Experiential Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

The benefits of experiential marketing have attracted widespread attention as American companies start to change their tactics. Replacing old promotional materials with experiential tactics makes marketing more fun, increases advertising efficiency, and acknowledges the new power consumers wield in today’s digital society. Unfortunately, the massive experiential marketing campaigns that catch the eye are often projects created by major corporations. This can discourage small businesses without the same amount of time or resources to devote to their own marketing.

Small businesses, take heart! Experiential marketing is all about connecting with the lives and emotions of customers – methods smaller companies excel at. Some of the most successful experiential marketing techniques belong to small businesses operating in local areas. Reinvent your marketing using outreach tactics. Here are a few brand-oriented ideas to help your small business see experiential marketing results.

Celebrate Events: Are you releasing a new product? Opening a new location? Updating a menu with seasonal items? Do not lose an opportunity to make the simple event an experience. Throw a party and invite the town. Open your doors and let people know what is going on. Publish traditional marketing to talk about the event, then use the event itself as experiential marketing. Offer samples, lessons, and tutorials so people directly interact with your products or services. Sponsor nonprofit runs – celebrate Veteran’s Day – hold a concert for nearby folk bands – the list is limited only by your imagination, so think local and start brainstorming.

Practice the Power of One: Experiential marketing lets customers become part of your idea. This is hard to do at trade shows or conferences, no matter how hands-on you are. Look instead for projects where local consumers will see only your business. Get city permission to set up a solitary booth in a park for a weekend. Take a page from energy drink marketing and drive a company van through nearby campuses. Keep watch for venues where you can be the only business present, the standout booth or show. This makes it easy to give out samples while building buzz, instead of getting lost in a maze of freebies.

…Or Partner it Up: Use those small business and local commerce meetings to your advantage. Meet with other owners and find ways to create experiential marketing together. Maybe your business sells sports drinks, while another business owner refurbishes old sports gear and sells it at discount prices: sounds like it is time to team up to hold a local competition! Maybe one owner has space for a party, while you have free samples you would love to hand out. When small businesses build an experience together, costs are cut while more consumers are reached.

Hit the Streets: Experiential marketing is hands-on, making it difficult to practice stuck in your little storefront (or home office) all day. So find flexible employees, build a booth, and start taking your experience out to the streets. Most towns host craft, food, and environmental fairs. Are you participating? What about local sports games or town barbecues? Find out how the flow of people moves in your town or city, then put your value offering in that flow. Even if you are service oriented, an exciting info-booth will still attract attention if you start pounding the pavement.

Engage: An engagement zone is a place where you interact directly with consumers, with a focus on receiving information through honest conversation, easy polls, and simple surverys. Many engagement zones are set up online…but your website is not the only place to get engaged. Setting up feedback booths and engagement centers in the real world is simple, cost-effective, and refreshing. Put a conversation table by your business doors. Build an “opinion booth” at a special fan-based event. Find out what your customers really think – and want.

Go Digital if You Have To: Experiential marketing works best when you can physically interact with consumers, but if you depend on a strong online presence there are web alternatives. Create an entertaining product video, an exciting interactive tour tool, or a forum to exchange ideas. Make your digital media as empathetic as possible, giving viewers an experience they can visualize themselves in. Look at the recent viral success of the Popinator Project. Is it real? Is it fake? It doesn’t matter, because now millions know the name Popcorn Indiana and associated it with happily flinging popcorn in their mouths, an experience anyone can relate to.

Steve Shanahan is the Executive Managing Director at Real Capital Markets, a company that provides cost-effective solutions for Commercial Real EstateSales, bank REO, non-performing/performing note sales and more.

Featured image on the home page courtesy of Carlos Varela.

Filed in: Business, Marketing, Offline Marketing
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