Consumers are subjected to a steady barrage of marketing messages every day. Whenever they perform an online search, visit their social page, read a magazine, drive to work or watch a television program, they are exposed to advertisements competing for their attention. As a result, consumers have become increasingly adept at ignoring your attempts to convert them from shoppers to buyers. This is especially true for digital marketing. Studies have shown that most people remember fewer details from digital ads than from traditional advertisements, and their memories of digital ads tend to fade much faster as well.
To counteract the transient nature of digital messages, marketers turned to customer engagement strategies. Numerous studies have confirmed the belief that engaged customers are more loyal, spend more and are more likely to make return visits. However, customer engagement does not always lead to customer advocacy. Experiential marketing offers a way to engage customers on a truly personal level, which in turn fosters customer advocacy.
What is Customer Advocacy?
Customer advocates are people who have used your product or services, were happy with your brand and are vocal about their experience. Marketers once referred to this as word-of-mouth advertising. Happy customers would tell their friends about your brand. Their friends would become your customers, and these new customers would then tell others that you provided a great product or service. The chain could continue until hundreds of people had been enticed to patronize your company.
Today, however, your advocates can potentially reach thousands of other people within a few hours. Adult members of Facebook, for example, have an average of 338 friends. If a Facebook user makes a post about your company, most of his friends will read the post. If just 10 of his friends share his post on their own page, the total number of people seeing the post could be in the thousands even if no additional sharing occurs.
Customer advocacy is one method of reaching potential customers that no company can purchase. Your customers must offer their support willingly and without reservations if others are to believe that they are sincere.
The Role of Experiential Marketing in Customer Advocacy
Experiential marketing takes customer engagement to new extremes. It immerses customers in your brand with the goal of forming an emotional connection. It appeals to multiple senses; for example, it may combine smell and taste, or it may combine sight and sound. As a marketer, you want participants to depart with happy memories that they are eager to share with others. If you are successful, their posts could potentially go viral.
Several excellent examples of experiential marketing have been completed in recent years. Although your plans need not be as extravagant, the following examples illustrate the impact that experiential marketing efforts can have.
- Landshark Lager distributed free samples of their beers at popular Las Vegas swimming pools. One of the company’s goals was to foster a connection between a refreshing plunge in the pool and their products.
- Coca-Cola installed a special vending machine at a train station. When people purchased a Coke Zero, the machine challenged them to race to another location within the station to receive free movie tickets. The edited film of the participants was posted online and quickly went viral, garnering more than 10 million views.
- Adidas opened a store in London for a single day to promote its introduction of Derrick Rose’s signature sneakers. Fans were able to meet Rose, the point guard for the Chicago Bulls. However, Adidas also offered fans the chance to win a pair of the sneakers; all they had to do was be to reach them by jumping 10 feet, which is the height of the hoop in professional basketball.
Although each of these events was quite different, all participants were treated to a memorable experience. They are likely to remember the company’s name for many years to come and to associate the company with a pleasant experience.
Planning a Strategy for Experiential Marketing
Like all marketing efforts, experiential marketing must start with a defined strategy. The first decision you must make is to determine your goal. Are you attempting to increase brand awareness, reach a previously untapped pool of consumers or emotionally engage existing customers? Once you know what you want to achieve, you can apply the following tips to make your efforts more successful.
- Your strategy must be based on data and solid analytics. This allows you to target the specific groups that are most likely to respond favorably to your efforts.
- Pique their curiosity. People today are busier than ever. If you want them to participate in your event, you need to offer something that intrigues them enough to convince them to give you their time.
- Make sure that you can provide cross-channel support. Most consumers use a variety of channels to interact with a brand. At the minimum, you need to support mobile devices, social media, email and your website.
- Analyze your data to determine what consumers feel is important and tailor your efforts accordingly. If you know that there is a particular issue that they support, for example, you might find a way to combine your event and that issue.
- Save your advertising message for another day. Make the day all about the consumers instead of your brand. If participants feel that they were treated as valued guests, they will be more likely to broadcast their experience.
Using experiential marketing to encourage customer advocacy may not be the easiest task you have ever faced, but it can provide substantial rewards. Furthermore, you may be able to continue to reap benefits from a single event for many years to come.