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.

Predicting The Tony Awards . . . where’s Gallup when you need them?

Every May, the new Broadway shows battle it out for our big awards and the big bucks that come with them.

In my head, it’s like a big Broadway cage match.
Throw 10-15 shows in a ring and watch them go at it.  The big bullies pull out all the stops and instead of throwing chairs at their opponents, they throw television ads.  Others fight with print, or with direct mailed scripts and CDs to voters.  Some stand by the ropes, waiting for others to get knocked out early, before jumping into the fray.
Millions of dollars are spent on media in May, and it ain’t no secret that one of the primary goals of this media push is directed at the voters in attempt to keep the shows ‘top of mind’ (another reason why Spring shows that are still running have a leg up on the closed Fall shows:  Springers still have ad budgets to get themselves in front of nominators and voters).
When you’re a spectactor, it can be fun to watch (on Thursday, I tweeted that I saw 5 commercials for different Broadways in less than 60 minutes, on the same channel).  When you’re inside the cage, it can be downright scary, as a wrong move can send you to the canvas prematurely.
Fates can be sealed, tours can be launched, and shows can recoup based on what happens in the four weeks leading up to June 7th.
It reminds me of the month before a big election.
During every election, there are always a zillion polls, led by companies like Gallup, or TV networks, who  call up registered voters, and find out who they are planning on voting for on the big day.
Imagine if there was the equivalent of a Gallup for Broadway.  If an “independent research group” could survey a group of Tony Voters (each show knows exactly who they are) and find out what the voting trends were, a show could, just like a political candidate, change its camaign tactics accordingly.  If a show was so far out of the running that no amount of votes would help, a great deal of money could be saved.  If a show was neck and neck with another, but was trending lower in a certain block of voters, a different strategy could be established.
Unethical?  If it’s OK for the most important office on the planet, then I think it’s OK for Broadway.  Would the Tony Voters cooperate?  I bet you could find enough of a sample that would (I never expect people to talk to Michael Riedel, but they always do ).  Too small of a sample since there are only 800 voters, and there are always 30-40% at least that don’t even see the shows?  There would be a margin of error, that’s for sure, but something is better than nothing.
If I could pick only one pet peeve in this biz, it would be this:  we spend too much money without enough information.
It’s your job as a Producer to find whatever way you can to gather information that helps you make better decisions . . . so when the final bell rings, you can be one left standing, holding the belt.

What’s the difference between Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical?

This question came in over the weekend, after a reader noticed my tweet about going to see the new Broadway revival of West Side Story.

Obviously, the person who asked knew the basic difference between the two awards categories, but she was more interested in how revivals were judged.

It’s a great question – considering that shows like West Side or Hair or Guys and Dolls may have been seen countless times by the voters of The Tonys, Drama Desks, Outer Critics, etc.  These shows have been on Broadway, on tour, in dinner theaters, in high schools, on cruise ships, etc.  Many of the voters have probably performed in these shows at one point in their life!  (When I was working on the Rosie O’Donnell revival of Grease, I mentioned to Author and Greased-Lightning Zillionaire Jim Jacobs, that I once played Kenickie in summer stock. His response?  “Ken, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t done Grease.”)

With such familiarity and such an emotional (or lack thereof) connection, how do voters (and reviewers, for that matter) distinguish one revival from another?

This question reminded me of the end of the season awards banquets my high school baseball team used to have.  Every year when the season was through, we got together in the high school cafeteria. After some bad pasta and some bad speeches, the coaches gave away two awards:

Most Valuable Player . . . And Most Improved Player.

And that’s what a great revival is to me; the most improved.  It’s a take on the material that makes it seem even better or more relevant now than it ever was.

The trouble is that it takes a lot of sweat to be an MIP, in baseball and on Broadway.

And if you’re not ready to go “sweatin’ with the oldies,”well, then stay away from producing revivals.

Because, without an MIP mentality, you’ll just end up being another one of the millions of Kenickies out there.

 

People are talking about you behind your back. And now, you can listen.

Bad word of mouth is like a little forest fire.

Get enough bad word of mouth and those little fires will combine and be on your doorstep, smoking you out of house and theater, before you can say, “Smokey The Bear.”
Since so much word of mouth occurs online these days, there are several online “smoke detectors” that can help you monitor your word of mouth and online reputation.
And if you’re smart enough, you can actually throw some water on those fires, extinguishing them before it’s too late (insert scary fire music here).

Here are three “smoke detectors” you should be using to monitor what people are saying about your shows, and an example of how we’ve used them here in my office.

