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In Microsoft's Small Business Contest, Partners Can Be Winners, Too

Microsoft's Small Business Contest, running through Jan. 11, 2015, is an opportunity to be a hero in your customers' eyes. By promoting the contest to your customers, they get the opportunity to tell their story and win as much as $20,000. With a little creativity, you can capitalize on the contest to advance your role as a customer advocate and trusted partner.

Contest entrants submit a two-minute color video sharing the story of their business journey and lessons learned. Eligible businesses include privately held U.S. companies operating for more than six months with no more than 250 employees.

The simplicity of the contest makes this a great opportunity to encourage your customers to participate. Below are a few ideas to get you started promoting the contest with your customers and building value for your own business:

Publicize the contest. The most obvious place to start is to let your customers know that the contest is happening. Include an article in your newsletter or send out a separate e-mail encouraging your customers to enter. Entries are accepted through Jan. 11, 2015, so there's no time to lose.

Get your employees to promote the contest to customers. Your employees know the stories behind many of your customers' businesses. Ask them to suggest entering to your most interesting, qualified clients.

Support the public voting. Ten semifinalists will be selected by a panel by Jan. 19. Public voting on the finalist entries will take place from Jan. 20 to Jan. 30. If your customer's video is chosen, you'll want to help them promote to get public support.

Follow up with your own promotion. Once the voting has ended and the winner selected, you've got a great opportunity to give your clients deserved recognition. Help your customers put the videos to good use, even if they weren't selected as winners. Feature them in a marketing campaign or write a blog post about their adventure.

Help your customers make the best possible video. The judging criteria is based on originality, composition and adherence to contest theme. A few tips to share with your customer to help them make a compelling video:

  • Focus on the human side of the business; include the challenges, as well as the triumphs.
  • Go behind the scenes and show the inner workings of the business.
  • Two minutes is not much time, so use it wisely. Edit relentlessly.
  • Recommend that they carefully read the official rules (PDF) before they get started. It may sound obvious, but far too many people seem to forget that step. For example, the rules state, "The video must be solely the work of the team, including but not limited to, the actual filming, editing, graphic design, etc. of the video."

Marketing with Social Media Contests
Microsoft's Small Business Contest is a good example of the growing use of contests to drive interest in social engagement. As many partners have found, maintaining engagement through social media is challenging. You need to give customers a good reason to come back to your Facebook page.

A contest can be an effective way to drive initial or renew interest. Of course, the trick is in the follow-up. How do you keep them coming back when the contest is over? We'll watch to see what Microsoft has in mind as a follow-up the Small Business Contest.

What better way to start the new year than having one of your customers win $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 in the Small Business Contest? OK, so maybe winning $20,000 for your own business would be better, but that's not the deal. The contest gives you a reason to educate your customers about a Microsoft program and provide some coaching to help them create a great video about their company. Wins all around.

Have you held a contest for customers? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on December 10, 2014


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