My Promotional Plan: Case Study

NNot very long time ago we had our very first theatrical performance for Die For 9 in London. Considering as many parameters as possible into the mix, I’d say it was an overall success. In a theatre with 70 seats, on a Monday night, with two totally unknown bands performing, 55 seats were full.

Ok, almost 40% of my vision came live on stage due to some technical problems, but people enjoyed it.

One small component of this night, that lasted for almost 2,5 weeks, was the promotion plan that I analyzed in the first part of this 3-post series.

Today I’d like to create a mini case study and explain what worked during this promotion, what I decided not to do and why, what brought unexpected results and some improvisations that made the campaign better.

Let’s start just like the first part: we’ll talk about (1) offline, (2) online, (3 existing network). In the next, and last, part I’ll put all this into a timeline for you.

Off we go.

Case Study: Let's Explore

#1 Offline

  • Treasure hunt.

The biggest part of the offline aspect of my campaign was the treasure hunt organized in the streets of London. For this reason I had printed 500 postcards and 150 stickers. Each one had a prominent call to action for the ones who had discovered them: the postcards had to be posted to the address mentioned and the stickers had to be tweeted with the hashtag mentioned. Whoever took action would receive a couple free tickets for the performance.

Prior to the campaign, it made sense for me that the stickers would convert much better, since you only had to tweet a picture and – voila! – free tickets. But they didn’t. After a week of going around London and pasting the first round of stickers, around 40, it occurred to me: most of them got removed; for many reasons, by humans to prevent the place from getting vandalized, because of the constant rain of London, because, because… Also, I realized the call to action was not so prominent and the design not that you call ‘eye grabbing’. This plan didn’t work that well, in other words. Maybe a few tweaks can make it more effective in the future. Eg. instead of squares we can use a circle, this could grab instant attention.

On the other hand, the postcards converted pretty well, despite the difficulties involved in completing the task written on them. Let break it down:

  1. you had to buy a stamp,
  2. write your email clearly,
  3. post them to a stranger (moi),
  4. wait for an email,
  5. go to the coffee shop at the specific time mentioned in the email,
  6. meet me to get the tickets (coffee was on me as well).

Surprisingly, I received 5 postcards in total, out of the 300 delivered in 15 local coffee shops. That meant 10+ people on the show. Now I know which places converted better.

The people I met were amazing and creative. Two of the top comments: “Keep doing this thing with the postcards. I can imagine it. After a while people will see them and say ‘Oh, it’s Tommy Darker’s postcards, how lucky am I’ and they will become something to look up to” and “I didn’t know what this was all about! We just thought it was an interesting concept and posted the cards“. Splendid!

These comments gave me ideas and inspiration for the upcoming campaigns. But, most importantly, the live interaction with the people that eventually came to our performance was priceless, in terms of getting information about how they think, what they like and how they perceive the vision of Die For 9. They also put a face on the event and felt more intimate about what to expect. It became something personal.

Having all this information available for the next time, the postcards will be distributed and handled more consistently, so that greater results can be achieved.

  • Word of mouth.

Following up on the treasure hunt, which raised awareness (in the market-ese language) about the performance, the vital gain was not the 10 people that showed up for the show. It was the word of mouth and the social objects generated.

What people attended that night was not a usual gig, it was an experience. It started even before the first instruments kicked in. All that because of the creative package around it, the context, which made it unique. The treasure hunt was a strong incentive for someone to talk about.

This aspect of the story was used as a perfect way to make an authentic pitch, offer a conversation-starter and provide the interested parties with a starting point to convince others to come as well.

These guys have an interactive, theatrical rock experience. And I found them through the treasure hunt they organized!

Word of mouth worked greatly for our inaugural performance, since 70% of the total attendees came because of referrals. Don’t ask me how I calculated that, there were 55 of them, I met each one individually at some point!

This is a strong lesson for everyone. Put in a simplistic (and maybe cliché) way, it all starts with something interesting to talk about. And, if you provide the right tools for people to spread the word, you will enjoy the word of mouth later on. It still takes a lot of work till you actually achieve something, but being interesting and unconventional is definitely not a bad place to start.

  • Personal invites.

Have you ever invited personally some people to an event you found interesting? Or ever invited a special person to be on your guest list for something you’ve created yourself? It feels good for those people (because they are special and this is personalized) and it makes yourself look great too (would an uncool person suggest something cool? You get it).

