The Definitive Guide to Experiential Marketing
This guide will walk you through the offline buyer’s journey and give you the information you need to reinvent your experiential marketing strategies. Discover how you can use experiential marketing to add value to your brand and organization, plus actionable tips that can be implemented for your next event.
Experiential marketing is in a period of continued growth at present because it provides a great opportunity for consumers to interact directly with brands and build positive associations. In fact, according to findings published in the Freeman Research Global Brand Experience Study, more than a third of CMOs plan to allocate between 21% to 50% of their budget to experiential marketing in the coming years.
What is Experiential Marketing
Experiential marketing is a strategy designed to engage consumers and encourage direct participation with a brand and/or its products, experiential marketing includes things like event marketing and street marketing. Essentially, rather than simply being given a message through advertising, experiential marketing aims to allow consumers to experience something tangible, which they will then associate with the brand, such as an exhibition service, or a live interaction.
Whereas traditional marketing channels tend to stimulate only some of the five senses, such as sight or sound, experiential marketing has the capacity to target all five at the same time, increasing engagement. In this guide, we examine the offline buyer’s journey and show you how you can use experiential marketing to add value to your brand.
Why is Experiential Marketing so Effective?
Essentially, experiential marketing opens up avenues that were previously off-limits to marketers. While digital media like videos and email marketing give marketers the opportunity to help establish a brand voice, the voice is only ever speaking to the consumer, rather than with the consumer. Experiential marketing brings that voice to life, establishing a fuller, more interactive, and more appealing brand perception.
This interactivity speaks to the true nature of experiential marketing and its power. The more interactive and engaging an event is, the more memorable it will be to a consumer. Of course, you don’t want to overwhelm your attendees, but with the right direction and placement of interaction, your attendees will be happily engaged. Engagement is a standard of measurement for a variety of marketing mediums, but no engagement is quite so meaningful as those of experiential marketing, as the engagement is in-person, or face-to-face. Don’t worry, you can still come back from your event with data-driven engagement results if you utilize session-tracking technologies. However, each pinpoint of engagement will be more valuable with experiential marketing, due to its more personal nature.
Experiential Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing Channels
Experiential marketing—using immersive event experiences to market a brand or product to consumers—continues to surpass traditional marketing techniques in terms of effective marketing strategies. Between traditional marketing media and digital media, experiential marketing has a variety of mediums to compete with, but in terms of consumer satisfaction, engagement, and brand loyalty, none compare to events. Where traditional forms of marketing are one-way communication lines with the consumer, experiential marketing creates a conversation with the consumer, and this provides marketers and event planners with an extreme advantage. Need some convincing? We’ll break it down for you.
One of the reasons why so many marketers are turning towards experiential marketing is because there are issues with the effectiveness of some of the more traditional methods of marketing and advertising. In simple terms, traditional channels are now reaching a smaller audience than in the past. Moreover, modern consumers are more aware of advertising, adopt a more cynical attitude towards it, and are harder to please.
According to Fergus Rooney, the co-founder of AgencyEA, 89 percent of ad content is now ignored by consumers. Television advertising has been hurt by the ability to watch shows on-demand and skip ad breaks, while the majority of consumers have ad-blocking software installed, limiting the effectiveness of online advertising.
Although some of the other traditional methods, such as billboard advertising, are not affected by these technological changes, their reach is far more limited, they cannot be engaged with directly and, generally speaking, people are unlikely to take a photo of a billboard advert and share it with their friends.
These challenges have caused marketers to search for other marketing methods, which can help them to become more effective at putting across brand messages and can allow them to reach an audience that is not currently engaging with traditional channels. One of the most promising methods is experiential marketing.
Trends Driving Experiential Marketing
Experiences are the foundation of so many connections: relationships, friendships, and partnerships. Within the last decade, consumers across all industries have begun to demand relationships with their brands. Knowing how powerful experiences can be to foster meaningful relationships, marketers have begun to host experiential marketing events to help companies build these connections with their audiences.
But all experiences are not created equally. What type of experiences do audiences want? What types of experiences will help audiences connect to a brand and create brand loyalty?
Discover the top trends in experiential marketing that audiences will want from their brands.
Event Management Software Technolgy
The number one trend that will help experiential marketers drive connections between a brand and its audience is event management software technology. By using this innovative technology, marketers can become a one-stop shop for their clients, eliminating third-party technology organizers. Fully integrated event management software platforms offer so much technology for experiential marketers, like wearables with NFC or RFID technology, mobile event apps, event badging and printing, facial recognition, data collection, and so much more. With so much to offer, event management software platforms are becoming essential to experiential marketers’ strategies.
Although two-thirds of experiential marketing events are free, research has shown that one-third of attendees pay a ticket fee to enter a brand experiential event, a number that is steadily increasing. Especially if you are using an event management software platform, ticketing your event is not only beneficial to your audience, but to your clients. The ticketing funds can be put towards making the experiential event more elaborate, increasing attendee satisfaction and overall experience. In addition, event badging technology offers your client valuable metrics around their event that can be used to further understand their audience and improve their future events.
