There are quite a few of them around, from one-shot deals to major events to ongoing efforts. With good reason: Because the audience for the improv community is still relatively small, you can increase your crowds (and thus, your chance of making rent) when more than one troupe plays. And it means sharing your regulars with other troupes—which is great incentive to step up your game.
But the more of this type of show we do, the more marketing challenges arise—some of it stuff that doesn't occur to you until it's too late. Like:
- Marketing the show to different audiences with different interests (troupe loyalties, for example)
- Differences in opinion on how to market (from poster aesthetics to how many times to send Facebook reminders)
- Different response mechanisms—reservation lines, e-mails, Facebook invites—for different troupes
- Key messages—prioritizing the event, the talent or the venue
(OH, hey...if you're one of those people who doesn't believe marketing best practices apply to improv troupes, you're not going to like this post much.)
Audiences are exposed to thousands of marketing messages a day; the conventional wisdom for breaking through the clutter used to be three impressions. Now that wouldn't even make a dent in most people's subconscious. When you do deliver multiple messages, it's important for them to have enough common elements that they hang together in people's minds—consistency is the quickest way to critical mass.
For example, everything you see about Target clearly comes from Target—whether they're selling clothes, kitchen appliances, food or the whole store. Target gives you multiple reasons to come in—value, style, selection. The approach broadens the brand's appeal on a couple of fronts—to multiple consumer groups with different needs, and to individual consumers hoping to cut down on the number of stops they have to make. But even very different messages ("Expect more. Pay less." vs. "Design for everyone.") come with a similar look and feel.
Major brands have strategies and style guides to keep messages consistent across different consumer contact points—and the more complicated the brand, the more specific the style guide. I'm not suggesting we need anything that formal in the improv world, but there's value in consistency.
A few things we can do as producers and troupes can do to help make sure our marketing gets through to our audiences:
Agree to agree: Pick the most important things, and communicate them the same way everywhere—period. Some "non-negotiables": The name of the event, reservation information, pricing and discounts, short sell-copy or taglines or show descriptions. Visuals count, too: Logos, fonts, colors. Decide which communications (i.e. press releases, calendar listings, Facebook invites) will be general and handled by the producers, and which can be customized by the troupes.
Target your messages: For example, a press release to the KC Star or Pitch would lead with the biggest news (in a recent example, that would have been The Union—the group coming in from Chicago with a show directed by a Second City performer). But one sent to a local paper would feature the local troupe or individual.
Personalize your invitations: Pretty much every troupe has its own Facebook group or fan page. And, as we've chatted about recently, we talk to our fans differently. So there's nothing wrong with each troupe setting up their own invitation and sending their own reminders, if it seems necessary—as long as you keep the big stuff consistent and maintain a single point of contact for reservations. The big risk, of course, is over-delivering messages to anyone who happens to be a member of multiple groups.
Manage your media: Producers should make sure every troupe has the information they need for their personalized messages; troupes can provide producers with logos, photos (and photo credits) and group-specific information (bios, show descriptions, websites).
So...what else? What mind-blowing challenges and fabulous solutions have you run into promoting multi-troupe shows?