SMBMAD meeting…May 16, 2012
This month, we gathered at the US Cellular corporate offices on Madison’s east side…just off of American Parkway. Lot’s of positive comments about the big breakfast spread catered by Yola’s Cafe and sponsored by US Cellular. Additional sponsors for this event included Robert Half Technology, Engaging Social, Suttle-Straus and Melissa Carlson Creative.
Another well attended meeting, although there were a number of empty seats. I know things come up at the last minute, but considering there was a waiting list to get in, just a reminder to notify the good folks at SMB if you’re not going to make it.
This month’s presenter was Milissa Rick, marketing manager for Spacesaver…and she’s everything you want in a marketing person…youngish, but experienced…hip but with the maturity that comes with being a car-pooling, mother of two (think thick blonde hair…think bright orange fingernails), energetic, engaging, and smart…in other words, she gets it.
So, she came to SMBMAD to discuss a recent marketing effort. Her job task was fairly straightforward: design a marketing campaign that would sell more Spacesaver storage systems. What she came up with was nothing short of brilliant. Using traditional and social media marketing techniques, she developed a project that touched every corner of Spacesaver’s world: end users, middle marketers, an aging internal sales staff (that was not quick on the uptake of the social media world), the entire manufacturing staff, and most importantly, her bosses. Actually, it didn’t just touch those groups, it got them involved ….which is even better.
Her first task was to focus the effort. Instead of going after every possible user, they decided to target their growing Athletics market. Sports teams, whether at the high school, college or professional level, have a lot of stuff to store…jerseys, shoes, pads, bats, balls, jock straps, etc., take up a lot of room. Most organizations simply don’t have the space to keep it all organized in one place. They have a need that Spacesaver storage systems can solve. In case you’re not aware of the Spacesaver system, think of a bunch of walls on tracks with rollers. You can store a lot of stuff in the walls and then roll them together to save space. Spacesaver had already cracked the market a little…they had installed systems in a few colleges and pro teams, so they had a foot in the door. And the center piece of the marketing effort was to go directly to where the athletic community lives….they held a contest for high schools and colleges. Show us your messiest equipment room and win a free Spacesaver system. Brilliant.
Milissa and her team did their research. They found where coaches, athletic directors, equipment managers, etc., spend time. By the way, she referred to these groups as “tribes,” which I suspect is the latest marketing buzz-speak for groups of people with like interests. (*note to self…begin describing my job as “Choice Architect”…”What do I do? I create environments in which people make choices.”) And the place to go to reach these “tribes” turned out to be their professional associations, which have things like web sites, trade magazines, and trade shows. They did a “deep dive” and created a buyer persona so they could target their message. They contacted the associations and got permission to send out e-mails thru their contact lists. That resulted in 180,000 outgoing e-mails. The American Football Coaches Association had a partnership with a magazine that was heavily involved in social media. That magazine shot video and an interview at the Spacesaver booth at a trade show. That got posted that on the magazine’s web site and Spacesaver then posted the video across their platforms (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, etc.)
In-house, they had work to do. They created a contest web site (in-house) that would host contest videos and comments. They learned the hard way about naughty word filters, but they moved forward. They layered it in and pushed it across their social media connections. Blogs served as outreach, videos were of testimonials, contest entries and storage tips. Spacesaver also has a middle market between them and their end users: contractors and distributors. Someone has to install the thing. So they got them involved by giving them banner ads, postcard mailers and specialized blogs. They included an app that contractors could download on their I-Pads and websites. They got the Spacesaver employees involved by holding an internal contest. Employees could provide leads and the winner got tickets to a Packers game. They also mined the contest entries…the stories had interesting research info that the company could use for product development.
They got 96 entries in the first year. The second year, they got 121….88 K-12 schools and 33 colleges. They awarded a system the winner in each category and went to the school to present the award. And had the contractor there. Bottom line, they spent about $30,000 (including the cost of the system) and generated more than $1 million in quotes and orders.
Clearly, there are challenges to a contest like this:
– Administration buy-in. You don’t just give away a $20,000 product without firm commitment from upper management. But when the boss fist-bumps you in the hallway, you know you’re doing good.
– They had to work to teach new marketing techniques to an aging sales staff
– They needed a really creative and committed team to develop and manage the content. You don’t so this sort of thing flying solo.
But they pulled it off. Maybe your operation can’t afford $30,000 to spend on a marketing project and maybe you don’t have a team. But the marketing lessons apply to any project of any size.