The Super Bowl isn’t just a night to determine the National Football League champion. It’s also known for smart and creative ad campaigns. Sure, those companies have multi-million dollar budgets to help them come up with creative marketing ideas. But, you don’t need to spend a fortune to do some creative marketing of your own.
The adult learning market is projected to grow 12% by 2028. With a little innovation, that increased demand could turn into more interest in your offerings and more students in your classes.
Informal ed may not have a Super Bowl-esque event that brings competitors head-to-head in the ultimate marketing challenge. But social media, print media, and in-person events offer opportunities to show off your program. Here are 7 inventive and low-cost creative marketing ideas that will help promote your courses online and off.
1. Host a Competition on Social Media
A competition can be an effective way to encourage people to engage on social media. Plus, changing up your social media strategy may boost the number of people who see your content.
You might ask page visitors to:
- Share their favorite photo from a class
- Show off something they made in class
- Stick your swag in unusual places and take a photo
- Write a haiku about your program
- Share why they value lifelong learning
- Name a new piece of equipment
Use your imagination to come up with something that’s likely to be fun for your audience. Then, sweeten the pot with a valuable prize. This could be a free introductory class, a private lesson, or a bundle of swag.
How to do it:
- Write a post introducing the competition.
- Invite your social media network to enter by submitting their content or idea.
- Encourage the audience to “vote” by liking posted submissions. Ask them to share to help their favorite submission win.
- Announce the finalists.
- Run a second round of voting to choose a winner.
- Announce the winner and issue their prize.
Coordinating a competition takes some effort, but it can help increase your reach on social media and build rapport with your audience.
2. Jump on a Trend
Pop culture loves a good trend. Whether it’s buying an air fryer, mimicking some TikTok choreography, or posting your Spotify Wrapped stats, trends blow up regularly on social media. Join in the fun by posting your own spin on whatever’s trending.
Ideally, you’ll pick trends that relate to your program in some way, but you can get creative with the connection.
- Rework a meme to fit your program
- Use a trending song in an Instagram Reel about one of your classes
- Do a TikTok dance wearing your program’s logo
- Tweet using a trending hashtag
Just make sure you’ve done enough research to avoid any trends that might not fit your brand image. Keep it fun and you might just reach new audiences.
3. Host A Student Showcase
If you teach performance, art, or other creative endeavors, create a space for students to show off their work.
How to do it:
- Pick a time and location
- Invite students and professors
- Ask select students to present their work
- Schedule performances or mini-workshops
- Announce it on social media and through email
- Display student projects gallery style
- Offer light refreshments.
Consider also running a promotion. This could be a door prize raffle for anyone who attends or a discount for students who sign up for a class at the event.
4. Organize a Flash Mob
The word mob might sound a little scary, but it’s just a group of people gathered to draw attention. You might coordinate one at your community farmer’s market, popular outdoor shopping area, or other public space with foot traffic.
You might get students and instructors to:
- Paint mini canvases
- Recite Viola’s monologue from 12th Night
- Lip sync
- Hand out flowers
The more creative you are, the more likely people are to watch, film on their phones, and tell their friends about what they saw–or maybe even join in! Make sure everyone involved wears a branded T-shirt and bring along flyers or cards with QR codes so your audience can learn more about the program.
How to organize a flash mob:
- Decide what you want people to do
- Get permission from the venue
- Spread the word to your performers
- Show up in branded clothes
- Hand out materials about your program
Check out this flash mob organized by T-Mobile at Liverpool Street Station for some inspiration!
5. Poll Your Audience
This may not sound like a super creative marketing idea but wait just a minute. Running polls can help you increase engagement and get feedback to make your program better. They allow your students and the community to have a voice in your program. Creativity comes in when you choose what you want to poll people about.
Here are a few questions to set off your brainstorming:
- What time should we offer [this particular] class?
- What other classes do you wish we offered?
- What flavors of tea should we have in the lobby?
- What animal should be our official mascot?
- Do you prefer online classes or in person?
- Which of these two logos is better?
Most social media programs have built-in polling tools. Keep your poll questions simple, with no more than three options to choose from. Any more than that and people may experience choice overload. They’ll just scroll on by rather than make a decision.
You can run an in-person version of this by putting jars in your lobby and allowing people to put something in the jars to vote. If you’re a non-profit or want to support a charity, you can ask people to vote by putting cash in the jar. The jar with the most cash at the end wins. A cash-free version of this would use marbles, slips of paper, or other small items.
6. Partner with a Local Business
When you partner with a local business, you may end up sharing your program with a whole new audience. A partnership doesn’t have to be a formal profit-sharing agreement.
Partnerships could take many forms:
- Share space. Invite other businesses into your space, or ask to use theirs. Some great examples we’ve seen include a theater performance of The Glass Menagerie at a glass studio and a “paint and shop event” offering a painting class at a local gift shop
- Partner with a charity. Offer them a portion of your proceeds from a class or student showcase event in exchange for help with publicity.
- Create discount offers. Team up with a relevant business, for example, negotiate a discount on art supplies for your students if they shop at a local partner store.
- Team up with local schools. Parent-teacher associations often host events to fundraise for school activities. Offer a short class or workshop during their event in return for publicity.
7. Recruit Brand Ambassadors
Honor your most loyal students with the title of “brand ambassador.” Brand ambassadors are students who are already excited to talk about your classes. They might post about you on social media or even go to networking events on your behalf.
Recognize these students with special perks like discounts, early registration access, or free swag. Your students have their own network of connections, some of whom likely share their interests. Tapping into that resource will increase your reach.
Brainstorm Quick, Creative Marketing Ideas
You don’t need to have a professional marketing team behind you to promote your business, nor do you need to spend a lot of money to enroll students. Here are some additional low-cost creative marketing ideas:
- Use sidewalk chalk (or other forms of street art) to draw attention to your program. Make sure you get city permission before doing anything permanent.
- Submit your program for local business awards. If the award is determined by the public, use your social platforms to encourage your audience to vote.
- Make bumper stickers or magnets for students and instructors to display on their cars.
- Invent witty and memorable custom hashtags for social posts.
- Use location-based hashtags to reach people in your area. Many cities have hashtags highlighting their downtown, small business, or local arts offerings.
- Engage with other brands and businesses on social media whose audiences overlap with yours.
You know a creative marketing idea is good if it feels fresh and interesting while also making sense with your brand. Remember you don’t just want to spread the word about your program, you want to tell the right people.