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This guide will walk you through the offline buyer’s journey and give you the information you need to reinvent your experiential marketing strategies. Discover how you can use experiential marketing to add value to your brand and organization.
Experiential marketing is in a period of continued growth at present, because it provides a great opportunity for consumers to interact directly with brands and build up a positive association. In fact, according to findings published in the Freeman Research Global Brand Experience Study, more than a third of CMOs plan to allocate between 21% to 50% of their budget to experiential marketing in coming years.
Experiential marketing is a strategy designed to engage consumers and encourage direct participation with a brand and/or its products, experiential marketing includes things like event marketing and street marketing. Essentially, rather than simply being given a message through advertising, experiential marketing aims to allow consumers to experience something tangible, which they will then associate with the brand, such as an exhibition service, or a live interaction.
Whereas traditional marketing channels tend to stimulate only some of the five senses, such as sight or sound, experiential marketing has the capacity to target all five at the same time, increasing engagement. In this guide, we examine the offline buyer’s journey and show you how you can use experiential marketing to add value to your brand.
One of the reasons why so many marketers are turning towards experiential marketing is because there are issues with the effectiveness of some of the more traditional methods of marketing and advertising. In simple terms, traditional channels are now reaching a smaller audience than in the past. Moreover, modern consumers are more aware of advertising, adopt a more cynical attitude towards it and are harder to please.
According to Fergus Rooney, the co-founder of AgencyEA, 89 percent of ad content is now ignored by consumers. Television advertising has been hurt by the ability to watch shows on-demand and skip ad breaks, while the majority of millennials have ad-blocking software installed, limiting the effectiveness of online advertising.
Although some of the other traditional methods, such as billboard advertising, are not affected by these technology changes, their reach is far more limited, they cannot be engaged with directly and, generally speaking, people are unlikely to take a photo of a billboard advert and share it with their friends.
These challenges have caused marketers to search for other marketing methods, which can help them to become more effective at putting across brand messages, and can allow them to reach the audience that is not currently engaging with traditional channels. One of the most promising methods is experiential marketing.
You probably know the diagram below like the back of your hand:
It’s the buyer’s journey and it has been the backbone of many sales and marketing strategies. Defined by HubSpot as “the process buyers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and decide to purchase a new product or service,” every marketer/business owner has his/her own version of a roadmap of how their customers evolve from prospects to marketable leads to actual paying buyers.
However, a very important component is missing.
While the buyer’s journey is a relatively new catchphrase that boomed with the rise of online marketing, the overall strategy behind it is an age-old concept that precedes the internet by decades. Therefore, it is quite ironic how many businesses don’t have the same savviness when it comes to their offline buyer’s journey compared to their relative mastery of their online buyer’s journey.
It is even more ironic considering that marketers still spend the majority of their budget on offline advertising and events compared to online advertising. 56% of the total ad spend globally still goes to offline channels. While this is expected to become an equal 50-50 advertising spend allocation by 2021, it still doesn’t explain why marketers would be masters in terms of tracking their online buyer’s journey KPIs and not with their offline marketing campaigns.
Nobody is arguing against the effectiveness of online marketing. However, it’s high time to give the offline buyer’s journey the same amount of thought and attention when it comes to planning, tracking, measuring, and optimizing.
Doing so should be a key priority because offline experiential events have long been established as a powerful channel to engage an audience, underlining the value of a personal touch. As explained by one experiential marketing guru: “well-executed experiential activations turn consumers from passive viewers to active participants.” Take for example this great experiential campaign from Sensodyne called the ‘The Great Sensitivity Test’:
You can read more details about the event, but experts agree that this is one of the best examples of how experiential marketing can generate great brand awareness — the first step in the buyer’s journey.
Yet, there’s very little thought that goes into knowing and measuring how the offline buyer’s journey progresses from these experiential marketing events. Quantitative and qualitative data that paint the picture of how consumers move into the different stages of the offline buyer’s journey are severely lacking. This is echoed by the results of a survey which revealed that 1 in 3 marketers find it hard to demonstrate positive ROI, therefore making it difficult to request funds for their experiential marketing campaigns.
Here’s a quick test to confirm this theory. Ready?
Think of any evergreen online marketing campaign that you currently have running or a campaign that recently concluded. Top of mind, do you have an approximation of the following metrics from your campaign?
If you were able to answer most, if not all, of these questions, great job! Although, to be perfectly honest, this is quite expected. Most business owners would have dashboards that are updated regularly to reflect their most recent online marketing KPIs.
