Experiential Events – Make the Most of Your Investment

By: Max Kenkel
experiential event

Despite their many benefits, experiential events can be risky because of their cost and limited audience. Brands can significantly reduce risk by going the extra mile to carefully plan out content, which ultimately makes events a high-reward option to bring value to customers and impact the bottom line.

The best experiential events integrate with a brand's holistic marketing strategy, providing customers immersive brand experiences that go beyond advertising alone. Research proves time and again that the participatory nature of events generates lasting engagement that can’t be achieved any other way. In fact, a recent survey from EventTrack found 46% of customers had a more positive opinion of a brand after attending an event.

Related: Looking for a real-world example of a successful event? Check out how ITA Group delivered a hands-on conference for customers of a technology software client.

Events do require an investment, however, and customers will know right away if a brand cut corners on delivering an impressive experience that will differentiate it from other brands. It might be tempting to simply overlook events as they are a big chunk of your budget—they could seem too risky. The good news is you can mitigate the risks!

When events are well planned with a focus on objectives, content creation and long-term return on investment (ROI), they have a worthwhile impact on your top customers and brand beyond the event itself. In fact, a common mistake brands make is to think of the event as the beginning or end of a program. A successful event is actually the middle of a cadence specifically designed to amplify the best of what your brand offers.

A trusted partner like ITA Group helps ensure your customer event is meaningful and well planned. Most importantly, we help ensure it will be worth the investment!

Here are 5 ways to reduce the risk of an experiential event and make sure it’s a hit (before, during and after the event itself).

1. Target High-Value Customers

Rather than trying to be all things to all people, events offer an opportunity to home in on high-value customer targets—the ones most likely to be advocates for your brand. Industry influencers can be leveraged to cascade your message to millions who might not otherwise pay attention.

Identify your most valuable attendees using analytical tools like segmentation and predictive modeling, then tailor events to immerse these high-value customers in your brand. Taking the time to get to know them and their concerns builds a lasting bond between them and your company. Events are also an opportunity to convert high-value customers who might be skeptical of your brand by guiding them to see its value.

So how do you target these customers? Try the following:

  • Early access
  • VIP experiences
  • Access to celebrities/leadership
  • Special recognition for customer ideas that amplify your brand

2. Build Authentic Connections

Customers crave connection. At an event, you have a captive customer who’s actively looking for a meaningful business relationship. Don’t leave that interaction to chance! Develop a strong connection by guiding them through their journey with your brand from pre-event to post-event.

The real-life human element is often what’s missing from interactions with customers—and it’s the most important part. When you go out of your way to build an authentic relationship, customers will go out of their way for your brand in the form of increased advocacy, spending and velocity of transactions.

Relationships matter.

3. Create Personalization Opportunities

The term “personalization” is thrown around often these days, but creating a personalized brand experience is necessary to succeed. Events offer an experience that can be personalized for each customer in attendance.

Personalized content at events can take many forms, such as follow-up conversations, exclusive access to products/services or even meeting key leadership. Maybe you even have behind-the-scenes stories to share! Let customers experience the brand in a way they never imagined they could.

4. Scale Content & Build in Flexibility

With the rise of event technology, events are more scalable than ever, both in person and virtually. Marketing is now a collaborative, cohesive effort, with digital teams working alongside event teams to unite all aspects of a strategy.

When an event is designed the right way, it can reach beyond your live audience to increase impressions for brand-building activities and big announcements like product launches. Here are some ideas to consider for extending your event beyond a one-time experience for limited customers:

  • Broadcast parts of the event to a global audience of customers, which is exponentially larger than the live event
  • Utilize marketing imagery and videos taken during the event in future print and digital promotions
  • Reinforce brand messaging with amenities and gift bags that connect brand messaging to customers’ hearts
  • Offer online streaming and on-demand content pulled from event offerings to expand the message’s reach
  • Overcollect content to give yourself material for future campaigns and opportunities to respond to changing market demands with the right message

5. Measure Value Beyond Customer Satisfaction

The depth of knowledge available at an event is priceless. For example, observing in-the-moment reactions can provide valuable insights that vary from quick “clicks and impressions” on a screen. When this information is gathered and measured well, it creates immediate opportunities to act. Brands who approach their event as a source of data have an advantage in a highly competitive market.

ROI is great. No surprise there. But the best experience-focused events start with the real end in mind—how you can wow customers in real time with memorable experiences and hit them in the feels. If you can identify in advance how you want customers to feel during and after the event, then you can also work backward to build in the right components to achieve and measure those feelings. To successfully measure customer feelings:

  • Make sure you include the larger impact on your brand, not just the immediate returns at the event
  • Track any increase in reach of the brand, such as increased impressions and website activity after the event
  • Implement ways to track relationships, especially with high-value targets (For example, did you see an uptick in your NPS score? Any increase in incremental spend or numbers?)

Diligent planning is the difference between an awe-inspiring experiential event and a mediocre one. If you’re not sure how to get the most out of your event, consider asking one of our experts to help you get started.

Looking to take your experiential event to the next level? We can help!

Max Kenkel
Max Kenkel

As Customer Solutions Manager, Max leads our Customer Solutions line, ensuring all six components of a successful loyalty program deliver for our clients. With more than ten years of experience in strategy across customer, channel and employee loyalty programs, he’s seen a lot. You’ll often hear him talk about how important data is to brands. In his words, “It’s easy to make decisions on intuition, but it’s a lot easier to justify to shareholders when you can back it up with data.” Beyond his professional passions, Max plays bass in a pop punk band, visits as many national parks as he can and is an aspiring poet, publishing his first book in 2023.