Enhancing efforts to present a strong, attractive social media presence and adopting guerrilla marketing strategies were key ideas Fort Lewis College business students offered La Plata County Humane Society as they pitched a marketing strategy for the nonprofit.
Ideas such as a yearlong radio advertising campaign with an estimated price tag of $52,000 were presented but eventually put on the back burner when plans met business realities.
“We’re going through our budget right now, and we’re fighting to get $400 a month for advertising,” Guthrie Hardesty, director of the Humane Society Thrift Store, told about 20 students presenting their marketing ideas to Humane Society employees at a presentation Monday at Fort Lewis College.
Isabella Martinez, a senior, said she would concentrate on improving the quality of photos used on social media posts.
“This is something you could do right now, and it doesn’t cost anything,” she said.
Improving the quality of Humane Society social media posts, she said, would be the most cost-effective way to increase traffic not only at the shelter but at the Thrift Store and the new Re-Tail Boutique, which offers a curated selection of the highest-end donations, including collectibles, professional attire, jewelry, gifts and small furnishings.
Alex Fuller, a senior, said integrating guerrilla marketing tactics – using low-cost, attention-grabbing techniques with little money such as stickers and flyers in public places – combined with special campaigns focusing on special events and holidays could boost visits, animal adoptions and the bottom line.
With Snowdown coming Jan. 30-Feb. 3, Alida Holmes, a senior, suggested holding a costume sale at the Re-Tail Boutique, which opened in May at 450 South Camino del Rio on the second floor in the same strip mall as the south Zia Taqueria.
Emily Phillips, Humane Society marketing and development coordinator, said ideas like participating in the Snowdown Light Parade could be an effective way to increase community engagement, but the effort would have to be handled carefully.
In future years, she plans to seek out owners of pets adopted in years past that are well-socialized to possibly join in the Light Parade. She said pets would have to be calm in large crowds and undisturbed by the fireworks that accompany the mid-winter carnival’s parade.
Mining data from Google Analytics, said Keegan Galbraith, a senior, could work with a bolstered social media presence to boost the Humane Society’s knowledge of its client base and people who are interested in adopting a new pet.
“Google Analytics are customizable and you get a real-time analysis and demographics about who your audience is,” Galbraith said.
He also noted the data provide information on psychographics, the lifestyles, attitudes, aspirations and beliefs – a kind of psychological profile – of online users interested in the Humane Society.
“I’m really excited about what we can do with the Google data,” Phillips said.
Galbraith added, “You can really determine who, where and why people are visiting you.”
Some other low-cost ideas students had for increasing awareness of the Humane Society and its thrift stores included:
Holding in-store events, which also could be tied to special events such as St. Patrick’s Day or Snowdown.Partnering with K-12 art classes to create community engagement and art for use in marketing.Creating a street banner to promote special events.Promoting hashtags on social media that would boost online awareness.Creating an adoption calendar that could be printed on request to avoid the cost of a mass printing.Holding pet of the day or pet of the week events at the Re-Tail Boutique and the Thrift Store.Professor Kristin Watson said the Marketing Strategy class is the capstone course in the field at Fort Lewis College and the goal is to give students hands-on experience generating a real marketing campaign for a client. The students have been working on the Humane Society plans all semester.
Scott Betzer, a senior, offered a final suggestion aimed at benefiting FLC students, not necessarily the Humane Society.
“You could have a booth at FLC with dogs during finals week. That could really help de-stress everyone,” he said.