How Do I Implement Experiential Marketing Technology?
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When it comes to evolving your event and experiential marketing efforts, it’s true that you get out what you put in. But you don’t need to come out of the gate running. Many organizations and teams who digitally transformed offline marketing started small, while others scaled quickly. In other words, for some, implementing experiential marketing happened all at once; others, it has taken years. Regardless of which category you fit in, you’re adapting your technology to the event marketing world today - new safety protocols and all. Your decisions all depend on the goals of your organization and marketing department at large.
Implementing & Scaling Successful Experiential Marketing
Regardless of your approach, there is one crucial step you must take with your vendor of choice: lay the groundwork for complex change at scale.
In this blog, we will discuss three key elements that have helped many Fortune-500 brands like BMW, Allstate and Molson successfully reap huge rewards from experiential marketing technology.
- A Roadmap for Success
- Pilot Best Practices
- Scale Best Practices
A Roadmap for Success
Before selecting an experiential marketing technology vendor, it’s worth understanding the how other companies achieved success. One part of that is how your experiential programs are structured, from a consumer standpoint.
The other involves the back-end: processes around implementation, data transfer, and integrations. Understanding how these factors play into your success will help mitigate program failure and risk, and ultimately earn you quick wins faster. For example, how will your vendor of choice centralize data and processes from your existing tech or vendors?
The Limelight solutions team uses a process derived their work with over 30 brands in various industries, and digital transformation frameworks from analysts like Forrester and McKinsey.
Analyze: Current state vs. mature state
- Embed vendor employees at brand
- Conduct onsite assessment at brand events
- Shadow key internal meetings
- Interview brand team members to understand current state of offline maturity
Design & Develop: Blueprint for success
- In consultation with the brand, develop experiential program strategy
- Establish program goals and measures of success
Implement & Evaluate: Implement and evaluate
- Execute plan for program strategy and deploy to field
- Track program goals and metrics
- Measure, test and iterate
Pilot Best Practices
Transformation can happen all at once, but it’s usually more common to start with a pilot.
Pilots allow you to mitigate risk by testing your experiential strategy without incurring huge costs. Other benefits of pilot programs include:
- Learn how experiential tech works for your specific events or programs and what you require to run events safely
- Iterate quickly based on initial data
- Build a business case and consensus for larger organizational change including contingency plans in the event that your event is cancelled
- Lessen the change management challenge
It usually makes sense that the event you select for a pilot has most of the configurations available across your experiential strategy, to ensure the capabilities of your vendor match the breadth of your needs. This is also known as a “lighthouse project”. The signal effect helps the pilot “demonstrate tangible wins and set new performance standards,” according to McKinsey.
Before starting a pilot, make sure to be clear about the results you want to achieve, setup real-time measurement and know how you're going to get there. Understand how you’re going to attract the audience that will provide you with the most valuable data to prove your results to leadership.
According to McKinsey’s Leadership Blog, pilot programs can reduce cycle times by 50%, cut costs by over 3 %, and double productivity, all while improving customer satisfaction, quality, and employee engagement.
Three “Pilot” Practices For Omnichannel Success With Experiential
McKinsey recommends three “pilot” practices to help make rollouts successful.
1) Figure out your fighting unit
This internal team of mobilizers helps execute the pilot. At an enterprise organization, the unit is, according to McKinsey “usually a small, semi-autonomous team, often cross-functional in nature, with seven to 12 people.” Going back to the roles and responsibilities of your internal team, the fighting unit would typically involve marketing leadership and program management.
2) Prepare flexible resource allocation
Ensure your team understands its role will be to watch for and adapt to “changing circumstances, emerging customer preferences, and new developments in the external environment” (McKinsey). Your team can then immediately leverage these insights to inform new ideas, processes and workflows. For example, if one set of messaging produces higher conversions than other, the success can be replicated.
3) Test and learn, FAST
According to McKinsey, these two concepts, “rapid iteration and experimentation and continuous learning” are the most crucial factors in creating a pilot that builds momentum, real results, and, at the management level, the skills to lead transformation.
Rapid iteration involves deploying new ideas and innovation through minimum viable product rollouts. “These offer the ability to get feedback on something nowhere near ready for prime time, yet good enough in the time available to give users or customers a sense of what the final product might be to get their input quickly (McKinsey).”
Continuous learning is about reading the data to improve results and processes.
Scale Best Practices
After gathering and actioning data from the initial pilot, it is time to scale success. According to McKinsey, there are three main approaches to suit different organizational circumstances and needs:
Linear scale-ups: rollout happens in one area after the other
- When the brand is not in crisis mode
- The roll-out only affects a few areas
- Internal resources are limited
- Deep expertise is needed
- Strong resistance to change
- Solution requires extensive customization
Geometric scale-ups: rollout happens in waves, each wave larger than the last (2, 4, 16..)
- Many areas need to be transformed and linear would take too long
- Multiple areas share some common features
- Capable implementers are readily available
Big bang: rollout happens all at once; requires many resources but only for a short period
- The need for transformation is urgent
- Multiple areas share many common features
- Little resistance is expected
- Standard toolkit and approach can be employed
No matter what approach you take to scale, it should involve skill development, coaching/mentorship and change management. This can be done in conjunction with your experiential marketing partner for management across tiers, regions and departments.
Your strategic partner will help determine the best method to measure, iterate and grow success.
Before scaling, ask yourself, “Have I…”
Established a baseline for key metrics and goals by brand and program?
- Measured performance against industry benchmarks?
- Applied best practices to drive KPIs?
- Determined trends and key insights based on analysis to support recommendations? (i.e., dwell time on wheelstands, best times to deploy emails based on open and click through rates, etc.)
Formalized an account management program designed to drive long-term success with the following?
- Bi-monthly strategic calls
- Program/activation reviews and recommendations
- Tactical Success Plans - defines what, how, and when specific needs will be met
- Education and training of agency members and event staff
- Semi-annual strategic planning sessions
- Quarterly business reviews
- ROI, benchmarking, future goals
Your experiential marketing technology partner can help meet these requirements and ease internal resources needed to scale.
When selecting an experiential marketing technology partner, it’s important to look beyond the bells and whistles of a front-end experience. Flashy displays might pull people in, but they won’t necessarily convert them. Worse, they may be just that—a way of attracting people to your activation or booth. Consumers will feel duped, and this compounding negative experience could end up damaging your brand and bottom line results.
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