To create further buzz around your experiential marketing event, while solidifying relationships with a target and building brand loyalty with them for years to come, make your event Instagrammable! To make your event Instgrammable set up memorable backdrops, offer props, and keepsakes, make sure the lighting is perfect and invite influencers or celebrities for your audience to take photos with. The more you can get your audience to take and share photos of their own on social media, particularly Instagram, the larger the audience your event and the company will reach.
With the integration of technology like event management software, experiential marketers can personalize almost every aspect of the event experience for attendees. Before the event, during registration attendees can note any dietary needs, their seating preferences, and even what they want to get most out of this experiential marketing event. Asking these questions and utilizing this information can help attendees feel even more connected to your event and brand.
5 Sense Engagement
Another top trend in experiential event marketing is utilizing all five senses during events to fully immerse customers in a brand experience. Since our senses are how we process the experiences around us, it only makes sense that experiential event marketers would incorporate all the senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell—into their event strategies.
With shrinking attention spans thanks to technology, engaging all five attendees' senses is a key way to fully capture their attention and create an immersive brand experience.
Wellness has been trending in the event industry for years, but it’s more than just self-care and eating right. There has been a lot of event talk about offering balanced food options, alcohol-free, mocktail events, and more.
But if experiential event marketers really want to stay on trend with wellness, they’ll have to do more than just provide salads and mocktails at their experiential events. Attendees will be looking for wellness breaks, like meditation, yoga, or screen-free zones. In addition, you can think about adding a layer of sustainability to your experiential event by eliminating plastic straws, recycling, and going paper-free.
A big reason why experiential events are so effective at establishing connections with attendees is that experiences help form emotional connections. To further build on these emotional connections, experiential event marketers can provide attendees with ways to give back at their events. Experiential marketers can also encourage brands to take up a social cause to further connect with their audience. Indeed, the research found that 57 percent of Millennials and 55 percent of Generation Z brand consumers believe that brands should use their voice to be a force of good for social or ethical issues. No matter what way you choose to incorporate this trend into your experiential marketing event, it’s a great way to not only engage your audience and build strong bonds but also help others.
For companies in the travel and hospitality industries, stayable experiences are the trend for experiential marketing events. Stayable experiences are what they may sound like, experiences where your attendees spend the entire day and night at your event. Because the experience is so much longer, and because the event usually takes place in a new location for the attendee, the experience is much more memorable and immersive. This tactic is perhaps the most up-and-coming trend on the list since it has really only been used by a few large brands, like Marriott’s W Hotels. Stayable experiences are definitely an experiential marketing event trend to keep your eye on.
Capturing key metrics from your experiential marketing events is a key trend in order to build solid attendee relationships and help clients improve their future events. Using event management technology, experiential event marketers can easily capture big data and generate reports that prove their impact and the event’s impact on attendees’ satisfaction with their client’s brand. Overall, collecting big data from your experiential marketing events is more than just a trend. It’s a new way to manage your events that is proven to significantly drive profitability, improve event ROI, and help better understand your attendees.
Offline Buyer's Journey: What's Missing
You probably know the diagram below like the back of your hand:
It’s the buyer’s journey and it has been the backbone of many sales and marketing strategies. Defined by HubSpot as “the process buyers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and decide to purchase a new product or service,” every marketer/business owner has his/her own version of a roadmap of how their customers evolve from prospects to marketable leads to actual paying buyers.
However, a very important component is missing.
A Master Online, But Clueless Offline
While the buyer’s journey is a relatively new catchphrase that boomed with the rise of online marketing, the overall strategy behind it is an age-old concept that precedes the internet for decades. Therefore, it is quite ironic how many businesses don’t have the same savviness when it comes to their offline buyer’s journey compared to their relative mastery of their online buyer’s journey.
It is even more ironic considering that marketers still spend the majority of their budget on offline advertising and events compared to online advertising. 56% of the total ad spend globally still goes to offline channels. While this is expected to become an equal 50-50 advertising spend allocation, it still doesn’t explain why marketers would be masters in terms of tracking their online buyer’s journey KPIs and not with their offline marketing campaigns.
Neglected Yet Effective
Nobody is arguing against the effectiveness of online marketing. However, it’s high time to give the offline buyer’s journey the same amount of thought and attention when it comes to planning, tracking, measuring, and optimizing.
Doing so should be a key priority because offline experiential events have long been established as a powerful channel to engage an audience, underlining the value of a personal touch. As explained by one experiential marketing guru: “well-executed experiential activations turn consumers from passive viewers to active participants.” Take for example this great experiential campaign from Sensodyne called the ‘The Great Sensitivity Test’:
You can read more details about the event, but experts agree that this is one of the best examples of how experiential marketing can generate great brand awareness — the first step in the buyer’s journey.
