less likely to attract attention.

    Secondly, a small prize makes the contest unlikely to attract a piranha while still providing enjoyment to the participants. (And I don’t expect to be running one with any large prizes, even in the $1000 range, anytime soon.)


  • Your three points are great, and a pertinent reminder about my own website!

    Aside: I’d probably nominate the websmart central website for a makeover…not exactly the most attractive looking page! black on yellow text highlights…eugh!

    – Darragh

  • Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Darragh, I was waiting for someone to have a dig about my hosting site or the site. At least you didn’t submit an entry for them, like others have done.

    You might not like the look of the highlighting so much, but I bet you read what was in it. 🙂


  • As far as legalities go, if the contest is a random sweepstakes (lottery) there are lots of laws to comply with.

    If the contest is one where you pick the winner based on your own personal discretion (like a “design me a new logo” competition) then generally you’re OK, because that’s really just putting something out for competitive bid and paying the winner you select.

    Always best to check with your own lawyer though. This is business after all, despite all the free and low cost promotion techniques.

  • I think this is a wonderful idea for promotion! I would probably say that it’s probably one of the better ways of promoting, because there is potential value for the those that are entered into the contest. Great!

  • The Carnival Hits Town…

    Roll up … Roll up! Welcome to The Carnival of Marketing Week #11.
    Started by Noah Kagan, the carnival is growing nicely … and it’s my privilege to be hosting it this week.
    Even though the Carnival is booked quite well in advance …

  • […] Using Competitions For Publicity, Credibility And Marketing by Yaro Starak – with this article Yaro details the efforts of one small business owner in his efforts in using a unique competition (and these days it has to be unique with so much marketing clutter) as one part of his marketing push. A nice case study. […]

  • […] I’ve been meaning to push this article out for a while now and only just noticed that Yaro already did his spin on this topic. […]

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