Experience: A Powerful Marketing Strategy

by Jess McMullin
Peoria Civic Center

Focus on creating memorable experiences for your customer base, and they will remember you.

Effective marketing is a challenge for any company, but perhaps even more so for nonprofit organizations, which typically work on a lean budget. It’s imperative to be selective on dollars and staff time to earn the best return on your marketing investments.

Typical advertising strategies of the past just don’t cut through the white noise of today’s tech-driven world. Studies show that most people ignore online ads, and other forms of advertising are not much better. In a recent Jack Morton survey, 11 out of 14 consumers preferred to learn about new products and services by experiencing them personally or hearing it from someone they knew.

Long-Lasting Memories
The late U.S. poet and author Maya Angelou once famously said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When you give someone an experience that feels good, they’ll remember it for a long time. They’ll also be more likely to support your organization with their time, money or goodwill.

This is the basis of experiential marketing, a growing trend in reaching consumers that involves marketing through experiences that engage customers and create emotional attachments to the product or service.

Real-life experiences shape opinions more profoundly than anything we see in an advertisement or read in an article. And those opinions are at the core of how consumers determine their spending allocations. So focus that marketing budget—no matter what size—on creating big memories that will stick with a consumer.

Live events are the most prominent method of experiential marketing for nonprofits. From social galas to charity run/walks, in-person events offer a one-on-one connection with your customers—an opportunity to educate them on your mission, as well as fundraise. While events can run on the heftier side of expense, in both dollars and staff, they offer the biggest bang in consumer engagement. In a recent Jack Morton survey, more than 80 percent of women said they’d bring family or friends to a live marketing experience, and 75 percent said they’d tell others about the experience.

Meaningful Stories
Keep in mind that events don’t always have to be large in size. Smaller events in more intimate settings allow you to invite key contacts and maximize face time. They also cost less, so they can take place more frequently.

Nonprofits have a leg up over most for-profit businesses, who are often perceived as “just trying to sell something.” Nonprofit organizations have a mission that provides meaningful stories to touch people’s hearts. Embrace your biggest supporters and consider including them as a voice for your organization through testimonials. A compelling visual story brings your message to life in a powerful way. This also creates a feeling of ownership with that individual.

With every marketing activity today, social media is an essential branch of the bigger picture. Many companies use social media to advertise and promote, but that can easily get lost in the clutter of a news feed. Be thoughtful about your intention to engage. Invite interaction and create a two-way dialogue between the organization and the customer. Experiential marketing is a powerful strategy that, when implemented, can be a driving force in bringing customers one-on-one with a nonprofit’s mission. Focus on creating memorable experiences for your customer base, and they will remember you. It’s the difference between telling people your mission… and letting them discover it for themselves. iBi

Jess McMullin is the Director of Sales and Marketing at the Peoria Civic Center.

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