Can’t Give Away $1,000s in Prizes for Online Contests? Get Entries Anyway

| 2060 Digital

Contests are an excellent way for you to get people to interact with your brand, and with the advent of social media, contests have taken on a new life as one of the most versatile tools in an online marketer’s arsenal. While it’d be nice to put on a contest with a five-figure prize budget, it may not be possible if you’re working with relatively limited resources. So what can you do to make your contests effective, even if your budget won’t allow for a major prize haul? Below are some tips you can use to attract contest entries for less than $500.

Before We Begin…

One thing that should be pointed out is that you have to remember the main purpose of your contest, which is to garner more leads for your business. For this reason, it’s important to choose prizes that are related to your business. In other words, giving away a free iPad might not be the best way to go for every business. There are plenty of “serial contestants” out there who will submit an entry just to win the prize, but they may not have any interest at all in what your business has to offer. Always make sure that the prizes for your contest are at least somewhat relative to your brand and/or products, so that you’ll be able to attract the kind of people who may turn into future customers.

Contests Based on Current Themes Are the Way to Go

It’s repeatedly been proven that contests based on current themes–e.g., holidays, seasons, major events, etc.–do much better than a random contest not tied to anything specific. Major times of the year such as Christmas, Halloween, back-to-school, Mother’s Day, etc., are always excellent themes to build your contest around, because people are already thinking about them during those times. With this important principle in mind, here are some of the most popular contest themes that come around every year, along with some relatively inexpensive prize ideas that will tie in well with those themes.

Valentine’s Day

  • Concert tickets

  • Dinner and a movie package

  • Romantic restaurant reservation

  • Valentine’s gift basket (chocolates, flowers, etc.)

  • Makeover/hair salon package

Mother’s Day

  • A day at the spa (manicure, pedicure, facial, massage, etc.)

  • Flowers and chocolates for Mom

  • Date night for Mom and Dad (cash for babysitter/nanny included)

  • Shopping spree


  • New luggage set

  • Camping or hiking getaway package

  • Baseball tickets

  • Outdoor music festival or concert tickets

  • Boat or ferry cruise

  • Free admission and merchandise package for the zoo, aquarium or amusement park

  • Wedding-related prizes, such as a free photography package (summer is prime wedding season)

  • Shooting range package

  • Free golf or driving range package

  • Adventure package (parasailing, kite surfing, bungee jumping, skydiving, etc.)

  • Father’s Day prizes (new razor, grilling equipment, power tools etc.)


  • Backpack and plenty of school-related gear (markers, paper, pens, notebooks, pencils, calculators, etc.)

  • Sponsorship for a child’s sports activities

  • Clothing shopping spree

  • New bike, scooter, rollerblades or skateboard


  • Candy bonanza

  • Free costume of your choosing

  • Free admission to a corn maze, haunted house or other Halloween attraction

  • Hayride and pumpkin patch adventure (free pumpkins)


  • Catered Thanksgiving meal for your get-together

  • Black Friday shopping spree

Christmas and New Year’s Eve

  • Free Christmas tree (artificial or from a tree farm)

  • Decorations haul

  • Get your house professionally decorated with a Christmas light display

  • Christmas-themed table settings

  • Free admission to a Christmas-related attraction (e.g., Nutcracker ballet, light show, etc.)

  • Tickets to a New Year’s Eve party

  • Membership to a gym or personal training sessions (for those New Year’s resolutions)

Depending upon what type of business you have, it may be relatively simple or somewhat difficult to tie in your prize ideas to your business, but it’s very important for you to do so. Do your best to get creative with incorporating these popular themes into a contest that makes sense for your business. One “can’t-miss” prize that you can always offer is a gift certificate or gift card for your own products or services; you will immediately be able to qualify your leads this way, because only the people who are interested in what you have to offer will enter the contest. Just keep the above ideas in mind, and you’ll be able to put on a successful contest that acts as a lead magnet, without breaking the bank to do it!