How Do You Know Which Marketing Tactics To Drop?

I frequently mention on this blog that your bag of tricks for marketing should be constantly evolving. In fact I’ve made a point of saying you should be trying one new thing you’ve never done before in every show you promote. Since none of us have unlimited time, that means sometimes you need to let go of old marketing tactics in order to make room for the new ones. How do you know which tactics to stop? Read on, grasshopper…

The matrix in the image above is borrowed from an idea originally developed by the Boston Consulting Group to look at market share and growth rate of business units. I’ll skip all the historical details because I want to jump directly to how these 4 quadrants can help you. Just as this system was set up to provide helpful metaphors for which product lines a company should grow or get rid of, it provides helpful metaphors to look at which marketing tactics you should abandon and which you should continue to develop.

There are two questions you’ll want to consider with each marketing tactic:

  1. How well does it work?
  2. How much does it cost?

First look at each tactic and ask your self how effective it is. There’s a certain amount of guesswork here, and that’s okay for our purposes. Based on what you’ve seen and the conversations you’ve had with people, go down your list of promotional tactics and estimate how big of an impact that tactic has on ticket sales.

Note: I’m wildly oversimplifying here, but this is a place to start.

It seems like the second question is easier: how much does each tactic cost? You can look at what you paid for a designer and a printer, and that’s the cost of your poster, right? Not exactly. You also need to account for the cost of your time. How many hours did you spend in meetings, on the phone, and writing emails to your designer and printer. A tactic might be free, but if it eats up several days of your time it’s actually quite expensive.

The 4 types of tactics

cowCash Cow (effective and low cost) – These are the wonderful tactics that you can quickly and easily produce that make a dent at the box office. You will almost never be letting one of these go.

starStar (effective but expensive) – These tactics come with a few headaches. They take more time and money than you’d really like, but you keep doing them because they work.

dogDog (not too effective but low cost) – Dogs don’t necessarily do much. You keep them in your marketing toolbox because they are familiar and comfortable. They aren’t particularly difficult, but they also don’t sell many tickets. For many, many theatres most of their marketing activity is feeding these dogs.

questionQuestion (not too effective and expensive) – These are called questions because: why are you doing them? Don’t laugh! It’s very easy to keep pouring time and money into tactics that don’t accomplish anything. Maybe they worked a few years ago, and you keep doing them out of habit. Don’t assume that you don’t have any tactics that are questions. Go through the list of everything you did on your last show and ask the 2 questions about cost and effectiveness. Make sure.

Now what?

Your goal is to move all of your tactics over to the cash cow designation by making them more effective and finding faster, less expensive ways to implement them. If you can’t turn them into cash cows, you are eventually going to let them go to make room for other tactics that you can.

No surprise, the first things you should stop doing are the question marks. There may be exceptions. If there is a question tactic that you really believe has potential to become a cash cow, you can keep working it. The caveat here is that you have to make sure you are developing the tactic. Recognize it for what it is today: a drain. The fact that it could be an amazing go-to tactic down the road only matters if you keep tweaking how you implement it and figure out how to make it a profitable use of your limited marketing resources.

You’ll also want to look very carefully at your dogs. Don’t dismiss them all out of hand because you may find some gems that just need a little more development to be amazing. How can you tweak these tactics to be more effective? They aren’t much of a drain on your budget so you can really afford to explore ways that you can make them productive. Who’s using this tactic right now and getting good results? Can you copy anything they are doing? When you determine that a dog just isn’t going to develop any farther, it’s time to let it go.

Next look at the stars. It’s great that they work, but they’re so costly. Is there anything you can do to make them more efficient? How could they take less of your time or be produced less expensively. These will be hard (read: terrifying) to let go of because they actually work, but if you can’t move them over to cash cows by reducing the cost it is best to replace them with new tactics – after you’ve let go of all your questions and dogs, of course.

There is almost no circumstance where you would stop doing one of your cash cow tactics. If you reach a point where you have more tactics that are both inexpensive and effective than you can get to with your current marketing resources… get more resources. Expand your budget and hire more marketing staff.

These tactics will allow you to sell more and more tickets with very little effort. I’m not saying there’s never a situation where it would make sense to drop a cash cow tactic; I’m just saying I’ve never heard of one.

If you’re already selling out all of your shows and you have more cash cow tactics available, I would suggest adding more shows, raising your ticket prices, or finding a bigger venue.

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