2013 North American International Auto Show

Limelight scores investment to automate in-person marketing

Experiential planning platform catches the eye of big brands like BMW (Updated)

This story was updated on Jan. 14, 2016 at 3:26 p.m. EST

The ubiquity of customer relationship platforms such as Salesforce and Marketo has unleashed a new wave of technology companies looking to extend CRM automation into new marketing channels. Canada’s already seen one big success story in specialized CRM with Vidyard, an extension for automating targeted video messaging. Now CRM marketers — and investors — are starting to pay attention to another promising up-and-comer based in Toronto: Limelight.

Limelight centres on events and experiential marketing. The company says its platform handles everything related to live experiences, from planning to lead onboarding and post-campaign analysis. Limelight helps marketers with planning experiences, creating digital assets like apps or microsites, and then monitoring customer engagement and feeding the data directly into the brand’s CRM database. All the data it collects is smoothly uploaded to the client’s CRM database, so they can follow up with qualified leads right away, using personalized email and cross-channel remarketing.

Since it launched at the end of 2014, Limelight’s attracted big brands like BMW, Heineken, Scotiabank and Sephora. The platform’s raised $3.1 million to date, much of it coming from U.S. venture capital firms like Acceleprise Ventures and Hyde Park Venture Partners.

Founder Jonah Midanik said Limelight is meant to unify all of a brand’s “live marketing,” which he defines as everything from trade shows to in-store promotions, sponsorships, demos and popup shops — any time a brand and consumer are face to face.

Midanik’s expertise in live marketing comes from Immersion, an events and experiential agency he co-founded back in 2001. Limelight was born from technology Immersion built to smooth out the events planning process. “We were really seeing our painpoint as an agency was that instead of spending time coming up with great strategy and awesome creative, we were spending a lot of time in the weeds doing repeatable stuff, like building emails and websites and apps. It was sucking budget away from customer experience,” he said.

Immersion came up with Limelight to automate those repeatable steps of the process, and to provide more real-time feedback on how its client campaigns events were doing in the field. The platform turned out to be so successful with clients that Midanik eventually decided to put the agency to bed and focus instead on licensing the software.

BMW, one of Limelight’s most avid users, now uses the platform for all of its live marketing in Canada, including auto shows, track days, offsite test drives and sponsorships. At show booths, both BMW and its dealers use Limelight to run hand-raiser campaigns and contests, and collect live lead information via Limelight’s mobile app.

One of the biggest selling points is ROI measurement, something a lot of experiential marketers are still struggling with. Limelight tracks all consumer interactions with microsites, mobile apps and emails related to a live experience, and measures indicators like the number of attendees at an event or booth, number of related social shares, and invites sent or responded to.

“If they’ve got 100 field teams, they can see on a region-by-region basis or staff member-by-staff member basis how everyone’s doing, and tie that all back to sales in their CRM systems,” Midanik said.

Limelight has big plans for 2016, having secured the funds to support its aggressive expansion into the U.S. Midanik said the platform makes the most sense for categories that have a high cost-per-acquisition, such as finance, auto and cosmetics, and that’s where it’s been concentrating.

However one of the next steps on the roadmap is more outreach with agencies. “We just take away some of the plumbing, we’re just a tech layer, and we’ve found some agencies receptive to that,” Midanik said. “They can deliver experiences and get those budgets back to where they need to be, which is in the consumer experience portion of these things, rather than one-off tech pieces that don’t drive lasting value.”

Correction: The original version of this story contained information and statistics from a published case study that proved to be inaccurate.

Photography by Canadian Press
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