Ward & Sandidge: Fun marketing is memorable marketing

A few years ago when Bob owned the marketing communications company New Orient Media in West Dundee, Friday nights were special events.

We still run into people who tell us about the great time they had coming to the studio for beverages and camaraderie.

They tell us about the interesting people who worked there and remind us about the cool 3-D projection they saw. Fridays at New Orient were remarkable. Clients would come to enjoy a unique environment and to meet other clients. We also invited prospective clients who listened to our clients talk about how we helped them.

Fridays were fun, generative and profitable. At some point, we would turn out the lights and, on our big screen with huge sound, show off our latest projects. Nothing sells like the oohs and aahs of a live audience. I recall hearing the beverages (and sometimes food) “must be costly.” Actually, not. A few hundred dollars a week from the marketing budget covered what was a priceless event for creating ongoing word of mouth and referrals for our creative services. 

We are introducing a new partner program for a nonprofit agency. The program involves other non-profits partnering to package safe and green cleaning products while creating jobs for people with disabilities. For this launch, we invited people from all over Illinois to a Business Builder Workshop. One email brought 22 people from all over the state for an interactive information and training event on a very cold day.

The fee was zero. Lunch was provided. Guests received valuable information about products, markets and how to start and operate a social business enterprise in a nonprofit. They met everyone on our staff, each of whom gave a well-produced, rehearsed presentation. They left loving us, our products and the big ideas we gave them.

The email was free. Staff time for five people. We gave everyone a sample bag of products, books and goodies, which cost about $15 each. Lunch for 22 guests and staff was about $250.

Some clients came and were more than happy to talk about how easy it was for them to get going with the program. Others already were doing some sort of nonprofit social enterprise in their organization, so they shared how they learned and have grown with it.

Others were curious, knew they needed to do something, but didn’t know where or how to get started. Clients left having learned a lot more about the products they were already working with.

New people were asking the “how do we get started” questions. And our staff has never been more energized about our organization. They experienced the organization in a whole new way through the eyes of our guests. 

Event marketing works. Done well, it is a cost effective way to reach a number of people who will either buy from you or sell for you (if you do a good job of training and exciting them about your product, program and services). Event marketing also sharpens your staff as you all work together to distill your story and express the passion you have for your mission. Doing events often helps you sharpen your presentation and streamline the flow of the day. The more often you do it, the better it will get. The goal is to give your guests an extraordinary, unexpected and, perhaps, a life-changing experience. One that they will be talking to you about 10 years from now. 

• Anne Ward and Bob Sandidge, of CreativeCore Media in Algonquin, are marketing, communication, management and training consultants. Reach them at or go to 

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