Experiential brand activations of all kinds are filling today’s marketing event space. Experiential marketing focuses on creating real-life, hands-on experiences for their target audiences. It supports the growing requirement to engage audiences and customers through meaningful live experiences that help deepen the brand-customer relationship. One of the most significant benefits of experiential marketing is the lasting impression and sense of brand loyalty it can create among your target audiences.
Experiential marketing may look a lot like event marketing, which is not a surprise because experiential campaigns and strategies are typically event-centric. However, these live events tend to involve more than mere event planning, event management, and execution. They lean towards providing a more immersive live experience and are usually standalone (not part of a bigger event, like product launches, trade fair, mobile tours, music festival, or other type of corporate event). In event marketing agencies, event marketers can pull off any major event you want because they will have a routine project plan and people for it. These are the resources an experiential marketing agency that specializes in event production and corporate events must also have, but the difference is that they approach each event like it is their first (if they do it right).
- Do Your Due Diligence
You’ve done your research and found a few experiential marketing agencies that seem like a good fit for your brand. But before you get in touch, you should conduct a background check. Talk to your colleagues and the agency’s other clients, research them both offline and online, and then schedule a meet-up. Find out how long the agency has been in business. Ask about their corporate culture and review their past and current work. Look through their portfolio and ask to see examples of their experiential marketing campaigns and how they’ve helped other clients increase brand awareness.
Is the agency too big or too small? How many employees do they have? Will you have access to everyone? What processes do they use to deliver what the client needs? Knowing all this will give you confidence that they might be the right experiential marketing company for you.
- Find an Agency with Experience in Industries with Similar Targets
Hiring an agency without any experience in your industry or industries with similar targets means that you will have to provide training on the basic environment, regulations, and nuances. That can be very costly and time-consuming, and eventually you won’t be sure whether the agency will manage to complete the project successfully. Therefore, benchmarking the best practices from other industries can be very beneficial. It would be wise to look for an agency that has pulled off similar endeavors in the past and learned from their past experiences and mistakes. If they have never designed a digital marketing strategy to reach targets similar to yours, they may not have the same level of commitment or expertise in experiential marketing. Consider their core capabilities – if you need a sampling, pop-up, or mobile tour activation, and all you see is high-profile concerts and large festivals or merely digital experiences in their portfolio, you should keep searching.
- Meet the Team
The relationship between agency and client needs to have chemistry. Whether you work with an account service director or the vice president of the agency, the relationship should be authentic. Be sure you don’t get handed off to an entry level person for the on-going support of your program. The live experience of your key contact is a direct relation to the success of the program. The experiential agency should be willing to get to know your national or global brand on a deeper level to understand your unique mission and vision. They should gain enough insight into your brand to know what experiential live events and experiential campaigns will work best for you and get people talking about your brand.
Therefore, you should schedule a meeting, visit their premises, and have the entire team introduced to you. There is nothing worse than having a dynamic business team pitch you an offer, only to find out that you didn’t get the best team working on your project (such as those employees who don’t happen to be busy at the moment).
- Do They Understand What Your Brand Really Needs?
Top experiential marketing agencies can be very persuasive. Their business and salespeople might come up with innovative, revolutionary, and never-before-done ideas that seem big and flashy. But don’t get excited right away, because an idea is only good and the potential to change the world of marketing if it works. The agency needs to understand who you are, what your values are, how to engage audiences, and what you are trying to accomplish. If they are not asking good questions, then all they are putting on is a flashy show. Help the experience agency get a clear picture of your brand authenticity by sharing the experiences a customer may have with it at every touchpoint.
- Importance of Integration
Select an experiential marketing company that understands the entire marketing ecosystem and how it drives consumer perception, brand awareness, and customer stories. To be able to integrate a branded experience the right way, they should review which channels you use to determine how other channels can support the experiential live events. They will also want to take a look at your ad copy to understand your unique brand voice. An integrated marketing approach always delivers better results. In your overall marketing plan, the experiential marketing strategy shouldn’t be separated from other marketing endeavors, such as social media marketing, content marketing, influencer marketing, and public relations, even though it is specialized.
- Discuss Their Strategy
Every marketing agency or event management company has its own ways of executing experiential campaigns. When meeting up to discuss their offering, be sure to find out how they conduct market research, approach event production and planning, and leverage consumer behaviors and data insights to develop experiential marketing campaigns. Many marketing and advertising agencies can offer turnkey services (like scheduling or staffing), but would they be able to identify gaps in the delivery or measurement beforehand? If not, they will set you up with results that are hard to calculate.
Do they offer customized approaches? Do they consider your objectives and challenges? How do they plan to record, package, and amplify customer stories? Marketing strategy is the basis of any well-executed branded experience, and each experiential agency must have a process they try to stick to when collaborating with a new partner. Be sure to review their discovery systems/processes to see whether you agree with them.
- Ask How They Measure Success
Like is the case with social media marketing, content marketing, or other forms of digital marketing, experiential marketing campaigns are set to deliver a set of unique KPIs. Before you select a top experiential marketing agency or event management company to hire, you need to see and agree with the KPIs they intend to track. This must always be discussed upfront because the campaign needs to be monitored and measured in terms of ROI for you.
So, if your brand seeks to connect with your target audiences emotionally, what KPIs are they going to track?? If you want to catalyze word-of-mouth, how will their campaign get people talking? And if you choose to go with augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) experience, what would be the most important KPIs to track? Which live marketing automation software do they rely on? Ask to see a sample of an experiential marketing report to see what type of data you will get from the campaign and how they will evaluate the success.
The experience agency you want to hire is the one that’s capable of delivering the right immersive experience and lasting impression for your experiential marketing campaign, and that has chemistry with your team. If you cannot see working with them and if intuition tells you that they are not the right fit, don’t hire them. Choosing the right experience agency is the first step in a business relationship that needs to feel like a trusted friendship. Make rational decisions, but don’t forget to trust your gut as well.
Want to work directly with an accomplished, top experiential marketing agency with 25 years of experience? Pro Motion is an industry leader that specializes in event planning, public relations, and in creating engaging, effective campaigns. Give us a call at 636.449.3162.
Learn More About Experiential Marketing from PMI President Steve Randazzo in his book Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World. Click here to download 2 free chapters!