Customers and users of today’s world are more and more immune (and allergic) to a certain kind of traditional advertising and marketing. Superlative-ridden copy is automatically dismissed as being just that – a literary genre which does not actually communicate anything of real value to the customer or user.
Experiential marketing, as described by Stowe Boyd, is an approach to marketing that takes into account the fact that the people of today rely most on honest appraisals of products and services by their peers to make they purchasing decisions.
This kind of campaign provides both useful visibility to the product or service and honest, real-life feedback from a user perspective. With the right choice of person, it can combine the benefits of consulting and marketing into the same campaign.
How Does it Work?
The basic idea is the following: a typical “customer” uses a service or product and chronicles their experience in public. This can be done by video, audio, photos, or text — for the sake of simplicity I will lump all this under the term “blogging”. I recommend publishing on the “customer’s” blog to gain exposure, cross-posting to the company or campaign blog if desired.
There are a certain number of key points for an experiential marketing campaign to be efficient:
- transparency (disclosure and honesty)
- the right person
Publications or news about the ongoing campaign must come out regularly to keep interest up. A good frequency for a typical campaign is roughly once a week or four times a month. More than that, and the blogger’s usual readership might protest. Less, readers will forget about the campaign between posts and interest will die down.
The campaign must also last long enough for members of the public to have a chance to hear about it and follow it. To allow an experiential marketing campaign to gain momentum, one should allow a minimum of three months (6 being better).
Dishonesty and manipulation are often associated with marketing in people’s minds, and what makes it unpalatable. Experiential marketing takes a radical turn from certain schools of marketing by putting forward values like transparency and honesty.
Of course, an experiential marketing campaign has a certain degree of “fakeness” to it: somebody is being compensated to use a product or a service and testify about their experience. It’s important to be open about this and any other “artificial” aspects of the campaign (disclosure).
It is equally important that editorial control over what is communicated to the public by the person using the product or service be very loose (if it exists). They must be able to write freely about their experience, warts and all, whether it shows the product/service in a positive or negative light. Companies nowadays should not fear being open about their shortcomings, as it has been demonstrated time and time again that this reflects positively on their relationship with customers (actual or prospective). (Obviously, security issues should be communicated privately before being made public — as always.)
The Right Person
Choosing the right person for the campaign is an important step. This person should fall in the target audience of the product or service in some way (no use having a teenager do an experiential marketing campaign for a service targeted at old-age pensioners!) and feel comfortable about being associated to the product in the spotlight and talking about their experience.
Another vital quality one will look for is honesty. If the person using the product is only going to say good things about it for fear of making the client uncomfortable or losing the contract, then there is not much point in the campaign. Clearly the way the relationship between the blogger and the client is set up will facilitate this. But choosing a blogger who has a reputation for straightforwardness over one who has a track record of dubious ethics is probably a good move.
Taking things a step further, it will be particularly beneficial to pick somebody with good social capital. If the person is already respected by the community and has good visibility, the campaign will have more impact, and run little risk of going sideways.
Here is the uncomfortable moment where I try to explain why I’m a good candidate to use your product or service and blog about it. And no — brace yourself — it’s not because I’m cheap (I’m not).
First (easy) — a few facts about this blog (decision-makers often like numbers):
- steadily active and growing since the year 2000
- 900 feed subscriptions, roughly 2000-2500 visits a day (this is hard to measure, different stats packages give different results)
- Technorati authority around 450
- in the Technorati top 10K, Swiss top 5 blogs
- influential readership, international outreach
date for these figures: Nov. 2007
Next, here are the qualities which I think make me a valuable asset in an experiential marketing campaign:
- excellent social capital
- enthusiastic and passionate
- respected blogger known for giving balanced and honest opinions
- not afraid to tell you what sucks, but kindly 😉
- good writer/speaker
- anglophone and francophone (if you want visibility on those markets)
- introspective and analytical mind
- very knowledgeable about the internet, social tools and social media
- capacity to put expertise and analysis on hold to experience things as a “naive user” and report on them.
By having me run your experiential marketing campaign, you will benefit from continued visibility amongst my readership (and potentially theirs) as well as receive valuable insight about your product or service, from a perspective combining the innocence of the “naive user” and the expertise of the social software specialist.
To sum it up:
- increased and continued visibility in the blogosphere
- user experience feedback
- expert consultant feedback and advice.
Starter Package: I want to do this!
Do you already see how experiential marketing can work for you?
I have a ready-made package for my minimum recommendation of 4 posts a month during three months. The workload involved in using the product sufficiently to gather enough material for a post, and the associated research and writing, comes to a day of work.
This means that for an experiential marketing campaign lasting three months, I will charge you 4 days/month during those three months. Drop me an e-mail at stephanie j booth at gmail dot com for my daily rate or extra details.
In the context of an experiential marketing campaign, you can also use me to preview beta versions or “leak” information, of course. I’ll be happy to do… transparently, of course. 😉
If you have ideas for doing things slightly differently, or for a longer period of time, do get in touch. Let’s dream something up together!
I don’t, however, recommend going below this minimum of “once a week for three months”, as it would compromise the campaign’s effectiveness. If you think that less will do it for you, I’m willing to play along — but be warned.
What if I just want you to blog for my company?
I’ll try to explain this in more detail in the future, but blogging is never just blogging. It is the visible tip of the iceberg that is a larger communication strategy. Until I write more about this specific issue (I’m regularly asked if I can just blog), the notes of my talk “How Blogging Brings Dialogue to Corporate Communications” might give you some ideas.