Published on 2013/10/03
Marketing CE: Made in the Shade
Finding something everyone needs and branding it is key to success in the marketing game. In sunny, southern Arizona, the answer was sunshades.

The main audience for our continuing education program work in large buildings surrounded by parking lots, and part of their daily routine includes walking a long way through the parking lot to their buildings.

Each time I visited our clients’ locations I would try to envision how I could use this ‘down time’ as a chance to market our program. Banners? Signs? Benches with our logo?

Nothing stuck out as being economical or feasible.

One particularly hot afternoon when getting into my car after a visit, the idea hit me just like the blast of hot air in my face: a sunshade for the windshield. As I navigated out of the sea of parked cars, I realized very few cars had sunshades, although most had their windows down slightly. That night I visited our promotional products vendor and priced out sunshades. Three weeks later, I was handing out foldable silver sunshades in the classroom with our university logo and website emblazoned across one panel of the shade.

As the weeks went by and my trial order of 250 sunshades dwindled, I began noticing the sunshades around town at the local mall, at Walmart, on cars for sale and in the original parking lot where the idea first came to mind. The marketing item was being used and our institutional logo and program name, along with website URL, was being displayed all over town.

Admittedly, some of the cars weren’t the fancy and clean sports cars that catch your eye, but our name was still being displayed around the community.

Marketing CE: Made in the Shade
While the car shade lists the university website, it does not include a phone number.

The total cost was roughly $1,600 for the 250 trial shades, roughly equal to the revenue earned from an additional student in a non-credit class.

One thing I would change for the future is to list the phone number in addition to the URL, as walking through a parking lot it’s much easier to dial a number than navigate a website on a small phone screen.

Other than that, I think this marketing idea has it made in the shade.

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Readers Comments

Helen C 2013/10/03 at 9:57 am

I always enjoy reading this series by John DeLalla. He shares creative ideas, some of which I’m eager to try at my institution.

However, one issue I have is that he often only presents the qualitative results of his marketing tactics, without describing if and how they’ve led to increased enrollment.

Without quantitative data, it’s hard to pitch these ideas at my institution.

    John DeLalla 2013/10/23 at 3:27 pm

    Helen –
    Thanks for your feedback – and I hope you try some of the ideas – and let me know the results too! I share my projects in hopes that other institutions can also use the ideas and help their communities too.

    I wish we had quantitative data to share. Yet we don’t. I ask students randomly, there are comments on evaluation forms, but it’s difficult to track. I do share the rough dollar amounts spent on each project and the rough equivalent in enrollments, but I don’t have the bottom line results for you. Sorry!
    John

Natalie Miller 2013/10/04 at 11:20 am

Another good suggestion from DeLalla. I appreciate the helpful tidbits he always includes, such as suggesting an institution put phone numbers instead of URLs on branded car shades for easier access in this article. It’s obvious DeLalla doesn’t suggest ideas that only sound good in theory, but ones that are ‘tried and tested.’

    John DeLalla 2013/10/23 at 3:30 pm

    Natalie –
    Thank you for the comment – I try to share the good – and the bad – so you can replicate the idea for your community. It’s also great to learn from someone else’s mistakes, right? 🙂
    Best,
    John

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