Could you market this room? In my communications writing class at Emerson College this week, the professor ran us through an exercise that taught us how.
It’s all about features vs. benefits. How would you describe this room? Small? Undecorated? Now how would you describe it to someone you were trying to get to use it? Maybe something more like “comfortably cozy” or “a blank slate for your own decorating?” The trick is really not to describe the room at all – Describe what the room does.
Here is a condensed list of qualities that I used to describe our classroom:
- Tech-friendly (contains projector, computer, audio, etc.)
- Versatile blank space
- Sound-absorbing walls
- Carpeted floor
Now here’s the list of some benefits of the same room (using the audience of students):
- You will receive intimate individual attention (since the room capacity is only about a dozen).
- You will be kept awake and alert (because of the cold and brightness).
- You will have a relaxed learning environment (thanks to the quiet).
- You will take better notes and learn more because you were kept awake, alert, and relaxed.
- You will advance your career further because you had a better learning environment.
Who would have thought that such a drab room could get you a better job?
This past weekend I went to the 16th Annual Boston Vegetarian Vegetarian Food Festival. I have been a vegetarian for 13 years and have been to this festival before. There are always intriguing speakers and delicious food samples. This year I went with a new perspective of checking out the branding of the exhibitors. For some context, the festival takes place in the gym of a community college, giving it a casual feel, and many exhibitors are small businesses or grassroots non-profits. These are my favorite examples of best practices for event booths:
If you can have the real thing instead of pictures of the real thing – Do it! The Sproutman‘s exhibit made it pretty clear what he specializes in.
No Meat Athlete
In a space where most exhibitors just used the table given to them, No Meat Athlete used vertical space in back of its table to really catch my eye. The consistent color scheme throughout the display and the logo everywhere was a great example of branding done right.
Go seasonal! Vegan Treats had Halloween-themed mini-cakes on display, which gave them the impression of being current while other booths’ food doesn’t change much month to month. Their branding was consistent through the font and and designs of the signs you can see a bit of in the picture and you should really check out their one-of-a-kind website.
Interactive is always better. It’s that simple! Viana cooking their tofu bratwurst right in front of me actually drew me in and I ended up buying it while I didn’t buy any other faux meats that I sampled and liked. Doing a live cooking demo led lots of people to start a conversation with the cook (“Is that done cooking? Can I take one?”) who could then launch into his pitch whereas with other samples you could more passively take one and keep walking without saying anything.
The last exhibitor I have to give a shout-out to is Mercy for Animals. I don’t have a picture of their booth, but you can see their display from the Boston GreenFest from my last Exhibitors Who Got It Right post. Their campaign is “We’ll pay you $1 to watch this 4-minute video.” I took them up on the deal this time and around minute 2 converted from vegetarianism to veganism. The video had a profound impact on my life (and the lives of animals) and it goes to show the power of marketing and exhibiting. The beauty of non-profit work is that every once in a while you remember how everything you do every day is furthering a mission that you believe in, and no matter your position in your organization, you are having an impact on the world.
Over the weekend I attended the second annual Boston GreenFest at Boston City Hall Plaza. Almost 200 exhibitors were vying for the attention of me and hundreds of my fellow attendees. Here are three that stood out to me with their ideas for promoting their missions.
1. Mercy for Animals: We will pay you to educate you about our cause.
This animal rights organization offered to pay anyone $1 who would watch their video. At festivals and conferences I expect to be given things for no money and offers to get things for less money, but I’ve never made money before. I know what animal rights videos are like (that’s why I don’t eat animals!) so I didn’t take the deal. I imagine others didn’t for similar reasons, but I did see several people watching. What a direct way to make the most of your advocacy and outreach budget! Instead of running your video as a TV commercial (muted or skipped on Tivo), get viewers involved in person and invested like its their job. Even smarter, I saw a donation bin full of $1 bills. I guess after seeing the video many were inspired to donate it right back. Raise awareness and funds at the same time = A pretty win-win campaign.
2. Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness: We will have you play a game to educate you about our cause.
This may not be anything new, but I love the way that they did it. I felt less pressure to buy anything or sign up for anything like other booths, but it still got me thinking about nutrition. They had me spin a wheel (always fun to spin a big wheel like a game show) and I got the category of vegetables, which got me a trivia question about…vegetables. I learned that the most consumed vegetables in the U.S. are lettuce (because of fast food burgers) and potatoes (because of fast food French Fries). I’m sure other answers were just as inspiring to make people want to do something about health.
3. Environmental Insurance Agency: We will give you prizes if you let us educate you about our cause.
First, I think this non-profit mission-based insurance agency (apparently not an oxymoron) is a genius program. The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) started it to incentivize driving less. Your rates go down the less you drive. A part of your policy goes to funding the CLF’s work. Again, I say genius. They had a raffle at their table. Like #2, not necessarily something new but I love the way they did it. First, you’re asked to sign up for an email list (“just one email a month”) in exchange for a raffle ticket. Then you’re asked to play Transit Trivia to get a second ticket (I learned from experience that you get a ticket whether you get every one of them wrong or not). The raffle prizes are things you want but still related to their mission (whale watch tickets and DVDs). I walked away with two chances to win and new knowledge about commuting pollution in Massachusetts. They gained an email address and raised mission awareness. Another win-win.
I attended the Green STAR conference in Boston this week with three of my co-workers. We were there to drum up business and were able to make several promising contacts. As a budget-conscious non-profit we rarely buy a booth at a conference unless its our perfect audience we can be confident we will get a lot of bang for our buck by reaching a lot of prospective clients:
- Conference floor with a lot of prospective clients
I was fully responsible for the display and, since it was our first conference since the re-launch, I had to start from scratch… And I mentioned we’re a budget-conscious non-profit, right? I created two banners (Vistaprint is your friend for cheap printing, fellow communciationists), created some new print materials and printed them in-house, brought along the pens I had designed and other give-aways left over from the launch party, and set it all up the day before. I even walked it all over to the Convention Center to save us the cab fare. Voila! You have a conference display booth for under $100. What are some ways you get creative to save money?
Frank Mugisha (see my past posts about consulting with him here and here) presented his new PowerPoint presentation last night at Arlington Street Church. He was part of a panel succinctly titled “Crisis in Uganda: Trans-Atlantic Parallels of Homophobia and Racism: the Export of a US Conservative Agenda to Uganda.”
Frank’s mission is to save lives of persecuted GLBTI Ugandans. When your PowerPoint is trying to aid a cause like that, you have to make sure that the presentation of your message does justice to your content. Frank’s original PowerPoint was already solid, but we can all benefit from an outside perspective.
What we really noticed was the importance of adding a clear call to action in a new final slide. Frank’s presentation is extremely moving with many personal stories painfully illustrating the dangers of being out in Uganda. Every audience member wants to help in some way by the end, but didn’t know how. I can’t stress enough how important the close is — Get that ask in! Many of us in the field of do-gooding don’t feel comfortable making a hard sell. It can feel like it cheapens the difficult and sensitive work that we do with the community to turn that community into a marketing point to ask for money, but think of it as another part of advocacy. You want to advance your mission and expand its work and getting the word out there is just the first part. Turning that awareness into action whatever your goal may be (Donate! Contact your representative! Sign the petition!) doesn’t make you corporate, it makes you a champion of your cause.