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John Heiman loves hearing that a customer or attendee had a great time at an event he produced. As director of experiential marketing at Sprint, it's his job to make that happen — and that goal never gets old.
To elicit positive responses, he pairs technology with immersive event experiences for continued success. We spoke to the Event Marketer B-to-B Dream Team member about his approach to live events, measuring success, and using technology to make great experiences happen.
Q Hi John! Tell us a bit about your role at Sprint.
John Heiman: I oversee both B2C and B2B experiential programs, including our executive briefing centers, experiential marketing for tours, trade shows, corporate events, and sports marketing.
Q Wow, that's a lot! What value do you think people get out of live events and brand experiences that they can't get from other marketing channels?
JH: Whether its going online or doing research or hiring consultants, nothing is better than eye-to-eye conversations with experts and people who really understand how to solve a customer's problems. And we do that in a variety of ways, but nothing beats a live event where people can connect and build real empathy for what the customer needs.
If we can get a customer to get hands-on in an immersive brand experience, have a little fun, and say, “I need to go tell so-and-so and bring them back here,” to me, that's the ultimate compliment.
Q Where do you find inspiration?
JH: I look for things that will make a grown man smile and have fun. I like playful things. I like hands-on things. One of the things that we did recently to help articulate the benefit of 5G, which will have super high speed and ultra-low latency, is we built a pong game. People who've played pong, they'll remember that the paddle lag was really high. So when you moved the paddle, it wouldn't quite get there, and then it would overcorrect and you'd lose. We built a pong game that has a 5G paddle and a 4G paddle to show how important that low latency is, and people love to play it. It's something very, very simple, but also very immersive and fun.
Q With so many experiences to oversee, how do you make every dollar count?
JH: I do a couple of things. Since I oversee multiple functions in the company, I'm able to leverage items. For example, if I build something for a trade show exhibit, I'm able to then leverage it and move it into my briefing center. If I have a demo in my briefing center, I'm able to take it to an exhibit, so that makes the budget go a lot further and also creates fresh and new ideas every time.
Our industry changes on a regular basis, and we're going through a great big change right now with the advent of 5G. So we're investing quite a bit in immersive demos and simulations that I'm able to use in all kinds of different venues.
Q Are you able to build Sprint technology into your live experiences?
JH: We're pretty fortunate in our industry because anything with power can also have a radio chip in it. So we can do almost anything: demonstrating robots using our technology, drones, etc. Virtually anything that has power, we can put a Sprint chip in, and that allows us to be very creative with our demonstrations.
Q How do you measure success?
JH: It depends upon the kind of event it is. If it's an event in one of my briefing centers, we measure net promoter score, measure ourselves, and we measure sales lift. At other events, if they’re not very sales oriented, we measure sentiment, net promoter score, and, of course, if there’s any interaction or leads that we gather from those events. But typically that’s something that is funneled through our sales organization and, hopefully, we'll see them in our briefing center later.
Q What advice do you have for young professionals in this industry?
JH: My advice would be to start somewhere and move around. Move from advertising to product development. Move from product development to advertising. Move anywhere in the spectrum so that you understand the full scope and range of marketing activities and you'll have a lot more empathy for your fellow marketers.
Q What do you love the most about what you do?
JH: What I love most is seeing the expression on someone's face when they've had a really good brand immersion experience and they smile. When they say, "Well, I've got to go tell my friend about this. I want them to experience it." I get joy out of that.
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