hen it comes to measuring the impact of your marketing efforts, few things outpace the return on investment (ROI) of a successful experiential marketing campaign. And it’s no longer a technique for the fringes: A recent Harvard Business Review study revealed that major companies like Salesforce have made events the linchpin of their marketing strategies.
However, like any form of marketing, events can sizzle or fizzle — strategy and preparation make all the difference. Here are my top six tips to make your experiential marketing pop.
Focus on your personas and then invest in their interests.
Events are rarely universally appealing, but they don’t need to be. Choose your audience by focusing on the specific personas you’re looking to attract. Don’t know where to start? Try social media analytics and social listening to see who’s talking about your product. Cross-reference with website traffic and you’ll have a good idea of your core audience.
To craft experiences that speak directly to them, form a content advisory board made up of previous attendees who match your target persona. Then you’ll be well on your way to delivering premium content that resonates with your target audience.
Merge your persona’s needs with your goals.
After you figure out the interests of your personas, create goals around those interests in the form of measurable KPIs. For example, maybe your goal is to expand social reach as part of a brand awareness campaign. You’d set social sharing benchmarks and measure your marketing efforts against them. Speak directly to your personas and measure engagement, make improvements, test and repeat. Leverage satisfaction surveys to ensure you’re on the right track.
Now you need to figure out how to engage with your personas in person at your events.
Do R&D and use focus groups to find the best verticals and locations for your events.
You know what your personas want to hear, but where should you host your event to guarantee a big splash? The first step is to do market research to see where your personas live and work. Segment your personas by vertical so you can better personalize content. LinkedIn is a great tool to explore this. Search for your target job titles and companies to find the largest concentrations of your personas.
My agency recently used this strategy with a client, a leader in data science communities that wanted to form a conference around a popular open-source product. LinkedIn showed us where our personas were and enabled us to reach out directly to find out how they were using the product and what they wanted to learn. We combined this insight with social media data and social listening to get a clear picture of the best content to present and where it would achieve the biggest impact.
Events generally have high upfront costs, and proper market research will help you ensure a high ROI on this investment.
Build a strong community.
Successful events allow people to connect with one another in addition to your brand. By engaging with your audience creatively in person at your events, you can help build a community among your attendees and establish yourself as a thought leader in your space. Once you build a community, you can leverage it in your future events, making reaching your event goals much easier.
There are a lot of opportunities to connect attendees and stakeholders, such as Slack. Forming spaces around subsets of your community is beneficial because it shows you’re invested in multiple narratives. Expand your brand goodwill by going beyond the sales pitch and hosting relaxed social events that allow your community to connect more naturally.
Make it worth sharing.
Getting the right people to the table isn’t enough to make an event successful. You need to bring a “wow” factor — something that attendees will think about long after they leave your event. Make sure to cover the basics: Always serve good food and great coffee. Throw in a surprise, too, such as an impactful networking activity or memorable entertainment.
More than anything, make it easy to share content and constantly invite your attendees to do exactly that. Put your hashtag on all event signage (including name badges!) and slides. Steer the social conversation by live-tweeting your event, and post the juiciest visual snippets on Facebook and Instagram. Shout out content contributors to expand your reach. Consider displaying a monitored Twitter stream at your event. When attendees see a robust ongoing social media conversation, they will be more likely to contribute.
Use your event to generate amazing content.
You’ve invested a ton of time and resources into building a top-notch event. You attracted your target audience, engaged them and earned rave reviews. But the impact of your event doesn’t need to stop with your attendees. Extend the life of your event with content. Have your attendees evangelize on social networks. Record and photograph your content to distribute to your attendees for use in your future marketing. Finally, capture every data touchpoint to help you make more informed decisions about your next event.
There is a lot of work that goes into experiential marketing, but the payoff can be substantial. Even better, by building a strong community and generating great content you can leverage one successful event to improve and promote another with less effort and greater returns. Start by following these steps and you’ll be primed for event success.