Yet, there’s very little thought that goes into knowing and measuring how the offline buyer’s journey progresses from these experiential marketing events. Quantitative and qualitative data that paint the picture of how consumers move into the different stages of the offline buyer’s journey are severely lacking. This is echoed by the results of a survey which revealed that 1 in 3 marketers find it hard to demonstrate positive ROI, therefore making it difficult to request funds for their experiential marketing campaigns.
Testing this Theory: Time for Pop Quiz
Here’s a quick test to confirm this theory. Ready?
Think of any evergreen online marketing campaign that you currently have running or a campaign that recently concluded. Top of mind, do you have an approximation of the following metrics from your campaign?
- The number of views your paid ads received
- The amount of traffic your website received
- The number of leads you were able to get
- The number of sales you generated
- The time it took from the moment they saw your ad to the time they purchased something
If you were able to answer most, if not all, of these questions, great job! Although to be perfectly honest, this is quite expected. Most business owners would have dashboards that are updated regularly to reflect their most recent online marketing KPIs.
Now, think of the last event or any offline experiential campaign you did. Do you know the following?
- The number of registrants for your event
- The number of attendees
- The different and specific actions that attendees took during your event
- The specific types of engagements during your event that resulted in marketable leads
- The specific engagements or activities during your event that brought in sales a few days/weeks later
If you were only able to answer items 1 and 2, that’s okay. You’re not alone. This demonstrates how much room you have to track, measure, and optimize your offline buyer’s journey. By tracking and measuring the offline buyer’s journey, you should be able to accomplish the following:
- Deliver targeted content and personalized event experience based on your attendees’ individual profiles and where they are in the buyer’s journey.
- Create a full behavior profile of event participants. This includes specific actions they did during your event, what content appealed to them the most, and how far they’ve progressed in your offline buyer’s journey or offline sales funnel.
- Capture these offline behaviors and actions in a marketing and sales automation system so the necessary follow-up and nurture sequence can be executed.
Key Takeaway: What’s Missing?
Given the amount of money and time invested in offline events and the overwhelming consensus on how they generate positive ROI, here’s what’s missing:
A conscious, proactive, and strategic approach to track, measure, and analyze the different micro-conversions that happen in the offline buyer’s journey. Data that can be used to generate optimization insights, calculate the most truthful ROI and justify the spend for these experiential offline events.
How to Track Your Offline Experiential Marketing Campaigns
“You cannot manage what you cannot measure.” It’s almost cliché, but it is true, and this is going to be the focus of this chapter.
Tracking and measuring the performance of offline marketing activities vis-a-vis the buyer’s journey is like a puzzle with a lot of missing pieces.
This is surprising considering the majority of marketers believe offline experiential activities are the most effective marketing tactics that they use. However, when marketers track their offline buyer’s journey, 80% do agree that they gain valuable insights from the data they gather.
Obviously, there is a gap here that needs to be bridged. If you want to grow your numbers (a.k.a. revenue from your offline marketing), you have to know your numbers.
Not Just Tracking, But Intelligent Tracking
If you’re reading this and thinking: “Well, this doesn’t relate to me. I do track the performance of my offline marketing activities.”
First, allow us to say, kudos to you for having tracking in place. However, we want you to evaluate the tracking that you have right now by answering the following questions:
- Does your current tracking allow you to identify which specific actions your customers take on each step of the buyer’s offline journey?
- Do you know which specific elements in your offline marketing activities generate the most conversions?
- Are you capturing information from your attendee’s activities and proactively using that intelligence in your sales and marketing efforts?
- Do you know how the different tactics in your offline activities interact with one another to move your customers from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next?
- Does it allow you to establish benchmarks, patterns, and trends that can be used for projections for future projects?
- Does your current tracking allow you to identify “leaks” in your offline buyer’s journey?
- Does it empower you to request more budget by clearly demonstrating ROI?
This may sound like a lot, but as discussed in chapter 1 of this guide, this is something marketers know for their online marketing funnels.
When it comes to the online buyer’s journey, everyone is familiar with assisted conversions, last-click conversions, multi-channel attributions, and so on and so forth. This is the kind of in-depth tracking that you need for your offline buyer’s journey to truly make offline experiential marketing a profit center for your business.
The reality is, every business owner can measure the performance of their offline buyer’s journey in a number of ways. However, if you want an initial measurement plan that you can model after, consider using the following framework.
The Offline Experiential Marketing Buyer’s Journey
Below is the framework that we will use in defining what metrics matter in each stage of the offline buyer’s journey:
- Onsite Engagment/Interaction
- Onsite Conversion/Action
- Post-Event Actions
Pre-Event Intelligence Gathering
Pre-event metrics show how good your promotional tactics and strategies are in drumming up excitement for your offline marketing activities even before you begin registration.
Here are some of the KPIs that you should track:
What to Measure: The level of interest your audience is showing during the teaser phase of your offline campaign.
