Experimenting with Experiential Marketing

Have you ever heard the term “Experiential Marketing?” You may be doing it without even realizing it, and if you aren’t, statistics show us that it’s definitely worth trying.
Experiential Marketing is a term used for marketing that allows the consumer to interact with your business, creating a memory, and theoretically making them want to return to your restaurant.
For the full story on how it all works, as well as examples of how you can try Experiential Marketing in your pizzeria, I contacted Stevi McCoy, co-founder of Revel Experiences in Dallas, NYC and Boston, who says, “The most important part of experiential marketing is designing a solution that is personalized not only for the unique customer base, but also the unique brand. You want your brand to come to life in its own unique way and there are many creative ways to make this happen.”
The Pizza Insider: What is experiential marketing and how does it differ from traditional marketing?
Stevi McCoy
Stevi McCoy: Experiential marketing is about engaging your customer through an emotional connection. We believe a successful experiential marketing program engages customers by creating impactful memories  vs. mere transactions. This powerful memory is shared – leading to brand advocacy and a desire to replicate the experience. This drives heightened referral and repeat business.
How can pizzerias benefit from using experiential marketing?
Many small to mid-sized pizzerias are competing with larger chains who frequently discount through large marketing budgets, inclusive of couponing programs. When done properly, an experiential program will help differentiate from a traditional marketing and coupon/discount program by introducing a unique, memorable and customized brand interaction. Interactive, experiential marketing engages at the sensory level and allows the brand to become top-of-mind. It conveys that your restaurant is interested in the customer at the individual level and not merely selling an inexpensive product. In fact, according to a new report on Experiential Marketing from CrossMark and MarketingWerks.
• 88 percent of shoppers say that if they enjoy an experiential interaction with a product they’ll add it to their shopping list.
• Eighty percent said they prefer brands that “interact” with them over those that just “advertise” to them.
• Seven out of 10 shoppers say they’ll share a positive brand experience.
How can experiential marketing successfully be implemented in a pizzeria?
The success of an experiential marketing program is based on a clear understanding of the behaviors, patterns, and profile of your current customer base, as well as of the ideal expanded customer base you would like to engage. Once you have gathered that data, you can then begin to build a program that is customized and personalized to your audience. The program you develop should be integrated with your entire operation and supported by all staff. There are affordable cloud based systems that enable this data and insight capture. A pizzeria is no different from any other restaurant, retailer or brand that is looking to develop a program to drive brand awareness, heightened engagement, and repeat business.
What is the cost/time difference between traditional and experiential marketing from a budgeting standpoint? 
There isn’t a black and white answer to this question – pricing on any marketing program can vary depending on size/scope of the project. Before the launch of any campaign, however, you need to first identify a very specific intended ROI. This will not only help to clarify budget, but will also clearly measure the effectiveness of that campaign and identify areas that need to be improved upon for the subsequent program.
What is the possible ROI with experiential marketing? 
Experiential marketing campaigns can drive key engagement behaviors, leading to: increased brand advocacy and awareness, new customer acquisition, increased spend and customer retention.
Do you have any pizzeria examples you can share?
Experiential elements can enhance a pizzeria’s entire marketing strategy.  There are opportunities to build deeper connections with customers through communications, loyalty programs, special events, delivery experience, packaging, customer service, etc. The specific areas of the customer experience your pizzeria focuses on depends on your individual customer base and their unique needs. Below are a few ideas to try.
Experiential Marketing Examples
  • Build your own pizza – could be a regular feature or one-off event – would be a great family night concept
  • Regular or one-off events where a pizza chef gives a demo on pizza dough and lets the guests make their own
  • Surprise and delight campaigns (i.e., For regular delivery customers, delivering their “usual” order as a surprise gift, for dine-in customers, “complimentary drink or dessert” for returning customers)
  • Unique and creative loyalty program that is simple, easy to understand and allows for customization- could be based on spend, visits, referrals, etc
  • “Featured seasonal ingredient” of the week/month – promotes farm-to-table, great event concept, provides a marketing touchpoint for email or direct mail campaign
  • For pizzerias with BYOB or liquor licenses, partner with vendor for beer/wine tasting event
  • “Pizza and a movie” night event or, partner with Red Box or Netflix for a loyalty program that allows customers to earn dollars toward movie rental/subscriptions