TBI Panel Q&A: Creative Marketing on Limited Dollars

Will Kristi TBI Panel Discussion

January 2017, Panel Discussion at TBI Conference, Dallas, TX

If you didn’t get to join us at the TBI conference in Dallas, no worries! Here’s the informative marketing panel Q&A discussion in its entirety.


Will Bowman, DMC manager at ACTIVE. Will manages a team that gives marketing consultation to ACTIVE customers, including large and small races and endurance organizations

Kristie Holt, Owner, Local Hub Bicycle Co. and photographer. Kristie started the company with no loans, no money, and only $100 in marketing budget in the first year.

10 Ways ACTIVE helps event directors grow their events.

Q: What social media platforms do you use and which ones work well for your business?

  • Will: Facebook is the prominent social media platform for our race directors. It’s an extension of your website. Instagram can be a great tool for those looking for more visual impact, like promoting your course and visual elements of your event.
  • Kristie: We use Facebook to post events, community happenings and articles. Publishing events on our Facebook page allows us to more easily share them through other pages. We use Instagram to sell merchandise and bikes. We also post pictures of our customers when they get new bikes because nobody frowns on new bike day.

Q: How do you create compelling content and know when to not over-post?

  • Kristie: I look to Instagram accounts I like, and what they’re posting and what I find interesting and being shared. Also, don’t post a bad picture just to post a picture; post a good picture. Post articles that your audience really wants to see.
  • Will: Find the stories that you can really tell perform across your platforms well. We see success with event directors showcasing their participants and their struggles, and posting these stories leading up to the event.

Q: How did you start your email list and what types of email campaigns work well for you?

  • Kristie: We started our email list by collecting info through pop-up events, through our website, and through in-store transactions. Our monthly newsletter has extremely high open rates and click-through rates; we share lots of pictures and stories, local ride schedules and our blog. You should consider involving your community and customers by posting pictures of them.
  • Will: We saw one successful event director produce a free training day community event where the entry fee was simply providing their email address. It was a great way to build their list while establishing their position in the community.

Q: How important have website optimization and SEO become?

  • Will: One-third of our customers’ revenue is coming from search engines. It’s important to have a great site and provide the right type of information on that site.  Sometimes a site will have great traffic but low conversions due to poor design. If you need help, check out a site like 99designs.com where you can get great free resources and tools, or even tap into pro-bono professionals. A simple, top tip is to ensure your most important information is placed above the fold to help convert site visitors into customers. We recommend these free SEO tools:
    • Udemy.com – Online free courses for practically any topic, including SEO
    • MOZ.com – We use this in our own consulting. You can even evaluate your competitors! MOZ helps you determine keywords and plug those keywords into the MOZ analyzer and get some simple tips on how to make your website better
  • Kristie: My business partner is in IT so we were able to build our site on a budget. I recommend tapping into your friends who have these skills, see if you can trade products/services to get a great site without a $15K+ investment. And pictures, I can’t emphasize enough how you need great pictures. It is important to get your name at the top of searches and at the very least at the top of the first page.

Q: Talk about the importance of Google Analytics and other analytics tools.

  • Will: Simply put, analytics lets you see what’s generating traffic to your site and how well that traffic is converting. It also lets you understand your audience more, including their demographics. Facebook also has a robust analytics tool – our consultants work with a budget of about $20-$30 to test the audience before our customers invest heavily in Facebook advertising. We take the time to understand who the audience is, where those ‘like’ customers are, build that list of like customers, and send targeted messages to them. If you’re building a Facebook marketing strategy, don’t blast ads to a massive audience. Really drill down to your target audience.
  • Kristie: I also use WordPress’ analytics to evaluate where people are coming from and what content they are looking at. I use this info to determine what content I should continue putting on my site.

Q: What kind of tactics are good for getting off the ground?

  • Kristie: I write my own press releases and manage my own social media. I post to other relevant Facebook pages that provide visibility to outside posts.
  • Will: It’s important to take the time to come up with a plan. Sit down and plan it out, write it down. Does it include social media? What emails are you sending? What content are you putting on your website and when? What sponsor content are you promoting and where? It’s important to have a plan across your channels. Also, use local community pages to promote your events.

