Mass marketers frequently run games and contests on a nationwide scale.
People look under bottle caps, collect game pieces or submit entries in an
effort to win prizes. Most small businesses probably don't need (and can't
afford) this type of promotion.
However, games and contests can be conducted on a smaller scale. For example,
many restaurants ask customers to leave a business card in a bowl. Drawings are
held periodically and winners are awarded a free meal or other prize. The
restaurant owners, not incidentally, get valuable information in exchange for
those prizes. The list of people who submit cards can be used to solicit
parties, meetings, etc.
If your business is in an area with a lot of foot traffic, putting a game or
contest in the window can draw additional customers into your store. It can be
something as simple as the old jelly beans in the jar contest. If possible, use
the contest to do double duty; in addition to getting the contestant's name and
address, ask for information you need to better market your products or
services. Be careful to analyze the results, though. If none of the people drawn
in by the contest become customers, you're wasting time and money. Your
promotions must be designed to get people to buy from you; the market research
you can conduct is just a secondary benefit.
Whatever games you devise, play fair with your customers. Don't charge them
to enter and be sure to state how and when the winners will be selected; say
that the offer is void outside of a certain area and after a certain date, and
that any taxes are the responsibility of the winner. And be sure to check out
the local laws with your attorney before you start any contest, game or