If you’re in the magazine business, you know the power of "Best-Of" contests. It’s a powerful way to engage your audience, build advertiser momentum, and gain new readers. But, according to Todd Lemke, publisher of Omaha Magazine, it’s also an easy feature to get wrong. Especially when it comes to how you set up your voting process.
There’s a reason we mention Todd above, by the way. He’s known as the king of Best-Of contests in the city magazine space. And, as we’ll explain in this article, this is because of how Omaha Magazine conducts their contest and their voting.
1. People Want to Help The Businesses They Care About
This is a simple-but-important point when it comes to Best-Of contest voting. Your voters primary concern isn’t about the contest or the voting. They come to your website to vote so that they can help the business they care about most.
Think about what actions they can take to fulfill their goal, while also fulfilling your goal of running an authoritative voting program. “Once you get [voters] in there, you can direct them toward other things,” says Todd. “[With our contest], there is a 5 vote minimum across all of our categories.”
In summary, market your contest as a way to help your voters help their favorite business. But once they’re registered and verified, don’t be shy about asking them to provide you with a few more of their favorites, too.
2. Best-Of Contests Should Stand On Their Own
According to Todd, you should avoid any temptation to make your Best-Of contest all about your publication. Sure, you’re the one behind the scenes doing all of the hard work! But think back to the point Todd made above: for participants, both businesses and voters, the end goal is community recognition. It’s an award. So consider taking your own logo down a few notches when you brand the contest. Remember, it’s about them—not you!
Over time, Omaha Magazine’s Best-Of program has developed into a $1 million revenue product that stands on its own. Best Of Omaha logos are on billboards, service vehicles, websites, and just about everywhere else in the metro area. And according to Todd, it put Omaha Magazine on the map versus legacy publications.
3. Broaden Your Appeal With Marketing Partnerships
A Best-Of contest is only as successful as its recognition within the community. This means you need to do everything you can to broaden your voting base. Todd accomplished this goal, in part, by inviting media partners to participate in Best of Omaha.
In fact, broadcast partners in television and radio pay his magazine to amplify the contest message. “You can’t go anywhere in this town without hearing ‘Best of Omaha.’ They pay me to have their logos [on marketing materials and banners] and be associated with the contest. We list them as sponsors.”
They don’t own the contest or run the contest, they just want to be associated with it! And it works. Last year, Todd states that more than 200,000 verified individual voters participated in Best of Omaha!
Strong Best-Of Contests Always Serve the Community First
All too often, a Best-Of Contest serves as a self-promotion tool for publications. Keep your audience in mind when you’re designing (or optimizing your existing) Best Of contest. Help voters help the businesses they love—and help businesses feel recognized for the work they do.
Above all, don’t be afraid to reach out to local media partners to broaden your reach. The larger your roster of voters, the more representative (and competitive!) your contest becomes. And hey, you'll also get a sponsorship out of it!
Visit our Publishing Success video series page to learn more from Todd and other publishing industry leaders!