You took MKTG611. You thoroughly did not enjoy learning how to sell toothbrushes in India. You decided that you never wanted to touch marketing again. So you got yourself a banking internship for the summer and success! But if you are at all involved in extracurricular activities here at Wharton, then you never steered that far from marketing. As Professor David Bell explains, leading student clubs is not that different from marketing in the real business world and many concepts cross-pollinate.
When you get down to it, a club’s success ultimately depends on two factors – the product and the marketing. Bad marketing renders even the most perfect offerings irrelevant, so the right packaging and messaging is crucial. To start, the club needs a crisp and concise positioning statement, no joke. You have to know what functional, emotional and symbolic benefits the club delivers to its members and who your target segment is.
Understanding the consumer is key. You have to go beyond their descriptive attributes and think about their attitudes and consumption patterns. Survey your current members and incorporate their feedback on what works and what needs improvements. Just because you are an affinity club, you cannot assume that everyone in that affinity group will automatically join – that would be thinking too simply of the Wharton MBAs’ minds. After all, there are a ton of different activities that clamor for our attention and money, so people will choose wisely. Furthermore, even if they do join, a lackluster experience will result in unmotivated members and a diminishing organizational brand.
Because student clubs are mostly experiential goods, it can be difficult to concretely capture the intrinsic benefits. This is why word-of-mouth is by far the most effective marketing tool. Therefore, it is crucial to have a deeply engaged core member base who will help promote the club to the outside community. Ideally some of them will have a broad social network and some of them will authentically represent what the club stands for. You know that the club has made it if its members feel that they gain social currency by being its ambassadors.
Of course, this active referral is time-consuming and limited in scope. To be more cost-effective, most clubs undertake passive broadcasting. To avoid being treated as another piece of junk mail, passive broadcasting needs to be creative and informative. Capture the readers’ attention through unexpected, but relevant, messaging. Utilize the various forms of social media to entertain and engage with the audience. But most importantly, the economic value to the consumer should be clear.
First impression is often everything. So as admitted students wander the campus and preparations begin for the club fair in the fall – think about how you want to present your club and what your elevator pitch would be.