The Art of Experiential Marketing

Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” The same holds true for any experiential or event marketing program. If you want to breed success, it is critical you create and work within a strategy.

Strategy means many things to many people. For some, its about the activities that are engineered for the audience to participate in. For others, its bringing the brand to life online. For others still, its about the right events or digital activities to participate in. I submit it’s all of these things and more.

Creating or adopting a strategic framework for the needs of your experience or program is a good place to start. From there, taking time to think about how you will approach each component lays the foundation for success. Here are some tips for creating a strategic framework that will help you rally the troops and march onward toward victory.

1. Clearly articulate and prioritize all objectives. What are you trying to accomplish with the event / experience / program? If you accomplish only one thing, what must it be? Because there are many lieutenants in the work we do, there are also many opinions on what the objectives should be. Try to foster agreement on as few objectives as possible. Honing the list down to no more than 1-3 objectives will ensure your squad focuses on the right things.

2. Think about measurement first. Now that you’ve established your objectives, it’s important to understand if, when and how you’ve accomplished them. Create a measurement strategy that reports on how these objectives are being met. no more, no less. Make sure all officers and troops alike are in agreement on success imperative and the measurement plan before the event / experience / program is launched.

3. Know how your battle contributes to the war effort. Always understand the input and outputs of what you’re doing. What other programs might influence your work? What contribution does your event make to the campaign? Understanding will also help ensure your are focused on the most important things.

4. Take time to get to know the target. Think beyond the demographics and psychographics of audiences. What are their interests? What are their triggers and inhibitors? What emotional and rational needs do they have that your brand can fulfill? This will lay the foundation for relevent experiences and build meaningful relationships.

5. Play to your strengths. Know thyself. Stay on brand and execute those tactics which are most likely to succeed. Apply the 80 / 20 rule for experimental activities and focus on tried and true methods first. Also know your weaknesses and be prepared to overcom them.

6. Survey the battlefield. What else is happening in the marketplace? What are your competitors up to? What socio-economic factors, marketing trends, business challenges, online and offline influencers need to be considered? Knowing the environment in which you are operating can help determine the types of activities executed at right time and place to maximize success.

7. Draft a comprehensive plan of attack. How will you attract an audience? What experiences will motivate them to act on your objectives? How are you representing your brand? What’s the sales strategy? What about follow-up? Promotions? Ensure there are sub strategies to your overarching strategy.

8. Develop contingencies for defeat and victory. Flexibility is key. Know what you will do if all or part of your program begins to fail before the event / experience / program is executed. Alternatively, know what you will do if the work is wildly successful. Sometimes an inability to support success can be more damaging than an outright failure. Make sure you have immediate, quick-strike plans in place as well as intermediate and longer-term ideas in your arsenal.

9. Remember measurement. Measure and diagnose your event / experience / program. Understand success, the degrees to whiich you were successful, and the reasons behind success or failure. Consider what successful tactics can be replicated elsewhere or improved apon. What were the reasons for failure? How can this be prevented next time? Create a plan for continuous improvement so each battle is won with fewer casualties.

Sun Tzu also wrote, “The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.” By creating a strategy and calculating the outcomes before you launch your plan, you’ll be able to mitigate failure and drive overwhelming success.

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