According to research, 77 percent of marketeers use experiential marketing as a core part of their advertising strategy. But how do they know what to do? How do they set that strategy? How do they select locations? How do they choose events? What to give away? What talking points resonate with their target demographic? How do they know what their target demographic needs?
They do their homework. A brand might know who their target is and general information about them – age, gender, marital status, ZIP codes, decision-making hierarch and household income, for example. That’s a good start. But then they need to dig deeper: Where are they? What do they do for fun? For work? For community involvement? What motivates them? Where do they get information? Who and what do they trust? What are their challenges? How can we help them with those challenges? Who are they beyond the numbers and statistics?
Over the years, I’ve had opportunities to work with many companies that believe in investing in research before forming their strategic plans. Most of the time, their goals are centered around major expansions of their footprints, reconnecting with their customers, a new product launch or an entirely new territory. Marketing plans formulated with the assistance of research tend to be most successful.
The most basic types of research, such as combing the web and checking in with your social network, are no brainers. But if you’re going to invest in an event marketing plan, you should seriously consider more involved research. Focus groups. Interviews. Surveys.
Most recently, we had the privilege of working with Iora Primary Care, a health care provider looking to establish a strong presence in North Carolina. Iora has a specific target demographic and was eager to include a strong research component in its plan. Let me tell you about the plan, and its results.
Obviously, Vela Agency was selected not only for our expertise in strategic and experiential marketing but also because we are local to the area. We are familiar with our region’s geography, events, places and people. Our team started with that base of knowledge and then added to it through:
- Exploratory research. This included broadly reaching out to our social groups, current vendors and partners; using our existing knowledge; looking online and within the community; and communicating with other contacts for ideas. We also made use of our 4A’s membership to gain access to more general research that had already been conducted.
- Focus groups in the two major geographical regions our client was targeting. We gathered 15 to 20 people per focus group for two-hour sessions to learn more about those people and their friends. Not only did we get valuable feedback on the client’s current materials, which allowed our client to tailor their message and tone to speak more directly to North Carolinians and address cultural differences, but we also received very specific direction about local events, places, activities and other media opportunities that interested our audience.
- In-depth interviews. Participants tended to share more personal insights during one-on-one interviews. We used open-ended research questions to drive our interviews. This format allowed flexibility and exploration of their comments.
- Online Survey. Through an online survey, we gathered top-level information, including media preferences and health care habits, from a large sample of people. We were able to identify overall trends in the marketplace specific not only to North Carolina, but in our geographic market areas.
Once we compiled insights gathered from these four tactics, we saw very valuable and sometimes surprising trends. They not only surprised us about our local markets, but also in the fact that they went against trends in marketplaces that are only a few states away. And we were also surprised to uncover differences in opinions and values in markets that are only an hour apart.
We used this research to reinforce to our client that the two geographic markets, while close to each other, needed separate campaigns. And not just media placement, but different locations and ways of engaging with their demographic. One campaign was more grassroots and community-based, while the other was more segmented. We decided to work with different media partners based on the results of our secondary research. We tailored events to certain days and times based on the feedback we received from research participants. We even evaluated weather forecasts (based on driving habits of our audience) in some situations to encourage optimal attendance.
By the end of the campaign, we surpassed the client’s goals by more than 20 percent. And these were goals that the client admitted in the beginning were a bit aggressive. Not only that, the campaign events we planned had some of the strongest turnouts our client had ever experienced. There are many factors that go into strong and successful experiential campaigns. Research is just one of them, but it’s an important tool when it’s used effectively.
Feeling overwhelmed about how to start an experiential marketing campaign? Reach out to Vela Agency today to have us set it in motion!