How to Measure: This will depend on the pre-event channel you’re using. For example, if you’re doing a teaser campaign on social media, try using social metrics such as Likes, Comments, Re-posts, etc. to measure this performance indicator.
Pre-Event Brand Awareness (PeBA)
What to Measure: The number of those who are showing interest in your offline marketing activities who know your brand. You should also take note of who among those showing interest in your event are your past customers/clients.
How to Measure: Survey/Polls
Registration Intelligence Gathering
Registration metrics show you the effectiveness of your strategies and tactics in driving registrations for your offline marketing activities and experiential events.
You can use the following metrics to track and measure the performance of your offline marketing events at this stage:
Number of Registrants
What to Measure: The number of people who are registering for your event.
How to Measure: Using your registration platform’s automatic tallying feature.
Brand Awareness On Registration (BAOR)
What to Measure: The number of those registering for your offline experiential activities who already know about your brand.
How to Measure: In your registration form, include a question asking registrants if they know your brand. Get a final tally once your registration period is over (if you’re going to have ongoing registration during the event/activity itself, then you may have to wait until the event is over).
Reasons for Registration
What to Measure: The intention that your prospects have for registering to your offline marketing activities. This will give you an idea of the possible needs and wants that your offline events can fulfill for your potential customers.
How to Measure: In your registration form, include a question asking registrants if they’re planning to go to your event for a specific reason. Get a final tally once your registration period is over and analyze whether there are common themes in the answers of registrants.
Form Views/Interest to Register to Registration Percentage
What to Measure: The percentage of users who saw your registration form or have expressed interest to register to the number of actual registrants. This will give you an idea of whether there’s something in the actual registration form itself that could be deterring potential participants from registering (i.e. ease of use of registration forms).
How to Measure: If you have an online registration form, this could be the number of form views. For offline registration, this could be the number of people who approached your booth and expressed interest to register. Sample computation: 10 registrants, 100 form views/booth approaches; 10/100 = 10%.
Number of Registration Further Inquiries
What to Measure: The number of questions that you or your customer service team receive from potential participants to request more details or clarify questions about your event. This will give you an idea of whether your communication materials are clear enough that your target audience understands what the event is for and why they should join.
How to Measure: If your registration is hosted in an online platform, tracking the number of support emails that you get or social media direct messages would fall under this metric. If you have offline registration, give specific instructions to those manning your registration booths. Ask them to note the questions that they are getting prior to people registering for the event.
Onsite Engagement/Interaction Intelligence Gathering
This is probably one of the areas where there are big gaps when it comes to tracking and measuring. At the same time, this is the area where there are a lot of opportunities in terms of optimizing your offline marketing activities if you can gather data that can be used to generate insights. During your event, one of your main priorities is to measure the level of engagement that the different activities, booths, and other event content are getting. Zooming in on these details will give your marketing and sales teams the ability to maximize on-site opportunities.
Number of Attendees
What to Measure: The number of people who participated/attended your activity. This is probably the only thing that most marketers measure for their offline activities.
How to Measure: The easiest way is to have sign-up technology in place during your event in order to electronically tally at the end of your event.
Time Spent on the Event
What to Measure: The length of time your attendees spent in your event. Typically, the more time they spend on your event, the more engaged they are.
How to Measure: Have designated exit points at your event venue and require your attendees to log out. Make sure you’re recording time stamps, both when your event attendees sign-up on arrival and when they check out while leaving.
Booths Visited/Activities Joined & Time Spent on Each Booth/Activity
What to Measure: The specific booths/stations your attendees visited or the specific activities they did. This will allow you to identify which specific event content resonates with the different segments of your attendees.
Another important metric you need to track is the amount of time that your attendees spend when they visit specific booths. This is indicative of the level of interest and engagement for specific event content.
How to Measure: Setup a method of tracking at every booth/activity during your event. Make sure that someone is manning the registration system to ensure people are registering. An easier way is to have an automated tracking system (there are many technologies available) in place to electronically tag your attendees as they participate in the different activities during your event.
Quality of Connections and Conversations
What to Measure: With highly-neglected qualitative data, keeping track of the conversations between your on-ground staff and event attendees could reveal a number of optimization opportunities for future events. This will also enable your sales to engage with your event attendees in their “voice” and deliver personalized sales/product messages.
How to Measure: Train your staff to identify key conversation elements such as questions attendees asked, objections/hesitations raised, personal motivations, and other solutions/providers being considered. Record these conversation notes in the attendees’ profiles using an automated tracking system. Also, make sure that your sales team can use this information when engaging attendees.
Onsite Conversion/Action Intelligence Gathering
When planning your events and other offline marketing activities, set specific objectives, some of which are achieved during the event itself. You should measure whether you achieve your targets against these key performance indicators. Further, ensure that your sales team is made aware in real-time when key prospect activities (such as session attendance, and significant booth visits) occur so they can take the appropriate actions and directly engage prospects.
Number of Onsite Sales
What to Measure: Arguably the holy grail of all offline marketing metrics, especially if your event is specifically created to generate sales. As its name suggests, this is the number of sales that you acquire during the event itself.
