Note to readers: I have been working on this post for forever. I had it finished one day and the changes didn’t save. Go figure. And then I got busy with work and it just sat in my drafts folder. But here, finally, are my thoughts on Harley-Davidson Summer Camp from a marketing perspective.
I don’t have a life list. Mostly because I never think about it until I am doing something fun or interesting for the first time, and it pops into my head –wow if I had a life list, this would be on it, for sure. But of course by then it is too late — I’ve already done whatever it is. So the life list remains unwritten.
However, learning to ride a motorcycle has been on my unwritten life list for more than a year, so I was beyond delighted to attend the Harley-Davidson Summer Camp as BlogHer’s representative. At some point, I will get around to writing about the experience, probably next spring when I will actually learn to ride at a Harley Rider’s Edge class. In the interim, I urge you to read the sponsored posts written by my 11 fellow Harley campers.
In this post though I want to focus on three marketing lessons we can learn from this event.
1. Choose your attendees wisely. It goes without saying that you want to be sure the bloggers you invite are interested in the topic, but you also want to have a simpatico group, especially with a smaller event. And you don’t necessarily want everyone to already know each other. After all, it isn’t a reunion, it is a sponsored event.
In the case of the Harley event, some of the bloggers knew each other, but everyone also met a few people for the very first time. It was a well-matched group; with interests and life experiences in common, but diverse as well. It mixed well, and that contributed to the overall success of the event.
Bottom line, you have to know your bloggers. Obviously, I think we do it very well at BlogHer, and if your blogger outreach or event involves reaching digitally savvy women, I hope you consider working with us. But with time, effort and patience, you can do it too. No shortcuts though. You have to get to know people.
2. Vary the agenda. It is perfectly okay to have brand presentations; your attendees expect to hear from you about your product, are hungry to learn more and take pride in covering the event thoroughly. If they weren’t interested, they wouldn’t have come. But also give them time to experience your product. Granted it is a little easier to come up with experiential ideas when your product is a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and you can put the bloggers on the bikes as both passengers and nascent riders. And a museum full of memorabilia is pretty compelling too.
But I think it is possible no matter what your product is. You just have to think a little differently about your assets. The goal is to give your attendees a picture of your brand beyond product attributes and marketing messaging. Here are just some of the things you can do:
- Demonstrations and trial use (as Harley did) work for nearly every product under the sun, and the more freedom you give the attendees to use the product, the more compelling it will be. In other words, demonstrations good, letting them use it, better and giving them a challenge or task where they can be creative with it, best.
- Let them meet your employees and other stakeholders, in both formal and informal settings. In my experience, women bloggers are particularly interested in meeting women who work for your company, at all levels. What’s it like to work for you? What was their career path? If you have a good story here, tell it!
- Your company is part of a physical community and probably active in civic organizations and local charities. Get out of your building and let your attendees meet the organizers and leaders of those groups. Even better, people who have benefited. And best, put them to work somehow. Planting a garden in the local park. Working at a soup kitchen.
3. Mix it up — Part of the incentive for attending sponsored events is the opportunity to meet and hang out with other bloggers. Harley-Davidson did a great job leaving time for socializing in the agenda, among the group and with Harley employees at informal unstructured events like a Milwaukee Brewers game and an evening cruise along the river into Lake Michigan. The group hit it off so well in fact that we started a Facebook Group so we could still “hang out,” albeit virtually. Some truly free time is also a good idea. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but make sure there is some downtime in the schedule for your attendees to call home and write their blog posts!
What things do you think make a great sponsored event?
Disclosure: As noted in my post, I was hosted by Harley-Davidson during Summer Camp, which I attended in my role as VP Influencer Marketing at BlogHer.