Note: This post was originally sent out via my email newsletter, so consider this another preview of what the newsletter offers. You should subscribe. Click here to do so.
One of the grand purposes behind my blog, this newsletter and everything else is to expand your idea of what marketing can be. It's so easy to fall into the trap of making marketing all about small things. The font in your email, your logo, the layout of an ad, etc.
These small things can take up hours, days and even months of attention. I've lost count of the number of artists I've seen sweating a logo for art that nobody wanted. It feels like work, it feels important, but it isn't. It's a small thing.
Effective marketing can be all about big things. One example of a very big thing is real estate.
Did you pass by a Starbucks this morning? You probably did. This is because real estate is at the core of Starbucks marketing strategy. Most people know that Starbucks did virtually zero paid advertising for most of its corporate life. So how did it become such a huge company without spending a ton on things that look like marketing? They understood the importance of location. During their initial, crucial, growth phase they decided that Instead of spending a million dollars on a Super Bowl ad, they would spend millions on leasing as much prime real estate as possible.
This creates a feedback loop. Each Starbucks you see places the brand in your brain, which makes it more likely that you will go there, which gives them the revenue to open up more Starbucks, which places the brand in more people's brains.
Another example of this is the powerful retail store, Zara. A key part of their marketing strategy is to sell (relatively) cheap clothes in beautiful spaces. They will spend millions to rent and rehab a space to sell a woman a $50 dress.
This works because Zara understands that the only way that people will choose their store in the midst of many options is to create something that feels special. If it isn't the clothes, then it must be the space where you buy the clothes.
Let's consider how you can take this real estate idea and make it applicable in your life as an artist or a part of an arts organization.
Consider the idea of either renting the nicest space possible to present your work or investing more to improve the space you currently perform in.
This is something I'm doing in my own work as a marketing director. I'm cutting the ad budget and investing that cash (plus time and energy) into making a theatre lobby a much nicer space to be in. Trust me, the only people missing the ads are the people who try to sell me the ads.
Maybe instead of planning 10 performances in a so-so place in a hard part of town to get to, you do 2 performances in a nice place that everybody knows.
My point is that you should NEVER underestimate the power of real estate. That doesn't mean that you need to build your own space. Renting can be just as good or better. But if you are having a problem drawing audience, maybe you need to change the space where the work is happening.
Note: A subscriber to the newsletter offered an interesting comment that was worth sharing
Wow...just wanted to say you were spot on with this one! In 2005, after getting a grant to support our marketing efforts, detailed surveys of patrons listed the #1 barrier to seeing our work as the space -- an old, run-down, moldy movie theatre in which we had been producing strong work for since 1989. While it was a great space to have in the beginning, the novelty wore off, our numbers plateaued and then began to decrease, slowly but surely.
In 2007 we moved into a brand new $3.5 million facility -- right next door to the old space but oh-so-much more welcoming! Attendance jumped from 15,000 in 2006 to more than 21,000 last year. Obviously this is not all due to the new building but time and again guests tell us that they love our space and that they are so comfortable here. And a comfortable patron is a happy patron and a happy patron comes back again!