Now, think of the last event or any offline experiential campaign you did. Do you know the following?
If you were only able to answer items 1 and 2, that’s okay. You’re not alone. This demonstrates how much room you have to track, measure, and optimize your offline buyer’s journey. By tracking and measuring the offline buyer’s journey, you should be able to accomplish the following:
Given the amount of money and time invested in offline events and the overwhelming consensus on how they generate positive ROI, here’s what’s missing:
A conscious, proactive, and strategic approach to track, measure, and analyze the different micro-conversions that happen in the offline buyer’s journey. Data that can be used to generate optimization insights, calculate the most truthful ROI, and justify the spend for these experiential offline events.
“You cannot manage what you cannot measure.” It’s almost cliché, but it is true, and this is going to be the focus of this chapter.
Tracking and measuring the performance of offline marketing activities vis-a-vis the buyer’s journey is like a puzzle with a lot of missing pieces.
This is surprising considering that 38% of marketers believe offline experiential activities are the most effective marketing tactics that they use. However, when marketers track their offline buyer’s journey, 80% do agree that they gain valuable insights from the data they gather.
Obviously, there is a gap here that needs to be bridged. If you want to grow your numbers (a.k.a. revenue from your offline marketing), you have to know your numbers.
If you’re reading this and thinking: “Well, this doesn’t relate to me. I do track the performance of my offline marketing activities.”
First, allow us to say, kudos to you for having tracking in place. However, we want you to evaluate the tracking that you have right now by answering the following questions:
This may sound like a lot, but as discussed in chapter 1 of this guide, this is something marketers know for their online marketing funnels.
When it comes to the online buyer’s journey, everyone is familiar with assisted conversions, last click conversions, multi-channel attributions, and so on and so forth. This is the kind of in-depth tracking that you need for your offline buyer’s journey to truly make offline experiential marketing a profit center for your business.
The reality is, every business owner can measure the performance of their offline buyer’s journey in a number of ways. However, if you want an initial measurement plan that you can model after, consider using the following framework.
Below is the framework that we will use in defining what metrics matter in each stage of the offline buyer’s journey:
Pre-event metrics show how good your promotional tactics and strategies are in drumming up excitement for your offline marketing activities even before you begin registration.
Here are some of the KPIs that you should track:
What to Measure: The level of interest your audience is showing during the teaser phase of your offline campaign.
How to Measure: This will depend on the pre-event channel you’re using. For example, if you’re doing a teaser campaign on social media, try using social metrics such as Likes, Comments, Re-posts, etc. to measure this performance indicator.
What to Measure: The number of those who are showing interest in your offline marketing activities who know your brand. You should also take note who among those showing interest in your event are your past customers/clients.
How to Measure: Survey/Polls
Registration metrics show you the effectiveness of your strategies and tactics in driving registrations for your offline marketing activities and experiential events.
You can use the following metrics to track and measure the performance of your offline marketing events at this stage:
What to Measure: The number of people who are registering for your event.
How to Measure: Using your registration platform’s automatic tallying feature.
What to Measure: The number of those registering for your offline experiential activities who already know about your brand.
How to Measure: In your registration form, include a question asking registrants if they know your brand. Get a final tally once your registration period is over (if you’re going to have on-going registration during the event/activity itself, then you may have to wait until the event is over).
What to Measure: The intention that your prospects have for registering to your offline marketing activities. This will give you an idea of the possible needs and wants that your offline events can fulfill for your potential customers.
How to Measure: In your registration form, include a question asking registrants if they’re planning to go to your event for a specific reason. Get a final tally once your registration period is over and analyze whether there are common themes in the answers of registrants.
What to Measure: The percentage of users who saw your registration form or have expressed interest to register to the number of actual registrants. This will give you an idea of whether there’s something in the actual registration form itself that could be deterring potential participants from registering (i.e. ease of use of registrations forms).
How to Measure: If you have an online registration form, this could be the number of form views. For offline registration, this could be the number of people who approached your booth and expressed interest to register. Sample computation: 10 registrants, 100 form views/booth approaches; 10/100 = 10%.
What to Measure: The number of questions that you or your customer service team receives from potential participants to request more details or clarify questions about your event. This will give you an idea of whether your communication materials are clear enough that your target audience understands what the event is for and why they should join.
How to Measure: If your registration is hosted in an online platform, tracking the number of support emails that you get or social media direct messages would fall under this metric. If you have offline registration, give specific instructions to those manning your registration booths. Ask them to note the questions that they are getting prior to people registering for the event.
