In recent years, the special events landscape has shifted its focus from details and décor to experiential elements. When you’re trying to book a new lead, you are selling far more than the products and services you offer; you’re selling the client experience and guest experience. Thus, your marketing strategy should follow suit.
Experiential marketing is sometimes called engagement marketing, but both mean the same thing: It's a marketing strategy that invites your audience to engage and interact with your brand in a real-world situation. It's not a conference or a meeting, it’s a hands-on and face-to-face interaction that helps to validate them to hire you.
With venues, in particular, this can be a challenging task. When you operate a brick-and-mortar, it can be hard to get people in the door. However, you need to do this to help your prospects get to know your values and your business better. So, how do you achieve this? Simply put, you need to create and curate experiences for your target audience.
Experiential vs. traditional marketing
Now, it’s worth mentioning that you don’t need to put all of your eggs in the experiential marketing basket. You should still maintain your traditional marketing strategies, but even one or two experiential events a year will enhance the connection with your community and lead to business growth. Integration is key; it’s not just about one or the other. This is especially important for Millennials and Generation Z, who grew up with access to information and have developed a taste for immersive experiences (especially when they’re #instaworthy).
Tips for implementation
The first thing you need to do is look at your numbers. Without data to show you where booked clients are coming from, you cannot know what they like about you or why they are booking with you. You have to know your numbers to implement anything in terms of marketing. You can also connect with your past and current clients to see why they chose you — their feedback can be invaluable qualitative data for you to use in future marketing plans.
Once you know what attracts your paying clients, you’ll understand what you want to be known for and how you can target new leads with on-the-ground marketing. Keep your five-year goals close to ensure that your marketing strategies align with what you truly want to achieve. Only then can you plan an experiential marketing event that validates your brand and persuades your attendees to hire you.
Here are a few examples of experiential marketing -
The Wedding Party Fest: This annual event in Denver brings together 12 real couples, 30 restaurants, and 2,000 guests for a combination wedding extravaganza. The festival was interactive for everyone from the vendors to the couples and their guests (and the much-welcomed wedding crashers!).
The Big Fake Wedding: This is beyond a traditional wedding show, as attendees are immersed in the wedding as guests. For a couple planning a wedding, there's something very different between taking a brochure from a vendor's booth at a traditional wedding show and actually experiencing the quality of work of the same vendor.
These examples are on a large scale to get your brain thinking. But keep in mind you don't have to produce something exactly like this. For instance, your values might align with supporting your community as well as your local animal shelter, so why not host an adoption day. You can create stations throughout the venue from a treat making area, dog training tips to a make your own toy station. This will allow attendees to walk through the site and experience your level of coordination of an event from start to finish.
Start keeping the term "experience" in the back of your mind and see what inspiration arises. How can you create a better experience for prospects and current clients? What can you do to immerse people into your brand experience? Get creative, and, most importantly, have fun with it! When you enjoy the process of experiential marketing, your passion and talent will get across to your target audience, which is ultimately what will win them over.