Back to School

Grow customers without really trying (and have fun in the process)

There’s a little known marketing secret in the retail industry that can easily be applied to those whose primary clientele are other businesses. It’s so subtle most people don’t even notice what’s happening, which is probably the best kind of advertising you can get.

Did you ever take your kids to a Home Depot Kids Workshop or Lowes Build and Grow Clinic?

Both home improvement stores along with other big box retailers offer workshops to keep the kids occupied with projects while parents shop for new carpeting or look for ideas for a kitchen remodel. Parents such as myself may be convinced this is a free babysitting service to shop ‘til you drop uninterrupted for a couple hours. Any parent knows free babysitting is a fabulous benefit.

But do you want to know what the real – the underlying – reason they offer these kids’ workshops? Future customers!

The Children are Our Future

That’s right. While moms and dads are chatting with sales reps about granite countertops, the little ones are having a pleasant experience building bird houses and jewelry boxes. The marketing gurus’ tricky strategy is to plant the message early that “shopping at Home Depot is fun, and wow, there’s lots of cool stuff to buy.” Then one day little Johnny and Susie grow up and need to paint the living room and guess where they’re going to get paint?

Why Educational Outreach Grow Customers

Our children will not only grow up to be consumers but sales leaders, marketing managers, VPs, executives, decision makers, and purchasers. The marketing goldmine that retailers have discovered also works with business to businesses. Lockheed Martin teams up with the U.S. Air Force to sponsor “STEM Rocks!” (promoting careers in science, technology, engineering, and math).  Northrop Grumman also supports STEM initiatives with programs such as Out of the Box Engineering and Cyber Patriot. DuPont takes a different approach. The DuPont Challenge focuses on science classroom projects and essay competitions.

Free Publicity

By no means does your outreach need to be science or math-based. It just needs to be educational, rewarding, and FUN! You can choose from an assortment of educational outreach strategies that goes beyond monetary donations and gets the word out about how great your company is. Establishing connections with parents, students, and the educational community will help produce customer kinship. Soon enough, they will start promoting your brand for you.

Ways to Get Involved

Junior Achievement. This non-profit organization works with companies to promote and educate kids on financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship. Their mission is to prepare students to reach their potential and succeed in the work world. Be part of the inspiration. Find out more here.

Host an event. Why not sponsor a kids’ workshop at your company? What service or product do you provide to clients? Can you create an event centered on your solution? Examples include:

  • Participate in wellness fairs, if you are in the health industry.
  • Have the marketing team work with kids interested in video production to create videos to promote your product.
  • Ask the product developers and managers to contribute to Khan Academy’s Hour of Code.
  • Let teens shadow and then portray members of the executive team for a day’s event. Wouldn’t that be fun? This leads me to the next idea.

Take Your Kids to Work. The Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation help girls and boys achieve their work/life goals by providing them with hands-on and interactive experiences. These experiences expose them to the value of education and work. Your company can be the conduit in fostering employees’ children toward successful careers.

Partner with Educational Institutions. Contact local schools or even universities to partner with them on academic events (such as science fairs), high school classwork or graduation projects, and internships. Most schools would welcome the additional help since many of them suffer from budget cuts in school programs like art, music, sports, and clubs/activities.

The Future is Now!

Don’t miss out on any opportunity to get involved in educational outreach. The rewards really do outweigh the cost. Why? Because you’ll associate your brand with a worthwhile cause. Realize that brand perception can last a long time. By acting now, you’ll be ahead of the game when it comes time for them to start the customer journey.

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