(614) 398-1509 team@contentvia.com

Experiential marketing at events is one of our favorite tactics for launching startups.  With a high concentration of like minded people, event marketing can bring your brand to an audience that is already congregated. Experiential marketing can take many forms, from trade show exhibits to creative guerrilla marketing. Startups need to get creative with their experiential marketing campaigns. At events, you can find yourself competing for attention with brands like Nike and Nationwide Insurance.  If you are launching a mobile app, experiential marketing is a great way to get app downloads, but you need a plan to stand out.  

We were at SXSW 2016 and there were a handful of new apps being promoted inside and outside of the official events.  With companies like IBM and McDonalds taking up half a block with signage and event houses, smaller startups had to find alternative ways to start conversations.  One of our favorite campaigns at SXSW 2016 was a new app called Howla.  Their founder and other brand ambassadors were on the street trading app downloads for a churro.  They had a line of people waiting to get a sweet treat after downloading their new app.  It was a really creative and low cost way of getting some new users.

ContentVia’s 3 steps to launching apps with Experiential Marketing

Step 1.) Create an Experiential Marketing Plan

Experiential marketing plans can be simple.  You should only create what you need for it to be useful.  If you are a two person team doing the event on your own, you don’t need an “event guide” to distribute. But if you have a team of 30, you will need a more substantial plan that can be shared.  Make sure you create a plan that can be updated before, during, and after your campaign.  We recommend using a project management tool like Wrike or Basecamp.  If you don’t have a project management system to track this activity, try creating a project plan using spreadsheet in Google Drive so your team can collaborate and update the document.

Experiential marketing requires advanced planning and you should not try to do it at the last minute.  We recommend 60 days or more to properly plan for an event.  Because some items like t-shirts and giveaways require lead time of a few weeks, you will want to begin designing and ordering far in advance of your event.  You should enter all contingency dates, such as ordering deadlines, into your project plan.  This will ensure that you order in plenty of time.

Your plan should absolutely include goals and metrics.   If the purpose of your experiential marketing campaign is to get app downloads, that will obviously be a key metric for you.  If you are an app, include other metrics like conversations, photos, social media mentions, badge scans, and new visitors to your website.  Just avoid vanity metrics that make you feel good like “ballpark impressions” or number of attendees.

Tracking downloads and signups is a key performance indicator for app startups.  Track and update your metrics as frequently as possible during the event.  The goals are the purpose and objective of your experiential marketing campaign. The metrics are how you will measure your performance and determine if your goals were achieved.  Experiential marketing campaigns should have a plan for how you will track and report performance.  We use our experiential marketing app to geo-tag photos and track our brand ambassador teams to see where engagement happened during events.  Once you have your plan, you should begin designing your campaign.

Step 2.) Designing an Experiential Marketing Campaign

Your design needs could be limited to postcards for handouts and making sure your send the right logo to the printing company.  For most experiential marketing campaigns, there are many items that need to be designed.  Your plan should include a checklist of all the items that need to be designed.  You should consider using a designer that has experience designing for the print formats that you will need.  Wide format and trade show graphics require a special eye and consideration for the venue.

Your first experiential marketing campaign will have the most design requirements, but it gets cheaper from then on.  Invest in materials that are a good value for the amount that you will be using them.  Also consider how you can reuse graphics for future events.  Banners and trade show booths have a limited lifespan, but you probably want to design your graphics so they can be reused, especially if you are a startup.  If you have a big budget for your event, go all out and buy custom graphics for each event.

One thing that is usually forgotten when teams try to do their own experiential marketing is a script for the brand ambassadors.  If you are trying to get app downloads, you need to provide a script that your brand ambassadors can follow and provide with minimal training.  Make sure you send this to the brand ambassadors a few days in advance of the event.  Set the expectation that they need to be able to give the pitch exactly as it is provided in the script.  If they show up unprepared, send them home.

Create a list of everything you need to bring.  Showing up for an event and forgetting something like t-shirts or giveaways can be devastating to your event performance.  Make sure you have everything when it is time to go to your event and a checklist is a great way to make sure everything is packed!

