Marketing Your School by Giving “Stuff” Away

One of the highlights from attending the Word of Mouth Crash Course was all of the free stuff that they gave away. After I registered for the conference, they sent me a copy of the Word of Mouth Marketing book. At the conference, I received a WOM backpack, free book, and two www.wordofmouth.org T-shirts.

Andy Sernovitz practices what he preaches by “giving stuff away.”

Everyone likes a free gift.

Whether you receive a gift in the mail or it is sent directly to you, a gift can go a long way in creating a memorable moment and a lasting impression.

Sometimes it is the little things like a gift that can make a difference and get people talking. This is what word of mouth marketing is all about.

That’s exactly why you should give out free gifts as part of your school’s marketing and enrollment strategy.  In fact, you should develop a strategy for what you will give away during this next school year and make this part of your marketing budget (this will be money well spent and better than an ad in the local newspaper!).

Let me share some gift ideas with you.

Free bottles of water and hot chocolateHigh Point University is scoring big with their students by giving out free bottles of water during the warmer months and hot chocolate during the colder months before morning classes. They also give away small snacks. The photo shows a Kiosk on campus where these beverages and snacks are distributed. Notice that these drinks are free! You might want to take a similar approach and give out something free to students once a month such as a free bag of popcorn, sno cone or ice cream bar.

Starbucks gift cards – Everyone likes to receive a gift card. For me, I love Starbucks so this gift card is perfect. Just recently Shannon Ficklin from Hill Country Christian School sent me a Starbucks gift card for referring two families to their school. She uses these gift cards to send to families on a regular basis to say thanks for being an ambassador for the school.

In another example, Randy Moes and Angela Oldenkamp from Calvin Christian School in South Holland, IL, sent Starbucks gift cards to pastors to say thanks for attending their pastor’s appreciation event. They included a note to encourage them to take a family from their church to Starbucks and talk to them about their school.

Hersey’s bars on Valentine’s Day – Last year, through the initiative of Pamela Pardi at Indian Rocks Christian School in Largo, FL, the leadership team handed out Hersey’s bars with a note attached that said “We love our students” on Valentine’s Day. The lower school principal said that it was awesome to get hugs from students as he delivered the candy bars to students in each class.

Car Magnets – A great gift to give everyone at your school is a car magnet with your logo on it. Parents love to put a magnet on their car rather than a bumper sticker to proudly display their school in the community. Just make sure that your brand is easy to read and recognize.

T-shirt for re-enrolling – My two boys received a school T-shirt after they were re-enrolled for the next school year. One of the cool things about the T-shirt is that it includes their class year on it. As a special perk, they were able to wear this T-shirt to school during the re-enrollment week as well as on Friday’s for spirit dress down days (every Friday is like this!).

Coffee mug – I like coffee mugs. Perhaps the reason why is that I like to fill it with Starbucks coffee (you are beginning to hear a theme in case you want to send me a gift!). Think about giving away a branded mug with an invitation to attend one of the head of school coffee meetings during the year. The parent can bring their mug and it can be filled up at the meeting.

School branded attire – Everyone likes a free shirt or sweatshirt. As a rite of passage in the middle school at Grace St. Luke’s Episcopal School in Memphis, TN, each student receives a special “hoodie” as a gift. Each of the grades has a different colored hoodie that is coordinated with the school colors. This hoodie is the only approved one that can be worn to class. For students, this is a big deal. This gift has become a tradition and has created a memorable event at the school.

This list barely begins to scratch the surface for what you could give away. You might also consider refrigerator magnets, dress code passes, a special cookout for students, luggage tags, gym bags, sweatshirts, and many other possibilities.

The key is to do something that people will remember and to give something away.

So go ahead and give something away that people will talk about.

What are you giving away at your school as part of your marketing strategy?

4 Responses to Marketing Your School by Giving “Stuff” Away

  1. Great ideas for new give-aways, even for current students–thanks!!!!!

  2. Bill Mott says:

    Rick,

    I totally agree with this strategy. I have always been a believer in giving branded merchandise away. As you say, everyone enjoys a free gift, they feel good toward the school, and they become mobile “billboards” for the school. More schools and nonprofits need to adopt this idea. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Pingback: Helping Schools Grow -- Blogging, Speaking, Assessing, Planning and Coaching | Enrollment Catalyst

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