How to Measure: Collect data through your POS system or any order/purchase processing system you have in place.
Number of Leads Acquired
What to Measure: The number of marketable and sales-ready leads that you get during your event.
How to Measure: If you’re already getting the email addresses of your event attendees at the venue entry (and their consent that they’re allowing you to send them marketing/sales emails), this already qualifies as marketable leads. Sales-ready leads include those who request product demos or sales calls during your event.
If you are doing sampling during your event, and if it’s objective during your event, you can also include that metric under this section.
Post-Event Actions Intelligence Gathering
Have you ever heard of the fitness term afterburn effect? Basically, it states that by doing certain exercises, you can still burn a significant number of calories after working out.
The same concept applies to your offline marketing activities. You can still get results a few weeks after your event and it’s necessary to properly attribute these results back to your offline marketing. It is critical that you capture the intelligence gathered at your events and add it to your current system(s) of record such as your CRM and marketing automation platforms.
Below are some metrics you can track and measure:
Post-Event Brand Awareness
What to Measure: The change in the level of brand awareness after your event.
How to Measure: Send a survey to your event attendees and compare their awareness of your brand before and after they attend your offline marketing activity. You can also track any change in online social mentions that can be attributed to your event.
Post-Event Leads Acquisition
What to Measure: The number of leads that you acquire after the event.
How to Measure: Include a “How did you hear about us?” question in your lead generation tactics so you can properly attribute from which offline activity a certain lead came from.
What to Measure: The number of attendees that didn’t purchase outright during the event, but did so after.
How to Measure: Similar to how you track post-event leads, include a “How did you hear about us?” question in your sales forms/order forms/in-store purchase slips or surveys. You can also follow the leads you received from your events and track if they will eventually purchase.
The Truth Is in the Trend, the Power Is in the Pattern
This has been a lengthy chapter, but it demonstrates the untapped opportunities in terms of measuring the performance of your offline marketing activities. Opportunities to get insights that will help you become a better offline marketer.
At the end of the day, measuring experiential marketing success is at the core of any successful experiential campaign. It’s the only way to prove to key stakeholders, leaders, and decision-makers that experiential marketing could be a revenue driver for a business.
Further, tracking the performance of your offline marketing campaigns using metrics that actually matter will help you optimize your strategies so you can have repeatable tactics in place, and at the same time, create room for innovation.
Tracking Experiential Marketing with Technology
In recent years, with the help of virtual and augmented reality, experiential marketing has become one of the top ways to market a brand across industries. But because the nature of experiential marketing is rooted in onsite, hands-on event experiences, companies, and marketing agencies have struggled to properly track and measure metrics for these events.
But with innovative technology, the struggle to track key experiential marketing event metrics is over. We’ve curated a list of the top technologies marketing agencies can use to help their clients track and provide key metrics to their clients.
Passive wearables, like tags, branded wristbands, and even watches that attendees already have like Apple watches and Fitbits, can be used to track experiential marketing events. For instance, wearables can be used to collect data, like how many visitors your event drew, what aspect of the experience the visitors spend the most time at, visitor traffic patterns, and much more. Another bonus of wearables is that they will cut down your check-in wait time and ensure every lead is captured. No matter what type of technology you choose to embed in your wearable, NFC, RFID, etc., wearables are a must-have technology to track KPIs and ROI at experiential marketing events.
NFC, or near-field communication (which is most commonly embedded into wearables) is a technology used to communicate information from one device to another in a short range. Usually, NFC devices are enabled by a tapping motion (e.g. tapping your Apple watch at your local food store or Starbucks to pay). Although most commonly used for mobile payments, NFC technology has been added to event badges and other wearables as a popular, secure way to collect information. Instead of having paper collateral at your experiential marketing events, you can give your visitors NFC technology, during the event. Attendees can then simply tap on NFC devices that are spread out throughout your event. These devices are linked to digital displays of your client's company’s content that attendees can access whenever they want. If that wasn’t enough, this same tap also gives the company attendees information, so they can reach out to them after the experiential marketing event is over.
Another popular technology being used to track experiential marketing events is RFID or radio-frequency identification technology. RFID technology is commonly embedded in wearables, like tags, and automatically checks attendees in and out of events, eliminating check-in lines and barcode scanning completely. In addition, some RFID tags even capture attendee information, like contact information, the sessions or booths attendees visited, the length of time they stayed, and, perhaps most importantly, the engagement level. Knowing the engagement metrics around your event will allow you to understand your audience, specifically what your attendees were searching for at your event. RFID technology provides invaluable information that is needed to build a strong marketing campaign.