1.  The Google Alert
The Google Alert is the classic detector. Sign up, tell Google the word, phrase, etc. you’d like to track, and it will send you a daily email of all the web sites with that word, phrase, etc. in it.
Put in your show’s name (and any variation), your name, your theater’s name, whatever, and let Google do the work.  Or, put in the name of a competing show . . . he-he-he.
How have we used it?
We’ve used Google Alerts to find good reviews, both in the ‘traditional’ press and from the new media corps (bloggers).
But most recently, a Google Alert sounded an alarm about a a rogue and unauthorized production of The Awesome 80s Prom.  We were able to react swiftly and shut them down before any damage was done to the brand.  Thank God for Google, because we were about to enter into an agreement for The Prom in the same city!  That Google Alert saved that deal, without a doubt.

2.  Tweet, Tweet.

Thanks to Twitter, there’s a new type of online conversation going on now.  Luckily, there are ways to monitor it.  Twitter has a search function which pulls up recent activity on any word or phrase that you’re interested in.
Since tweeting doesn’t take much time or commitment, your brand is much more likely to appear all over Twitter than in more full length blogs or articles. Just click here to see all the recent random tweets about Altar Boyz!
In addition to the Twitter search function, there are a bunch of third party search applications like Monitter, etc. that are tracking the T-world. Here’s a blog that discusses a few.
How have we used it?
We find out who’s tweeting about us, then follow them with our Twitter and encourage those same peeps to follow us.  Presto.  We’ve now established one-on-one communication with someone we know has an interest in our brand, and are building a Twitter army.
3.  Manual Labor
This is the hardest and most time intensive but, regardless of all the auto-detectors out there, I still recommend having someone on your team doing walk-throughs of potential “danger areas.” There’s nothing better than a Forest Ranger sniffing around every once in a while.
Put someone on trolling the message boards on Talkin’ Broadway, BroadwayWorld, and BroadwaySpace.  Search the site pages for your title (use the “Find On This Page” option in your browser menu).
How have we used it?
In previews for 13, I used this detector to find similar comments of both praise and criticism.  If one person says something on a message board, it’s not as important.  But find 3 people saying the same thing, it deserves further thought (regardless of whether or not you agree).
The biggest of brands out there are all monitoring online activity.  Starbucks, Jet Blue, and so on.  And why shouldn’t they?
After all, it has been said that the greatest leaders are the greatest listeners.
It’s just time we listen with more than our ears.
– – – – –
The Blogger Social is tonight!

Rebranding intermission.

Here’s my kooky thought of the day:

Get Twitter to sponsor intermissions.  Rename them “Twittermissions,” in order to encourage people to “tweet” about the shows they are seeing during the break, thereby spreading the word-of-mouth faster than ever.
Ok, so maybe Twitter isn’t going to pony up any cash for this bit of branding (only partly due to the fact that they’re not making any money), but there is something about the idea that we can apply without them.
The feelings that inspire passionate word of mouth about any event or product are strongest when the audience is experiencing the event, or immediately thereafter.
Ask yourself . . . When are you most likely to talk about a great book you’ve read?  I’d bet it’d be right after finishing the last chapter.  A movie?  While walking out the door, or even right after a climatic event during the movie, much to the chagrin of the people around you (“Oh my God, did you just see that!?!?”).  A meal?  When you’ve taken that first bite.
And what about a musical?  Right when that curtain comes down . . . at intermission or at the end.
Smokey Joe’s Cafe (in the mid/late 90s) was one of the first shows that I remember trying to take advantage of this post-ovation-energy by including show branded postcards in all of the Playbills and encouraging people to fill them out when the show was over.  If they did and then addressed them to a friend, the show would pick up the postage and mail them for free.
10 years later, the technology to spread that same message is the in the pockets of 9 out of 10 of adults.
It’s not our job to mail the postcards anymore.  It’s our job to point people to their pockets; to get them tweeting and texting  and “nexting” (which is my word for whatever is coming “next” in the social media pipeline . . . and guaranteed, there will be something).  And we need to do it while they are at the theater, before they even get out of their seats, if we can.
Why?  Because that’s when the desire to spread that a positive message is the strongest.
You know the other time the desire to spread a positive (or negative message) is strongest?  When an audience member, or potential audience member, sees an ad:

POTENTIAL AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Oh look, a poster for My First Time. I want to see that show.
FORMER AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I saw it last week!  It’s so funny. You should definitely go.

Successful, right?
Yep, without a doubt, and that’s what traditional media is for.
But ask yourself this . . . which method of spreading word of mouth is cheaper?
– – – – –
Only 3 Days until the 1st Theater Bloggers Social!
Thursday, April 23rd.
6 PM
Planet Hollywood
For more info and to RSVP, click here.

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