Business Contests: Are they worth the effort?

Cynthia Kay

Business Contests: Are they worth the effort?

In this day and age of social media, contests are all the rage. At CK & CO we have sponsored contests and competed in contests. This past year we sponsored a video contest for high school and college students and awarded a cash prize. We also just competed in a contest sponsored by Supplier Connection.

Both were great visibility boosters for our business but before you decide to do either there are a few things you might want to consider.


Whether you are designing a contest or participating in one it takes a lot of time. In the case of the Supplier Connection competition it took time to write a thoughtful response. During the time the contest was open we tweeted, posted on Facebook, included a story in our video newsletter, and reached out to customers and friends to support us. It does not sound like a lot of time but when you add it all up- it is. You don’t want to make a bad showing so you have to devote the time to creating awareness of the contest.

Credibility of the Contest

Some contests are simply not worth entering. Look at the sponsoring organization and the rules to see if you think it is a credible opportunity. While I am not usually a big fan of contests we decided to participate in the Supplier Connection contest. We were already registered with the site which connects large companies with smaller businesses and wanted to increase our visibility. The Buying Members are a virtual “who’s who” of great companies and the kind of businesses that we want to attract as long-term partners. Winning a contest is great, but only if it has meaning. By the way, we came in a close second.


There are so many things that a business owner must do that you want to be sure there is a value to your business if you enter a contest. Is there a cash award? Will your business get promoted or featured prominently on a website or at an awards presentation? Is this the kind of PR you just can’t buy? If so, then this may be a good value. There are many potential business contacts that like to see if you and your business have achieved recognition. It is a third party endorsement and those can be very effective. In my book Small Business for Big Thinkers, I talk about “Position Yourself. Learn How to Brag.” I share some of the ways to leverage your awards.

Leveraging Relationships

The final thing to consider is your relationships. Will clients and friends be annoyed when you ask them to vote? Or will they think it is fun and worthwhile? I can tell you that the responses varied when we tried to turn out the vote for the Supplier Connection contest. Several individuals responded that they do not like being asked to do this but said they would make an exception to help us out. Others really got into the spirit of the competition, posted it and tweeted to their network. It was amazing how many new contacts we made and that was gratifying. I will however be very careful how many times I leverage my network this way because I believe it can get old quickly.

Bottom line-contests can be a great way to get your company noticed. But, they do not substitute for other ongoing efforts to market your capabilities. They are simply one more tool in an integrated marketing plan.