Why your company may want to set up an experiential marketing team

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Sara Hocking
Sara Hocking

“I want to speak because I don’t know the end, but want to help other marketers,” – Sara Hocking Associate Director, Marketing Innovation, Grant Thornton LLP. “Maybe sharing our story will help others.”

Sara was sharing her story about her experiential marketing team at her company and how it focuses on areas that need to be tested and potentially move forward. Her team started focusing on artificial intelligence in marketing.

“This was important to me because I wanted to paint the picture for our marketers,” she told the 300-some attendees at the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Conference in Cleveland.

She shared how they pulled in volunteers from different areas of the organization to participate to find out how AI can help reach business goals and solve problems.

They also pulled in vendors who could fill gaps that the firm didn’t have and worked with the team to come up with potential use cases on how artificial intelligence could be used toward business goals.

The project – referred to as a lab – was started in October and a report was given to the CEO in December. So it was a quick turn around, “but since then the journey has been harder,” Sara said.

Of course, fact finding can be helpful but ongoing implementation can be harder.

I imagine that AI is like content marketing in that regards. Content marketing is most powerful when you keep going, are on a schedule and continuously share value.

For AI to work, it probably needs to be integrated as an ongoing project. Kind of like content marketing. It’s not a campaign, but a process.

How to start your own experiential team

I’ve actually been part of companies that implemented teams like this. The problem usually ends up being that results aren’t always visible right away at times take time and sometimes fail. Other times they can’t be tied directly into business results.

“Many look for the quick win pilot projects,” said conference creator Paul Roetzer during the session.

There are really two ways that can help here.

1 – Optimize workflows

I use this process in content creation: The goal is to create content and share it. Some of it will take off and some it won’t. Then make sure to share your stories internally.

That ensures people can see the process. “Oh yes, I’m seeing that we are creating stories and creating different kind of content.”

Of course, that sometimes means we are sharing stories that are not completely done. That can be hard for people who only release fully-fleshed out, highly polished marketing materials only.

But it does help to report/share as you are going and sharing progress as you are seeing it.

2 – Buy vs. build

Using artificial intelligence of course also involves the use of technology. That presents the problem of how to get the right technology.

One option of course is to buy or subscribe to a product. This article shares some of my tips on how to decide.

Keep in mind that many SaaS companies have a huge push to make money quickly. So spending a ton can happen quickly. Just be sure you are getting the return on the cost you need. On the flip side there are many freeish or cheap products that can be used.

Another option, one that used to be common is to build it yourself in house. I remember when I launched Eastern Iowa News in 2009 and an executive asked me:

“Where are you hosting that site?”


“What’s that?”

Hosting in the cloud was still somewhat new and many companies hosted their websites in the building.

The biggest barrier with buying expensive SaaS is to make sure it actually does what you need it to do!

Weigh the cost and value of buying vs. building.

Other barriers and moving forward

Sometimes implementation runs into barriers.

For example, Sara mentioned that AI-related implementation from content creators hasn’t really started, yet. Certainly, part of that is because content creation has never been harder and things are being added constantly. Something has to give somewhere. Maybe AI can make content creation easier.

Designing and producing with voice commands might be one way?

But to make new technology work and to actually capitalize on it, we have to use it and we have to use it before it stops working.

Remember when Facebook organic reach was a good strategy? Today, you have to basically pay to get seen by an audience. But even that might be changing, too, or maybe it’s just getting more expensive:

Either way, make sure to learn AI quickly, consider what business goals it can help you with. Maybe it’s content personalization or content workflow or something else. But it’s early enough to experiment and chalk up some potential wins with it.

So to get started, find your advocates on several levels, including the C-suite, start quickly and share some successes to try to keep going.

Related podcast from Stamats.com: What marketers must know about AI