This is probably one of the areas where there are big gaps when it comes to tracking and measuring. At the same time, this is the area where there are a lot of opportunities in terms of optimizing your offline marketing activities if you can gather data that can be used to generate insights. During your event, one of your main priorities is to measure the level of engagement that the different activities, booths, and other event content are getting. Zooming in on these details will give your marketing and sales teams the ability to maximize on-site opportunities.
What to Measure: The number of people who participated/attended your activity. This is probably the only thing that most marketers measure for their offline activities.
How to Measure: The easiest way is to have sign-up technology in place during your event in order to electronically tally at the end of your event.
What to Measure: The length of time your attendees spent in your event. Typically, the more time they spend on your event, the more engaged they are.
How to Measure: Have designated exit points at your event venue and require your attendees to log out. Make sure you’re recording time stamps, both when your event attendees sign-up on arrival and when they check out while leaving.
What to Measure: The specific booths/stations your attendees visited or the specific activities they did. This will allow you to identify which specific event content resonates with the different segments of your attendees.
Another important metric you need to track is the amount of time that your attendees spend when they visit specific booths. This is indicative of the level of interest and engagement for specific event content.
How to Measure: Setup a method of tracking at every booth/activity during your event. Make sure that someone is manning the registration system to ensure people are registering. An easier way is to have an automated tracking system (there are many technologies available) in place to electronically tag your attendees as they participate in the different activities during your event.
What to Measure: A highly-neglected qualitative data, keeping track of the conversations between your on-ground staff and event attendees could reveal a number of optimization opportunities for future events. This will also enable your sales to engage with your event attendees in their “voice” and deliver personalized sales/product messages.
How to Measure: Train your staff to identify key conversation elements such as: questions attendees asked, objections/hesitations raised, personal motivations, and other solutions/providers being considered. Record these conversation notes in the attendees’ profiles using an automated tracking system. Also, make sure that your sales team can use this information when engaging attendees.
When planning your events and other offline marketing activities, set specific objectives, some of which are achieved during the event itself. You should measure whether you achieve your targets against these key performance indicators. Further, ensure that your sales team is made aware in real-time when key prospect activities (such as session attendance, significant booth visits) occur so they can take the appropriate actions and directly engage prospects.
What to Measure: Arguably the holy grail of all offline marketing metrics, especially if your event is specifically created to generate sales. As its name suggests, this is the number of sales that you acquire during the event itself.
How to Measure: Collect data through your POS system or any order/purchase processing system you have in place.
What to Measure: The number of marketable and sales-ready leads that you get during your event.
How to Measure: If you’re already getting the email addresses of your event attendees at the venue entry (and their consent that they’re allowing you to send them marketing/sales emails), this already qualifies as marketable leads. Sales-ready leads include those who request product demos or sales calls during your event.
If you are doing sampling during your event, and if it’s an objective during your event, you can also include that metric under this section.
Have you ever heard of the fitness term afterburn effect? Basically, it states that by doing certain exercises, you can still burn a significant number of calories after working out.
The same concept applies to your offline marketing activities. You can still get results a few weeks after your event and it’s necessary to properly attribute these results back to your offline marketing. It is critical that you capture the intelligence gathered at your events and add it to you current system(s) of record such as your CRM and marketing automation platforms.
Below are some metrics you can track and measure:
What to Measure: The change in the level of brand awareness after your event.
How to Measure: Send a survey to your event attendees and compare their awareness about your brand before and after they attend your offline marketing activity. You can also track any change in online social mentions that can be attributed to your event.
What to Measure: The number of leads that you acquire after the event.
How to Measure: Include a “How did you hear about us?” question in your lead generation tactics so you can properly attribute from which offline activity a certain lead came from.
What to Measure: The number of attendees that didn’t purchase outright during the event, but did so after.
How to Measure: Similar to how you track post-event leads, include a “How did you hear about us?” question in your sales forms/order forms/in-store purchase slips or surveys. You can also follow the leads you received from your events and track if they will eventually purchase.
This has been a lengthy chapter, but it demonstrates the untapped opportunities in terms of measuring the performance of your offline marketing activities. Opportunities to get insights that will help you become a better offline marketer.
At the end of the day, measuring experiential marketing success is at the core of any successful experiential campaign. It’s the only way to prove to key stakeholders, leaders, and decision makers that experiential marketing could be a revenue driver for a business.
