Experiential Marketing Small Business Strategies That Boost Sales

It’s a complex and competitive world out there. As such, small businesses are perpetually on the hunt for strategies that enhance their visibility while significantly boosting their sales. This article, “Experiential Marketing Small Business Strategies to Boost Sales,” discusses the compelling world of experiential marketing. More importantly, it unpacks how it can elevate your small business by creating impactful, emotionally resonant connections with your prospective customers.

Also, be sure to check out the following video from Layne Braunstein, Chief Creative Officer at Fake Love, before you go. In it, he talks about how experiential marketing is shaping up to be the future of advertising:

What is Experiential Marketing?

Experiential Marketing Small Business - woodburned artwork with the word Experiential Marketing

Experiential marketing is a business strategy that uses experiences to make an emotional connection to your prospects. Also known as engagement marketing, this approach prioritizes creating impactful, immersive events or campaigns that intimately involve the consumer, aiming to build a community around a brand and nurture long-term customer relationships by leaving a memorable, positive impression.

Think of ticketed events like concerts sponsored by your brand– or online contests that showcase your message. All of these methods leverage memorable, interactive experiences that not only elevate brand awareness but also foster loyalty and create lasting impressions among your target audience, becoming a perfect combination for your business endeavors.

Adopting the Right Mindset for Experiential Marketing

Experiential Marketing Small Business - The Right Mindset and actions on a chalkboard

Steve Kurniawan is the content marketing and digital marketing strategist of Nine Peaks Media. He outlined some of the concepts small businesses need to pay attention to before they get started.

“The main idea is customers are more likely to buy based on emotion, not logic,” he writes.

He makes a few suggestions, like street team marketing. This is where ambassadors for your brand giveaway samples to create a unique experience. It’s a common method and cost-effective at the same time.

“Another concept to understand is experiential marketing focuses on the brand message and company culture instead of the actual product/service.”

There are two main principles, according to Kurniawan.

“In general, there are two main principles–engaging emotions with an experience and focusing on a relatable brand message.”

Engagement Ideas

Experiential Marketing Small Business - Pic of businessperson Getting involved with the community by joining hands for activity

There are some tried and true methods for making any experiential marketing strategy work.

A great way to make a splash is by getting involved in the community,” writes  Steve Martin, the CMO of DaySmart Software.

“For example, a small pet groomer that donates their time to occasionally groom shelter pets could engage their customers.  They could ask them what shelters they want them to provide their services to and get them to volunteer onsite.”

Having an open house is a great way for a brick-and-mortar business to do the same.

If you’re a small business, you can start off small. Simply answering questions on websites like Quora can start building up your engagement.

Using a variety of online off-line contests works too. Find the influencers in your niche and see if you can work with them. Another good idea is to have an interactive website where the audience can play games showcasing your brand and message.

Experiential Marketing Trends

The evolving world of experiential marketing continually introduces fresh, innovative strategies, effortlessly marrying technology and human experience to forge memorable brand-consumer connections.

Below, we explore some pivotal trends that have been shaping and continue to influence the experiential marketing landscape, ensuring brands remain not only relevant but also impactful in their varied consumer interactions:

  • Virtual Reality (VR) Experiences

    • Engaging Remote Experiences: VR provides immersive experiences for audiences, such as taking clients on a 3-D trip through a completed project or showcasing products via interactive videos.
    • Investment and Adoption: With big brands like Google and Netflix paving the way, small businesses can mimic some of their VR ideas on a smaller scale. As a result, this capitalizes on this tech-driven experiential marketing trend.
  • Sustainable and Socially Responsible Marketing:

    • Eco-Friendly Events:
      • Promoting sustainable practices through experiences, aligning with consumers’ growing preference for eco-conscious brands.
      • Example: Hulu’s Welcome to Chippendales Series Experience: Clear branded fanny packs were given to attendees, ensuring continued brand exposure in large-capacity venues, particularly during sports seasons and concerts.
    • Charity Collaborations: Embed charity work or social responsibility campaigns into experiential marketing. Then, you provide a positive and altruistic brand image.
  • The Resurgence of In-Real-Life (IRL) Events:

