How to Measure ROI for Experiential Marketing (It’s Easier Than You Think)

The goal of experiential marketing, or any type of marketing for that matter, is to increase sales. We all want a return on our investment, right? Otherwise marketing would just be a fun way to waste a lot of time and money.

When it comes to experiential marketing, though, it can be especially difficult to measure the sales generated by a campaign. If no clear link ties the marketing event to specific sales, then it’s impossible to attribute success to the program with any certainty.

Sales results are the only way to calculate marketing’s ROI, and incorporating a purchase opportunity directly into the experiential campaign is the best tool to get concrete sales results. But what happens when it doesn’t make sense to sell at a marketing event?

“Thanks for test-driving our car! Would you like to buy it right now?”

Good luck with that one. Buying a car is a complex purchasing decision. Except for Oprah, of course.

So companies whose products and services fall closer to the impulse side of the purchase decision spectrum have it easy: simply extend an invitation to buy and evaluate the sales results.

Great for them, but where does that leave the rest of us? No buying opportunity means no sales results. And no sales results means no way to measure ROI, right?

Yes, that’s right, but thankfully, there’s another way to get sales results.

Don’t Reinvent the Shoe

Don't Reinvent the Shoe

Television, Internet, and social media have undoubtedly changed the advertising game, but don’t be deceived by the vanity metrics that have come along with them to “measure” success. There’s no need to reinvent how to calculate ROI; no metric is a substitution for sales.

Instead of spinning your wheels trying to guestimate the sales results of your experiential marketing efforts with dubious metrics (e.g. impressions, social sharing, etc.), piggyback your campaign with a tried and true method for gathering hard sales figures: outbound marketing.

Outbound Marketing Is Extinct…Sort Of

You don’t have to look far to find skeptics questioning the effectiveness of outbound marketing. Can you blame them, though? I can’t recall a time I actually signed up for a home security system after hearing the robot on the other line tell me about how the FBI reports a break-in every 15 seconds.

Is Outbound Marketing Extinct?Outbound marketing on its own is one thing. Pairing outbound marketing with an experiential campaign, though, makes for a powerful combination. Plus, the outbound efforts provide the sales results needed to measure the experiential campaign’s ROI.

So you might be wondering, “If all I’m doing is funneling my experiential marketing audience into an outbound marketing campaign, why bother with experiential marketing in the first place?”

Well, there are two reasons. First, because you would never have gotten this new audience without experiential marketing. Second, because experiential marketing gives you a more engaged audience.

Think of it this way.

Scenario #1

You and your friends are enjoying a night on the town when you’re introduced to someone who catches your attention (assuming you’re single and on the prowl).

The two of you hit it off (who knew you’d have so much in common?) and exchange contact information.

A few days later you receive a call from this new friend inviting you on a date; you happily accept.

Scenario #2

After a night on the town, you return home and check Facebook (because you’re clearly addicted). To your surprise you find a message from someone you don’t know:

“Hey! We haven’t met, but I saw you with friends tonight and asked them about you. I can’t believe you enjoy extreme ironing, too! If you’re free this Thursday I’d love to go ironing with you!”

Luckily, you already have plans on Thursday: bullet dodged.

What was the difference between the success of #1 and the failure of #2?

A shared experience.

Without a shared experience, scenario #2 just comes off as creepy. Why? Because there’s no context. Experiential marketing creates the context.

It allows you to break the ice like no other marketing method. It creates a bond between you and your audience. It makes all the difference between a cold call and a warm lead.

Establish context and use outbound marketing to provide the buying opportunity that you weren’t able to offer in the experiential campaign. Then you’ll be able to gather the missing information you need: sales results.

Knowledge is Power

France is Bacon

Knowledge is Power – Francis Bacon

Now it’s time to choose the best outbound marketing tactics to implement. There are a lot of factors to consider when making this decision, but you know your industry and customers best. Where do your customers spend their time? What are their interests? What communication medium best suits your products/services?

The marketing efforts you employ will dictate the goals for your experiential campaign.

  • If you plan to use e-mail marketing, then the goal of your experiential campaign is to collect e-mails from your audience.
  • If you use direct mail, then the goal of your experiential campaign is to get home addresses from your audience.
  • If you use SMS marketing, then the goal of your experiential campaign is to gather cell phone numbers from your audience.

Make sense?

And if you really want to go above and beyond, then you’ll try to gather as much information as possible. This gives you an opportunity to compare different direct marketing tactics to see which one is the most effective. But be careful, people aren’t keen on sharing personal information and if pushed too far they may decline giving any at all.

Some information is always better than none!

After launching the outbound campaign, collect the sales results and compare them to the marketing expenses. Be sure to include the cost of the experiential AND outbound marketing programs.

So, this is what the ratio will look like (drum roll, please):

Sales Results / (Experiential + Outbound Marketing Expenses) = ROI

Pretty straightforward, huh?

Keep It Stupid Simple


If this calculation seems too easy to be true, then you’re making it too complicated. Using sales results to determine ROI not only gives the most accurate picture, but it also throws out the need for confusing formulas.

Tracking your experiential marketing’s ROI doesn’t have to be difficult. Don’t make it any harder than it has to be; follow the methods above and you’ll have a clear understanding of how your marketing is working for you.

Do you have a different take on calculating experiential marketing’s ROI? Want to add your two cents to the conversation? Please do! I’d love for you to share and start a discussion!

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