The Data Connection: Experiential Marketing and ROI

By Scott Kellner, VP of Marketing, George P. Johnson

Scott Kellner, VP of Marketing, George P. Johnson

There’s been a seismic shift in the marketing landscape, away from disruptive traditional advertising and toward face-to-face brand experiences that are focused on building relationships between brands and consumers or buyers. The reasoning is simple; today’s consumers demand personalized brand experiences and interaction on their terms. Immersive, non-interruptive, opt-in experiences deliver that, and more.

"Recent studies of B2B marketers show that brand activation is currently enjoying the largest piece of the marketing pie"

Experiential marketing, done right, is informative, entertaining, shareable, communicates brand values and creates brand advocates. Consider for a moment the effects of seeing a print Jeep advertisement with some clever phrasing about how adventurous Jeep owners are. Now imagine the thrill of a Ride and Drive, experiencing firsthand the “blue sky” moment of cresting a hill (when all you see is blue sky through the windshield—gulp!). Which do you think has a greater impact on a potential buyer? Which drives home the core brand promise of Jeep better?

Marketers have been shifting budgets toward live events and brand experiences for some time. Recent studies of B2B marketers show that brand activation is currently enjoying the largest piece of the marketing pie. Unfortunately, proving ROI on events and brand experiences has lagged behind, in spite of increasing data gathering touch points, leaving marketers with little to no “proof” that all this relationship building is actually translating into shortened sales cycles or revenue.

Event and consumer data is collected on multiple levels in multiple places, but it often languishes in individual silos, and few people know what to do with it or how to connect the analytics with broader marketing automation or CRM systems. This results in a fragmented picture of buyer behavior, and hampers marketers’ ability to capitalize on available data. Further, there’s confusion about how to use the event data to improve future experiences. 

Below are some of the top experiential marketing data challenges:

What impact do my brand activations have on the business?

Are your marketing efforts getting the “credit” for the leads you’re generating, the shortening of the sales cycle you’re encouraging, and the brand enhancement you’re driving? Is your event data contributing to making other marketing programs stronger by providing additional behavioral metrics to create a holistic profile of each buyer?

Am I reaching the right people?

This one is all about targeting. Do you have a high level of confidence, backed up by data, that you’re targeting the right groups (personas), all of the right groups, and have a firm understanding of what their needs, aspirations and tendencies are.

Are my attendees really being engaged at my activations?

There are all sorts of “points” during an activation where you’re likely getting some data (registration, mobile activity, beacon data, etc.), but like a doctor who only has a person’s pulse rate or weight, you simply cannot create a diagnosis from points. You need a holistic picture of the patient, your attendee, along with a methodology for measuring their health.

Do I have the right technology in place?

Most marketers have been diligently adding a variety of technology solutions to enhance activations. But has this been done strategically, or as a series of “point solutions” to check boxes for things you know you need but are not connected.

What’s Next?

Marketers must move beyond demographic and even persona-based marketing to deliver truly individualized, personal experiences.

Increased demand to justify experiential budgets has led to innovation by some event agencies in both data collection as well as the use of the data across event and other marketing platforms, creating a cycle that informs future events and shows clearly the ROI that the events are generating. 

The secret is the connection of behavioral data with CRM and/or marketing automation platform data, together with other data points such as mobile activity, social analytics, and more.

When put together, this data forms a holistic buyer profile that can lead to strategies for accelerating the buying cycle and more personalized experiences to do so. All the while collecting better data to feedback into marketing campaigns and CRM profiles.

Take Aways

• Experiential marketing has the potential to connect target attendees with brands (and other attendees) in ways that are memorable, shareable, and which accelerate the sales cycle.
• Marketing budgets are heavily invested in brand activations, with measureable ROI as an expected outcome.
• Data should be used to target the right audiences, design personalized experiences, and use those experiences to capture more data.
• Digital touch points should be strategic both in delivering the brand message and collecting the right information.
• Start with the end in mind, when selecting partners, designing attendee journeys, choosing the right technology and outlining KPIs.

There will inevitably be hurdles, as both event technologies and the connective tissue to bring together siloed data is rapidly developing, but in the end, experiential will be measured and held to the same expectations as other mediums of marketing, and you don’t want to be left behind!



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