Although QR codes have been around longer than some of the other technology on this list, they are still useful tools for events, particularly experiential marketing events. That’s because QR codes can be used to create gamification, while still tracking attendees and collecting valuable data. For instance, you can hide QR codes all over your event and send attendees on a scavenger hunt or create a point game (e.g. engaging with your product and scanning a QR code to get points to redeem for a prize). QR codes can also be used to link to online collateral like videos, demos, eBooks, and more. QR codes are a useful way to engage visitors during your event and send them to targeted, optimized web pages that feature valuable company content for them to download. You’ll not only be able to track how many scans your QR gets during your event, but will also collect attendee information, like name and email address, from your content downloads that can be later used for marketing purposes.
Mobile Event Apps
Mobile event apps are really a must-have for any experiential marketing event. Not only can mobile event apps integrate with other event planning technology, like wearables, NFC, and, RFID technology so you can track attendees' movements and connections, but event apps also allow you to collect attendee feedback. Through polling technology, you can survey attendees in real time during any part of your event. Some mobile event apps, also allow you to change and add to survey questions during your event, allowing you to adapt to any situation while engaging your audience. Surveying your attendees live during your experiential marketing event will allow you to better gauge how engaging your attendees are finding your event and allow you to make changes in real time. To further help connect with your attendees and make them feel like they are an active part of your event, you can share your real-time results on the big screen and discuss the changes you’re going to make to your event in real-time. This is just one of the many ways mobile event app features can be used in experiential marketing events.
If you’re looking to add a wow factor to your experiential marketing check-in process, then facial recognition technology is for you! Facial recognition technology can be used at registration to make the check-in process five times faster. With facial recognition check-in technologies, attendees no longer have to waste their time on manual processes, instead, in nine seconds they can be checked in, in, and on their way into your experiential event. The benefits of using facial recognition technology at your experiential marketing event go beyond check-in though. Instead of waiting until the end of your event or live polling attendees, you can use facial recognition technology to measure an attendee’s micro-expressions, determine if they are enjoying your event, and make overall real-time changes to your event or send targeted suggestions to people who aren’t enjoying a particular session. This data has so many potential applications for experiential event marketers.
Although facial recognition and other new check-in technologies are on the rise for experiential marketing events, handheld scanners are still needed since they capture certain insights that simply cannot be gathered without them. Specifically, handheld scanners gather more in-depth information for lead retrieval purposes, like why the visitor was there, what they were looking for at your event, etc. In addition, handheld scanners are also useful in monitoring who is entering and leaving parts of an event; whereas the data from passive technologies does not differentiate between attendees, staff, speakers, etc., so your numbers can become skewed.
Ultimately, a combination of the technologies from the list above, both passive and active, will help you track your experiential marketing events in the most accurate way possible.
Optimizing Experiential Marketing Events
Implementing the tracking and measurement strategies and tactics outlined in chapter 2 will give you a goldmine of data.
Tracking with a Marketing Purpose
You probably know this by now, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate.
You’re not tracking for numbers’ sake. It’s about finding optimization opportunities to transform your offline marketing as a profit center for your organization.
If you’re not yet in this mindset, here’s one way to make the shift.
Metrics are Not Mere Numbers…They are Behaviors
It would be difficult to optimize your offline marketing activities if you’re looking at your metrics and just seeing them as numbers. However, if you look at your metrics and take them as measurable, quantifiable behaviors, then you can think of ways to optimize those behaviors to benefit your business objectives.
Here are some examples:
- If attendees are not spending as much time in your events/activities, it could mean that there’s a disconnect between their expectations and the content you’re providing.
- If you’re not closing sales, it could mean that you’re not attracting buyers who are in the “action” stage of the buyer’s journey or your sales team fails to engage them during the event.
- If your keynote/pillar events are not getting a high level of participation and engagement, it could mean that you don’t fully understand your customer avatar.
How do you optimize your offline marketing so you are moving your prospects from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next?
Design Your Events with the Same Vigor as Your Website
“The anatomy of a high converting website.” “How to get more leads from your landing pages.” “Optimizing your sales pages for more sales and higher revenue.”
You’ve probably read several versions of these topics and most likely, you probably have your own best practices for designing your website to get the business results that you want. You also might have different funnels that cater to every phase of your prospects’ online customer journey, tailor-fit to specific buyer personas, coupled with personalized content depending on intent.
The same vigor should apply when you’re designing your events.
Come to think of it, offline marketing strategies and tactics came before online channels and the pillars that online marketers use to design websites originated from the core principles of offline marketing.
The same thought process should apply to offline events and other experiential campaigns.
To demonstrate this more clearly, let’s take the example of a hypothetical weight loss supplements company that’s planning on holding an event. How should this company design its event as if it is designing its website?
Event attendees would have different buyer personas and would, therefore, require different event content that would resonate with them. For instance, how would this event be relevant and engaging to relatively fit men who are trying to lose the last few pounds of their weight?
Consider the following:
In this example, there are other buyer personas that would be attending the same event (e.g. fitness enthusiasts, ketogenic diet followers, people with specific medical needs, and senior citizens). The key is to identify your buyer avatars depending on marketing size and revenue opportunities and deliver personalized content based on their pain points and where they are in the buyer’s journey.
