I don’t borrow. I steal.

Yep, I steal from giant corporations all the time.  And you should too.

Ok, as much as  I’d like to build up some “street cred” with a bad boy reputation, let me explain what I mean. Shows open and close so fast and have such limited budgets, that it’s difficult for us to try and stay ahead of the marketing and technology curve.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from those with the resources.

Watch what the Big Boys do.  Sign up for the Banana Republic email newsletter and see what happens when your birthday rolls round.  See how Amazon.com communicates with you and recommends item after item.  See how Las Vegas hotels take care of their high rollers (their version of the premium ticket buyer).

Let companies with bigger budgets pay for your research.  Learn from what they do well.  And learn from their mistakes. An example of something I just learned from one of the biggest American marketing machines tomorrow.

Give away tickets, sure, but don’t paper.

Every smart company knows that with any product launch, you’ve got to give away some product to start the snowball of word of mouth marketing rolling down the

What separates the great marketers from the mass marketers is who that product is given to. 

Ten years ago, there were one or two “papering” organizations in the theater business that had a list of people who were interested in seeing theater that could be
mobilized quickly to fill a house.

Now, there are at least four major papering companies that charge their members a service fee of a few dollars for getting these tickets.  Shows, big and small, give these organizations free tickets, and then these companies profit from being able to get rid of them.  And they’re growing.  One company recently sent me a direct mail offer to sign up.  They are spending more media dollars than my shows.

The hope for the shows is that the members help spread the word of mouth and turn their friends into paying customers.

And maybe that happened ten years ago.  But do you know what’s really happening now?

Word of mouth is spreading about these companies and a way to get a $4 ticket to a show, rather than the show itself!  How do I know this?  Simple . . . the  growth of the number of companies engaging in this activity proves the growth in the market.  Where there are competitors, there is a market share to be had.  And that’s bad news for the theater.  We’re increasing the size of an audience looking for free or extremely discounted tickets.

On top of that . . . does anyone really think that this is the best way to spread word of mouth?  These people that use these services are now trained to expect free tickets.  There is no reciprocity factor any more.  There is no feeling of “Wow, I got a free ticket to a show and can’t wait to see it.”  And if you were one of these people and actually saw a great show, wouldn’t one of the first things you said to a friend be “I saw a great show and I only paid $4!” 

Giving away product is fine, but choose wisely.  It may be easier to call a papering company to get rid of 100 tickets to a preview, but you’ll be much better
served seeking out corporations and hair dressers and banks and anywhere where they don’t usually get this sort of offer (and you can pick specific geographic
locations where you think your demographic may be hiding).  These people will be super-excited to get the offer (and therefore more inclined to talk ositively about the experience) and since they are hand picked by you, more inclined to enjoy your product.  And, by avoiding these companies that profit off our paper, you’ll be helping to prevent the disintegration of our paying audience. 

Avoid papering companies like they are vampire musicals.

This blog is about . . . exactly what you think it’s about.

For those of you who have seen my iPhone commercial, (it still blows my mind to even type those words), you’ve heard my description of my latest show,  My First Time.  “It’s about… exactly what you think it’s about.” 

A  friend of mine was mocking me with a spot-on impersonation the other day and the more he repeated those words, the more I realized something:

My First Time is about what you think it’s about.  And that has made my job as a  salesman (aka marketer) that much easier.

Let’s look at my other shows:

The Awesome 80s Prom.    Well, that’s about exactly what you think it’s about too.  A Prom.  In the 80s.  And it is awesome (full disclosure – I am related to the producer therefore I may be biased).

Altar Boyz.   Hmmmm.  Not as easy.  Is it really about altar boys?  And is it really about what our current society thinks of when they think of altar boys?  Nope.  And guess what our biggest problem with marketing Altar Boyz has been?  Convincing people that it was not about what they thought it was about.  Oops.

Your title is the name of your product.  It’s your first crack at marketing.  Word of mouth is always going to include the name of your product, so that word of mouth is spread a lot easier when the title helps to explain exactly what your product is.

Sales/marketing to people who have never heard about your show is initially about education.  You have to educate them that your show is an option.  And then you have to educate them as to what your show is about.  It certainly helps when your title helps do that for you. 

Because like it or not, people do judge a book by its title.


Ouch! I’ve been branded!

I just
returned from speaking at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association conference in 
Las Vegas.  My panel was on branding.  There I was, seated next to some giant Brands like Southwest Airlines and Doubletree Hotels (I have to say I did love hearing my shows and Southwest Airlines mentioned in the same sentence.  I made a joke that our advertising budget on My First Time is probably about the same amount as one business class airline ticket). 

The speaker from Doubletree told the story about the infamous PowerPoint presentation prepared by two very unhappy Doubletree customers that appeared on the internet in 2001.  I call it the “Complaint Heard ‘Round the World” and for me it represents the beginning of the new era of customer/user reviews and the use of the internet as a word of mouth weapon for your consumers.The Doubletree representative said that this complaint was meant to “inflict pain” on Doubletree.

And that’s when I realized something about branding. In the media world, I think we’ve forgotten where the term “branding” comes from.  It comes from cattle.  When ranchers don’t want to lose their cattle, they take a red hot iron and burn their “tag” into their skin.

In the cave man days of advertising, this is exactly what the big companies did.  They spent millions on major advertising buys (TV, print, etc.) and since there was no competition, these big buys were the equivalent of a red hot iron used on the consumer.  The consumer had no choice, especially when faced with an iron the size of Proctor and Gamble’s, etc. And without even knowing it, all of a sudden they had a P&G brand on their butt. But times have changed. There are more choices now.  And customers have their own branding irons:  blogs, user reviews, creative PowerPoint presentations, etc.  And they’re a bit PO’ed.  Wouldn’t you be?

So what do you do as someone with customers who are ready to brand back?

Be prepared to take it. 

The best companies recognize that power is shifting.  They recognize that in this consumer driven market, their ass is sticking up in the air waiting for a customer to burn their “tag” into them. And online, those tags are permanent.  They never go away.

And when you’re that exposed, the only way to really CYA (cover your ass) is by being responsible to your customers. The great thing is, not only will you win with your customers and make them even more loyal, but they’ll probably go out and burn the butt of one of your competitors.

A picture is worth so much more than a thousand words.

I bet you thought this post was about the strike, didn’t you?

Why wouldn’t you?  The first thing you looked at was the picture, right?

And who could blame you for looking at the picture first.  Pictures are pretty. They have color.  They tell a story very, very quickly and with little effort required. But this post is not about the strike.

See, I was looking through my previous posts and I noticed that they had one thing in

common:  no pictures.

I have committed the cardinal sin of maintaining a web site and for this I am very,

very sorry. So, the community service that the blog gods are forcing me to do is to share the following with you:

All of the websites that I have managed and maintained have had one thing in common. The most popular page on all of the websites was the photo gallery. Always.  Without fail.  Photos are what visitors to websites want. 

So if you have a website for your show or your product (even if it’s a MySpace page), make sure you have more pictures than you can take.  And update them constantly.

More pictures mean more visitors staying on your site for more time. Who could ask for anything more when marketing on the web?