Q: How important is design as you are launching your event or brand and what branding aspects should be considered?

  • Will: Build a strong logo. Establish consistent and branded headers and footers on your website and in your emails. Continue to ensure that your brand’s look and feel is consistent across your content.
  • Kristie: Brand identity is important including your logo, fonts, photography look and feel. You don’t need to go to a major branding extent in the beginning.

Q: What branding or creative tools do you use to brand on a budget?

  • Kristie: I got a great tip when I started: Canva.com. It’s free graphic software that lets you use templates and pictures, many of them free, or import your own pictures. I use it every day. Also, it’s important to make sure you’re consistent with your image and branding.
  • Will: I completely agree. Canva.com is great.  Also, 99designs.com as I previously mentioned is another great tool.

Q: How do you engage in any partnerships to help promote your brand?

  • Kristie: We partner with locals who have a strong social following – there’s one great partnership we have with 52,000 local followers on Instagram. We traded bike rentals for promotion services. And we collaborated with DDI (Downtown Dallas. Inc.) and also did a free bike rental thing that got a ton of promotion. We recently partnered with the Dallas Library. We kept seeing communities build these book bikes and we raised a little money to build a book bike and out of nowhere we were in the Dallas Morning News, with a huge picture in the Metro Section, and got a ton of exposure and calls from that. And people came in and told us they bought from us just because we were involved in the community.
  • Will: For those who seek event sponsors, it’s important to leverage data from your previous years, so you can really show them who your audience is and drive a reason for brands to be involved.

Q: How do you go about engaging local media, whether on a local, national or international level?

  • Kristie: I feel like I have a lot of luck. Sometimes I send something I think is a big story and — nothing. And other times I’ll send the smallest thing and get coverage through three media outlets. Just keep putting stuff out there. Everything that is mentioned in the media about us is related to the stories about doing good things for other people.
  • Will: It comes back to having a true identity in your event or brand and having genuine stories about your people. And sharing those stories so media can take notice of it. Look at Humans of New York, posting stories about people and becoming huge overnight with national media coverage.

Q: How did you start establishing your brand?

  • Kristie: Our shop didn’t physically open until a year after we were established. We started rides from where our shop would be. We did some pop-up shops. We established our social media presence a year before we even opened. It’s important to talk to your audience in advance.

Q: What are ways you can give to the community or drive promotion without spending marketing dollars?

  • Will: Think about what tangible items you can give away, especially for charitable events. There is this cycling event in the UK that gave away some jerseys that fueled a registration spike early on. Also, they ended up adding jerseys to an early registration push, offering registration plus a jersey for, like, $10 more, which worked well.

Q: Will, you mentioned using $20-$30 to build your audience on Facebook. What did that amount give you?

  • Will: That gave us a picture of who is interested in our customer’s event. We used their initial email list to see who our top audience is and created a look-alike audience in Facebook. We made three ads with different messages or imagery, and targeted them to this audience to test what resonated with them. This helped make decisions for better ROI on future Facebook campaigns. An important thing to remember is to not test just one ad — test multiple ads through different pictures, or different CTAs.

Q: How do you quantify the value of time spent versus money spent to create effective marketing?

  • Will: Creating a marketing plan allows you to allocate a certain amount of time each week toward marketing. This also lets you see which areas you want to invest more time in learning so you can schedule that time. Allocating how much time you’ll spend on each channel, and having a structured plan for those channels, helps you manage your time spent more effectively.

Q: I can’t find recommendations on how I should be spending money in Facebook advertising.  Do others see this problem?

  • Will: This can be difficult to approach – Do you hire an agency or a freelance consultant? Do you take time to learn how to do more yourself? I recommend looking at Facebook Blueprint which houses 10-minute courses that provide a lesson on specific areas of Facebook marketing – look-alike audiences, tracking data, etc. See if you can create a working relationship with a marketer where they’re compensated based on conversions, i.e. you pay them if they get you results.

Learn how ACTIVE software and complementary, dedicated Digital Marketing Consultants helps Commando Challenge drive registrations.