We have come a long way since the early days of experiential marketing. Back then, sampling alone or banners around a stage were deemed enough to create deeper consumer engagement. New technologies and a more empowered consumer have, of course, changed all of that. But despite a new era of experiential marketing, which often takes up a considerable slice of the marketing budget, the debate about whether we can measure return on investment remains.
Perhaps part of the perennial ROI issue is that too many experiences or events are created without asking "Why are we doing this?" or "What specific outcomes do we want for guests after the experience?"
Is it brand awareness and wanting people to experience your brand first-hand? Or brand activation, whereby attendees interact with your brand and change their perception of what you do? Maybe it's about launching a product, or perhaps simply helping to drive more sales? Only when you are really clear about the purpose can you begin to look at the metrics of success and methods.
I often hear people say their event or experience is "just a branding exercise", as if that exempts them from having to measure anything on its success. But that simply isn't the case. Aside from the regular brand-tracking studies, everything online and on social media channels can be measured in great detail. For example, by using free or paid-for tools you can track the volume of comments and posts about your brand and experience, know whether the response is positive, negative or neutral and measure uplift in followers, likes and fans.
In a previous job of mine, as head of digital marketing, we had a well-defined formula for the economic value of a Twitter follower or Facebook fan, and it is generally accepted in the B2C world that fans equate to more loyal customers and more purchases of your products. If your brand experience moves any of those measures, you can definitively prove the value and ROI.
For other events directly linked to generating leads or increasing sales, it should be straightforward to measure sales outcomes and ROI. And yet I often see organisers who haven't put processes in place with their sales teams to make sure every guest is followed up to identify new sales opportunities - nor any way to track if those attendees buy anything.
We now have technology that can help with all this. Online registration, and pushing that registration automatically into your CRM system, will mean you can measure every single purchase that was made by the people at your event.
Measuring ROI isn't always simple, I accept that, but we have many more means and tools to support the process than we did even ten years ago. Isn't it time we started using them and making it a priority, so the jury is no longer out on the great value and legitimacy of experiential marketing?
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