Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Advertise, Advertise, Advertise...

I'm going to take a brief break from marketing my show to talk a little bit about marketing a show.

Don and Gus have recently written pretty spot-on entries about this here, here and here, which leads me to assume they've either been a.) sneaking into my brain when I'm not looking or b.) this shit is pretty much universal to indie theatre-makers. The jury is open on that one.

But while I continue to ask for more grant money to continue research on the latent psychic abilities of my fellow bloggers and theatre-makers, I'll point out that Don comes up with a pretty astute conclusion based on an informal survey, which is, Your Marketing Doesn't Matter. Over at Gus' entry wondering whether or not Facebook does any damn good, Don augments his conclusion in the comments section by pointing out that the goal is to let your audience base know about your upcoming show.

In other Don's words, "don't sell, inform. Don't peddle, make available."

My take on Facebook invites is pretty much this: it may not actually rope in any new folks to see your show, but hey, it's free and takes very little time to set up an invite page. And when you're trying to get the word out on your show, every little bit helps. So if it costs you nothing, and takes virtually no time, why not?

Okay, I just wrote "every little bit helps." I actually don't know if that's true. I should probably write, "as far as we know, it doesn't hurt."

(On Gus' blog, I commented on the old adage I've heard that I've often used when promoting a Nosedive show: "Look, we know that 75% of what we're doing is a waste of time. But we don't know which 75%, so we have to do it all.")

The entry on to print postcards or not to print is one that we here at Nosedive Central are currently debating right now, since, well, with a new show coming up, we need to figure out where we stand on the subject in a manner of weeks.

I mean, sure, I like the physical memento, and it's nice to be able to physically hand someone a card with all the relevant info if I'm chatting up a show to them in person, but I'm definitely with Don about acknowledging that no one has gone to see a Nosedive play based solely on finding a postcard left at a bar, and with Gus about how depressing it is to have a stack of unused postcards sitting in your apartment after your show closes.

(We're also in a debate about whether or not to print postcards or business cards, since business cards look neater, and are easier for someone to stash in their wallet. But the same question applies: is that business card going to sway anyone into seeing it?)

Personally, neither postcards nor Facebook invites inform my playgoing. Honest. It's through email invites (to get the dates and venue), from knowing the folks making the show (i.e., I've already locked Flux's upcoming Jacob's House on my internal radar, so a Facebook invite and postcard is redundant. I'll use the mailing list email to remind myself of which train I'll be taking before heading off to see it), and from word of mouth (i.e., someone who's opinion I trust tells me to go see a particular show).

But then again, that's just me. Some folks I know solely rely on Facebook to be informed about upcoming shows. As I told Gus, I once asked a friend if he got the email I sent him about one of my shows, and he stared at me blankly. He then asked if I sent out a Facebook invite about it. I had not, and he said: "That's why this show is news to me."

I think we'll ultimately print up a limited run of either business cards or postcards, since it goes back to Don's assertion of getting the word out there: some folks (who are planning to see your show regardless) prefer using Facebook invites to organize their social calendar. Some prefer emails. Others prefer something physical that they can stick on their fridge.

Hey, we just don't know which 75% is wasted.

Wasting his time and yours,

James "Hateful Huckster" Comtois

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great entry and links! I now home-print my postcards (4 on a 8.5" x 11" piece of light card-stock) on my laser printer at a very low cost. Because I don't have a hard deadline to get a fixed, finished design to a commercial printer, I can update easily, when I get a good suggestion or when I spell someone's name wrong. The cards don't look as good as professional printing but there is very little waste. I mostly just use them as hand outs to friends who know better than to be fooled by great advertising about the quality of my work. Many shows I've seen have had slick, high quality posters and postcards but the production featured low budget sets and costumes. My postcards are just as low budget and chintzy as my sets. A sort of visual truth in advertising! -SK

12:56 PM  
Blogger MattJ said...

I still contend adamantly that postcards and business cards are a complete waste of money in 2010.

Like any kind of investment, you need to be seeing enough of a return to make the investment profitable. Considering a set of postcards is... what... like $250-300 ?? There's no way that's profitable. Even if they are $75 or $100 it's likely not profitable. Even though it's cool to have them in your hand when they come back from the printers, that's probably not a good enough reason to spend the cash. Esp. considering you could costume an entire show for that amount of money, for example.

I think most theatre companies still do it because it's a grandfathered off off broadway marketing technique but has now lived past it's profitability, in my opinion.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

Ultimately, the "investment" is solely based on how many audience members you're bringing in with the postcards (now, this includes people who plan on seeing the show but need/prefer the physical reminder).

We get ours pretty cheaply now (at about $150). Which means, we need to bring in nine people to make the money worth spending.

Is it worth it? In other words, are we getting nine audience members from the postcards/business cards? It's unlikely.

The self-made postcards actually sound like a great idea. I've known a few folks who've gone that route, which I really dig (grandfathered advertising idea or not). It costs less and is more of a "hands on" and personalized method of publicizing a show (and of course caters to my affection for DIY theatrical endeavors). I also dig the idea of a "low budget" card to promote a low budget show.