Further, tracking the performance of your offline marketing campaigns using metrics that actually matter will help you optimize your strategies so you can have repeatable tactics in place, and at the same time, create room for innovation.
Implementing the tracking and measurement strategies and tactics outlined in chapter 2 will give you a goldmine of data.
You probably know this by now, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate.
You’re not tracking for numbers’ sake. It’s about finding optimization opportunities to transform your offline marketing as a profit center for your organization.
If you’re not yet in this mindset, here’s one way to make the shift.
It would be difficult to optimize your offline marketing activities if you’re looking at your metrics and just seeing them as numbers. However, if you look at your metrics and take them as measurable, quantifiable behaviors, then you can think of ways to optimize those behaviors to benefit your business objectives.
Here are some examples:
How do you optimize your offline marketing so you are moving your prospects from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next?
“The anatomy of a high converting website.” “How to get more leads from your landing pages.” “Optimizing your sales pages for more sales and higher revenue.”
You’ve probably read several versions of these topics and most likely, you probably have your own best practices on designing your website to get the business results that you want. You also might have different funnels that cater to every phase of your prospects’ online customer journey, tailor fit to specific buyer personas, coupled with personalized content depending on intent.
The same vigor should apply when you’re designing your events.
Come to think of it, offline marketing strategies and tactics came before online channels and the pillars that online marketers use to design websites originated from the core principles of offline marketing.
The same thought process should apply for offline events and other experiential campaigns.
To demonstrate this more clearly, let’s take the example of a hypothetical weight loss supplements company that’s planning on holding an event. How should this company design its event as if it is designing its website?
Event attendees would have different buyer personas and would, therefore, require different event content that would resonate with them. For instance, how would this event be relevant and engaging to relatively fit men who are trying to lose the last few pounds of their weight?
Consider the following:
In this example, there are other buyer personas that would be attending the same event (e.g. fitness enthusiasts, ketogenic diet followers, people with specific medical needs, senior citizens). The key is to identify your buyer avatars depending on marketing size and revenue opportunities and deliver personalized content based on their pain points and where they are in the buyer’s journey.
When it comes to optimizing your offline marketing activities and events, the rule of thumb is to always be two steps ahead of your customers.
One of the metrics that were discussed in chapter 2 of this guide was “Reasons for Registration.” Just to recap:
You need to identify why your event attendees are there, to be able to give them the best consumer experience during your events. What happens if you’re missing this crucial piece of the puzzle? Here’s an anecdote from Google’s VP of consumer goods Adam Stewart:
“This might sound familiar to you. I’m currently in the market for a new car. While I’m considering a newer model of the brand I own, most of the marketing communications I receive don’t recognize me as a potential loyal customer. Furthermore, I recently visited the dealership, spent two hours there, and after returning home, received an email from the general manager of that same dealership inviting me to come in and check out the latest models. I was just there.”
For most or all of your attendees you probably already have a solid profile built for them based on their online activities such as purchases, the content they engage with, and so on and so forth.
If you are able to properly “tag” your participants based on their intentions, you can deliver more personalized, targeted, and compelling content during your event. This would allow you to move them to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
Real-time tracking of how attendees are interacting with the different content elements in an offline marketing activity is another pain point among offline marketers. Additionally, the most prevalent offline marketing tracking strategies don’t produce actionable insights.
As explained by New York-based experiential marketing expert Sarah Priestman: “Experiential agencies are often obsessed with anecdotal consumer feedback, time-lapse films showing the ‘event in action,’ surveys reporting that 99 percent of attendees said ‘it was great, we loved taking part.’ All these elements can be important to a rounded piece of evaluation, but are really not a clear indication of the attitudinal shift, the change in consumer behavior, or the incremental profit generated from the experiential campaign.”
With the right technology (such as electronically tracking your attendees’ behavior during your events), you can provide real-time feedback to your relevant teams so they can take immediate action. This will significantly increase on-site conversions. In the event that your on-site team didn’t close the sale, you can then customize a follow-up sequence to boost post-event conversions. Your sales team can make the necessary follow-up while the experience from your event is still fresh in the minds of your leads. This would make it easier for your sales team to close sales after the event.
Capturing actionable attendee journey information such as sessions attended (and session dwell time), booths visited (for how long and which product station if it is a large booth) all contribute to determining attendee behavior, which is a significant data point (predictor) in determining current challenges, solution interest and buying intent.
The bottom line — you’re minimizing lost opportunities due to the late utilization of important customer data during your event.
