5 “Must Dos” When Promoting an Innovation Competition

An Innovation Competition: A competitive opportunity for researchers, entrepreneurs, or innovators to pitch their novel idea to a panel of experts. Participating members compete for a share of resources or cash prizes, and access industry leaders who can help bring solutions to market.

The success of your innovation competition hinges on your ability to attract and inform your audience. Use language that emphasizes why people should be interested and know where to find your audience when it comes to social channels. Your promotion strategy should help you collect quality application entries and drive enough interest around the pitch event to reach your event ticket goals.

Depending on the complexity of your competition or how long you’re seeking applications – you might have a hundred “must-dos” to run your promotional campaign. (Alright, I might be exaggerating, but you have a good amount.) The long list of tasks can be boiled down into 5 must-do promotional campaign objectives.

These 5 “must-dos” can take your campaign from a nuts-and-bolts operation to a smooth-sailing marketing campaign that delivers.

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If you don’t have a CRM, a social media scheduler, or an email platform, get those set up ASAP.

Nowadays, no one can (or should) run their campaign by manually sending out emails, social posts or 1-to-1 messages. It’s not only a waste of time but it can open your team up to making mistakes (typos, broken or incorrect links), missing prime times to post, or sending out emails in large quantities without targeting or segmenting your database.

Instead, invest in a CRM (ideally that also acts as your email platform) and a social media scheduling tool. You have options like Constant Contact and Hootsuite, which are more budget friendly and great tools for organizations just starting out. If you are a larger organization, platforms like HubSpot, SproutSocial and MailChimp are equipped to handle large scale databases, high volume email sends and can provide more detailed analytics. You can learn more about the benefits of a stacked CRM from this post.

Identify your ideal audience, why they would care, and where they are most active.

The first step to reaching the right audience is identifying them. You can start building a buyer persona (an example of someone you would consider an ideal customer/audience member) discover this by asking persona-building questions like:

  • Are you running a competition that only accepts early-stage startups working on women’s health solutions?
  • Do you want applications from entrepreneurs in college or graduate school?
  • Are you providing prizes, in-kind services, or a cash award?

All these questions are instrumental to finding out what matters to your audience, and why they should give a damn about your competition. Once you’ve narrowed down who your idea audience is, you can start to explore and hone in on the channels that will most effectively reach your audience.

The proof is in the (innovation competition) pudding.

We have two different customers running innovation challenges this winter – one is seeking medical device innovators, and the other is searching for researchers and innovators developing substance use disorders solutions. After identifying their competition targets and audience, we researched their audience and their preferred channels.

We found that the primary social channel for both audiences is LinkedIn and that while on the platform individuals are searching for new competition or funding opportunities. This tells us that LinkedIn is a high-value channel we can utilize to reach the ideal audience members in the right mindset.

One customer also had a large email database with high (>20%) open rates. With that information, we invested in segmenting the database and building a strong email strategy.

Create content that’s specific to the channel where you’re posting.

Different channels will favor different types of content. LinkedIn favors long-form content that doesn’t take the user away from the platform. Twitter is all about short and sweet messages that get to the point. Instagram (and to an extent, Facebook) favor video content. Your emails need subject lines that attract attention and encourage people to keep reading.

You must optimize your content by platform. To maximize the potential of your content, modify it to a format that the specific channel favors. Otherwise, you’ll see lower levels of engagement and growth over time.

Measure your efforts and make the necessary adjustments.

Tracking the relevant KPIs (key performance indicators) is crucial when it comes to running a successful marketing campaign. First, decide if you’re trying to achieve a high number of completed applications, event registrations, or both. Your main goal will help decide which metrics are appropriate to track.

When promoting an innovation competition, we track:

  • Page visits
  • Form/Application completes
  • Social media impressions and followers
  • Email click-through rates (CTRs), open rates
  • Event registrations (if applicable)

These metrics can help track interest in your competition program and find out which messaging and visuals your audience reacts best to. You might see an increase in engagement when you call out your audience or provide additional details on prizes available.

Some of the metrics are tracked by your CRM platform, your email platform, or individual social media platforms. You can also tie webpages to google analytics to learn more detailed information about website visits.

Source high-value testimonials during your in-person pitch event in video and written format.

Does your program end with an in-person event? Use this opportunity to find high-value testimonials and post-event marketing content to support your campaign.

I work with a few of our customers during their live events and have found incredible success through live event marketing. This includes tweets leading up to the event (building anticipation), images of attendees networking, and images of the startups pitching to the judge panel. The images and social posts can be reshared in our post-event blog content and email sends.

Learn more about our experience and success in promoting innovation competition campaigns.

Since 2017, we have been working with M2D2 to promote their competitions, including their flagship challenge, “The $200K Challenge.” Recently, we’ve also engaged with the Kerry Murphy Healey Center at Babson College to promote the Babson L-SPRINT opportunity.

We have years of experience with organizations promoting these types of competitions, and can help position your organization for success!  If you’re interested in learning more, use the chat button on the right, or reach out here.