Deliver Targeted Event Content Based on Specific Buyers’ Intentions
When it comes to optimizing your offline marketing activities and events, the rule of thumb is to always be two steps ahead of your customers.
One of the metrics that were discussed in chapter 2 of this guide was “Reasons for Registration.” Just to recap:
- What to Measure: The intention your prospects have for registering for your offline marketing activities. This will give you an idea of the possible needs and wants that your offline events can fulfill for your potential customers.
- How to Measure: In your registration form, include a question asking registrants if they’re planning to go to your event for a specific reason. Get a final tally once your registration period is over and analyze whether there are common themes in the answers of registrants.
You need to identify why your event attendees are there, to be able to give them the best consumer experience during your events. What happens if you’re missing this crucial piece of the puzzle? Here’s an anecdote from Google’s VP of consumer goods Adam Stewart:
“This might sound familiar to you. I’m currently in the market for a new car. While I’m considering a newer model of the brand I own, most of the marketing communications I receive don’t recognize me as a potential loyal customer. Furthermore, I recently visited the dealership, spent two hours there, and after returning home, received an email from the general manager of that same dealership inviting me to come in and check out the latest models. I was just there.”
For most or all of your attendees you probably already have a solid profile built for them based on their online activities such as purchases, the content they engage with, and so on and so forth.
If you are able to properly “tag” your participants based on their intentions, you can deliver more personalized, targeted, and compelling content during your event. This would allow you to move them to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
Provide Real-Time Feedback to Increase OnSite and Post-Event Conversions
Real-time tracking of how attendees are interacting with the different content elements in offline marketing activity is another pain point among offline marketers. Additionally, the most prevalent offline marketing tracking strategies don’t produce actionable insights.
As explained by New York-based experiential marketing expert Sarah Priestman: “Experiential agencies are often obsessed with anecdotal consumer feedback, time-lapse films showing the ‘event in action,’ surveys reporting that 99 percent of attendees said ‘it was great, we loved taking part.’ All these elements can be important to a rounded piece of evaluation, but are really not a clear indication of the attitudinal shift, the change in consumer behavior, or the incremental profit generated from the experiential campaign.”
With the right technology (such as electronically tracking your attendees’ behavior during your events), you can provide real-time feedback to your relevant teams so they can take immediate action. This will significantly increase on-site conversions. In the event that your on-site team didn’t close the sale, you can then customize a follow-up sequence to boost post-event conversions. Your sales team can make the necessary follow-up while the experience from your event is still fresh in the minds of your leads. This would make it easier for your sales team to close sales after the event.
Capturing actionable attendee journey information such as sessions attended (and session dwell time), and booths visited (for how long and which product station if it is a large booth) all contribute to determining attendee behavior, which is a significant data point (predictor) in determining current challenges, solution interest and buying intent.
The bottom line — you’re minimizing lost opportunities due to the late utilization of important customer data during your event.
Getting the Most Out of Your Offline Marketing Investment
Having the ability to optimize your offline events — similar to how you optimize your online marketing and sales funnels — is going to be a game-changer. Delivering targeted content that is specific to where your prospects are in the buyer’s journey and being able to maximize real-time data will not only make your events more profitable, it will deliver the best experience to your attendees.
Admittedly, not everyone is ready to optimize their offline marketing activities just yet. So, where do you start? We will answer this question in the next chapter.
How to Get Started with Experiential Marketing
Of course, you’re not starting off with a blank slate. So, where do you start in terms of implementing a tracking and optimization strategy for your offline marketing?
The first step is to identify where you are in the offline buyer’s journey maturity curve.
The Offline Buyer’s Journey Maturity Curve
You will find different versions of the maturity curve for different disciplines. After observing and talking to offline marketers, this is the maturity curve that closely reflects how you can progress in terms of tracking and optimizing your offline events.
Let’s go through each stage:
It’s hard to believe that companies are spending a significant amount of money on events and do not have the mechanism to track the results they’re getting, isn’t it? However, most marketers are not confident when it comes to their capability in measuring ROI from their offline marketing campaigns. It would be rare to see organizations under this category, but they do exist.
If you’re at this level of the maturity curve, there’s no need to worry. The important thing is you recognize where you are in order to work toward progress.
Most marketers would probably fall under this category.
In this stage, you likely have basic metrics being tracked such as:
- # of registrants
- # of attendees
- # of leads acquired during the event
- # of sales made during the event
If you’re at this stage, you could have rudimentary objectives in place that you’re measuring against the metrics above. However, you’re not measuring specific participant behaviors during your event that are leading to the results that you’re seeing.
Marketers who are in this phase are already considered intermediate in terms of tracking the offline buyer’s journey.
Aside from the rudimentary metrics above, you are also measuring with considerable depth, specific behaviors. This allows you to answer questions such as:
- What elements/sessions/booths/talks/attractions during my event received the most attention?
- What’s the average time that participants are spending at the event?
- How long are they spending on each booth/session?
