Omnichannel for the Start-Up – Gung-Ho Case Study

The majority of the writing on omnichannel tends to focus on large multinational retailers or consumer products companies. In this post I’m going to investigate what omnichannel means for a smaller business.

My good friend Alex Winters has recently been involved in the launch of a new business called Gung-Ho. The product is 5km of inflatable fun that is to be held in the UK.

As participants go around the course they will need to bounce across the moowalk, run through giant inflatable footballs and then slide down the biggest inflatable slide in Europe. Three events are planned for the UK this year.

Current Situation

Gung-Ho is a start-up and therefore doesn’t have the deep marketing pockets that some of the obvious competitors like Tough Mudder or Colour Run have.

However the unique proposition is around the fun element of Gung-Ho – it’s intended to be far more accessible than a 10 mile military grade assault course or straight 5k run (even with the coloured powder).

Objectives

Before 2015 is out, Gung-Ho will have held three events each pulling in 5,000 entrants.

So that’s a grand total of 15,000 people that Gung-Ho need to acquire as customers and then ideally retain for 2016’s events. Not a small number when you consider that the business is starting from a stand-still position.

A further objective is to ensure that those 15,000 people have an amazing time. This will fuel the viral effect and help the business begin securing next year’s participant.

Strategy

It may seem like an oversimplification but the focus has to be on reaching as many people as possible for as little money as possible. A true guerilla marketing event.

With this in mind I’m going to address channel choice first of all.

Using the All Channel Spreadsheet, I’ve sorted the full list of channels by Cost (cheapest to most expensive) and then by Channel Index score (highest to lowest). I’ve then hand filtered channels that I think will be relevant to Gung-Ho:

