10 Simple Steps To Start Internet Marketing Your Show.

You’re probably smart enough to know that the internet is where you’re supposed to be if you’re trying to market your show.

But are you smart enough to have started?

If you are one of those Producers or Playwrights who always meant to get around to understanding the internet but haven’t quite got around to it, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  I know a bunch of players in the Broadway arena who still haven’t picked up the ball yet.  

To help you get into the game, I consulted with my web-guru, Jamie Lynn Ballard (who makes all of my sites so pretty), and we came up with the following 10 Simple Steps to Start Internet Marketing Your Show.  These tips work for Broadway shows, Off-Broadway show, Off-Off Broadway shows and everything in between.  In fact, this list is even more helpful for the smaller shows.  Apply the majority of these tips and you can make your show seem a lot bigger than it is.

Ready?  Here we go.

 

10 Simple Ways to Start Internet Marketing Your Show

1. Buy Your Domain Name

You’ve heard me say this before, but this is the most important thing you can do when you start plans for a show.  As soon as you have an idea, make sure you snatch up the domain, because if you don’t, someone else will.  Use a site like GoDaddy that sells domains and hosts websites, so you can buy and build in the same place.  And get a starter site for your show up as fast as you can.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t have all the relevant info yet.  The sooner you can put up your site, the sooner it will show up in search engines, and that means free traffic.   

2.  Know SEO

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is one of the most important things you can learn about internet marketing.  Do it right, and you’ll stand out like Gulliver in the land of Lilliput.  Ignore it, and you’ll fall to the bottom of the web sea.  What you should know is that as technical as it sounds (why are all acronyms scary?), there are basic strategies that are very simple, so don’t be scared.  Pick up a book and get started.  

3.  Build Your List

I’ve spoken on three internet marketing panels in the last six months and in the wrap up section one panelist always said, “The most important thing a web marketer can do is increase the quantity and the quality of his/her opt-in list.”  Email Marketing allows you to build relationships with fans, promote your show, sell tickets and more.  Put a sign-up box on your website to collect email addresses, and send occasional emails to your list with information and updates about your show to keep them engaged.  Use a company like Benchmark to make it easier for you (Constant Contact is so 2005).  It seems so old school, I know, because this is what internet marketers were telling everyone ten years ago, but let me tell you first hand, that an effective marketing email blast is one of the most important tools you have in your show’s marketing tool box.

4.  Invest in PPC

PPC, or Pay-Per-Click Advertising, is one of the most economical and low-risk ways for you to reach customers.  If you aren’t yet ranking high in Google organic search results (and even if you are), pay-per-click advertising gives you a way to appear alongside the sites that are.  Don’t have a lot of cash to spend?  Don’t worry, Google Adwords and other PPCers let you set a cap on how much you want to spend per day.  Tip:  PPC works best when you have a very specific target demographic (e.g. bachelorette parties for The Awesome 80s Prom).  PPC can get pretty involved when you start talking Quality Scores, etc., but it’s worth learning, because it can put butts in the seats and bucks in the box office fast.

5.  Be Social.

Create profiles for your show on social networking sites, like BroadwaySpace, Facebook, and Youtube (if you have video content). Your presence on social media sites may or may not help you sell tickets right away, but if that’s where your audience hangs out, your show should, too.  Make sure you keep these sites filled with content.  No one likes an outdated social networking page.  It’s like the guy on your block who never cuts his lawn.

6.  Tie Your Sites Together With Twitter.  

Twitter is the twine of social media.  By using this microblogging site you can quickly communicate with all your fans.  You can also find new ones by prowling the Twitterverse searching for keywords that fit your show (doing Romeo and Juliet? Look for people tweeting “Shakespeare”).  Once you have them in your world, use Twitter to point people to your website, social networking pages, or blog posts.

7. Blog

In addition to providing you with another channel to interact with your audience, blogs are search engine magnets.  Pick a topic, sign up to a blog site like Typepad, and start blogging.  Keep SEO strategies in mind as you go.  Oh, and remember one thing.  Before you start, eat your fiber.  Your blog doesn’t have to be updated hourly or daily, but it does have to be regular.  Think of it like a daytime talk show.  Every day, same time, same network . . . yours.

