As an avid couponer myself, I understand firsthand the magnetic pull that saving money can have on a customer. The promise of a free giveaway or the exciting anticipation of joining a contest can generate a major following and lead to a fun way to achieve organic content promotion.

There are thousands of ways to get started on a promotion campaign, but not all of them are good ideas. Choosing the right type of promotion for your company requires analyzing your target audience and ideal buyers, and assessing their needs. Luckily, this is the age of creative business strategies, and there’s no end to the number of brilliant ways companies have used “free stuff” to generate big business.

The Promotional Evolution

Giveaways, contests, and coupons have been around since mass advertising first began in the 1920s, but they have come a long way since the Cracker-Jack style of prizes that once drew so many customers. The Internet of Things (IoT) completely revolutionized a business’s options for creating and spreading giveaways, leading to numerous types of campaigns with differing levels of success.

Businesses realized the widespread marketing potential they had on the web, and began to think outside of the box to beat their competitors. Contest and giveaway marketing methods became connected to creating content, increasing SEO, building brand awareness, and collecting personal endorsements – not centered on the customer.

While these basic benefits to companies still hold true today, more and more businesses are making the needs of the customer top priority instead. Contests and giveaways have a much greater chance of succeeding when the customer can see a real value to joining, liking, or sharing your content. Customer-centric marketing campaigns make a personal connection instead of only focusing on the company’s bottom line.

In the year 2000, Web Marketing Today published an article describing the eight types of Internet promotion. Each type was focused on the benefits for the company – the costs the company would save, the payback they would gain, the site traffic they would generate, and so on. There’s no mention of customer needs or satisfaction. While this method might be useful in short-term marketing strategies, long-term success relies on more than company gains – especially when engaging with Millennials.

The current generation of buyers is tech-savvy and tough to sell to. They’re wary of pushy advertisements and generic sales attempts. They won’t talk with your rep over the phone, and they won’t reply to email campaigns that come off like spam. To adapt to this changing customer base, companies need to be more creative in their marketing efforts, and put the needs of the customer before all else. Modern promotional campaigns have to be more innovative, and offer something of value to the current generation.

Promotional Campaigns Today

Today’s most successful campaigns engage with the user and ask what the company can do for its customers. A prime example of a customer-based promotional marketing effort is Chegg sending hyper-relevant gifts to their biggest client – college kids. With every textbook rental, Chegg throws in free items such as Red Bull, packs of gum, laundry soap, Über gift certificates, HuluPlus trials and coupons for future rentals. This marketing campaign is unique, and immediately made waves in the promotional marketing industry.

Other companies thought up their own promotional marketing techniques, and before long the giveaway evolved into a modern-age marketing tactic that placed the customer first. The most successful contests, giveaways, and coupons have used social media platforms to spread the word, and have seen some incredible results.

Badescu Skin Care, for example, has risen to 92,000 Facebook likes since they joined in 2009, and the sportswear brand Homage has over 141,000 Facebook fans. These companies used contests to increase the number of people liking and sharing their content, offering free products and discounts to people who did. Social media contests collect a massive following due to easy one-click sharing and the wide breadth of networking available. With social media, user engagement has never been so easily attained.

Create a Killer Promotion for Your Company

The number of ways you can promote your business using contests and giveaways is as endless as the ideas you can come up with. The best strategies, however, are appropriate for your audience and your brand. Many sellers on Etsy, for example, follow up purchases with lovely handwritten thank-you notes and coupons for future purchases. This marketing tactic is perfect for sellers on Etsy, who are popular with customers because of their handmade crafts.

Think about your ideal target audience. What do they look like? What would they appreciate from your company? Pinpointing a specific user need is the first step in creating a great promotion. With this information, you can build an offer they won’t refuse. Consider what your promotional goals are (email list, Facebook likes, Instagram followers, retweets, content submissions, etc.). Your goals shape what your promotion looks like.

Next, decide what type of promotion you want. This is often based on budget – if you don’t have a lot to spend, simple touches like handwritten thank-yous can suffice. If you have more financial wiggle room, you might want a larger contest, like offering a year’s worth of free products or services for sign-ups.

Here are some creative promotional options for you to consider:

  • Relevant care packages that provide value
  • User-centric contests with attractive prizes
  • Sponsored giveaway items, like how Chegg partners with Red Bull
  • Creating vote promotions to gain an understanding of customer needs
  • Cause-marketing promotions that show you care about the community
  • Warm, genuine “thank you” messages, cards, and notes with coupons

No matter what your approach to promotional campaigning looks like, make sure you keep your customers’ needs top priority. If your contest, giveaway, or coupon comes from a place of genuine customer interest, you’ll have people lining up at the chance to be included. Be creative, have fun, and happy promoting!