Julia Manoukian

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January 9, 2019

Experiential Marketing: How Cannabis Brands Use Tech to Improve ROI

Julia Manoukian

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Remember when you had to explain what CRM stood for? If you’ve been in the marketing field for more than a few years, you will certainly remember all the buzz when marketing automation began to come online. Forrester now predicts that spending on marketing automation will reach $25.1 billion by 2023.

We are now seeing history repeat itself in the adoption trajectory of experiential marketing technology, but with the S-curve collapsed due to the acceleration of digital tech.

How can leaders in the cannabis industry effectively leverage this experiential marketing technology to create actionable insights, better predict customer pain, and unify their strategy around the consumer experience across channels? Keep reading to find out the strategies of best-in-class leaders at brands such as CannTrust, Spectrum Cannabis, and MedReleaf. 

Creating A Unified Experience for Customers

Consumer expectations are higher than ever before, and journeys are becoming increasingly complex across channels, devices and touchpoints. 

To succeed, brands must now look at their marketing approach holistically in order to maximize results and align with where their customers are within their consumption journey.

Though the phrase "omni-channel" is a buzzword, it refers to a significant shift: marketers now need to provide a seamless experience, regardless of channel or device. Marketing leaders need to manage the consumer experience as one integrated approach: across traditional media, offline marketing, social, online, etc.

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Many brands have a strong hold on how they measure traditional channels such as media, online advertising and even social. However, when it comes to non-traditional channels such as experiential, event and other forms of offline marketing, measurement often remains in the dark.

According to Adobe, only 6% of marketers are "extremely confident" in their ability to measure return on investment for offline marketing programs.

Brands who get a handle on experiential marketing data can more easily create a single line of sight around their customer experience. Enabling this omnichannel strategy is no longer an option—it's an imperative:

  • McKinsey reported that two-thirds of buyers walk away from the buyer journey when they become frustrated by inconsistent experiences across channels. Customers think of a brand as a single entity, so they expect to have a single experience with that brand, no matter what channel they are on at the moment. Marketing can only do that if all their channels are working in coordination.
  • Omnichannel has grown to become one of this year’s most important service trends, according to the Salesforce State of Customer Service Report for 2018. Top-performing teams are 7.6x more likely than underperformers to rate omnichannel interaction capabilities as outstanding or very good. You can’t match that level of performance without detailed, real-time data.
  • According to research from HBR, there appear to be four main pathways defining the future of CMOs in modern organizations. The first two pathways are up and over, which are when enterprises shift into customer-first growth strategies. The next two pathways are down and out, which are when CMOs lose areas of authority or fall out of step with high-level strategy. In this report, researchers concluded that experiential marketing and omnichannel data oversight are keys to staying on the up and over trajectories.

Fortunately, there are a host of new tools coming into focus that can provide a single line of sight into all kinds of innovative in-person activation events, from B2B/ medical conferences, to in-store experiential or events, to VIP functions.

The Dawn of XM Tools

When CRM, digital platforms and marketing automation first starting gaining traction, they were certainly useful but there was no way to measure how much.

There was no line of sight to track ROI or impressions for things like drip email campaigns, website engagement and the effectiveness of specific pieces of content. Those were the days before HubSpot’s Marketing Grader, before Oracle’s Marketing Cloud, and when Salesforce’s initial marketing tools were still known as ExactTarget.

Marketers exploring the possibilities of experiential marketing (XM) and live events are in the same situation right now. Directors and C-level execs know that these new channels are effective, but proving it to other stakeholders with data visualizations can be challenging. This is especially true in the cannabis and retail sector services sector, where events are often still measured with traditional metrics like attendance counts.

Driven by society’s accelerating connectivity and the market’s intensified competitive focus on customer sentiment, leading firms are demanding greater visibility into the effectiveness of all marketing campaigns. Experiential marketing, with its unique emphasis on face-to-face meetings and personal insights into purchase intent, requires a new set of tools and technology to deliver on its promise.

How to Get Started With Measuring XM

The following processes are used by best-in-class brand. They suggest actions you can initiate now to point you down the right path:

  • Start from the data: Audit your existing experiential marketing programs to put hard numbers on how many potential customers you are reaching, what their engagement level is, how many prospects came to the events (broken down by their stage in the customer journey), what the overall ROI for the event was, and how productive your social follow up was after the event. It’s very likely that your department is not gathering data on these metrics at all right now. An audit will quickly determine whether investing in a software solution that gives you access to this data will be valuable to your organization.
  • Identify your main objectives. The goal should correlate with the overall strategic initiatives of the business.
  • Define KPIs. Work backwards to determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will get you there.
  • Review your tech stack. What tools do you currently have in place? Are you using your CRM to understand your customer's journey and tie sales back to each campaign? Do you have data capture in place to track each sale back to their original event source?
  • Review how you are using customer data: The reverberations of adaptation to the GDPR rules is still resounding through marketing departments that had grown dependent on data. Although customers want personalized content, they are much more sensitive about what kind of data is collected and how it is used across the board. Examine the role of non-structured data like direct conversations at sponsorship events to help guide you through the new normal.

Customers glide effortlessly through a variety of digital and physical touchpoints throughout the day as they connect with brands in person, on their phones and in chat rooms. Managing the variety of experiences doesn’t have to add up to complexity. What matters most is a single source of truth about the customer, and the most logical way to get there is through a single line of sight on customer data.

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