Below the Line Activities (BTL) or Experiential Marketing- An integral Part of Rural Marketing (Part II)
The success of any event, whether big or small, depends on how meticulously it is planned. Marketers will do well to remember the following steps when they are planning an event.
Generating Data Bank of Specific Target Audience
Since all the BTL activities are aimed at one on one or group communication, the first step is to generate a database of addresses that will constitute the specific target audience, for the particular brand, in the targeted market.
This can be done through:
1. Desk Research
2. Field Study
3. Getting data from Trade Associations
Many corporates have the system of collecting data about their customers like the names and addresses of customers who buy any product of the company. If necessary, systematic field study to generate addresses of potential customers, can be also undertaken. Local dealers and field personnel can also help in preparing a detailed address list of opinion leaders. Such lists, can be the basis for generating a shortlist of names of persons, who can be invited to the road shows. These persons are then introduced to the new products planned to be released by the company.
Decide on the Scope of the Event
Is the road show meant for small or large niche groups, or is it for the general public? This decision will help you take the next step.
Decision on the Location of the Event
If it is for large groups, you can hire halls in hotels, marriage halls or even conduct events in the open air with specially erected stage and pandals. It could also be held with the help of branded kiosks, portable stages in haats, melas and mandis or performed live on AV trucks/vans etc.
Designing Special Invitation Cards
Personalized invitation cards work wonders in rural and semi urban settings. Attractively designed cards with pop up designs not only carry the invitation details but also act as vehicles for promoting the brand. Such cards find ready acceptance among the target audience. It has been seen that many of them retain the cards months after the show is over; because they find the card interesting. From experience, it has been found that on an average more than 70 percent of the recipients of such invitations actually attend the show.
Another important tactic that one can adopt is to have the invitation cards carry lucky dip numbers. If possible a message should be included that if they come to the venue on time with the card, they would be entitled to win prizes based on a lucky dip; for arrival on time. This gimmick invariably works with all types of audiences.
The advantage of having lucky dip numbers on the invitation cards, is that it helps in selecting a limited number of people to actively participate in games and quiz shows; and without upsetting the audience, in cases where more than the numbers planned are keen to participate. Besides, it also helps in getting a more accurate picture of the number of prizes required to be distributed.
It is important that cards are either personally delivered or couriered with the full addresses of the respondents clearly written. Some kind of follow up always ensures very good response. Please remember, a person in a village receiving an invitation from a large company for a show is making news in the village, and the respondent invariably talks proudly about it.
At the venue – a checklist
Have an impressive arch announcing the event, at the entrance of the venue. Apart from pinpointing the location to the invitees, it also helps in creating brand awareness among passersby.
Inside the venue, display adequate number of banners, posters, danglers, etc. to create a brand atmosphere. Similarly an attractive design for the backdrop on the stage (not just loosely hanging banners) will help to catch the eye of the audience.
If a show is planned to be held in several centres, design the stage as a portable unit which can be easily assembled or dismantled. The first exposure to any invitee is the registration desk. It must be manned by smart people, friendly and helpful; who never lose their cool even if there is a rush. Systems should ensure that the registration process is smooth and the invitees are able to register their names and addresses quickly, and collect the branded gifts and other product literature from the counter without delay.
It is important to have two empty boxes one to have the tear off portion of the lucky dip number in the invitation for on time arrival, and the second for all those who arrive after the cut off time.
90 Minutes of Nonstop ‘Edutainment’
Half your job is done when you have got the highly focused target audience at the venue of the event. How you hold their attention and deliver the communication package effectively, to ensure that they get the core message without fail, will determine the real success of the show.
It is important to prepare minute by minute programme which combines entertainment with education (edutainment). Alternating ‘gyan’ about your product, with games or entertainment will ensure that the audience sits glued to their seats till the end and are attentive to your message.
A good Master of Ceremonies (MC) with local language proficiency is a must. Ideally, a popular TV artist of the region adds glamour to the show. It would certainly help, if in the opening remarks, the MC is able to communicate in the local dialect. The MC can connect directly and immediately with the audience. This would assist him/her to control the show effectively.
After every serious period of marketing, a quiz or an interactive game with prizes assists the audience to get totally involved in the proceedings. This also helps to maintain audience excitement and expectation, keeping their hopes alive for a fun filled afternoon or evening. The MC should ensure before every game that the selected participant is made to recall the core message.
An attractive bumper prize at the end of the programme, based on a lucky dip, would help to retain the interest of the audience till the end of the show.
The detailed minute to minute programme should ensure that there are no long boring speeches by the company representatives. Similarly, ensure that the MC does not go off at a tangent. Give a basic script to the MC, covering all the important points, names etc.
A well produced tele film of 8 to 10 minutes duration, with a slice of life approach in the language of the region, helps in the uniform presentation of the basic product message. This eliminates the risk of a bad presentation, by an ineffective speaker representing the company. Avoid showing boring corporate documentaries featuring interviews with senior managers of the company. Please ensure excellent arrangement for AV equipment, because even a very good film badly projected is worse than a bad presentation by a poor speaker.
Depending on the budget, ensure that every guest gets a small token gift (again branded) and high tea or dinner. It is also good to ensure that you collect the correct database of the addresses for future follow up. After all, the main purpose of the show is to get leads of potential customers, with whom the sales team can later follow up.
Personalized invitation cards to specific target consumers are enough to get the target audience to the show. If, however, the general public is involved, then you have to publicise the event through regional press, local radio, local cable TV, banners, posters, leaflets, and van announcements. Please remember that well planned events, and participation by a local dignitary as chief guest, will help in the event getting free editorial publicity in the local media.
Go for Quality Audience
Very often the success of an event is judged by the number of people who attend the show. The real success is in ensuring that even if the numbers are small, you have the core targeted audience attending; so that your resources are not wasted.
Hiring an Event Manager
If you do not want to run after too many people to get your work done, it will be worthwhile to hire the services of a rural event management specialist. There are any number of event specialists located in every region with understanding of the local problems and situations. Such service providers have local contacts and they work on a turnkey basis to conduct shows. They are equipped and ready to face unforeseen contingencies while ensuring smooth running of the shows. Though such event management consultants will cost you extra, it would be money well spent. However, be cautious of service providers without proper infrastructure facilities. They may offer their services cheap, but will most likely vanish from the scene at the slightest problem.
Take Ownership of the Event
Even if you are hiring the services of an event manager, please remember it is your show and that you have a part to play in the success of the event. The generation of the correct database of addresses and ensuring that invitations reach the right people, are areas where as a marketer, you must share responsibility with the event manager. Similarly, at the show, company representatives must be available to respond to possible questions from the audience.
There are no standard costs for conducting events in Rural Marketing. The budget will vary depending on the specific requirements and scale of the event and also on the reputation and capability of the service providers.
How do you evaluate the success of any road show? Here again there are no standard answers. Many companies try to use the cost per contact method to evaluate all road shows. While it is good to consider the cost per contact, it should not be the sole criterion.
Other good performance yardsticks would be the quality of the audience which participates in the shows, assessing the effectiveness of the communication package through quizzes; or some form of pre and post research to study the impact based on predefined parameters.
(Extracts from the book ‘Don`t Flirt with Rural Marketing’ by RV Rajan published by Productivity and Quality Publishing, Chennai. The next part of the series will feature Step- 11—AV Van (Video on Wheels)– an effective medium.)