Did you know that in terms of getting people to attend live theatre, in general as theatre folk we have an 18% probability of success when we could have an 80% or 90% probability of success? My resolution for this year is to support the cause to get us as a community to the 80% (or even the 50% mark.) Explanation of those numbers where they came from and why is at the bottom of this message- first let me get off the soap box long enough to catch you all up in the conversation.
Hi- this is Mari
an actor/director/marketing person relatively new to town.
Occasionally I get really excited about things and just have to share. I thought I would use these boards to do so. :-) So I am a geek. I spent some of my holiday "break" reading maketing surveys for theatres, books on arts marketing and year end numbers from some theatres friendly enough to share their info with me just because I asked. (Thanks Guys!) My conclusion is to once again realize that we CAN get lots more people to see live theatre- there are theatres doing it and finding it is not so hard. We just need to get smarter about it.
SO I am jumping on the bandwagon and offering some thoughts to those who might find them usefull.
We all can make live theatre even hipper and cooler than live sports if we pull together and learn how. (It is geeky I know but I really believe that.) Join me in the cause- here is how:
1) Make it a point to learn about marketing- PLEASE. Producers, Directors, Artistic Directors simply have to if they want to succeed long term. Administrators would find their lives easier if they did- and ACTORS can join the party too. Most of us actors will end up as directors/producers/artistic directors at some point (often accidentally) and what is more- we ALL want to play to fuller houses. The more we know the more we can help-or at least not get in the way of good ideas when other people want to help.
2) That being said. Here are some resources: Check out DramaBiz magazine- you can read on-line and they have marketing articles every month. Including an easy to digest "things that work" article in the current issue. http://www.dramabiz.com/tricks1107.htm
Also if you REALLY want a new perspective consider reading Jump Start Your Business Brain by Doug Hall and Arts Marketing insights by Joanne Scheff Bernstein. I think you can order both on line through the TPS online bookstore.
3) Change how you think about the MESSAGE we are putting out this is the biggest thing we can do. The problem turns out to be much less with our tactics and much more with our message. What follows is some cool info about message that I have been trying to write up for the next TPS marketing workshop. Let me know what you think- if it makes sense and if you find it as encouraging as I do. :-) And if anyone out there is as geeky as me and wants to talk more about the messaging components mentioned- I am happy to post stuff to the boards and start an on-line discussion.) :-)
***And of course this is a plug for the TPS workshop too. It is mostly an "I have to get this off my chest" message but the workshop is the three day "I have to get this off my chest and share this" project so they are deeply related. We plan our show seasons and rehearsal schedules months and for some years in advance. And we spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on production costs, tech and rehearsals. And we all know about the countless hours spent getting the show right. But usually we allocate 3 hours a year and $500 for postcard printing and call our marketing done. (OK possibly an exaggeration for some- not much of one for others though.) So please join me for the workshop- or please just discuss these ideas on these boards. ***
Thoughts On Marketing Message
The marketing message is perhaps the most overlooked and most important part of marketing and certainly of arts marketing. A good marketing message can make a significant difference in your ability to get your patrons to encourage others to attend your theatre. Even better, a strong message can have a revolutionary impact on the effectiveness of your current marketing efforts. It is probably the single most significant change you can make in your marketing strategy, and while it does take some time and effort to craft the right message it does not increase your marketing budget at all!
Improving your message can radically change the effect of your current marketing because it does two crucial things 1) it gives the customer the information that they need to make an emotional decision to attend your theatre and 2) it gives both potential and existing patrons the information they need to get other people in their life excited enough that they too will make an emotional decision to attend your theatre. Because the decision has an emotional component and is not just “an idea of something that might be nice” it has a much greater chance of being acted upon.
How much greater? Vastly. Consider the chart show below. It was created by marketing research specialist and corporate guru Doug Hall and published in his book Jump Start Your Business Brain. In it he identifies three key components of an effective marketing message (benefit, reason to believe and dramatic difference- all of which we will be discussing in depth in both this report and the workshop.) Based on data from detailed research of over 1,200,000 consumer reactions Mr. Hall rates the probability of success for marketing messages with none, some or all of the components he outlined. The difference is significant.Message Probability of Success (Other Variables Controlled to Average) Features Only
(implied Benefit and Reason to Believe) 10%Features and Image Only
(implied Benefit and Reason to Believe) 18%Overt Benefit Only
(implied Reason to Believe) 28%Reason to Believe Only
(implied Benefit) 28%Overt Benefit and Image
(implied Reason to Believe) 29%Reason to Believe and Image
(implied Benefit) 28%Overt Benefit and Reason To Believe 41%Overt Benefit, Reason to Believe, and Dramatic Difference 51%The numbers above are for an average level of each of the three dimensions. When you hit the maximum of each your probability of success rises to 90%
This chart gets more meaningful the more you think about it. So let’s take a moment to do just that.
If you think about it most smaller theatres put a large chunk of their marketing money into postcard mailings, posters and advertisements in local publications. And a quick survey of the theatre marketing in your area should prove that the formula they use to design these materials is pretty universal. Almost all theatre marketing materials contain an image designed to be evocative of the play, the title of the play, director and author information and then the dates, times, prices etc. A few very forward looking theatres might also have a short description of the play (recommended) but not many will even include that information.
So according to this data most if not all of the theatre marketing you see has a success probability of about 18%. Now anyone with any marketing experience will tell you that this does not mean that 18 out of 100 people will come see the show. (Gosh we wish! That would be a great response.) It means that 18 out of 100 people who are already likely to come see your show will actually be moved to do so by the types of marketing we described above. (We are defining “likely” very generously- as meaning that their attitudes are at least somewhat favorable towards live theatre in general and your theatre in particular.) When you consider that only a very small portion of the posters, postcards and advertisements actually reach people who are already favorable to live theatre you realize that the odds of success for most theatre marketing efforts are so slim as to make you wonder why any portion of the budget goes toward these efforts.
But now think about what happens when between 51% and 90% of the people favorable to live theatre (and your theatre specifically) are moved by your message. That can have a significant impact! In fact when you understand marketing from that perspective you end up with 3 very simple goals:
1) Improve your marketing message until it is between 80%-90% success probability rate
2) Take steps to increase the number of people who will think about your theatre in a “somewhat favorable” way
3) Put that message in front of those same people
The really great thing about this 1,2,3, formula is that most people even remotely involved with theatre marketing, acting, or self producing have already been working on steps 2 and 3 (consciously or unconsciously.) So you should be able to make huge impact fairly quickly by learning to work on number 1- getting your marketing message success probability rating to between 80% and 90%. This will not only help you to get more people to buy tickets from your own marketing efforts- but it will also encourage those very same people to pass the word on to people they know and help do some marketing for you. What could be better?
OK those are my thoughts I just had to share. What do you think? Any of this excite, enrage or confuse you? Lets post!