As the director of alumni and donor relations for Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, Gretchen Morgan goes to a lot of events. She noticed that more and more events she attended used a mobile app and she loved how much easier the app was to navigate than piles of paper. It was a tool she wanted to incorporate into LSU’s alumni homecoming, open houses, and continuing education events, so she started asking around. A colleague at one of the conferences recommended CrowdCompass by Cvent.
While a mobile event app’s value was obvious to Gretchen, she still had to convince the Dean to add this new tool to the budget. Gretchen pitched the idea of bringing LSU into the 21st century, and the notion of saving money and trees by eliminating paper. However, the biggest motivators to incorporate an app into LSU Vet School’s events were attendee engagement and the ability to gather information about participants. The Dean had used mobile event apps himself and gave his approval for a one-year test.
That one-year test would encompass several events including an alumni tailgate party (100-150 attendees), to an open house (3500 attendees), to CE event for vets (100 attendees). The decision to put all three events within the app was a smart move because it allowed them to use the app as a cross-marketing tool for their entire event program via push notifications and banner ads.
Adding Value for Sponsors
The LSU Vet School had existing dedicated event sponsors, and they wanted to make sure those supporters received the full benefits of the app as well. Three levels of sponsorships were created which included a splash page sponsorship, banner ads, and sponsor listings. To help market the sponsorship opportunities, LSU took advantage of CrowdCompass’s sponsorship generator tool and idea templates.
Gretchen said that between the support provided by CrowdCompass and the fact that sponsors would receive year-round exposure through the app, LSU had no problem bringing sponsors on board. In fact, they raised $7k in sponsorships for their Alumni Tailgate, $2k for their Annual Open House and $200 for their Annual Conference which is much more than they paid for the app--awesome results all around.
Building and Promoting the App
Gretchen describes herself as high-touch, not high-tech. From her perspective, the app would not be successful unless it was easy to set up. Like most busy event planners, she simply did not have the time to invest in learning something new. Not only did the app pass her test of usability, but Gretchen felt it was easy for her attendees to adopt as well. However, before they could even start using the app, they had to know it existed.
Because the app’s potential benefits were so appealing and they had just one-year to see a return on those benefits, Gretchen was not about to leave anything to chance. She used every resource available to encourage attendees to download the app including alumni mailings (both print and digital), all their existing messaging, and even promoting the app via signage at events and conferences the school exhibited at.
Most Wanted Features
Push notifications were a great communication tool, but they were also a strategic part of their multi-event implementation. To gain the attendees’ trust, LSU made a promise that those notifications would be used very judiciously. Attendees were notified only when something important was about to happen, or when there were changes to the schedule. By honoring their promise, attendees were receptive to receiving the occasional notice throughout the year about additional events they might be interested in attending.
One of LSU’s most important events of the year is their open house, which attracts the general public, as well as potential students. The map feature was especially important for this event, as attendees are encouraged to take self-guided tours across the campus. Attendees attended sessions and exhibits in record numbers because they knew exactly where to go, and when events were scheduled. Any changes to the schedule or map were easy to change so students were always where they wanted to be. LSU used push notifications for reminders about key events in the schedule.
A big problem at past open houses was the ability to gather information on the people attending. The gamification feature (Game) and the social wall incentivized attendees to log in to the app, which allowed LSU to collect the information they needed. Once attendees logged in, they could begin collecting points for a chance to win a basket of LSU Swag. That activity increased the school’s exposure on social media while getting attendees actively involved in the event.
In addition, their Annual Conference event they were able to change and add speaker notes at the last minute. Attendees were also able to access their session schedule and other important information like the wifi-passcode. All these features were extremely helpful with a conference that is known to have last minute adjustments.