This is a list of items that we used for a recent experiential campaign:

  1. Postcards – two sided 5″ x 7″
  2. Script for experiential marketing team
  3. 250 Foam footballs
  4. 250 Sunglasses
  5. 2 dozen team t-shirts (the shirts that feel like American Apparel)
  6. 50 giveaway t-shirts (the shirts that feel like a free t-shirt – consider stepping it up)
  7. 250 re-usable shopping bags
  8. 6′ tall pull-up banner
  9. 10′ x 10′ Trade show display
  10. 6′ x 2′ Vinyl Banner with corner grommets for hanging
  11. Hanging supplies (tape, bungies, rope)
  12. Electrical supplies (power strip, extension cord, phone chargers)
  13. Cameras – one DSLR and 2 GoPro with selfie-sticks

Design your giveaways and shirts in a way that highlights your brand, but is also worth keeping.  80% or more of giveaways at a trade show are thrown away before the person ever leaves the building.  Don’t hand out crap.  If it’s trash, it will end up there. The giveaways cost you good money so make your giveaways worthwhile.  You also don’t have to hand them to everyone.  If the giveaway is cheap enough that everyone can have one, its a good bet no one will want it. Spend the extra 30 cents per pen and get good ones that will end up on your customers desk.  Portable battery chargers are a nice premium giveaway, but make sure you give them to high value customers.

Once your campaign is designed, you need to figure out who will be staffing your experiential marketing campaign.

Step 3.) Hiring Your Experiential Marketing Team

It might seem like a good idea to send your sales team or founders to an event.  It is a good idea. . . they should be there. But they may not be the best brand ambassadors.  Sometimes these people are called “crowd gathers” or your “street team”.  Whatever you call them, you want professional event staff to represent your brand.

Working an experiential marketing event is a skill and it requires the right type of personality.  You need someone who can fearlessly holler to attract attention for your brand.  It is not about being attractive, it is about being engaging.  The best brand ambassadors have thick skin and they don’t take rejection personally.  Who cares if that girl doesn’t want your sunglasses. . . On to the next one.  When hiring, look for outgoing individuals that fit your brand.  The brand ambassadors should like like they could be your customers, and hopefully they will be after they are done.

We have a network of over 500 brand ambassadors that are available for events.  This allows ContentVia to offer event staffing with large or small teams of brand ambassadors.  Some people go to Craigslist, which is something we do from time to time to meet new brand ambassadors, but buyer beware.  Ask about their previous event experience and make sure you talk to them on the phone.  Consider hiring a few extra brand ambassadors in case one or two of them do not work out.  If someone calls off at the last minute, you don’t want to go in short handed.

The last rule of hiring brand ambassadors is you get what you pay for (and you should pay for good people).  If you want to pay someone $10 per hour, expect to get $10 worth of effort.  Jumping up a few bucks to $15 or $18 will improve the quality of your brand ambassadors.  You will get more to choose from with a higher hourly rate.  Consider that you are not their only option and the big guys pay well.  Brand ambassadors are networked, too. They talk to each other, so you may get away with going cheap once.  But it may be hard to get good ones in the future.  If you are interested in becoming a brand ambassador, check out our brand ambassador signup page over on YourInfoDaily.

In addition to your brand ambassadors, you need to consider your support team.  You don’t want your best people (who should be talking) spending their time on twitter posting photos from the event.  Designate someone to be the photographer, videographer, and social media manager.  If you have a big campaign, each of these could be a full time job during the event.  Their is alot more that goes into managing a brand ambassador team and we will get into that in another post, but selecting the right team is critical to having a campaign that will get you app downloads.


Once you have a plan, you have designed your campaign, and your staff is hired, you are ready to run your campaign and get app downloads.  Measuring the results of your campaign is crucial.  Compare how you did against your goals and make sure to improve before your next event.  Experiential Marketing is a great way for startups to meet new customers and get app downloads.  There are a million ways for you to engage so get creative and get out of the office if you want to find your users.

Talk to us about how you can utilize experiential marketing at one of our scheduled events this year.