Inextricably connected with the previous point I made, a great word of mouth generator, which spontaneously occurred while the campaign was on, was a few personal invited that I sent. Specifically 3 of them. To some media outlets that I appreciate and I’d like to have in the audience that day.

But here’s the catch, I didn’t send/post/email them. I found their office address and went there myself. One of them was utterly surprised – in a good way – because I was actually the FIRST one to ever do that. She offered me a cup of tea (England here, people!), asked me questions, I was brief and to the point, warned her that I was not there to ask for a review but to personally invite her to the performance because I appreciate what they did (for real). And that’s it!

They didn’t come to the show, as far as I know, but, as a Berklee instructor mentioned, ‘there’s no way they won’t remember me for what I did’. Prescience is everything, I know that the next time I’ll mention something, they’ll be positive to be involved, should the circumstances allow it. Because I was caring and went the extra mile, devoting some of my time just for them. Something that almost nobody does.

Ever done it or know anyone who’s done this simple and honest move?

Here we go, you got my insights on a realistic campaign that could have been done by anyone with some basic level of imagination (so… everyone).

Off we go for the online part. Do I see people salivating?

#2 Online

  • Facebook.

When I started outlining the promotional plan of my campaign, Facebook rejoiced a prominent position in it, since it was the only thing I decided to put my money on for a test drive. Finally I didn’t make use of it, since the spaces filled up really quick and there was no reason to push the performance any further.

I’ll take care of it the next time.

  • Music video.

What I did make good use of, though, was this: I made a mini-campaign around the release of a new music video, in order to acquire new emails and attendees for the show. I had this video in the queue to be released anyways, so it was not a biggie. The way this mini-campaign went was like this:

The video would not appear out of the blue on YouTube, spamming social media and ‘celebrating’ the release. No. Throughout the years I’ve nurtured relationships with bloggers all over the world, people who appreciate my music. One of them was running an underground blog in London with small and loyal following. Perfect. I gave him the exclusive and a press release, he was more than happy to publish it, email his list of 1.000 people and shout out on social media twice a day until the day of the release. Here’s the post with SideSteps’ new video.

But I didn’t give him the video itself, only a link.

How it worked.

Using bit.ly, I tracked the link and converted the ugly, long one into a small, slick one. It was http://bit.ly/sidestepsbad. I also took a still picture of the video, specifically of the moment where two attractive women with underwear show up.

Additionally, using Topspin software, I created an iFrame with 1) the embedded video on top, 2) a sign up form underneath in order to give the song for free on a Email-4-Media fashion and 3) sharing buttons at the bottom.

The mechanics via Topspin iFrame were simple. People clicked on the picture at the end of the release article (which was a press release I created for this reason), the picture had the aforementioned bit.ly link incorporated and it directed to a new page, where this iFrame popup was in the front and the event page on the background, after people were done with the download or after they clicked ‘x’ on the popup.

Go, check it out for yourself!

On SideSteps Facebook page, we had a small countdown with picture-teasers from the video, no announcements full of buzz-words and !!!’s, simply a mention. My brand is all about being a little mystique anyways. This allowed me to have a more clear image on how the blog’s audience would respond to it.

That video got hundreds of shares. I calculated this brought me 10 new people to the event. Not bad.

Since it was a last moment experiment, obviously I learned a lot out of it.

  1. Next time, I’ll announce the video to 2-3 more blogs. In total, it hasn’t got that many views so far, but I’ll work on it.
  2. I’ll let my fans know as well, so they can wait for the release a lot in advance.
  3. I’ll immobilize my existing fanbase more, asking them to share, mention and pitch the release to other blogs they know. I did none of that, mainly because I just wanted to see how things will go with the blog mention.

I ‘sacrificed’ a video, if I may say so. But I learned a lot from it. Was it worth it? Oh f*ck yeah.

  • Bloggers.

This thing could have been executed much better, so it was the biggest disappointment compared to what I expected. What I did was this – I contacted almost 100 local music bloggers / online magazines / cultural outlets sending a personalized message to the right person, asking them to come over for free and write something about it if they like it.

My angle was this: it was a special event in a small theatre, it had a theatrical approach and a treasure hunt involved. So good so far, most of them said it looked interesting. Many of them responded that they were not available during that specific date – Monday – and half didn’t respond at all. Normal. Some of them mentioned it in their social media or blog, as a ‘secret performance you have to check out’, but no reviewer came along.

