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Online Marketing Gets All the Buzz But Check Out the ROI for Live Events

There is little doubt that event marketing works, and top brands know it. According to this year’s EventTrack annual event marketing research survey, event and experiential marketing budgets are expected to increase by over 5 percent in 2014. With marketing budgets seeming to either skew digital or diminish overall, this steady increase speaks volumes about the value of live events.

Even more interesting are the high expectations that are associated with this increased financial investment. According to a study conducted by EMI and Mosaic, 75 percent of companies with event budgets between $50 and $100 million said that they expect an ROI of more than five to one for event and experiential programs. Even those companies with smaller budgets anticipate three-to-one returns. Brands are investing more in live brand experiences and are not shy about expressing confidence in the fact that their money is being spent in a worthwhile fashion.

Related: Make Live Events Part of Your Marketing

Confidence in event marketing is not without merit. What these brands and top marketers everywhere know is that, year-over-year, data shows attending a live brand experience is worth its weight (or sometimes five times its weight). Here are five reasons why experiential marketing has become one of the most important aspects of a successful marketing strategy.

1. Attending live brand events drives purchase

Plain and simple, the data shows that when people attend an event they are more likely to purchase the product. While there have been several surveys and studies that have shown this trend, EventTrack found that 96 percent of consumers surveyed said that, assuming the product or service was one they were interested in, participating in the event made them more inclined to purchase.

Nearly three out of four event participants that purchase once become a regular customer. When events are executed in a way that effectively reaches and engages an audience, the experience overwhelmingly drives the most important result there is: sales.

2. Experiencing a brand creates an emotional connection

Emotional connections are powerful when it comes to consumer purchasing. According to Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, a customer loyalty and engagement metrics firm, we should "view the purchase decision-making process as more emotional than rational, with estimates in most categories reporting a 70:30 emotional to rational ratio."

Providing your attendees with a unique experience, engaging brand ambassadors and a way to see, taste and touch your brand will often spark an emotional connection that transforms into a long-lasting relationship.

3. Undivided consumer attention, real-time leads

In an era of smartphones and mobile marketing saturation, an event experience uniquely provides you with the consumers’ undivided attention. It is critical to act strategically on your advantage. Effective marketing events provide attendees with several easy and appealing ways to a purchase a product or take a desired action, all in real time.

Consider providing a mobile lead form that consumers can access via a QR code found on event materials and signage, or feature a text-to-win campaign in which consumers access a form while entering a drawing or contest. Your brand ambassadors can have your form open on tablets to enter consumer information or facilitate purchase during an interaction. When it comes to gathering and acting on event data, the sky is the limit, but it’s best to offer consumers diverse and seamless ways to take action, as well as on-site incentives and/or activities that encourage participation.

Related: 10 Tips for Hosting a Wildly Successful Event on a Tame Budget

4. Perception changes after event participation

There are few better ways to boost brand perception than through a marketing event. EventTrack showed that 74 percent of event attendees have a more positive opinion about the brand, company or service after the event. The brand, however, must deliver a positive event experience. Free samples and giveaways are growing in importance in terms of participation motivation, so include a similar way for consumers to experience your brand.

The people you choose to represent you are also important. Jessica Stackpoole, CEO of EventPro Strategies, an event staffing agency, says “It’s critical to choose a staffing agency that can provide brand ambassadors that embody your brand image and effectively communicate with your target audience.”

5. Events provide valuable consumer engagement data

One of the most important aspects of event marketing is measurement. In addition to sales and actionable leads, live events provide valuable data that can direct your marketing strategy and make your efforts more targeted and intelligent.

Events help determine what your audience responds to, both in terms of event activities and overall engagement preferences. Are small, intimate events more effective for your brand, or larger “once-in-a-lifetime” events that attract more word-of-mouth activity? Should lead generation be tied to a contest or giveaway? Do attendees respond to promotional items to drive purchase or does a digital coupon gain more traction? In addition, when it comes to new products, marketing events can be the perfect “soft launch” to test effectiveness before bringing your new initiative to the masses.

Live marketing events are one of the most effective ways to drive results, from immediate purchase to long-term brand connections. Event marketing has been extremely effective for some of the most successful companies in the world, and it’s high time that your brand got in on the action.

Related: How to Create a Live Event That Spurs Social Buzz