The promotion, called "Out of the Box," had multiple marketing goals.
"We wanted to position UPS as a company that cares about small businesses and helps them grow," said Donna Barrett, PR manager for UPS' small-business group. "The contest was also designed to support UPS' efforts to drive sales among small businesses."
UPS broadly defines the small and midsize business (SMB) market as companies with between $5 million and $250 million in annual sales.
Companies with less than $5 million in annual sales are classified as "microbusinesses."
For the small-business contest, UPS narrowed the market to companies with between $500,000 and $10 million in sales during 2004.
"We recognize that among this market segment, there is a great deal of opportunity," Barrett said. "This is where the economy is growing, and new businesses are entering all the time."
The contest was designed to recognize companies that have creative business models and innovative approaches to marketing their products and services.
The promotion, which ran from May through August, asked companies to submit 500-word essays to the UPS Web site, describing how they demonstrated "out of the box" thinking.
Winners were selected based on originality, business implementation and results.
The panel of judges included Norm Brodsky, columnist for Inc.; Benn Konsynski, professor of business administration at Emory University's Goizueta Business School; Ed Baker, publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle; and Jordan Colletta, VP-customer technology marketing at UPS.
UPS used an integrated marketing program to promote the contest, including online ads; promotional materials distributed by the UPS sales force at UPS stores and events; public relations; and the UPS Web site.
The company's internal communications group created the banner ads for the campaign, and Atlanta-based Macquarium developed the print materials.
The grand prize for the "Out of the Box" contest was $10,000 in cash or $10,000 worth of free UPS package delivery services; a PC provided by Hewlett-Packard Co., equipped with UPS online shipping tools; and 10 hours of UPS consulting services, valued at $5,000.
The second-place winner received $5,000 in cash or $5,000 in UPS shipping services and an HP computer with online shipping tools. The third-place winner received an HP computer with shipping tools.
The first-place winner was Designs by Lucinda, a Portland, Maine, jewelry company that designs and sells pins that help nonprofit organizations in their fund-raising. The company employs mothers who can work at home and has helped nonprofit organizations raise more than $22 million.
"It's very rewarding to have a company the size of UPS actively looking for ways to help businesses as small as mine," said Lucinda Yates, president and founder of Designs by Lucinda.
Second place went to Rockford, Ill.-based Colorlab Custom Cosmetics.
Third place went to INCHworm shoes, a Boston manufacturer of shoes that expand in size as children's feet grow. The company was started by a father of three who was tired of the expense of buying shoes.
The contest generated more than 25,000 visits to the UPS Web site and hundreds of entries. It also led to more than 100 qualified leads, Barrett said.
"Now that we've proved the contest is a viable promotional and lead-generation tool, we'll work to promote it more heavily in 2006 to increase these sales lead numbers," Barrett said.