The 3 Best Tips for Experiential Marketing on any Budget

We know great experiences, both physical and digital, deliver value that benefits your audience, and, if done correctly, your business. Many make the mistake (but no worries, I’m here to stop you) of setting up a booth and giving away branded fidget spinners. That, my friend, is not experiential marketing. In this post, I’ll walk you through a few examples of how experiential marketing can be applied to your SMB or B2B world, even if you don’t have a big budget.

The bottom line? For experiential marketing to be successful, the experience needs to mutually beneficial. For me, this success means our audience feels positively about our brand, and that feeling leads to action in the near future.

For experiential marketing to be successful, the experience needs to mutually beneficial.

 

But you might say, “How do I do more if I can’t get more budget?” It’s easy: you just spend a bit of extra time researching, and then re-appropriate your current budget in ways that are intentional.

You invest in listening to your audience through social (what they post, before, during and after), through surveys, and of course, by analyzing your attendee data (i.e. ages and titles). Once you know who your audience is, you can look at other events that target them and the reports associated with them. Then, figure out what differentiates your event and decide how you want attendees to remember your brand (remember, your event is brand, too).

Well-crafted experiences allow your audience to be a part of your brand. Don’t tell them who you are, allow them to “step inside” and see for themselves. At events or other activations that are experiential, you get the rare opportunity to invite people into a 360-experience of your brand. While most marketing assets are by nature two-dimensional, events allow your audience to feel emotions and attach memories to your brand.

You may ask, “Yeah, but how does my B2B company do that?” We see a lot of consumer brands doing experiential well—there’s a lot of big flashy campaigns that we gush over. But software and B2B companies shouldn’t assume it’s not for them.

One way to adjust your perspective (so that you can also adjust your strategy) is to realize that your customers’ audiences are also your audiences. This allows you to think about what both audiences want to experience, or want to know how to do better, and then jump in to show them.

For example, at our SXSW event two years ago we started implementing a professional studio-styled photo-taking station where guests could design their own shots of fun food we provided (i.e. milkshakes, smoothies). We outfitted the “studio” with props, lighting, backdrops, and a professional blogger to assist with tips and tricks. One of our customers said: “You guys get it…you don’t just talk about how to create user-generated and interactive experiences on social—you also walk the walk.”

Here are 3 steps to make your next brand experience successful:

1. Invest in your audience’s interests

Learn about who you’re inviting and who typically attends your events. Are they Directors of Digital Marketing, Social Media Managers, Chief Digital Officers? Mostly women, mostly men, or half-and-half? Do you know what the age ranges are? All of these factors will help you determine where and how your audience engages. An older crowd is more likely to engage on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, and will more likely respond to a thought leadership or networking post. A younger crowd is likely to be on Instagram, sharing an experience they are having and commenting on other people’s experiences.

And if you find out that your audience is varied and diverse, you plan different experiences for each contingent. You don’t just throw it all up in the air and hope everyone adapts.

For example, we know our audience during SXSW is younger and that their attention is in high-demand. We also know they are looking for an experience that will create FOMO from their audiences on social. They want to stand out from the noise just as much as any brand does. And, for our SmartSocial Summit, we know that although there is a wide variety of attendees, from Social Media Managers to Directors to SVPs, they are all there to connect, learn and be inspired.

Ask yourself: who attends your experiences, and what do they want to get out of them?

2. Set goals, and use them as your North Star

I constantly ask my team: what’s the goal here? Why are we doing this? Sometimes you get the answer “because it’s cool,” or “because it’s a new hot item.” I’m guilty of giving an answer like that myself. But we hold each other accountable and remember our audience (see part one above) and goals (keep reading).

If your goal is to drive a 20% increase in user-generated content on social during one of your live experiences, then does the activation you are proposing inspire people to share something, and does it relate back to your brand’s core values? You can’t put your widgets out and hope people will engage with them just because you made the widget. You also can’t hand out the latest gadget if it has nothing to do with your brand. Think about an experience you can create around your widgets that will intrigue your guests and create a special memory.

If your goal is to hand out swag to your guests at your conference because you want people to remember you, then what do you give out that embodies your brand values? What messaging do you use to color in the gifting experience so that when Jane picks up her item, she sees and hears something that adds context to the gift?

3. Merge your audience’s needs with your goals and put your creative thinking hat on

Now that you know who your audience is and what your goals are, the fun part begins: thinking creatively about how you invite people into the heartbeat of your brand.

One example is when we chose to serve over-the-top milkshakes at SXSW two years ago. Many argued: what do milkshakes have to do with a SAAS business? Well, at the time, food was one of the most socially shared types of content. And over-the-top food begs to be photographed and shared. Why? Because of FOMO. You can argue that we’ve moved on from that acronym, but we haven’t moved on from caring what other people think about our lives.

Spredfast is a social media marketing software company, so practicing what we preach—showing, not just telling—was the key here. We knew our audience wanted cool content for their Instagram feeds that captured their unique access to an exclusive event. We identified what our audience wanted, and then creatively curated a way to tie it into our brand’s story.

At our annual SmartSocial Summit, one of our goals is to expand the goodness that comes from getting so many top-notch speakers and digital leaders in one spot. How do we share the experience, knowledge, and feeling of brand connections with customers and partners who can’t be in attendance? Over the years we’ve started tip-toeing into live-streaming and capturing content to share long after the event is over. But as we mature from these practices, we are also constantly asking ourselves, “How will this experience make someone feel?” and, “How do we get these people engaged?” Stay tuned!

As a final take-away, don’t forget that brand experiences need to be intentional. Think about what your audiences are looking for or already talking about and then find a creative way to tie it back to how your company shows up in the marketplace.

Don’t forget that brand experiences need to be intentional.

 

Want to learn more about experiential marketing and social media? Attend SmartSocial Summit and check out our breakout session, “No Boundaries: Maximizing Experiential Marketing Through Social”.

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Grace Gittinger is the Director of Event Marketing at Spredfast. With 15 years under her belt in events, she is passionate about leading brand experiences that are both intentional and creative.