Experiential marketing events: 3 tips to demonstrate ROI

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Experiential marketing events budgets have increased for the past 19 consecutive quarters. This demonstrates the widespread understanding that experiential marketing is an effective way to engage audiences in more personalized, meaningful ways.

While it’s true that experiential marketing is less about selling and more about brand love, we live in a world where every business is a data business. Marketers are under more pressure than ever to defend their budgets yet only 23 percent of event managers say they have the means to calculate ROI.

Here are three ways to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) in experiential marketing and measure the success of your brand activations.

1. Get a handle on the data

In order to prove ROI, you need to collect data and reliable data collection is only possible when you have the right technologies in place.

Before an event even takes place, marketers need to consider their business goals and think about the technologies that can help measure the success of their event as a whole. According to Doug Muller, Executive Director of Digital Production at George P. Johnson, marketers should take a holistic view of their event to gain an accurate indication of ROI, “ROI is about the hard work it takes to connect event experiences with core business drivers.”

When you have the right event technologies and you put the time into integrating them with your internal marketing automation and CRM systems, you’ll have the ability to attribute sales back to every interaction, no matter how small.

For example, beacon technology and wearable tech provide insights on attendee behavior so you can map the attendee journey. Beacons can collect attendee dwell time data that organizers can use to see which sponsors and exhibitors are most popular and segment the types of attendees that are there. When connected back to business intelligence tools, this all translates into defendable ROI metrics.

“ROI is about the hard work it takes to connect event experiences with core business drivers."

- Doug Muller, Executive Director of Digital Production, George P. Johnson

2. Give creative license to sponsors—but stay in control of the data

Without the support of sponsors, major events like SXSW would be impossible to execute—and far less valuable to attendees. However, over 90 percent of event organizers said sponsor retention rates stayed the same or decreased last year. To overcome this stagnation, event managers can offer experiential marketing opportunities as a key event differentiator.

Experiential marketing represents one of the fastest growing segments in event sales opportunities. Smart event managers are getting ahead of the competition and starting to sell the vision to potential buyers to help deliver better ROI on their overall event.

While it’s important to give creative license to sponsors so they can develop complementary experiential activations inside your event, it’s vital that you remain in control of the data. Ensure the sponsors use your event tech so you can showcase their successes to other sponsors next year.

3. Make the experience valuable so attendees are willing to opt-in

As we’ve discussed, you need attendee data in order to prove the ROI of your experiential marketing events. At events, people will opt out if your activation is not engaging. Your idea has to be exciting and different enough to pique people’s interest and help them overcome their reticence to engage with a brand.

SXSW helps brands create memorable activations so they can engage their audience, collect valuable data, and prove ROI. For example, Accenture Interactive's presence at SXSW included a demonstration of some of the various experiences, solutions, and applications it's developed with brands to help consumers shop, work, and play. The demo was experiential and allowed people to interact with the technology, be delighted by it, and opt in for even more value.

Accenture Interactive's presence at SXSW included various experiences it's developed with brands to help consumers shop, work, and play. Image from  Campaign Live .

Accenture Interactive's presence at SXSW included various experiences it's developed with brands to help consumers shop, work, and play. Image from Campaign Live.

These personalized activations are a win-win for everyone. The attendee has a great experience and event managers and brands collect the data to help them prove a return on investment.

“We work with top brands to help them bring their ideas to the SXSW audience. People are concerned about privacy, they’re concerned about security, our job is to ensure a new and exciting customer experience doesn’t overstep these boundaries.”

- Michael Brown, Director of Emergent Technologies, SXSW

These three tips are not exhaustive. Event apps, for instance, provide a lot of valuable data to help event managers garner insights about attendee behaviour and prove the return on investment. With 57 percent of CEOs expecting to increase their investment in marketing in the coming year, brand marketers and event managers will need to build solid business cases to secure some of that investment for experiential marketing. To do that, ROI metrics will be imperative.

To learn more about how you can prove the value of your experiential marketing at events, download our ebook, 6 Experiential Marketing Trends from SXSW.