Don’t Give Up On Print

The Watershed arthouse cinema in Bristol has decided to stop producing promotional print and concentrate on emails and other digital media. This is a big mistake. A piece of print in the post gets 30 times the response achieved by an email. It’s true that email offers a much better return on investment on a most mailings because of the low cost but if you want to get the best out of people who are loyal to your organisation, you must give them some print.
I realise these are challenging times for marketers- mass media like newspaper and radio advertising no longer achieve a good return and bulk distribution of print is not much better. Twitter and Facebook are a useful part of the mix but I’d be interested to know if anyone has achieved significant sales from them. they seem to me to be much more suited for building the brand.

I think the best plan is to identify your best customers through purchase data and target them and people like them with print, emails and social media.

For help in making your print work, see my 10 Tips for writing effective letters

Why Social Media May Be A Bad Idea For Your Business

Lots of organisations get involved with social media because they think they ought to but then do it badly and are disappointed at the result.

Part of the problem seems to me to be that social media are ‘free’ and therefore of low value in the eyes of people who are used to spending money on various forms of advertising.

The other part is that it’s difficult to measure the Return On Investment in terms of short term gains, so there’s no incentive to use social media consistently, let alone well, when other more pressing uses of time come up. Certainly you can promote an offer and see how many took it up but much of the use of social media is about increasing brand awareness, building loyalty and spreading word of mouth, none of which provide immediate revenue (although they can be measured against targets).
So, in my experience, many organisations get involved in social media because they think they should but let that involvement slide as soon as other demands on resources come along.
There is something else. Using social media requires a huge change in approach, from the traditional marketing role of leading your customers to the brave new world of being led by them. Many marketing people either don’t understand this or they don’t want to do it. Social media, whether it’s blogging and microblogging (Twitter), social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn), sharing (YouTube, Flickr) or forums and comments, is a conversation not a monologue.

So, best not to get involved in social media if you don’t have the commitment or an appreciation of why you’re doing it. All that will happen is that you will produce a half hearted effort that won’t impress your followers and may even alienate them and that will waste your time.

If you want to do it properly, start by looking at my 10 Tips for using Social Media.

Heard It Through The Grapevine: The Power of Word Of Mouth

Word of mouth is your most valuable marketing tool, which is good news and bad news.  The good news is that it works so well because it’s authentic.  The bad news is, you can’t fake it.

If you’ve got an email or postal list of people who like your product enough to sign up, you have a massively valuable tool.  So when someone buys in person, on the phone or online, ask them if they would like to join. Encourage them with an offer, something that will appeal to those genuinely interested in what you have to offer.   In other words, don’t offer an M&S voucher or everyone will sign up.  Offer a ticket discount voucher or a free programme.  Actually most people will sign just to be better informed, so offer a regular newsletter. At Your Life Your Style, we have forms by the till and a box on each page of our website, and we promise special offers and exclusive information.

So how do you turn your email or mailing list into word-of-mouth?  People love to share good things with their friends because it gives them kudos. So, when you email them, encourage them to forward it to a friend.

Given the value of a mailing list, it’s astonishing how little care some people take with it.  Please, don’t send unsolicited emails- it is actually illegal to send emails to someone who hasn’t opted in to your list, unless they are a customer.  You should take advantage of a ticket sale acknowledgement email to sell future shows and of course your email list but pestering people with emails or postal mail is not the way to win friends.  It’s also good business practice because you get reported as a spammer if you don’t.  For the same reason, make it easy to unsubscribe.

Always send your emails from the web address you say it is.  You may only be trying to be helpful because the address you are sending from is a bit obscure but, since this is what people trying to steal your bank details do, you are likely to be identified as a spammer.  Spam filters will also pick up on certain words like ‘free’ and ‘discount’ because they sound like sales letters.   Once you are identified as a spammer (and apparently it takes very few bad reports), you may find yourself banned by your Internet Service Supplier.  And that’s completely for all emails.

The internet is another great way to generate word-of-mouth. In fact the main reason people belong to social networks is for word of mouth. So set up Twitter and Facebook accounts and encourage your customers/supporters to follow you. If you post interesting information or offers, your followers will pass them on. Give visitors to your website the opportunity to send the page or a link to the page.  Encourage comments and conversations on your website.  Track comments being made elsewhere on the web and join in conversations about your product. However, you must be upfront about who you are – pretending to be a disinterested person can be very damaging, as a top Hollywood production company found out!

‘Bring A Friend’, as in letting your loyal customers give discount vouchers to their friends, works well because sending a gift really impresses

Samples are an excellent way of kick starting word-of-mouth.  You know how you can go to your local supermarket on a Saturday morning and stuff enough free samples down your throat to see you through to supper?  People taste the product and quite a few not only buy it again but tell their friends and family that they were given something nice at the supermarket.  How can we apply that to seeing a theatre show?  My own experience is that CDs and even DVDs don’t really make an impression.  Giving away tickets for the whole event somehow defeats the object.  Fortunately, we already have a tried and tested solution.  Put a lesser known artist on as a support or get a sample of a stage show or act into an awards ceremony, charity fundraiser or festival.

Or… a personal appearance.  An interview accompanied by a photo or a recorded extract from a show is an ideal way to enthuse a potential attender into a ticket buyer.  Having said that, there are a number of bricks that must be in place.  The interviewee must make the show sound like it’s worth seeing.  Enthusiasm, amusing anecdotes, clear description of the show are all de rigeur.  I’ve been surprised how often a performer is unprepared to perform in an interview or else is so scripted they persuade no-one.  Go through likely questions and have snappy answers.  The interviewee must know what needs to be said and make sure they say it.  Ditto you must have top quality production shots, video or sound recordings available.

Feel free to pass this advice on.