If one hundred marketers were brought into a room and asked to explain what it takes to be successful, nearly all would respond by saying success starts by offering customers something they want.  For most marketers, this means providing products or services they believe are of interest to their target market.  How do they know this?  Typically by conducting market research and essentially asking customers: “Would you buy this product if it fits your needs?”

For thousands of years, sellers of goods and services have understood the most important step in the process of getting someone to make a purchase is to first get them involved with what is being sold. For food products, this can be achieved by encouraging customers to try the product through the use of free samples. For furniture products, take-it-home-and-try-it promotions are widely used. And for online services, it is common to see free 30-day trials.

While the idea of getting people to try something before they buy it is far from being new, so-called experiential marketing methods, designed to immerse potential customers in a product prior to making a commitment, have grown rapidly. Unlike old-style product giveaways, experiential marketing is as much about the environment and the interaction as it is about the products being sampled. One of the most common experiential marketing approaches is to attract a large number of people to a specific location, where products are then consumed as part of a social event. To do this, brands may engage an experiential marketing specialist to coordinate the event. For instance, a company like House Party, offers marketers the ability to have their products be the centerpiece of hundreds of parties, often held on the same day.

Other examples of how companies are deploying experiential marketing are discussed in this Shopper Marketing Magazine story. One example looks at how Target’s after-hours shopping spree, aimed a college students heading back to school, not only helps the retailer but also is used to promote major product suppliers including Coca-Cola. Other examples include Meow Mix cat food, which placed a special mobile recording studio in New York City, where hundreds of people recorded their own version of the now classic “meow mix” jingle, and Chobani yogurt, which promoted its new breakfast product outside train and bus stations, and even offered people a bike ride to work while they sampled the product.

Social Media Sites Add Buy Now OptionIt has been over eleven years since our Marketing Stories section first posted a news item related to social media impact on marketing. That story from E-Commerce Times wondered about the future marketing opportunities social sites offered, though the only social media outlets mentioned at the time were LinkedIn and, two sites that are now gone, Friendster and Orkut. By 2009, when we first discussed social media in one of our first Marketing Blog postings, the effects social media was having on marketing was becoming a little clearer though there were still many who wondered whether Facebook, Twitter, and other sites would ever grow to become the power players they are now.

One of the problems in seeing the future of social media back then is that, from a marketing perspective, social media does not fall easily into just one Marketing category. Instead, it offers benefits across many marketing areas including customer service, public relations, advertising, sales promotion, marketing research, and the list goes on.

Because of the benefits it offers marketers, social media is akin, to say, using Excel. How? Well, spreadsheet calculations help marketers with many marketing decisions, from defining markets to estimating product demand to assessing the best price to charge and many more. Social media is also quickly becoming a tool for nearly all marketing areas. Of course, the big difference is that customers do not interact with a marketer’s spreadsheets, while interaction is required for social media to be effective. But just as all marketers need to be skilled in using spreadsheets, the day is quickly coming when those involved in research or product development or promotion or distribution or pricing or customer service or most other marketing tasks will need to be well-schooled in using social media.

And just to drive this point home a little more, the influence of social media continues to expand, as companies are finding new ways to obtain value. As discussed in this Re/code story, the leading social media sites are actively moving to offering social “Buy Now” buttons in an effort to expand retail sales. These buttons would not only be tied to sponsor-supported promotional postings, but may also be displayed when someone comments favorably about a product or service. While the story notes there are still challenges ahead before “social commerce” can take hold, given how social media has overcome naysayers in the past, don’t be surprised if social “Buy Now” buttons are the next big thing.