[From the Ideas With Intention Podcast Archives] While no longer in production, some episodes from the podcast were simply just too good not to share again. So, this is essentially a transcript of episode no. 76 originally released on February 19, 2019 but with a few updates and edits to make it blog-friendly and to ensure the content remains relevant today. I explore experiential marketing, a strategy you can activate within your business to cultivate connections with your customers in fresh and inspiring ways. Keep reading for 5 best practices on crafting a thoughtful and intentional branded experience that is sure to build your brand’s recognition, reach and impact.
Maybe you’ve got a solid strategy in place, the right positioning, a good business foundation, but you’re looking to drive engagement, activate your audience, and as a result, bring in more clients, more customers, more sales.
Enter experiential marketing.
Also referred to as ‘engagement marketing’, ‘guerrilla marketing’, or ‘event marketing’, experiential marketing is a marketing strategy that directly engages consumers and invites and encourages them to participate in the evolution of your brand or brand experience. Rather than looking at consumers as passive receivers of messages, experiential marketing looks to actively involve consumers, thereby developing a relationship between them and your brand.
The Experiential Edge
According to Forbes, the goal of experiential marketing is to create lasting impressions on consumers that they want to share with others and that will ultimately lead to brand loyalty. So, you’re not advertising a product or service necessarily, you’re letting consumers see and feel what their lives would be like with it. You’re creating an association between your brand and those pleasant or enjoyable feelings.
Magic happens when an individual becomes immersed into a thoughtfully crafted and intentional branded experience. To give you a little background, my first interaction with experiential marketing was via my education and work in the events industry. I’d often weave guerrilla marketing ideas into event proposals, whether it was something as simple as sidewalk art that led someone to a bigger art installation happening down the street, or even flash mobs when those were a thing to draw attention to a particular product or place. These types of individual ‘events’ or occurrences ignite interest and interaction.
Like anything you buy, sampling a product or service almost always sells you on it. Costco figured this out early on! In fact, about 65% of consumers say that live events and product demonstrations helped them fully understand a product better than any commercial or other method could. But here’s the thing, I’m not saying that you have to hand out samples of your products or services Costco-style, but rather, create opportunities for your community to interact with your brand, to experience your approach, your perspective, your unfair advantage, or simply what makes you different! And in my opinion, one of the best ways to actualize this is through thoughtfully designed online or offline ‘events’.
These types of experiences have sensory elements that make you feel something. That something is the vibe of your brand that I mentioned above. Maya Angelou said it best: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” —When it comes to achieving brand loyalty and building relationships, crafting that feeling is so important. Consumers care more about your proof than your promise.
For Small and Big Brands Alike
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t events a lot of work? Not to mention costly? “Experiential” doesn’t mean you need to host a large-scale event. Nor do you have to be a big brand with an unlimited budget. This approach is incredibly effective for smaller businesses, startups, and solopreneurs, too. Through intentional touchpoints, experiential marketing allows people to perceive your brand more personally which in turn, creates a stronger affinity for your product or service. I encourage you to think of these events in your business as marketing activations vs. money makers. The goal is to deliver an experience that activates your audience, and that in turn supports your revenue streams.
To share some examples, I’ve worked with a number of my clients to incorporate this type of activation into their business.
One of my past clients owns a clean beauty shop and wellness boutique and when strategizing ways to build a stronger community, we explored alternating between educational and experiential events inside her physical store-front. The educational events involved expert panels, workshops and masterclasses, and the experiential events involved sampling products in creative ways —from bold lip bars to at-home spa nights to local workouts and wellness experiences.
Another past client of mine is a plant-based chef who desired her primary revenue stream to flow from educational and coaching services. However, there was no denying that her incredible cooking and food styling attracted many. So, we discussed using pop-up plant-based dinners as a marketing activation to support the service-based business model she had in place.
I worked with another client on putting a membership-based business model into place and one of the ways we planned to bring in more members each quarter was through immersive events and workshops that would exemplify and give someone a taste of the content and community found inside of the membership.
How to Get Started
Experiential marketing is about cultivating connections in fresh and inspiring ways that are often simple, yet significant. You can do this too, in your own way. So, let’s talk about how to get started in implementing this strategy within your own business.
Here are 5 best practices for executing a branded experience:
1. Set some clear goals and outcomes
This can be said for any type of event, but as far as experiential events as marketing activations go, this is especially important. I like to look at this in two ways:
Goals for the actual event —what do you want to accomplish in terms of number of people attending, number of interactions or number of signups for a mailing list?
Then, Outcome —the things that you want to happen as a result of executing the event. Think in terms of number of clients booked, number of sales of a particular product, growth in community numbers. Quality is more important than quantity here and you’ll want to set a time limit on these outcomes.
Finally, determine the ways you’ll measure these goals and outcomes. What or who do you need to do this?
2. Research the ins and outs of your target market
The beauty and benefit of experiential marketing events is that they cater to and target a specific type of person. The entire experience is built around them. So in order to do this well, you need to research like you’ve never researched before. In other words, start by creating an extensive profile on this person.
What do you need to know about the problems, and challenges they experience?
What are they looking for more of or less of?
How is your product or service the solution to one of their biggest problems?
What do they admire and why?
What motivates their actions?
How do they communicate?
What are they passionate about?
You could even conduct 1-3 informational interviews within your target market before you finalize the details of the experience and this particular marketing activation or effort.
3. Build in ways to evoke emotions and heighten the senses
Events are much better for appealing to people’s emotions than commercials or print ads. When you weave what someone’s passionate about throughout an event, you can make them feel a sense of belonging and this creates an association between themselves and your brand.
When people can taste, touch, smell, hear or see a product in action, they’re much more likely to buy it. Bottom line: What’s going to make someone walk away feeling deeply impacted by their experience?
4. Craft a compelling, creative experience
Your goal with experiential marketing events is to draw someone’s attention. To have them understand your brand’s mission and message on a soul-level. Reading this mission or message on your website is one thing, but how can someone actually experience the heart and intention behind it all? What could that look like? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
5. Find ways to maximize online engagement
Remember the outcome you are working towards —the ripple effect that occurs beyond the event itself. Social media can play a huge role in this. Encourage those in attendance to share organically and talk about the event with their social networks and communities. Think of ways you can weave this into the event itself, making the experience worthy of sharing or something someone wants to whip their phone out to capture.
Final bonus tip —once you’ve captivated your audience, lead them where you want to lead them, whether that’s informing them about a new product launch or an upcoming promotion around your services. This is a marketing activation after all so in addition to having all the warm fuzzies about your brand, what information do you want them to walk away with? What do you want them to do? What are you trying to ignite or activate?
I hope this blog post inspires you to dream up a few ways you can make your business and brand more experiential. If you’re looking for some help to breathe life into some of these ideas, take a look at the free resources or range of services I offer.