Experiential marketing is one of event planning’s hottest trends right now. One reason for this is the influence events have on buying. According to the site Statista, 74% of consumers said they were more likely to purchase products promoted by events and 93% of them claimed that live events had a larger influence on them than TV ads. But as competition for time increases, an ordinary meet-and-greet or product launch isn’t enough. Consumers want to be immersed in your event and lose themselves in your world.
Attendees love event immersion and share their experiences on social media. Event planners benefit from word-of-mouth marketing and interaction with their brand. It’s a win-win for everyone.
But it can be costly.
Providing a Wow! experience that is personalized to attendee interest can be quite an undertaking, and your stakeholders may be giving you pushback if they don’t have context or understand the vision/direction. Don’t get discouraged. Securing stakeholder support is as easy as learning a new language—theirs.
The good news is, it’s fairly easy to learn. You just need to think about your audience, something you’ve been doing for years as an event planner.
When it comes to getting budget approval from your stakeholders for the additional expense involved in experiential marketing, you need to follow these ten steps:
Set an Appointment to Ensure All Decision Makers Are Present
Don’t catch your stakeholders in the hallway and hope to “put a bug in their ear.” Treat the pitch like it’s happening for the first time, like this is a new client. Make sure all decision-makers are present in your scheduled meeting and that you have materials for them to follow along.
It’s possible one of them will tell you just to talk to them about it and they’ll convey your information to the others. But remember, no one will present with the passion that you will. Don’t expect that one decision maker can convey your sentiment and ideas to everyone else. Request that all stakeholders be in attendance so you can present, answer individual questions, and gauge interest through body language.
Know Who’s Likely to Say Yes by Researching
Know who you’ll be presenting to and whether they are likely to be champions of your idea or budget sticklers. Talk to their assistant or look at online profiles to get a view into their personality. Align your ideas with those of at least one person at the table, and try to build consensus and support with at least one champion.
Use Case Studies and Examples to Help Sell Experiential Marketing
Using case studies and examples from other events removes your opinion from the presentation. It’s no longer just you telling them it’s a good idea to venture into experiential marketing, it’s colleagues and people they respect in other companies. While all examples are good, including big budget examples, ensuring at least some of your examples and case studies are as close to your organization and event attendee demographic as possible will help them see the possibility behind the undertaking. Show where experiential marketing has worked using stats.
Deliver on ROI Because That’s How They’ll Measure Success
Talk in terms of return on investment (ROI), not the cool factor. Cool is important in experiential marketing but not to those who hold the purse strings. They want to hear about the financials behind what it will mean for the event and its future.
However, this is not just about them wanting to make money and have a positive ROI. No one wants to okay additional spending for a possibility. If they’re going to support your idea, deep down they want to ensure it’s ultimately going to make them look good. Do what you can to help them see that it will by talking about ROI, revenue, and innovation factor.
Sell Stakeholders on Your Ideas by Shaping Them Around Business Needs
Aligning your ideas with the business needs, mission, and strategies illustrates you understand where the business is going, and having analyzed experiential marketing, you see a good fit. Speak to how experiential marketing can help meet each business need.
Explain what your goals are in regards to experiential marketing. What are you hoping to gain and how will you measure it? Don’t just throw out ideas. Focus on tangibles and then connect the two. For instance, let’s say your company wants to improve its reputation with millennials as part of its 2019 goals. Hosting experiential marketing events are a good way to do that. You might want to share this Forbes article with them. Remember, any kind of third-party corroboration you can produce is helpful to your argument. And Forbes is a particularly good resource as it’s written from a business perspective, not an event planner one. Hey, event planners know experiential marketing is hot but it’s nice when business-focused resources agree.
Answer a Business Problem to Show the Importance of Experiential Marketing
We know your organization is awesome but sometimes there are things even great ones struggle with. If experiential marketing can solve a current business problem for you, you may have instant converts but only if you can prove it through statistics.
If you aren’t aware of any problems, or experiential marketing won’t help with the ones you are aware of, paint a picture of where events are heading and what it could mean if you don’t embrace this trend. Use stats on how many event managers are planning on using experiential marketing in the near future and how many are planning on allocating budget for it.
Explain what that will mean for the industry. For instance, according to EventMB, 58% of event planners believe that the demand for experiential marketing is increasing. What does that mean for you if it doesn’t become part of your marketing mix?
Add the Science and Data for Quicker Buy-in
Your stakeholders may wonder “Why experiential marketing? Why not more email marketing?” or some other form. Explain the benefits of experiential marketing in terms that matter to them.
For instance, according to research out of the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center, people only retain about 10% of what they read but 90% of what they do or experience. If you want your event attendees to remember what you’re presenting or offering, you need to move past plain words and embrace something more immersive and active. Chances are your organization’s corporate trainers are also embracing this trend at least in making training more interactive.
You needn’t only present data about experiential marketing. Use stats that talk to the shift of experiences over material goods and interaction with brands influencing purchases. Experiential marketing is a tidy buzz phrase but the longing behind what drives it is much broader.
Anticipate Negatives to Better Understand Your Case
There will always be someone who doesn’t support your undertaking. Be ready for the “what ifs” and the negatives. Anticipate the downsides of the experiential marketing argument and be ready to counter their points. Some of the things they’ll likely bring up include:
- Too much money for too little result
- What if attendees don’t like it?
- It’s too hard
- Our regular marketing is working fine
Anticipating what they’ll ask or the roadblocks they’ll erect will allow you to better understand your own argument.
If you want to build trust, you can lead with one of their objectives before they do such as, “Some experiential marketing is incredibly expensive like what WestJet did with their Santa program, but here are a few examples that had equally impressive results for very little money.” Leading with this before they can bring up the financial aspect, deflates that argument before it even begins.
Speaking of budgeting...
Present All Sizes of Experiential Marketing to Improve Your Chances of a Yes
Come up with what it will cost to do what you want and prioritize expenses. Offer three ways to embrace experiential marketing. Present a large budget concept, higher than you anticipate will be approved; a middle of the road option; and the one you really want to do. The one you really want will be the lowest-priced option. Everything else you present will be higher than you expected to attain. Even if they choose the least expensive option, you will be getting what you want, and they will feel like they are trying experiential marketing at a safe entry-level price point.
Show Them You’ve Already Cut Costs to Get Their Backing
No one wants to reward a spender with additional money. Show your stakeholders that you’ve already trimmed the fat and reallocated what you could where. Address other options they may suggest like increasing the ticket price instead of the budget. Perform your due diligence so you can show them what avenues you have tried before asking for an increase. This shows fiscal conservatism and innovation, two things people behind budget approvals appreciate.
Finally, don’t expect your stakeholders to remember everything you’re presenting on experiential marketing. Give them paper or slides to remind them of the key points. This also allows them to revisit key ideas on their own or share them with others who may be involved later. Don’t leave it up to them to pay attention, take notes, or recollect the stats you compiled. Give it to them in writing, on slides, or in video.
Thank them for their time and send a personal follow-up email in case they have questions or think of something later.
Experiential marketing is a hot trend in events but this matters little to your stakeholders until you translate it for them in terms of how they think. “Cool” is not a selling feature. Increased social media shares that evolve into increased ticket sales are. Just as you would keep in mind the desires of your audience when creating an experience they’ll enjoy, you must consider the personalities, needs, and concerns of your stakeholders when trying to gain support for your experiential marketing initiative.
About the AuthorMore Content by Amy Kelley