I’m totally “that kid” that loved everything Back-to-School…the new pencils, new schedule, new shoes (if I was lucky). September for me is the chance to reset and renew after a busy summer. So you can imagine my excitement when Evia was invited to participate in a marketing course at the University of Washington.
Taught by Steve Sack, the course is part of a professional certification in marketing offered by the UW. In this class, students had a capstone project that involved a handful of local companies agreeing to be case study subjects for the students. Working in small groups, students had only a couple months to analyze their assigned company’s marketing strategies and systems, and then put together a report that included their recommendations.
As a subject company, it’s a pretty vulnerable position to be in, having your work scrutinized in that way. But we were excited to get some outside perspective, to see how well they could learn our business in a short time, and ultimately, to learn how we can grow and improve from a marketing perspective.
We were fortunate to be paired with an awesome group of students - Taira Anderson, Elyse Hammerly, Qu Chen and Tiffany Devoy. They started by getting a crash course in live streaming and content capture, the events industry and specifically learned about Evia’s place in the industry. I was impressed with the questions they asked and how proactive they were about obtaining the data they needed. They even sat in on a live demo I did with a client to see us in action.
After eight weeks, the students put together a report that was presented to us and the entire class. Their proposal showed that they really understood our business and our goals for growth, and they made solid recommendations on what they felt Evia should do. As they presented, I felt myself nodding in agreement to many things they said - both the good and the bad. Many of their suggestions were things we knew we needed to do, but hadn’t put as much focus as we should have. Some things I learned:
Evia is more than a vendor - they’re a strategic partner. After watching the way we interact with clients, partners and prospects, they saw significant strength in our creative and strategic work. They didn’t see us as some faceless, corporate AV company and saw a lot of benefit in the way we work closely with each client. Specifically, they liked that we have personality and character, that we’re fun onsite at an event, and that we’re fun and creative. They suggested we tell this story more and measure which content resonates the most with our audience.
A/B test everything! The team emphasized that we should be using our existing tools to do A/B testing on our messaging relentlessly for the next six to twelve months, refining our story and carefully tracking metrics to see which messages are most effective. We began doing this immediately by A/B testing every email campaign we do. As a result, we’ve seen our newsletter open rate almost double in just six months.
Re-do the website homepage. The team provided feedback to us that our website homepage was confusing, and it didn’t make it easy to engage with Evia in a meaningful way. While no one likes hearing that, we were thankful for the honest feedback. They gave us some great suggestions on how to organize the page in a more intuitive way to better educate and engage visitors, and to provide clear answers to the questions, “Who is Evia?” and “Why Evia?”
Additionally, they told us the top navigation menu did not really direct the user in any meaningful way, with only one option providing a dropdown that contained an overwhelming list of options that could easily confuse the user. As a result, we have incorporated many of their recommendations into a new website design, which will be launching at the end of September. Stay tuned!
Measure twice, cut once. Apparently, the old craftsman adage applies in the digital world too! Measurement was a big emphasis from the UW Marketing students, and they provided very specific strategies and tools to do that. The team did an excellent job of laying out ways to optimize our existing tools, and they suggested which metrics would be most beneficial. They provided great information on setting up reports and dashboards that will quickly provide insights. I was impressed by the level of detail provided, down to the estimated number of hours and costs for each idea.
Overall, participating in this program was such a great experience for Evia, and we were tremendously grateful for their hard work and insights. Any company that hires these students will be happy they did. The changes we are making to our marketing plan as a result will make Evia a better company, and we look forward to the next time we get to go “back to school.”