Having the ability to optimize your offline events — similar to how you optimize your online marketing and sales funnels — is going to be a game-changer. Delivering targeted content that is specific to where your prospects are in the buyer’s journey and being able to maximize real-time data will not only make your events more profitable, it will deliver the best experience to your attendees.
Admittedly, not everyone is ready to optimize their offline marketing activities just yet. So, where do you start? We will answer this question in the next chapter.
Of course, you’re not starting off with a blank slate. So, where do you start in terms of implementing a tracking and optimization strategy for your offline marketing?
The first step is to identify where you are in the offline buyer’s journey maturity curve.
You will find different versions of the maturity curve for different disciplines. After observing and talking to offline marketers, this is the maturity curve that closely reflects how you can progress in terms of tracking and optimizing your offline events.
Let’s go through each stage:
It’s hard to believe that companies are spending a significant amount of money on events and do not have the mechanism to track the results they’re getting, isn’t it? However, according to a survey, 43% of marketers are not confident when it comes to their capability in measuring ROI from their offline marketing campaigns. It would be rare to see organizations under this category, but they do exist.
If you’re in this level of the maturity curve, there’s no need to worry. The important thing is you recognize where you are in order to work toward progress.
Most marketers would probably fall under this category.
In this stage, you likely have basic metrics being tracked such as:
If you’re at this stage, you could have rudimentary objectives in place that you’re measuring against the metrics above. However, you’re not measuring specific participant behaviors during your event that are leading to the results that you’re seeing.
Marketers who are in this phase are already considered intermediate in terms of tracking the offline buyer’s journey.
Aside from the rudimentary metrics above, you are also measuring with considerable depth, specific behaviors. This allows you to answer questions such as:
Take note, however, this data is not available in real-time. For the most part, this information is used to develop post-event insights that will be used to improve succeeding offline campaigns, but conversion opportunities are lost during the event itself. In addition, this information can be used in support of a multi-touch attribution model which includes offline attributes.
Great use of event real-time tracking technology and knowing what user behaviors to track and measure characterize marketers who are in this stage. At this point, you are already exhibiting a high level of sophistication in being able to move your offline marketing participants further into the offline buyer’s journey.
Think of it as having a control room where you can see anything and everything that your event participants are doing. Imagine “Participant John” as one of your event attendees and being able to track his behavior during your event in great detail:
With real-time tracking, you are empowered to make timely actions based on specific user behaviors and strike while the iron is hot.
This is the pinnacle of the maturity curve when it comes to managing the offline buyer’s journey. At this stage, you’re not only tracking and measuring your offline marketing campaigns, but you are also able to produce repeatable results, predict some key behaviors, and project possible outcomes based on data and insights.
More importantly, at this stage, you are able to capture and be relevant to all members of your audience wherever they are in the buyer’s journey — whether they are on the awareness, consideration, and action stage. In one single event, you should be able to convert traffic to prospects, prospects to leads, and leads to paying customers.
There is no blanket strategy that can magically catapult marketers from Level 1 to Level 5 of the maturity curve. However, you can use the following general pointers to get started:
It is important to understand that experiential marketing is not simply an alternative way to market a brand or its products, while getting around some of the problems associated with traditional channels. Instead, experiential marketing provides real and unique value in terms of educating, improving perceptions and building lasting relationships, and can function alongside more traditional advertising methods, or in their place.
That is a famous line by legendary NFL player and coach Vince Lombardi.
The same is true for your offline marketing. If you’re not mapping, tracking, measuring, and optimizing your campaign based on the offline buyer’s journey, you’re losing a huge opportunity to build brand awareness, acquire more marketable leads, and generate more sales.
Research compiled by Pop2Life shows that 74 percent of event attendees have a more positive opinion about the business, brand, product or service being showcased afterwards. Meanwhile, 65 percent said they had a better understanding of a product or service after attending, out-performing television and online methods.
"Experiential is a uniquely fast and effective way to build brand awareness through one-to-one connections with consumers," says Bryan Icenhower, president of the event company IMG Live. "It engages all five senses, sparking emotions that form lasting memories which have been shown to drive brand loyalty."
That final point is perhaps the most important advantage of all of those associated with experiential marketing - the ability to form positive associations in the minds of consumers. This can then increase the chances of repeat business and help to create a genuine sense of loyalty, maximizing the lifetime value of those customers. In addition, it makes customers more likely to share their experience with others, furthering a campaign's reach.