Today Lorna from Happy Tails Pet Spa left a comment to tell me that my two posts about the Celebrity Apprentice Pet Adoption shows inspired her to launch a new contest at her site – the Canine Celebrity Awards.  Her contest is calling for photos of your Canine Celebrity pets and the prize is a 4 day getaway to several exotic locations. They have also cleverly added an incentive to pet business owners who promote their competition. On the entry form they ask entrants to tell them their favorite pet store or business. The pet store or business with the most votes in this catagory will also win one of the trips. What a great way to encourage us to spread the word!

This comment prompted me to think more about how contests can be used to market a pet business. Using online contests to grow email contact lists is growing in popularity but offline contests have long been used effectively to get publicity.

Here are a few tips for planning your own contest:

1. Choose a prize that is of interest to your target market i.e. pet owners.

2. Choose a theme for your contest. You could use a calendar event themed contest – for example taking advantage of the scheduled Pet Dental Care month in February. You could also theme a contest around a business milestone, or use the contest to celebrate new product launches, the launch of a new service or new website.

3. Make sure you advertise your contest on forums, distribute press releases, on your website, and by sending an announcement to your customer contact list. You could also partner up with other pet businesses to include your contest in their client newsletters.

Contest prizes don’t have to be expensive or fancy. One of the best prizes is to offer your own services or products as a giveaway.

Consider having more than one winner as the more people who win your prize – the more people will get a taste of your service or product. The more people spreading the word about how you delighted them with your prize, the more potential business you will gain.

If you plan to hold a photo or video contest votigo.com is a site where you can create a contest for free. Once you set up your contest at votigo.com people can submit photos and video, others can comment on entries, and share your contest with their friends.

I have been inspired to start my own contest here at Working with Pets – and I’ll get back to you next week with details!