I write a lot about new digital marketing methods, whether it is discussing social media, QR codes, digital video, or digital display. All in all, these methods comprise a minority of the marketing and promotion that goes on in the marketplace on a day-to-day basis.
I wanted to share an experience my team had integrating digital messaging with our traditional marketing methods and guerilla-style event marketing to create one solid event with a great story. We used Twitter, digital display ads, guerilla marketing, event marketing, promo giveaways, a sweepstakes, and Facebook to promote our student discount all in the space of two weeks.
Do you need to be the size of AT&T to use these methods to create an event for your small business? Absolutely not. All you need is:
- A couple hours of a graphic designers’ time for the necessary creative
- Small giveaways produced by another company or supplied by a partner
- Sweepstakes, which can also be handled by a partner
Each year, Indiana University in Bloomington hosts the Little 500 Bicycle Race among student groups on campus. I advised in recolonization efforts of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter and made a lot of great lasting friendships with those who really drove the effort. One of these men approached me with an opportunity to take part in one of the major concerts occurring during the week leading up to Little 500. Once again, analog networking was something that paid off, but the digital marketing is what will drive a lot of the success.
What we put together involved a multi-angle approach to supplement the ‘air cover’ our traditional print advertising would be supplying via the Indiana Daily Student newspaper. It included:
- Giveaways that would be popular with concert-goers
- Advertising placement on the concert information website
- Flyers promoting the student discount handed out by on-campus ticket sellers (all SAE members)
Each of these items mirrored the message in the Indiana Daily Student newspaper.
During the concert, I arrived to 100 AT&T-branded beach balls and hundreds of flashlight pens and key chains. This was a night concert, so anything that let people make their own light without whipping out a zippo was going to be popular. SAE members handed out the flashlight pens as students entered the venue, while our AT&T retail assistance ran the table, and I inflated beach balls with the bellows I handily carry in my ribs.
This video shows how things kicked off just as it started to get dark. The orange AT&T beach balls stayed in the air all night long. After the event was over, we weren’t finished – we had an LG Nitro to give away, so we had the concert promoter tweet the winner to all 10,000+ of their followers along with a reminder of the discount AT&T offers to students at IU.
The event was by no means perfect. It was the first time I’ve ever been involved in a concert-style event in Higher Ed, but the marketing mix was solid. Looking back I’d swap the flashlight pens for cinch-backpacks pre-packed with a flyer and a second premium and plan for the end of the event, catching students as they leave for the house parties.
The key learning in all the efforts around this event was that each touch point reached a different group. People visiting the table at the concert may not have bought their ticket at a table with AT&T flyers. Some may have bought from an on-campus table with flyers, but didn’t grab one – only to be reminded as they visited the concert website to double check the start time or opening acts. Some students could have bought tickets online, but seen the tweets and Facebook postings leading up to the concert and thrown a beach ball into the air a few dozen times.
A small business attempting this style of marketing for the first time should know that just because the part of the event you see up close may not be the most exciting, that doesn’t mean the event failed. By having so many potential touch points with customers, you increase your likelihood of success when results come in. At our event, we didn’t have a swarm of students at the table all night because a concert was underway. But, the audience most certainly got our message, which was our true goal.
Repetition increases retention, and we’ve found that our goal in promoting the student discount is about driving up awareness of the discount so that students will factor it into their buying decision. Not everyone is a digital maven that will see your online ads, and lots of people are digital-avoiders – keep the right mix in mind for your needs, but never ignore fully one tactic for another.