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Julia Manoukian


September 6, 2018

The Business Case for Changing Your Current Experiential Marketing Approach

Julia Manoukian

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Some brands are absolutely crushing it with experiential marketing. They continue to create personalized experiences at scale and connect with brand advocates on an emotional level, resulting in lower churn rates, higher referral rates and positive revenue growth. Outstanding examples of experiential marketing experts like these are everywhere.

On the other hand, some companies have tried their hand at this new approach to marketing without seeing those same results. Even if the results were serviceable, they know they could achieve much more if they only knew how. The question is: What really makes the difference between winning and missing out when it comes to designing the kind live experiences that customers absolutely love to brag about?

In many cases, the answer can be as summed up as simply as following up and following through.

Customers increasingly live their lives online – their work is there, their friends are there, their bank account is there, all of their favorite brands are there and that’s where you will win their full attention. In the first quarter of 2018, American adults spent 11 hours or more per day online, according to Nielsen studies.

Your marketing efforts can only go so far until you digitally transform your own marketing processes to deliver a true omnichannel, seamless experience – delivered to the online spaces where customers spend their time.

Watch our latest webinar, "Event & Experiential Trends in 2018: What Consumer  Experts Are Saying," and learn what major brands are doing to drive engagement  and lift sales.

There are two categories of productivity sinks that accompany traditional, analog marketing techniques:

  • Short term direct costs
  • Long term opportunity costs

Here's a closer look at what both entail.

Short-Term Direct Costs

Whenever this is a significant gap between conceptual work and execution, early estimates tend to diverge enormously from the final costs, which result from countless tiny decisions. How do you budget for site space before you know where you are going?

For every vendor that acts as a piece of your marketing puzzle, you can expect to rack up usage fees and hidden fees. An experiential campaign might include a registration/ticketing vendor, a custom app-builder, a lead generation engine, a survey company, an interactive kiosk provider and a mobile photo booth. Each one will need to charge fees on top or build fees into each transaction in order to fund what they do.

If you are using an agency for content and promotion, expect additional fees for last-minute updates or custom digital assets. After the event, you will have to know how well it worked, so you are likely to spend additional funds on data collection and analysis.

Long-Term Opportunity Costs

One metric often forgotten or neglected is the spread of how much projections missed the mark in terms of comparable benchmarks in post-event revenue growth, stronger customer loyalty, LTV of target customer segments and similar measures. The World Economic Forum report on the auto industry, based on research from Accenture, revealed that companies slow to adapt to digital transformation will not be able to deliver a seamless omni-channel experience and end up missing out on up to $263 billion of value (Accenture).

Along the same lines, Harvard Business Review was able to put hard numbers on the value of a great customer experience. Researchers found that for transactional businesses like those in the retail industry, consumers who have great experiences spend 140 percent more than those who have poor experiences (HBR). For a subscription-based businesses, member who rate their experiences in the top two tiers have a 74 percent chance of still being a member after one year or more.

Companies able to provide those kind of emotionally motivating experiences for their customers are not doing it by luck. It comes from knowing your customer really well, using data, communications and community-building strategies. One in five companies that put data at the center of their marketing and sales decisions experience on average 15-20 percent higher ROI on their events (The Event Management and Data University).

What Happens When Fans Are Disappointed

Auto shows used to be a much bigger deal. Recently, however, a confluence of societal changes have dissipated their impact on consumers. One of the biggest influences is that people tend to get their news from blogs, social media and industry analyst sites rather that small handful of national broadcasters. It’s more cost effective to introduce new cars and features in original ways. 

That’s why brands like Audi, BMW, Mazda, Volvo, and Mercedes Benz have pulled out of certain auto shows in favor of experiential options like virtual reality demos in dealerships. They were simply unable to prove a clear value and ROI from these big shows in comparison to live, interactive events (Automotive News).

Figuring out which technology to use in which type of event has brought its own challenges, though. A roundup of event technology landscape demonstrates that this space has grown by more than 70 percent since 2014, from 144 to 245 vendors in just four years (Cramer).

It all comes back to knowing your customer so you can offer up the sort of experience they really hunger for. With so many different customers wanting different things, it can feel overwhelming for a marketing leader at a major enterprise to prepare for the realities of today’s customer, who has come to expect a seamless event experience across every touchpoint, whether it’s in-person or not.

When customers go from online customer chatrooms to in-app purchases to live events produced by the brand, they want to feel like they are dealing with the same entity in different locations, just as they would talking to a friend who communicates across multiple channels.

In extreme cases, you might feel like you’re drowning under the complexity of buyer behaviors, channels, and tech. The threat is that you end up a mediocre brand, unable to drive customer loyalty because you’re not ready to offer the experiences that customers are already expecting.

Essentially, you’re trapped: you’re not able to make agile, continual improvements to the customer experience across all channels, because making ongoing changes to each piece of the puzzle is simply too hard and complex to synchronize. This will drive you, and your team, crazy with frustration. All of this can actually end up hindering growth as customers look elsewhere for consistency.

Greg Fitzgerald, CRM Manager, BMW North America, explained that the presentation at your experiential event reflects on the consumer’s perception of the brand. In an interview with Limelight, he said, “The consumer experience isn’t great when we’re having a hard time checking people in, when people have to wait in long queues to get into an event.” That doesn’t come off communicating exclusive access to a premium car, just poor planning.

In addition, the marketing department’s quality of follow up after the event retroactively colors the experience. Fitzgerald continued, “Imagine you went to a BMW event, maybe a driving event. You get yourself into a BMW car and you think: ‘Man, I love this car, I wanna go buy one’. And then two weeks later, we send you a ‘Thank You’ email with an offer to take $1500 off from your car. Not a great experience, especially when you’re a premium brand!”

The Changing Face of Marketing

While traditional creative agencies are having a hard time adapting to the new digital reality, experiential marketing experts are connecting brands with highly motivated community builders. This serves as the kick-off point of a feedback loop, where customers are better informed about what the brand can do for them and marketers gain a firmer grasp on the customer journey overall.

That’s how leading firms are redefining the role of marketing as a strategic partner at the executive level. While experiential marketers are making headlines, they are also doing something that is arguably far more important – making a difference in the lives of their best customers.


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