Most probably I know the reason why: we started sending the emails 1,5 weeks before the performance. Really close to the actual date, not so professional if you ask me. And this justifies their reaction – or NO reaction to be precise! Another lesson to learn. At least, now I have the whole list of the blogs in my archives, next time I don’t need to start over. And next time I’ll start at least one month in advance.

  • Major press.

It made sense. I had the ambition to bring The Guardian or something equivalent to the show, or so I thought that I wanted. But I didn’t really want it.

Our first performance was actually a big experiment. Not in an artsy way, but in a ‘let’s see whether we can actually run it properly’ way. From the performance itself to the marketing and the technical structure of it. All DIY. The last thing that I wanted was to bring major press to this experiment. This was enough to kill this idea and move on without stress :)

  • Website traffic.

SideSteps’ website also didn’t get used in this campaign; well, it hosted all the information and got updated properly of course, but because of the minimal traffic I still get, to me it seemed like another extra click for the people to get what they wanted. This is why I invested on Topspin widgets, Eventbrite and other bloggers for this very campaign. Next time it will be different.

  • Tumblr.

Another thing to do next time. My goal is to build a highly visual tumblr blog and a vibrant community, outsourcing it completely to a trusted fan of ours who will post/cue related content daily to build our brand’s image. In between those images, when the promotion time arises, we’ll be posting information about the current end goal. We’ll test it next time.

#3 Existing network

I’ll be brief here, because things are fairly easy to explain.

  • Mailing list.

Our mailing list, except that it’s small anyways, had almost no subscribers from London (mainly from Belgium – where I was before – from Greece – where I come from – and from the US – no explanation, everybody has US audience, even if from Indonesia). I didn’t bother involving them into the announcement of this experimental performance, as it would be irrelevant for them. While getting ready for the next Die For 9 in August, my goal is to build a small core fanbase from London, so I can directly talk to them about the next one.

  • Facebook page.

Here the same. Except for announcing and feeling proud about our first special performance in London, nothing else was pushed down on people’s throats. It wouldn’t make sense. It’s all about being relevant, isn’t it? What I did, however, was this: I asked my hardcore fans – I have a secret Facebook group where everyone gets insider tips and direct contact with me – and told them to share my posts so that the numbers can increase and social proof can be boosted. It did.

  • Friends.

My friends/fans of Tommy Darker were very good ambassadors. They shared the content I posted while preparing for the show, they reacted to the pictures of me getting stressed and excited on the same time, they encouraged me and gave me tips, they told their friends and brought people to the show. Again, word of mouth, no matter if generated by strangers or friends, was the big winner.

  • …And… Post-event facts.

There were a couple of marketing moves after the completion of the event, but they didn’t get measured, so I prefer not to mention them at this point. Also, during the event, which was in fact characterized as ‘different’, many people found reasons to talk about it when they went home.

We had 4 cameras capturing moments and videoshooting the event for future references and archive material.

The feedback that I got from the audience was also vital to shape an image of their perception of the show. All this data will be used for the next event.

Conclusions

Here we are, having mentioned what happened and what didn’t during my creative promotion plan that I outlined here a few weeks ago.

What lessons would I keep as a takeaway? Here we go:

  1. Strive to make something interesting that people can find a clear reason to talk about/take their phone out and capture that moment/tell their friends so that they look interesting in their eyes.
  2. …and give them the tools to spread the word effortlessly. People will have something to talk about, the press will have something to talk about… and everyone will be happy.
  3. Word of mouth is your marketing method and works miracles if no. 1 is in action.
  4. Personalize your communication, people appreciate it and will remember you.
  5. Build a small network to begin with, but targeted. This network will be the leverage for the near future.
  6. Have a platform to connect all the people in the event. Don’t just talk to them one-way, give them a place to connect with each other as well. This will amplify your message organically.
  7. Always keep HQ media of your events. They can be used in so many ways down the road.
  8. Keep contact with the attendees after the event. Thank them for being there in such a unique moment. Make it intimate (legitimately) and personal, know their names if possible.
  9. Self-reminder: Tommy, don’t do everything by yourself. Build a team around it and share the workload, so you can focus more on the artistic aspect of it.

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As I said, the next, and final, part of the series will include the timeline of the promotion and… my full marketing plan. I’ll be waiting for you to be there too.

I also have a question for you: what would you change in the campaign and what is the strongest part of it according to you?

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I’m Tommy Darker, the writing alter ego of an imaginative independent musician. I started ‘Think Beyond The Band’ because I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and I like helping other fellow musicians that struggle with the same problems.

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