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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   July 2007

Are You Experiential?

Marketing strategy can help mortgage companies strengthen connections with consumers and employees

The explosive growth in media and communications has left many people feeling an information overload. The smorgasbord of offerings made possible by the Internet and satellite and wireless communications is mind-boggling. Commercials, infomercials, cellular-phone videos, pop-up Internet ads and spam e-mails are an everyday reality. Plus, digital-video recorders and Internet resources like blogs and other Web-media venues have grown from niche players into media titans.

Conveying information to consumers or employees now demands something more dynamic and compelling than a billboard or a company newsletter. For many companies, including those in the mortgage industry, the answer might be experiential marketing.

Experiential marketing helps get a message out in ways that connect with maximum impact and lasting resonance. It is based on tying customer and employee experiences to the company’s name or products through events and other real-life experiences.

Creating an experience

Whether they are publicizing a new product line, celebrating a company milestone or communicating with employees, some companies are finding that experiential marketing helps them cut through the communications clutter.

Experiential marketing offers a personal-engagement level not offered by other forms of media. It creates live experiences wherein audiences can touch, feel, taste, play, hear or use the brand in the real world. It operates on the premise that when it comes to marketing and communications, thinking outside of the box is no longer enough. Experiential marketers want to build an entirely new box — and then put the consumer in it.

In other words, experiential marketing moves beyond the traditional audio-visual limitations of standard marketing and communications by incorporating all five senses. When touch, taste and smell are added to the equation and when information is conveyed in ways that let people use, play and interact, a run-of-the-mill message is transformed into a true experience. Experiential marketing elevates a passive, disconnected process into an event, and dispassionate observers can become active participants in the exchange of information.

Members of today’s sophisticated, media-savvy society are skeptical when they are told to do something or that they should enjoy something. When you let people experience a product for themselves or hear a message on their own terms, they become much more receptive. The interaction becomes significantly more engaging. The experiential format is inherently more understandable, and the immediacy of the experience generates more word-of-mouth than traditional formats.

Experiential marketing can take many forms, from product launches, guerrilla campaigns and viral marketing to incentive programs, internal-messaging initiatives and effective distribution networks. Whether used in advertising as a way to drive publicity, to shape public opinion or as an internal tool for companies to communicate with their employees, it can be a cost-effective way to convey messages, make connections and forge bonds between people, companies and brands.

Building consumer awareness

There are many ways mortgage brokers and lenders can present their consumers with experiential opportunities.

If the goal is to build awareness, then a company may want to employ a strategy that creates a buzz among its potential customers. This may include a branded tour that stops at public events throughout the targeted area. Or it can feature street teams handing out giveaways or sweepstakes cards or sponsorship opportunities.

If the goal is education, a company may consider hosting a series of experiential seminars. It is important to remember that these seminars should be more than just product pitches; rather, they must engage the audience in relevant and timely topics. Assisting potential customers in-person and addressing their concerns while they experience a service allows brokers and lenders to demonstrate their expertise and to stand out from their competition.

Some of the most-progressive forms of experiential marketing to consumers today can be seen in interactive displays at trade shows, state fairs and arenas. They bring brands to consumers in the ideal environment to experience the product firsthand.

The experiential-marketing format also can be measured and quantified. Its targeted, hands-on nature leads to more-immediate information. Although the metrics differ, the ability to gauge responses with immediacy can make experiential communications an asset to many companies.

Boosting employee morale

Experiential marketing also is more than just an advertising technique. Companies have used these strategies to increase intra-company communications.

For many of these companies, this approach can boost employee morale, highlight employee-reward and employee-recognition programs, and encourage a sense of cohesion and community. From employee-recognition programs and award galas to incentive trips, performance contests and holiday parties, experiential events also can be great recruiting tools for attracting top talent.

Opportunities for experiential employee programs abound for mortgage companies. Companies can celebrate personal and company milestones and anniversaries, provide performance incentives and offer recognition programs with attractive awards. Anything that reminds employees that they are a valuable and appreciated part of a team — from holiday parties and employee-appreciation events to company-sponsored social gatherings — can effectively enhance the workplace experience and impact productivity.

In essence, companies that practice experiential techniques show their employees how important they are in ways that a coffee mug or a slogan cannot.

One common experiential method is an incentive program to reward top employees. Many small businesses produce minor incentive programs today, but that incentive often consists of announcing it to the team at the outset and then simply identifying winners at the end of a time frame. With just a little more effort and creativity, that sales incentive could become a competition that lasts throughout the year. This can be done by offering monetary incentives, vacations and trips or even hosting an awards dinner for top performers.

This ties into the fundamental theory of this strategy: Using experiential marketing is about building relationships and strengthening social and professional connections.


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