8.  Be Your Own Press Agent.

Write and publish articles and press releases about your own shows.  Publish your stuff with sites like GoArticles or EzineArticles, and take it to the next level with a site like PRWEB.  PRWEB allows you to submit your news releases to search engines, news sites, content syndicators, and RSS feeds.  This is one of the fastest ways to increase incoming links (or ‘link population’), which will improve your credibility with the search engines.

9.  Analyze This!

The #1 rule of marketing is to test and then test again.  Just like in grade school, you didn’t know how you were doing until you saw your report card, right?  Get your web report card by signing up for Google Analytics.  Analytics is a free service that allows you to track and analyze your web traffic so that you can judge the effectiveness of your marketing initiatives and understand how visitors found you, what they like about your site, what they don’t like about your site, and what you can do to keep them coming back.  If you’re not looking at your metrics, it’s like going through school without ever knowing if you passed or failed.  You can’t get better without someone telling you how you’re doing.  Let Google school you.

10.  Be Submissive.

Search engines can be old-fashioned, and sometimes they like a formal introduction. If you’ve got a new site, take the time to submit it to search engines.  Hit the major ones (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.), of course, but take the time to look for specialized link directories and niche sites to submit your website for indexing.

 

For specific tips on starting a theater blog, click here.

10 Great gifts for the Producer in your life.

Happy Black Friday!

People are in line and online today, looking for great holiday gift ideas for their family and friends.  But what to you get for that odd bird in your nest that is or wants to be a Producer?

Here is a list of 10 gift ideas for those folks with shows on the boards, or for the Producers-to-be out there.

And if you are a Producer, just email this list to your family and friends and tell them that it’s their civic responsibility to do their part in stimulating the economy . . . by buying you everything on it.

1.  The Abominable Showman:  The Unauthorized David Merrick Biography

David Merrick is to Broadway shows as Henry Ford is to automobiles.  Read all about how Merrick became the powerhouse that he was.  This bio is like a training manual of both what to do and what not to do.

2.  A subscription to Variety

Newspapers may be dead, but the weekly Variety is still a treat for Broadway Producers.  They may put us in the back of the mag, but anyone that titles the theater section “Legit” is worth a subscription in my book.

3.  The Kindle

Here’s the bigger ticket item on the list that’s worth 100x its weight.  In addition to reading more books, I’m now reading more scripts, thanks to the awesome PDF feature on my Kindle.  I took 8 scripts with me on a recent weekend away, all stored in my kindle.  If I had taken them by themselves, I would have had to check an extra bag (in a crazy way, the Kindle is already paying for itself!).

4.  The CTI 3-Day Intensive

The 3-Day intensive taught by the Commercial Theatre Institute is a great primer for those looking to get a taste of what it means to be Producer.  CTI is the equivalent of teaching a man to fish.

5.  A Telecharge Gift Card

Yep!  You heard it right!  Telecharge finally has gift cards!  Woo-woo!  Celebrate by picking one up for your mini-Merrick.  My biggest regret as a Producer is that I didn’t see enough shows as I was coming up.  It’s expensive, as we all know, so help defray some of the costs with some good old fashioned tickets.

6.  A subscription to the NY Lottery

Win the lotto and you could actually produce Spider Man all by yourself!  Hey, someone wins, right?  Why not you? And we all like to gamble, right?  Why else would we be in this biz.

7. A Donation to TDF’s Open Doors program

This great program subsidizes high schools kids coming to the theater.  R&H told us that you have to be carefully taught, and TDF teaches better than anyone.

8. The Wii

We all need a little distraction, right?

9.  A Domain Name

The key to web marketing is to start early.  Start your producer early with a GoDaddy starter kit.

10.  The iPhone

No list of mine is ever complete without the iPhone.  Sure, AT&T sucks more than Moose Murders, but carrying music demos of shows in a killer web phone that has an app-game where you can produce We Will Rock You is something I’m telling Santa that I want.

Got an idea for a show? Here’s the first thing you should do.

Buy the domain name.

