Marketing on a Shoestring Part Three: Events as a Promotional Tool – Best Practices
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
By Melissa Crawford
Director of the
Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Santa Barbara City
College, Santa Barbara, CA
The single most
powerful marketing tool for the Scheinfeld Center has been our Enlightened
Entrepreneurship Series. This program helps build awareness of our existence
and captures the attention of students and faculty and local small business
owners. Securing prominent speakers has helped us establish ourselves rather
quickly in the community. After only our third speaker, one college benefactor
expressed, "You now have a reputable speakers series!”
Follow these steps to
help build awareness of your program or center through events:
1. Create an event to
complement other entrepreneurial activities in your community.
Brainstorm with your
staff and colleagues about what kind of event will serve your program and
community best. We have so many organizations that host entrepreneurial events
and speakers in our community that it was tough to find our own niche. We
decided not to compete with other organizations, and to instead gain their
support by offering complementary speakers. A speaker series that extracts the
entrepreneur’s "in-depth story” and give students unprecedented Q&A access
to highly successful entrepreneurs serves our college and community best. Also,
I honestly do not have the time to be an event planner, so I only do one event
in the fall and one in the spring. This seems very manageable.
2. Tap into your local
I have yet to pay a
speaker fee. I have been able to hook speakers by convincing them that it is
the duty of local entrepreneurs to give back to the community by sharing an
evening with community college students. This keeps our event costs to almost
nothing. Our local speakers have included Wayne Rosing (former head of
Engineering at Google), Pamela Lopker (founder of QAD), and Doug Otto (founder
of Deckers Outdoor). Each of these speakers saw the benefit of sharing their
experiences with our students, for free.
3. Build a simple
event around one speaker.
Most speakers are
honored to receive an invitation to speak, especially if we focus the entire
event on them. This gives the college an opportunity to extract in-depth
material and stories from the entrepreneur. We generally have a two-hour
commitment from the entrepreneur, and spend 1.5 hours moderating a conversation
with Q&A. At the end is a short networking reception, sometimes with free
4. Make your event
I have to credit the
lasting and successful format of our series to our inaugural speaker, Yvon
Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, the well-known retailer. First, he was wholly
uninterested in lecturing. He requested a small venue with 150 students or less
in attendance, and wanted to do a Q&A format. He had just released his now
famous book, Let My People Go Surfing, the Education of a Reluctant
Businessman. He was willing to do a book signing. So I built the event around
his requests. We had standing room only, and spent an incredible hour listening
to his journey from a young and radical rock climber, completely uninterested
in formal education, to building a company that blurs the line between work,
play and family, and focuses on repairing the planet.
5. Record your event
for future marketing.
Creating a library of
your events gradually builds credibility and is a very useful marketing tool.
Video recordings work best. Upload these to a "Video Library” page on your Web
site, create a YouTube channel for your program, and hand out DVDs at tabling
events. People can visit the Web site and view the event if they were unable to
attend. In addition, we use our local SBCC channel to record the event and then
it is broadcast for free on the local TV channel for several months. I am
always surprised to hear from random people that they saw my event on TV. We
definitely don’t get prime time – but this has proven to be valuable exposure.
6. Use free open
source event registration tools.
We use EventBrite. It
allows for very user-friendly and easy registration for students and the
community, collects e-mail addresses for future marketing, and is free as long
as your event is free.
7. Collaborate with
Our speaker series has
received the attention of other departments. For example, when the former head
of engineering at Google spoke, he captured the attention of our science and
engineering departments. Mr. Rosing is currently building a telescope network
with a team of astrophysicists. With my help, the other departments invited him
back to speak about his amazing new project. We had an incredible second event,
have created internship opportunities and one of our astronomy professors will
be doing an externship at Mr. Rosing’s lab.
As you begin to create
and offer events, you never know where it may lead. But one thing is certain,
you will build awareness of your program.