  • Email – capturing email addresses of potential entrants will be crucial to securing their purchase now or for next year’s events
  • Recommend a friend – help fuel the event with an affiliate type offer that allows those who refer people to Gung-Ho to make money
  • Blog – simple to set up and a great way of keeping prospective customer’s informed on the event plans
  • Email signatures – design a standard email signature for all the team to use
  • Facebook messages – use them to reach out as a sales team but also make it easy for people to share the event with their own friends on social media
  • Facebook page – already set up and in use but it should have a focus of driving people back to owned channels such as the blog or website
  • LinkedIn company profile – show the world that this is a legitimate business
  • Twitter account – already in place and should be used to drive people to fresh event based content
  • YouTube channel – I’d suggest that this needs to include videos of the obstacles being manufactured and tested. Could also be used for a vlog by the team on what’s happening
  • Influencer outreach – use bloggers and journalists to write about the business
  • Corporate Stationery – should be simple and include links to the key channels
  • Business Card – all the team will need these
  • Surveys – can be used pre-event for low cost data capture and market research, and post-event for satisfaction surveys
  • SMS – potential to send reminders about the event or to thank people for attending
  • Website via desktop – the central point for all other channels to point at, should be transactional
  • Website via tablet/mobile – same as the above, should offer all functionality on the desktop website to mobile users
  • Landing Pages – create some specific, focussed landing pages for those coming from other channels that could be focussed on a specific event location
  • Newsletter – regular updates on what is happening. Plus for those who have registered, tips on how to prepare
  • Transactional email – Gung-Ho are using EventBrite for registrations but the messaging should be consistent with other channels
  • Images & Infographics – a course infographic could be an amazing way of informing people about the event
  • Press releases – find the story to tell and focus on getting coverage in the local event areas
  • Display remarketing – utilise retargeting of display adverts for those who haven’t converted
  • Facebook advertising – target very specific groups through Facebook advertising
  • Mobile Search – ensure that the website is optimised for those searching on mobile devices
  • PR Stunts – with a Cbeebies presenter as one of the founders, there must be a PR stunt that can help the business get some coverage
  • Price Calculator – on site price calculator to help people work out the cost of attending as a group
  • QR codes – normally I subscribe to the idea of not using these at all, however the could be useful at the event for participants to use when checking in
  • Signage – the event day signage should be good and help people find the event easily
  • Brand hijacks – could Gung-Ho hijack other brand events and news?
  • Interstitials – on page pop-ups could make a big impact on conversions of people who are investigating, they could also be a good way of capturing email addresses
  • Local search marketing – ensuring that the individual events are optimised for those searching in areas around the event location
  • Partnering – bringing partner brands on board for the event
  • Search engine optimisation – making sure the website is optimised to appear top in Google for brand related searches as well as “fun activity” type searches
  • Affiliates – develop an affiliate program that allows partners to sell tickets and receive some commission
  • Pay per click – personally I think this should be used sparingly for this type of event but it may be necessary if SEO rankings are not easily obtained
  • Content marketing – make use of a wide range of content to reach, acquire, convert and retain
  • Events (host) – the main channel in all of this is the event day itself. Needs to be amazing
  • Geofencing/iBeacon – potentially use to track progress around the event and update social media as people complete the obstacles
  • Door-to-doors – could be useful in the run up to the event to do local door drops and encourage sign ups in that way
  • Events (attend) – be present at other local runs and obstacle courses (similar to a brand hi-jack) also potentially leverage Alex’s celebrity status to help this
  • Partner sales – are there local companies that can sell tickets directly for the event
  • Postal/White mail – similar to door drops but used to reach a more specific target audience
  • Tablet/Mobile app – perhaps not for the entrants, but event staff to register incoming participants
  • Barkers – on the day used to encourage people in who might be spectating and have them take part
  • Promotional items – t-shirts and wrist bands are already planned for those who attend
  • Sandwich boards – in the lead-up to an event, a town centre based flyer distribution could be necessary
  • Flyer drop – placing flyers in local shops to the event
  • Videos – generate this content but also leverage video content generated by the participants
  • Drones – film the event with a bird’s eye view to capture the excitement of taking part
  • Magazine adverts – finding local magazines and newspapers to advertise in
  • Twitter advertising – a further way of reaching potentially interested participants
  • Wearables – probably a stretch too far for now, but eventually some type of wearable tech that records your time could be employed
  • YouTube ‘pre-rolls’ – use the video content created so far as pre-roll adverts to those within a certain drive time of the event
  • Billboard adverts – these can be very targeted to the local area of the event
  • Celebrity endorsements – leverage Alex’s status and hook up with some of his “celeb” contacts
  • Wi-Fi – providing Wi-Fi on the day could help people share their video and photos to social networks
  • Brand to hand – having flyers handed out at public locations near the event
  • Prizes/Exhibitions – something Gung-Ho have already started doing
  • Radio advertising – potentially powerful way to reach local audiences although it may be possible to use prizes and or PR to get some free coverage at the same stations
  • Blimps – given that this is an inflatable event perhaps a Gung-Ho branded blimp could be used to draw in local crowds on the day

It’s a surprisingly long list of channels for a new start-up but it does reinforce my view that businesses need to reflect on all the channels open to them.

Another critical point about the channel list is that the focus is on driving people back to the Gung-Ho website where they can book tickets. This may be via landing pages to offer specific messages relevant to the source channel.

Given the focus on creating an omnichannel experience there are several design principles that we should stick to:

  1. The same great experience should be available in all channels; there can be no weak channel
  2. Participants need to have a means of identifying themselves on the web (login/registration) and offline (upon arrival)

Also the given the nature of a start-up I’d suggest the following additional design rules:

  1. Data collection is crucial – particularly email addresses and opt-in permissions
  2. Cheap is best – look for low cost or free options
  3. Leverage the power of social media

How to reach the audience

In the early days I’d place a focus on:

  1. Creating a means to collect prospect data (lead capture)
  2. Creating social media outposts on popular networks and feeding it with a stream of engaging content (sneak peeks, photos, dates, location information)
  3. Developing PR stories and circulating them to journalists in local areas
  4. Building an affiliate function to reward those who refer sales
  5. Content development, particularly videos, infographics and photos to really get people excited (see the excellent content matrix for more ideas)
  6. Ensure that there are easy sharing functions to let people tell their networks
  7. Building a website that is SEO optimised (easily done with the right WordPress plugins)
  8. Utilising celebrity status for PR stunts and influencer outreach activities

As event dates draw nearer I’d then progress into more expensive activities such as paid advertising (very targeted), flyer printing and some brand-to-hand activities.