That’s right . . . I don’t care whether it’s a new play you’ve written or an old play that you want to revive.  Before you breathe a word of it to anybody, go to a site like www.GoDaddy.com and snatch up the domain for less than the cost of an extra value meal . . . and sit on it.

Maybe the show won’t happen, or maybe it’ll take five years, but I guarantee you the cost of the domain today will be less than the cost of the domain tomorrow.

Because if you don’t grab it, someone else will.

There’s a bunch of very savvy businessmen and women out there who have made a bunch o’ bucks buying and trading domains like they were derivatives, and benefiting Broadway from producers who fail to buy up their rightful domains before their new musical or new play leaks to the press.  I’m sure these ‘cybersquatters’ read Playbill.com more religiously than I do, just waiting for the announcement of a new reading or the rights of a project being sold (go on . . . visit www.InTheHeightsMovie.com . . . do you think that’s Universal Pictures sitting on that domain)?

The truth of the matter is . . . it may be illegal for these cybersquatters to sit on something that is rightfully yours.  The infamous “Simpson Movie Suit” between Fox and a squatter who bought TheSimpsonsMovie.com set a precedent that individuals having no legitimate business interest in the domain name could not keep it from those that did.

The problem with the law?  It moves very slowly.

So here’s what usually happens:

  • Producer decides too late that they want a domain.
  • Producer finds it’s already gone.
  • Producer contacts squatter to try and obtain it.
  • Squatter wants cash.
  • Producer’s show opens in a few months and has no time (or money) for a lawyer to take the case to the World Intellectual Property Organization, so Producer does one of two things: 
    • Producer pays (anywhere from $100 – $1,000 and some tickets)
    • Producer chooses inferior domain and the “right” domain stays in possession of someone else.  And that squatter is not happy.  And they decided to, oh, I don’t know, point the site to the negative NY Times review of the show.  Check out www.GuysAndDollsOnBroadway.com.

Either way you pay . . . in cash or by the loss in marketing value from not having the prime domain.  Web addresses are exactly like street addresses.  And different streets have different values.  Your show is like your home. I don’t care how beautiful it is . . . you also want it on the right street in the right neighborhood, don’t you?  That means it needs the right domain.

So go get your domain.  Frankly, I’ll even let you stop reading this blog right now to go buy it.  Go. I’ll be here when you get back.

. . .

Good, feel better?

Now what do you do if you find out it’s already gone?

Look for alternatives, or start the process of trying to get it back.  If you’ve got time and a lawyer on your show on retainer already, make that lawyer work to get it back.

If you don’t, and you simply must, must, must, have that domain like it’s a new kidney and you don’t have any time, then try to cut a deal.  The good news is that most of the guys I know who deal in these domains are pretty reasonable (I can say that because, unfortunately the web design and marketing arm of Davenport Theatrical has had to acquire a few premium domains over the years from shows so big you wouldn’t believe).  The Squatters know that legally they may not have ground, so they’ll cut a decent deal making things easier for everyone. And remember, they’re dealing in perishable inventory. Once a show starts marketing an alternative domain like Guys and Dolls did, the other names lose value.  Sure, the squatter on the G&D domain mentioned above may feel good about sending traffic to the Times review, but that’s not making him any money.  In fact, he’s losing . . .

But remember, every time you settle, you actually encourage the squatter to repeat the process since it was a successful venture for him/her.

The simpler answer is to snatch up your name faster than you can saw w-w-w.  Cuz if you don’t, you’ll be, well, to bastardize a Loesser lyric:  “under the thumb of some little . . . squatter.”

In fact, one of my peers out there didn’t grab the domain for the show that he’s planning on bringing to Broadway in the next 2 years.

Don’t worry, Mr(s). X.  I bought it for you. 🙂

And no, no, before anyone gets any ideas . . . don’t worry.  I have no desire to sell it for a profit.  That’s not what I’m about.  I’ll be happy to hand it over.

I just didn’t want it sitting on someone else’s servers where they could ransom it for cash.

Because God knows, Broadway shows don’t need yet another unnecessary expense line on their budgets.

Oh, and while you’re buying your show’s domain, buy your actual name at the same time.

Otherwise, this could happen to you.

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