So, will we print up cards? We shall see. I'll probably show this thread to the gang and take it from there.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an old man, I don't use FaceBook and I rarely visit websites (except for Jamespeak). But postcards do have the ability to guilt me into seeing a friend in a show. With the exception of off-off-Broadway, theater audiences tend to be older than the general population. This is particularly true in the smaller cities and towns that I have produced in. For us, 20th century marketing still makes sense. Postcards are also a nice gesture for your cast and crew. But there is great validity in spending your money on things that show up on the stage. Great point MattJ.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

SK, re: "Postcards are also a nice gesture for your cast and crew," yes, exactly, that's another reason we hold on to the postcard idea. Cast members really dig having postcards and showing/sending them to their peoples. I'm not saying that's good or bad, cool or misguided, it's just something that's often true.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous RLewis said...

Because of our piece about the birth of OOB years back, we now have folks on our mailing list that no not do computers/email/internet/etc., so for big shows we still need to do the p-cards.

I think that they are also good for support materials in grant applications, etc. as well as for sending to out-of-town folks who can't make it to our shows, but might remember the card more easily when it comes Donation time. And for our archives.

But the point that I really want to make is that I think marketing has a Critical Mass component... when I get the invite online, it's nice - add it to the stack of options; when I see the show listed in a paper, I'm intrigued; when I get the p-card, I start thinking they're a big deal; and when I see some reviews or a friend mentions it or other marketing, I think that I better not miss this one.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one who gets email invitations everyday - more shows than I can ever see, so how to make the choice of which is important to attend? It's usually the ones that reach my critical mass, that get my butt and $20.

I say, do all that time and energy allow.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's not forget, there's an old marketing adage (which I will paraphrase here)... it takes three impressions to get a reaction. So if you facebook or email, that's one, if you get reviews, that's two, and the postcard is three. I know many people who have the best of intentions but who constantly forget they've commited to something when it only shows up once.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

That's very true. The same goes with listings. I've definitely noticed that the more publications that a Nosedive show is listed, the larger the turnout. Likewise, as an audience member, when I see a listing for a show in one place, I tend to forget. When I see it listed in several places (print and online), part of my brain bone thinks (perhaps right or wrong) that this show is a "big deal."

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel this thread leaning toward the "do postcards" side of the counterbalance, and I'd like to add my weight to it. If, as MattJ suggests, the only reason to print them is to see a return on ticket sales, then it would indeed be a waste. But postcards (combined with other marketing) can create buzz, which is harder to quantify but equally important. -CM

1:58 PM  
Blogger MattJ said...

I don't think postcards create buzz at all.... in fact I find them pretty annoying to be honest. Every time someone hands a postcard to me, I'm like.... seriously? Even if I'm going to go to the show I'm begging for a trash can to put it in rather than carry it around, because I know all the information is easily found on the internet!

I do agree that they are exciting for the cast and crew to hold in theri hands, yes, but that's not really marketing. If that kind of goodwill is worth $150 to the company, then sure, do it. But they are not creating buzz and they are not getting people to shows.

When I did the superhero musical which sold out all but one performance (i know, only a 4 show sample) -- I decided to replace postcard with a unique URL, i.e. www.superheromusical.com -- which was kind of a digital postcard. And interactive cause you could buy tickets right off of it. I think people would rather have a url than a postcard, and its much much much cheaper. for example, you could make www.thelittleone.com -- in addition to the coverage it gets on the nosedive website.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

Matt, I think you're missing a crucial and recurring point when you write: "I don't think postcards create buzz at all.... in fact I find them pretty annoying to be honest. Every time someone hands a postcard to me, I'm like.... seriously?"

Yes, a number of people have that feeling. But also, a number of people have that feeling about Facebook invites and/or email blasts. The (perhaps unanswerable) question is what are the percentages of people who prefer hard copy reminders but get irked by frequent email reminders, and what percentage prefers Facebook pages or Web presences to keep informed about the show.

The big perk about an electronic presence is it's either free or ultra cheap. Unless you print your own postcards, which reduces costs (and is still kinda awesome).

2:37 PM  
Anonymous RLewis said...

ok, I was done with this postcard thread until I read this...

"I do agree that they are exciting for the cast and crew to hold in theri hands, yes, but that's not really marketing."

I just gotta say... Seriously??? Let's be honest: for a lot of our shows, if actors didn't get their friends to come see it, there'd be a lot of empty theaters.

I poo-poo a lot of producers that rely on actors to supply audiences, but we can't pretend that it's not one of the biggest ways we fill our houses. When actors are not excited about a show, they do not tell their friends. But when you have them thinking that they're in something special, their word-of-mouth (#1 marketing technique!) can start an avalanche. Well worth the $$$.

We often joke about playing the "numbers game" - a large cast show means a large audience. I don't like, and Matt is entitled to his p-card opinion, but let's not pretend that this marketing doesn't exist.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Matt is entitled to his p-card opinion, but let's not pretend that this marketing doesn't exist."

Indeed. From a market research perspective, we can add it (the opinion) to the mix and see how things shake out.

But this is why I think of marketing as an extension of the art itself--it provokes big feelings!

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although, I still make postcards for my more unique situation, I think Matt makes very valid points about how to attract his particular young, connected target audience. It is also true that the time and energy put into making cards could be time and energy that would be better spent on the show itself. Is still too early to tell if postcards are a thing of the past? Perhaps they are still in that great 75% we don't know about.

3:25 AM  

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