How to get the audience to take action

Having prospects take action should be made in stages.

Initially generating likes and follows will be crucial on social channels. This will in turn drive web traffic that will either fully convert or perhaps sign-up for further information.

For web visitors there are a number of key actions they should be driven towards:

  1. Calculating a price
  2. Sharing the content
  3. Signing up for future announcements
  4. Taking part in a simple survey (where would you choose to have a Gung-Ho event)
  5. Registering as a participant

Making the most of conversions

For those at the early stages of the process, action should be taken to encourage the next step.

Those who register an email address, should be sent a gradual lead nurture campaign to drive them towards conversion at the location they’re interested in. The same should be done with those who complete the survey.

When a registration is completed, Gung-Ho should ensure that the thank you emails contain sharing links and details on the affiliate scheme to generate additional sales from a single customer.

Create participant engagement

Prior to the event, the focus has to be on creating a buzz. Photos and videos along with quick polls to cause engagement and reshares on social network.

Alongside the social media efforts there should be an automated set of email messages that run in the lead up to the event with a call to action to share content and invite others to register.

SMS messages could be sent to registered participants as a reminder of the event but also to get them to bring a friend along (providing there are still places).

On the day of the event an email reminder should go out and then at the event itself, efforts should be made to encourage selfies, videoing and sharing on social media. I’d have big boards up with the brand name plastered all over for people to be photographed in front of.

After the event, feedback surveys should be sent to collect information. Perhaps a competition for the best Gung-Ho photo could be held on Facebook to generate further social shares of the event.

Finally this data can be held and then used next time an event comes around.

What technology can deliver the omnichannel experience at a low price point?

Website and mobile web
Wordpress as a CMS with a responsive theme (I personally use CyberChimps)
In terms of other plug-ins, I’d chose:
Shortcodes Ultimate
Contact Form 7 with the Contact Form DB and AutoResponder plugins
Disqus for comments
Facebook featured images
Simple Share Buttons Adder
Visual Biography Editor
W3 Total Cache
Wordpress SEO
WP RSS Images

On the hosting side, I’d use Clook. I’ve been with them for years now and have always been very impressed with their service

EventBrite is being used for bookings and interestingly offers an affiliate scheme

Surveys and Data Collection
I really like SurveyGizmo but a cheaper option may be to just use Contact Form 7 on WordPress or Google Docs forms.

Email marketing
MailChimp is a personal favourite here for sending bulk and automated messages

Facebook, Twitter and social
Possibly use Buffer for building up a list of regular content to post
Maybe I’d stretch to a paid HootSuite account

Analytics
Google Analytics is the obvious choice here

Data Integration
There are a few options on this one but I’d most likely use Zapier to pass data around combined with either Knack, if I want a proper database of registrants

Alternatively I’d opt to use Google Sheets or post the data into a hidden Contact Form 7 form that builds a database

Zapier would also help move data straight into MailChimp for automated campaigns

What is missing from this plan?

I’d be happy to fill in any gaps with this plan. Just let me know in the comments below what needs to be added.

Also if you have further ideas for how Gung-Ho could move forward, put your ideas in the comments.

David Sealey is a trusted adviser to senior executives on getting the most from their investment in digital and data. David created Storm81 as a place to share his passion for business, digital technologies, multichannel marketing and everything else around these topics.

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