    • Overcoming Virtual Fatigue: A return to IRL consumer-facing activations and events is observed as virtual event fatigue sets in post-pandemic.
    • Drawing from the Past: Brands are reanalyzing and expanding upon pre-pandemic experiential strategies to elevate consumer experiences in the present.
    • Pop-Up Experiences: Leveraging buildings, streets, and high-traffic areas for pop-up events that bring brands to life beyond the digital realm.
  • The Predominance of Influencers in Marketing Strategies:

    • Inclusion in IRL Events: In-person events are increasingly incorporating branded trips with influencers and celebrities.
    • Skyrocketing Influencer Marketing: The influencer marketing trend continues to soar. In addition, there are even higher adoption rates in 2023 expected.
    • Enhancing Event Visibility: Influencers play a pivotal role in amplifying event awareness among consumers. Moreover, this enhances the experiential aspects of brand interaction.
    • Creating a Personal Touch: By providing an intimate look into their experiences, influencers draw followers into experiences. For example, entice them into exploring a pop-up event they attended.

Experiential Marketing Strategies

Once you’ve got the details worked out, it’s time to put together a campaign. Here are a few of the strategies that are proven to work:

Tell the Story Behind Your Business

This is one of the best ways to get people to relate and engage with your brand. Remember to use good narrative techniques. In other words, start your story in the middle at an interesting point. Giving away a lot of detail and moving in chronological order gets boring quickly.

Use Social Media

Social media is a great way to reach a wide audience with an experiential marketing event. For instance, hosting an event on Facebook is a good option. Consider boosting attendance through paid ads before the occasion to create a buzz. These are generally not expensive and pay off in spades.

Experiential Marketing Small Business - Graphic of social media icons in front of a laptop being used

Look for Partnerships

If you’re putting on an event, you can partner with other area businesses. Also, make sure these are competing in the same space. For example, say you’re selling digital marketing services and hosting a webinar. Partnering with a local computer store or repair shop can bring in more customers.

Leverage User-Generated Content

Encourage your customers to create content related to your brand, product, or services. This not only provides you with valuable promotional material but also engages your customers in a fun and interactive way.

Incorporate Gamification

Experiential Marketing Small Business - Gamification and Contests, pic of enter to win card being pulled out of a coat pocket

Integrate games or contests into your marketing campaigns. It doesn’t have to be complicated – even simple online quizzes or polls can be engaging if they’re relevant and interesting to your target audience.

Create Immersive Experiences

This can involve VR or AR technologies to create a deeply engaging, interactive experience that immerses customers in a crafted brand universe.

Snapshot of Effective Experiential Marketing Strategies

Here’s a simple comparison table considering the strategies mentioned:

StrategyProsConsBest for Businesses That...
Tell the Story Behind Your BusinessBuilds a deeper connection and humanizes the brand.Can be time-consuming and may not convert immediately.Have a rich or unique history or story.
Use Social MediaHas a wide reach and the potential to go viral. Provides immediate feedback.Can become a cluttered space and may require paid promotion for visibility.Want to engage with a younger demographic
Look for PartnershipsExpands reach and can share resources and audience.May dilute brand message if not well-matched.Have synergy with local or similar businesses.
Leverage User-Generated ContentLow-cost, highly engaging, and authentic.Quality control can be an issue.Have an engaged and active online community.
Incorporate GamificationEngaging and can go viral if it strikes the right chord.Needs to be relevant and well-designed to avoid appearing gimmicky.Want to create interactive online campaigns.
Create Immersive ExperiencesHighly memorable and can provide a rich brand experience.Can be resource-intensive and technologically demanding.Want to provide a deeply engaging customer journey.

Lastly, bear in mind that a good strategy often involves combining different approaches. Therefore, align your chosen strategies with your brand, goals, and target audience for optimal impact in your experiential marketing campaigns.

Image: Depositphotos.com, Canva.com

Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 7 years. He is a graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. His print credentials include employment with various Toronto area newspapers and three works of fiction: The Apple Lady (2004), Creekwater (2006) and Sophistry By Degrees (2008) published by Stonegarden Press In California.