What is a marketing plan, and what goes into it?
Whether planning an elaborate subscription campaign or a straightforward single-ticket sales effort, a detailed marketing plan is the roadmap towards a likely sales outcome. The process begins by stating the desired outcome (number of single tickets sold, revenue goal, capacity target), and then identifying the target group, activities, and timeline.
Timing is critical – just as critical as the tactics that will be employed. Missed deadlines and late delivery diminishes effectiveness. The monetary cost is the same for a late activity as a timely one. A late effort has less time to work before the event, so fewer tickets are sold, thereby increasing the “cost of sale” (the marketing expense divided by revenue).
Direct-mail advertising for single tickets tends to deliver the best results when mailed three to four weeks before the event. Radio advertising, on the other hand, tends to work best in the week or two leading up to the performance. Other media in the marketing plan would include print advertising, Internet (both outbound email to patrons and inbound website offers), telemarketing (if appropriate), potential group sales, special promotions, and a brief press strategy. All the components need to complement each other, with their timelines synchronized to maintain the “buzz” of the series or event being marketed
With various media options, it is important to identify the one that is primary and those that will support it. A young, emerging artist playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto makes for a compelling radio commercial. Conversely, the photogenic Sarah Chang performing the little-known Richard Strauss Violin Concerto is best communicated in direct mail and print advertising.
The program’s artistic strengths (Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony) should be articulated in the plan, as should any resistance that must be overcome (Berg’s Lulu Suite). This all illustrates that every concert or event needs its own individualized marketing plan that addresses strengths and weaknesses, and responds to the likely sales outcome with a cost-efficient, event-specific media schedule.
It follows then that the allocation of marketing dollars should correspond to the likely revenue return. Because of its high single-ticket potential, an all-Tchaikovsky concert on Valentine’s weekend should have far more resources devoted to it than an Elgar and Vaughan-Williams program in May. The latter would presumably have a lower revenue budget and, by extension, a marketing budget appropriate for a cost-effective return.
If the plan includes detailed marketing expense, that total can be divided by the projected revenue goal. If the cost-of-sale is too high, activities can be eliminated and timelines adjusted accordingly. While this sounds logical, we all too frequently encounter symphony budgets where revenue goals and marketing expense have been equally divided among the number of concerts scheduled in a given season.
When building the marketing plan, one should consider the following:
- Program strengths
- Likely aspects of the program to overcome
- Target audiences and/or lead segments from the patron base
- Key message / positioning statement for the event
- Primary medium to be employed (print, radio, direct mail)
- Secondary supporting media
- Print ad schedule and timing
- Broadcast schedule and timing
- Direct mail schedule and timing
- Website and email tactics
- Non-mail distribution locations
- Special promotions
- Potential groups for block ticket sales
- Public relations summary
- Total projected expense
- Total projected revenue
- Projected cost of sale
- Current sales position (to determine if yet-to-occur activities are worth the investment)
- Past sales experience of similar events
The Seattle Symphony presents many programs in its own Benaroya Hall. In addition to the traditional classical series, there is also a “Musically Speaking” series that introduces new listeners to music, a Baroque series, a “Mainly Mozart” series, Pops concerts, recitals, and various special events, all presented by the Seattle Symphony. The diversity of concert offerings requires flexible, event-specific marketing. The Seattle Symphony’s Director of Marketing, Heather Hoeksema, comments:
“The Seattle Symphony produces over 200 concerts in a 45 week season. We have the unique opportunity and challenge to successfully market a wide variety of events. For example, recently the organization presented An Evening with Bob Newhart, a children’s concert, Mozart’s Requiem, and a Radu Lupu recital in a one-week span. The marketing plans for each of these concerts needed to take into account the target audience, projected income, and the most effective media mix, while maintaining the Seattle Symphony brand in each advertisement. It is a fine balance, but with a well planned and executed marketing plan, your goals can be met.”
In executing the plan, adjustments must inevitably be made. But it is the process of planning that crystallizes the objective – and meets it with timely and effective activities.