When Larry Jackson, a 30-year veteran in the grain industry, went online a few months ago to find a solution to broken elevator buckets, little did he know he would end up winning buckets of money.
Jackson was the grand prize winner of Maxi-Lift, Inc.'s recent "Buckets of Money" promotion designed to draw visitors to its recently revamped web site, www.maxilift.com. The prize of U.S.$500 was awarded in early January.
"I never win anything, so I was surprised when they called," said Jackson, who is director of operations for Agrex, Inc., a grain storage and grain trading company owned by Mitsubishi and based in Overland Park, Kansas, U.S.
When he entered the contest last October, Jackson was a project manager for Farmland's grain division. Jackson said he decided to use the Internet to find out more information about different elevator bucket types and materials. An elevator leg at one of Farmland's facilities was misaligned, causing some of the buckets to break under the stress.
He logged on to Maxi-Lift's site to learn more about its Tiger-Tuff buckets, and entered the contest on a whim.
Jackson, who makes purchasing decisions on equipment, is exactly the kind of person Maxi-Lift had in mind when the company planned its online promotion, said Paul Phillips, Maxi-Lift's director of sales and marketing.
"We were looking for contacts, potential customers," he said.
Maxi-Lift, a Dallas, Texas-based manufacturer of conveying components such as elevator buckets, elevator bolts, belt fastening devices, screw conveyor hanger bearings and drag conveyor flights, launched its web site about two and a half years ago. A second version was implemented last year with more up-to-date technology that makes the site easier to navigate. The company decided to hold a cash give-away contest to draw people in the grain industry to the new and improved site.
"We were looking to bring people to our site," Phillips said. "We built it, now we have to give them a reason to come."
Phillips said they weren't worried about getting entries from people outside the grain industry. "Most people wouldn't come to our site unless they knew about our company or our products," he said.
The company spread the word about the contest by putting information in trade publications, sending out letters and e-mails and talking to customers.
To enter, visitors to the site had to register their name and contact information and answer a few questions, such as what brand of bucket they were currently using, what type of material was being elevated, any problems they were facing and how they heard about Maxi-Lift.
"We felt really good about the response," Phillips said.
Online promotions such as Maxi-Lift's "Buckets of Money" contest can be effective marketing tools if done correctly, according to Michael Pastore, writing for internetnews.com. In his article, "Careful Marketers can Benefit from Online Promotions," Pastore said a recent study by PROMO Magazine and NFO Worldwide reinforces the tremendous "upside" potential and the limited downside risk of Internet promotions
The study showed that most people have no problem sharing their name, age, occupation, gender, e-mail, and home address if they feel the potential reward is of sufficient value, Pastore said. However, people rarely give out home or work telephone numbers or income information.
Another study finding: two out of three online consumers say they would be extremely likely or very likely to buy a product associated with a promotion in which they had participated.
Jackson, the winner in Maxi-Lift's contest, said he would still base his purchasing decisions on the product and company reputation rather than a promotion, adding that he has done business with Maxi-Lift for over 20 years.
"I think the promotion was a great idea, though, and I think their web site is really informative," he said.
Rachelle Thomas, site manager for World Grain's web site, World-Grain.com, said the goal of an online contest is to bring people to the site, and then keep them coming back.
"Some people who enter contests will come in, enter the contest and leave," she said. "Others will find your site interesting and bookmark it and might even refer the site to a colleague or friend."
A successful online sweepstakes promotion requires careful planning, Ms. Thomas said. First, determine your contest objectives. Do you want to generate traffic or get feedback on your web site or a new product?
Then, determine the kind of sweepstake or contest you want. There are several kinds to choose from. "Sweepstakes are promotions that don't require any purchase or monetary exchange," Ms. Thomas said. "Contests require the entrant to submit more than just their name and address. For instance, a respondent may be asked to answer some questions or other creative information."
Select a prize suited to your target audience. You may want to offer a unique or valuable prize. "Different prizes attract more attention; otherwise, a visitor may think they entered the contest already and won't enter it again," she said.
Set up the entry form. The information you request should be formulated from your goals. Don't ask questions that are too personal or you may limit your response, she added.
You can implement the contest yourself or there are companies that will design and host a customized contest to meet your needs. Then, promote your sweepstakes.
"Announce it just like you would anything else," Ms. Thomas said. "There are also web sites that list online sweepstakes and can also be posted on appropriate message boards. Include the contest information in your newsletters and add a link to the contest in your e-mail signature."
Once the contest is over, announce the winner. "Maintain the excitement of your promotion to the end," Ms. Thomas said. "Be creative in your announcement. You can send out a press release, announce it on your web site, in your newsletter, or at a major event."
When online sweepstakes are promoted effectively they can encourage repeat visits, create loyalty and brand recognition, Ms. Thomas said. In addition, your business and products can attract a lot of attention, and the information received about the respondents can provide you with a lot of information about your traffic that can be used to do more effective targeted marketing.