One of the most valuable lessons I learned over the last 13 years in marketing and PR is that there is no single formula for promoting whatever it is you’re selling. The most successful campaigns are fluid and dynamic, and exponentially better if you can apply a little brand management to your approach.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
I cut my teeth in global communications with Nortel Networks at the end of the last millennium. In that role, I knew that my audience was 120,000 employees spread across six continents, looking to my team to test, implement and instruct them how to use the broad platform of voice and networking equipment produced by the corporation. I also knew that we had ridiculous amounts of money to spend on producing backup material. It was a very specific, tunnel-vision time of my career, but it taught me to multi-task with a vengeance, and how to be an effective creative project manager.
I left the corporate world in 2002 and shifted my focus and acquired skills and experience to the non-profit world, working for five years as the Marketing Director for North Carolina’s largest non-profit performing arts theatre. My budgets shifted from thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars, to just hundreds of dollars. It was crucial that I spent money wisely, identifying and matching the right audience to the right production. So I started with a base message, and made my promotional efforts modular.
For example, audiences who would be interested in seeing Angels in America in an intimate blackbox theatre might be different one that would be interested in Arsenic and Old Lace in a blackbox setting … and that might still be different than one interested in seeing the musical Mama Mia on a big stage with a full orchestra in the pit. Audiences are savvy about how they invest their money, just as businesses are savvy about how they outlay theirs.
So for promotions, I started with the basic truth: all theatregoers are lovers of live theatre. From there, I created modular marketing/promotional plans for each different production. For Angels in America I focused on a modular audience of the healthcare industry, pursuing corporate sponsors and patrons who were doctors, hospitals, universities that supported research on HIV/AIDS and other communicable or terminal illnesses … plus the theatre’s regular base of season members. Arsenic and Old Lace required that we keep the regular season member base, but shift the modular audience to focus on retirement and senior citizen facilities, and wine and beer distributors, the chic restaurant scene, and other performing and visual arts studios (it was a classic, after all). Mama Mia would also keep that regular season membership base, but the modular piece of the pie would be dance studios, college and high school choral and drama departments, young professional social groups, and non-regular arts patrons who had a little extra bit of money and wanted a fun date night and were willing to spend it on the theatre. Three distinctly different subject and tones to the productions, three different audience make-ups, and three decidedly different approaches to advertising … yet three successful production runs.
I think it’s important for authors to apply that same modular logic … and it’s just as crucial to know your audience. As a romance author, I’m not likely to pick up any readers looking for accurate depictions of the American Civil War, so it would be ridiculous for me to submit my manuscript to a publishing company or agent hoping to acquire that topic … and it would be ridiculous for me to waste precious promotional dollars on serious history biography buffs or war re-enactors. My base audience would be people who love to read, but my modular audience is going to be readers of romance. That though could be further drilled down to note that I write contemporary romances and romantic suspense, so I wouldn’t be likely to pick up legions of fans at a steampunk convention. But since there are exceptions to the rule, it’s crucial to keep a peripheral eye on that base audience.
- Have you got any good tips on identifying audience?