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Survey shines spotlight on 'experiential marketing'

Published on .

By Kate Maddox

While a vast majority of b-to-b marketers use experiential marketing programs and say they are important to the future of marketing, most do not measure the results of their experiential marketing efforts, according to a survey conducted by BtoB and the Business Development Institute.

The study was based on an online survey of 299 b-to-b marketing professionals, conducted in July and August.

"Experiential marketing as a concept has been around for a long time in the consumer space," said Steve Etzler, founder of BDI, a b-to-b event producer and experiential marketing company. "More and more, b-to-b companies have been embracing experiential marketing and using it as an effective tactic to generate leads and achieve sales goals."

One of the goals of the survey was to gain an understanding of the term "experiential marketing."

Respondents were asked whether they agreed with this definition of experiential marketing: A company's ability to utilize various methods of marketing, thus enabling its target audience to experience its brand, services and products. Examples of experiential marketing methods include live events and gatherings; Web-based events, webcasts and podcasts; and product or service demonstrations and/or test-drives.

The survey found that 62.9% of marketers agreed with this definition, while 14.4% said it was too broad and 5% said it was too narrow. Three percent said the definition was incorrect, and 8.4% said it was missing details.

"This is one of the key challenges b-to-b marketers have," Etzler said. "As a profession, we don't have common understanding and agreement of what experiential marketing means to the b-to-b world.

The leading types of experiential marketing programs for b-to-b marketers are industry conferences (70.8%), large trade shows (59.4%), proprietary events (59.1%) and online events (54.7%), according to the survey.

"Companies are getting much more focused in terms of programs," Etzler said. "They are shying away from the big trade shows and doing a lot more proprietary events."

Other types of experiential marketing programs that b-to-b marketers engage in include partner events (37.6%), branding events (33.6%) and employee events (24.5%). Respondents could select more than one answer.

Also, 57.1% said experiential marketing is important or very important to the future of their company, and 64.1% said it is important or very important to the future of b-to-b marketing.

However, 64.5% of marketers do not have a system in place to measure the effectiveness of experiential marketing programs, the survey found.

"There is a big problem with measurement," Etzler said. "Most folks are not measuring at all."

In fact, difficulty in measuring ROI was cited as one of the top three challenges facing marketing executives today (77.5%), followed by lack of a necessary budget to properly execute (63.8%) and lack of a measurement system (43%). Respondents could select more than one answer.

"How do you expect to get a budget if you're not measuring?" Etzler asked.

For companies that measure the effectiveness of experiential marketing programs, 67.9% measure the number of qualified sales leads; 43.8% measure revenue attributed to experiential marketing programs; and 32.8% measure the impact on a company's brand.

In terms of marketing budgets for experiential marketing programs, 57% of respondents have annual budgets of less than $100,000; 18.5% have budgets between $101,000 and $1 million; 5.7% have budgets between $1 million and $10 million; and 3.9% have budgets greater than $10 million (14.8% said they did not know their budget for experiential marketing).

Significantly, 42.3% said they did not know how much net revenue the company generates each year as a result of experiential marketing.

Nearly one-quarter (24.8%) of companies generate less than $100,000 in net revenue each year as a result of experiential marketing; 18.5% generate between $101,000 and $1 million; 11.1% generate between $1 million and $10 million; and 3.3% generate more than $10 million.

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