10 ways to become an unofficial sponsor of SXSW Interactive 2008

March 25, 2008

Going to conferences are a fun way to learn things and make friends, but they are still very much work… and when you are in marketing that means leaving people with a positive impression so they will remember you well after the event.

Normally, we would just smile and be friendly; however, there were 7500 people at SXSW Interactive! That’s a lot of hands to shake. So, we had a different plan of attack for SXSW Interactive. We opted to do some crazy stuff in order to get some positive attention. After all, SXSW is kind of like Burning Man, but with pants.

Please note, we thought it was so cool that others liked what we did enough to post photos on Flickr, all the photos come from other people’s Flickr accounts.

The ten fingers of FreshBooks

1. FreshBooks RoadBurn

We didn’t just fly down to Austin like some half-weights. Mike, Sunir, our film producer Eamonn O’Connor, and I rolled into Austin in style all the way from from Future of Web Apps (FOWA) in Miami in our FreshBooks RV, at the tail end of our epic RoadBurn road trip to meet and eat with customers.

2. Schwag Bags

SXSWi Big Bag thumbnail

Every person attending the conference receives one of the famous SXSWi “Big Bags” just chock full of magazines, postcards, fortune cookies, stickers, etc. We dropped a postcard in the bag to tell everyone that Ben and Mike were speaking on panels and gave them the wheres and the whens.

3. Panels

We spoke on not one but two big panels during the festival. Ben teamed up with some folks from Pownce, Defensio, Dabble DB, and some little company called Facebook to present on the topic of Developer-Friendly API’s and Mike (with me as a last minute addition) spoke about Stories of Failure: Surviving Common Start Up Mistakes. Both panels were very well received and was a great final touch for a lot of people.

4. Street Team

SXSWi Street Team

A large number of lucky people were welcomed to the convention center by the FreshBooks Street Team. All week long doors were held open for people coming in with the line “This door was held open by your friends at FreshBooks” and other fun good deeds were performed by the street team. The street team then handed them a phony invoice asking them to pay $1 or to just check out FreshBooks.com, just to prove that no good deed goes unbilled.

5. FreshForce Ones

FreshBooks kicks!

We had custom Nike Air Force Ones made that we are calling the FreshForce Ones. These shoes are not only in the FreshBooks colors, but they also have FreshBooks written on the heel and the FreshBooks leaf on the bottom of the laces.

6. Hangover Kits

SXSWi Hangover Kit thumbnail

This is one of the things I am most proud of since it is a fun cool item that is so targeted to the spirit of SXSWi. Like ninjas we silently hung a hangover kit on every hotel room door in a few of the “official” hotels associated with SXSWi. This was the only way to get one… unless you bumped into Sunir or myself at one of the parties we attended on the last few nights. Inside these kits were common hangover relief stuff such as Advil, Blistex, Life Savers, Jolt Caffeine Gum, Band Aids, and antacid.

7. Canadian Pancake Breakfast

SXSWi Pancake Breakfast

Growing up I was always told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We teamed up with Microsoft Canada, Praized, Uni, and the Canadian Consulate Generals in Dallas and Los Angeles to host a pretty amazing pancake breakfast. We had the RV on hand and pancakes for a few hundred. People left full and fulfilled!

8. The FreshBooks RoadBurn RV

The RoadBurn RV!

The RoadBurn RV was pretty important during that trip but also had an important roll once we reached our destination. For one the RV was an incredible rolling billboard but also acted as a cool way for us to shuttle some of the cool kids from one party to another.

9. Customer dinners

John and Cesar at the FreshBooks customer dinner

One of the main goals of our RoadBurn trip was to meet as many customers as possible. This goal didn’t end once we got to Austin so we hosted two amazingly fun customer dinners (one big one with 30+ at our table and one smaller one) where we got to chat, eat and drink all in the name of invoicing!

10. Parties

There are so many parties going on at the same time during SXSWi that there is no way to say what are the best ones, so you try to go to all of them. Sunir and I attended as many as 5 parties a night. Going to all these parties may sound like a lot of fun, but you have to remember it was still work. Incredibly fun work that involved trying to talk with every person in the room and getting them to know all about FreshBooks but it was still work 🙂

11. Interweb Idols

I never did learn how to count. We have a new supersekret project called Interweb Idols we started working on at FOWA and SXSW.

Next year

If you want to borrow any of these ideas for yourself, feel free since we are already dreaming up new ideas for next year. After this post, we are certainly going to have to outdo ourselves at SXSW2009. We are thinking ice house!

about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.