- Which specific event content produced the most number of leads?
- Which specific event content generated the most sales?
Take note, however, that this data is not available in real time. For the most part, this information is used to develop post-event insights that will be used to improve succeeding offline campaigns, but conversion opportunities are lost during the event itself. In addition, this information can be used in support of a multi-touch attribution model which includes offline attributes.
Great use of event real-time tracking technology and knowing what user behaviors to track and measure characterize marketers who are in this stage. At this point, you are already exhibiting a high level of sophistication in being able to move your offline marketing participants further into the offline buyer’s journey.
Investing in mobile event apps is integral for you to reach this stage.
Think of it as having a control room where you can see anything and everything that your event participants are doing. Imagine “Participant John” as one of your event attendees and being able to track his behavior during your event in great detail:
With real-time tracking, you are empowered to make timely actions based on specific user behaviors and strike while the iron is hot.
This is the pinnacle of the maturity curve when it comes to managing the offline buyer’s journey. At this stage, you’re not only tracking and measuring your offline marketing campaigns, but you are also able to produce repeatable results, predict some key behaviors, and project possible outcomes based on data and insights.
More importantly, at this stage, you are able to capture and be relevant to all members of your audience wherever they are in the buyer’s journey — whether they are on the awareness, consideration, or action stages. In one single event, you should be able to convert traffic to prospects, prospects to leads, and leads to paying customers.
How Do You Move from One Stage to the Next?
There is no blanket strategy that can magically catapult marketers from Level 1 to Level 5 of the maturity curve. However, you can use the following general pointers to get started:
Moving from “No Tracking” to “Basic Tracking”
- The priority is to get into the mindset of tracking, to start incorporating it into your organization’s offline marketing culture
- Have a set of objectives in place
- Start with the easiest to track such as the # of registrants and attendees and # of onsite conversions (leads and sales)
- Make sure to have a dashboard that everyone is reviewing constantly to force you to update your numbers
Moving from “Basic Tracking” to “Engagement Tracking”
- Ideally, you should already be investing in a technology that allows you to track how event attendees are interacting with the different elements of your event
- Brainstorm with your team what behaviors you need/want to track (basic metrics include time spent on each activity, type of queries, etc.)
- If you’re doing this manually (without technology), make sure you have SOPs in place that your team can use to make sure data is recorded using certain standards
Moving from “Engagement Tracking” to “Real-Time Tracking”
- Invest in real-time user tracking technology such as wearable beacons
- Make sure real-time data is integrated with your CRM and sales systems
- Train your team to spot “hot leads” so they know whom to engage and what offer will be most relevant
Moving from “Real-Time Tracking” to “Optimized Events”
- A clear understanding of what your audience needs based on where they are in the buyer’s journey and proactively designing your events so everyone gets relevant content
- Similar to how you design your email nurture campaigns, you need to create different event content to cater to different segments and contextualize the event for them
If You’re Not Keeping Score, You’re Just Practicing
That is a famous line by legendary NFL player and coach Vince Lombardi.
The same is true for your offline marketing. If you’re not mapping, tracking, measuring, and optimizing your campaign based on the offline buyer’s journey, you’re losing a huge opportunity to build brand awareness, acquire more marketable leads, and generate more sales.
It is important to understand that experiential marketing is not simply an alternative way to market a brand or its products while getting around some of the problems associated with traditional channels. Instead, experiential marketing provides real and unique value in terms of educating, improving perceptions, and building lasting relationships, and can function alongside more traditional advertising methods, or in their place.
Memorable moments, high-quality engagement, open conversation: are you seeing the fully painted picture? Experiential marketing is the perfect method to increase measurements of brand loyalty and consumer satisfaction. By putting in the effort to create a pleasant and memorable experience for your target consumers, you’re telling them that you value them; you value their perceptions of the brand, their feedback, their voice, and their participation in your brand. The more your attendee and consumer interact with your brand, experience it, immerse him or herself in it, the greater the attachment.
Whether it’s an Instagrammable brand activation or a participatory pop-up, your attendees are given the chance to be a part of your brand. They get to show it off, sharing your fancy food or fun photo booth with their friends and followers, spreading their love by word of mouth. Experience and events, rather than pre-made content, are far more exciting for consumers to share with the world. They want to take pride in the relationship they have with your brand, and you gain points for loyalty when you can give them a memorable moment they want the world to see. Experiential marketing is about building a relationship with your consumer to prove to them that you value them. It’s about storytelling, communicating, engaging honestly and openly, and allowing your consumers to go out and find what they are looking for in your brand. The more time, effort, and budgeting you invest into this relationship, the more you’ll get out of it.
That final point is perhaps the most important advantage of all of those associated with experiential marketing - the ability to form positive associations in the minds of consumers. This can then increase the chances of repeat business and help to create a genuine sense of loyalty, maximizing the lifetime value of those customers. In addition, it makes customers more likely to share their experiences with others, furthering a campaign's reach.