Promotion Keeps Acquisition Costs Low

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Student Advantage Inc.'s spring "Spin, Click & Win" promotion proved to be a winner for the company, pulling in 15,000 opt-in e-mail addresses, at a cost of $100,000.

"In and of itself, it's not crucial -- 15,000 registered users in context of 2 million [subscribing Student Advantage] members and a much larger base of online users," said Ray Sozzi, CEO of Student Advantage, "but Student Advantage has always been and will continue to be very conscious of acquisition costs per member."

The online and offline company offers exclusive discounts from retailers and marketers to college students. The 15,000 students agreed to receive news and offers from Student Advantage's corporate partners on a regular basis.

The promotion recruited 200 on-campus students as representatives to target 400,000 students at 42 universities. Schools were selected based on SAT scores, population, the wired status of the institutions and relationships Student Advantage had with the universities. Schools included the University of California at Berkeley, Boston University, Duke University, the University of Connecticut and Arizona State University.

"We were focusing on the incoming freshmen," Sozzi said. "There were really 80,000 freshmen that we're looking to get, obviously because of the potential longevity of the relationship."

Preparation for the promotion began six to eight weeks in advance of its presence on university campuses. Student reps were promised $100 for 12 hours of work per week. Tables were set up on campus equipped with five to eight Clio computers, which are smaller than standard notebooks and bigger than hand-helds. The goal was to gain a passing student's attention and to have him play the "Spin, Click & Win" game. Students were lured with Student Advantage-branded tchotchkes such as key chains to participate in a computer game that offered a host of prizes.

After entering his e-mail address, the student clicked on the spinning wheel. Participants would be informed via e-mail if they had won any prizes. But to collect a prize, the student had to visit the pertinent page on and volunteer more information to become a registered user, before applying for the winnings.

More importantly, students were exposed to online pitches from sponsors while registering. Partners included AT&T Corp., Amtrak, Tower Records, and Staples.

"The idea was to get as many of those students to not just register but become active, paying Student Advantage members," Sozzi said.

An annual membership costs $20. The student or the university could pay this fee, or Student Advantage's corporate partners could pick up the tab. AT&T, for example, might pay for the membership if a student signs up for an AT&T calling card.

The program's success has encouraged Student Advantage to undertake a similar exercise in the fall, preceded by direct mailings to incoming freshmen. These names are volunteered by varsities that have a relationship with Student Advantage.

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