The $600 Question: Assets and Marketing

This is a repost of a fantastic blog article. Another good thing about blogs – they have staying power – this one was forwarded to me by Shana Hillman about three months ago, and it’s an archived post from 2010 on a blog called The Mission Paradox. It’s funny, sharp, timely and true. Read on! I^m going to make some coffee.

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On various blogs and on Twitter I’ve been “challenged” to answer this question:

“How do I market my show (most of the folks asking are theatre folks) with a budget of $600 or less?”

If that’s the question then here is my response:

“Is that all you have?”

Marketing is about leveraging assets.  Yes, money is an asset but there are others.  Here are a few:

1.  Time

2.  Connection to the community

3.  Knowledge of your audience

4.  Artistic reputation of the company as a whole

5.  Name recognition of the play or actors

6.  Effective use of web and social media

7.  An understanding of your local media (newspaper, TV, etc.)

I could think of 10 others, none of which require much (if any) money to make happen on a high level.

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So you’ve got $600.  What else do you have?

Because if you don’t have many other strong assets it wouldn’t make much of a difference if it was $600 or $6,000.

Do you understand your customers well?  Do you want to understand them well?  Then maybe we should invite 25 of your most loyal, passionate fans to have lunch with the artistic team.  You can explain the season and give them passes that allow discounted admissions to their friends.  Spend the $600 on some damn fine catering.

Do you have a good understanding of the local media in town?  Then maybe we should spend the $600 to get you and a guest a ticket to that gala where all the media folks hobnob.  You go, be charming, pitch the season and then do a lot of follow-up.

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Now that may not help you sell the show you have coming up in three weeks, but if that’s all you want then save the $600 and get yourself neck-deep in Twitter, Facebook, email, whatever.  Then hope that the art gods smile upon your show and that saves the day.

But if you want something more,  then you have to consider how to use EVERYTHING you have.

The sad truth is that some arts organization simply lack assets:

They don’t know their audience.

They don’t take time to meet with community leaders, or interact with those outside the boundaries of their theatre

They don’t understand the press dynamics in their town . . . they just want coverage for everything they do.

And yes . . . they don’t have much money to spend.  But this isn’t about the money.  It’s 2010, megabrands have been built without spending much on advertising.

That’s the other sad truth, some arts organizations have a ton of assets and knowledge they could leverage to fill the seats with the audience they want.  They either don’t recognize them as assets, or don’t work to make those assets stronger.

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So I’ll be honest.  I hate it when I get the “I’ve only got X amount of money, what do I do?” question.  I understand the question, but I hate it all the same.  The very nature of the question implies that if you don’t have a lot of money you can’t market effectively.  I could spend a week giving you examples that say otherwise.

You don’t need money, but you do need SOMETHING.

So that’s my official answer to the question.  If all you have is $600 then save your money and get to pounding away on social media.

But if you have $600 and an understanding of your other assets then you can do damn near anything.

One Comment to “The $600 Question: Assets and Marketing”

  1. Thanks for the shout out Sue! knowledge of your audience is so important and why 20 companies (ranging in size from tiny inDANCE all the way up to Tafelmusik) worked with us this year to send audience engagement surveys to over 32,000 Toronto arts attenders – the results were really interesting and in some cases surprising. People can read more about it here: http://www.creativetrust.ca/2011/02/survey-of-3662-toronto-audience-members-released-today/

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