The importance of marketing planning in action


I wanted pick up a conversation about some of my referrals and previous clients I’ve worked with before to help them with their marketing. I want to share with you a story about the Enable Us Project, which is part of the University of Sheffield Performance Venues programme. This came about from a recommendation I took from one of my other clients, the Concerts team and through word of mouth, which is always a very effective way of referral marketing and picking up new customers.

I met the director for Performance Venues to discuss a project that he was working on around reinstating use of the drama studio site near the university complex, to put in what I call ‘proper’ theatre. It was heavily used for amateur dramatics and student groups and they wanted to broaden their horizons and reach out to something more mainstream and more local to make the venue part of the local theatre scene.

Now, my background, as you may know, isn’t in theatre. I’ve got lots of experience in events and developing programmes and marketing campaigns for various groups and organisations, but never theatre. It just goes to show that principles of marketing can and do work across platforms and across industries, because basically here, there was nothing to work with at the time of the project starting. There was nothing. We didn’t even have a domain name. There was no domain name. There was no website, social media of any kind. There was no email data. There was no brand name or no product. There was just an idea.

Nick, from Performance Venues and I met and chatted a couple of times about how we can build a brand that we want to feel fresh and vibrant, but also inclusive – I wanted to give the brand a personality, after all it is a creative project. It needed to fill the void between student performance and student integration and involvement and engaging with the local wider community.

From these meetings, the scope of the project was set, and I went away and I did an assessment on the market, on the market size and the current competitors, people we could collaborate with who were the movers and shakers, the influencers. Where are people finding out about information about theatre in Sheffield. I was conscious as well of that for each theatre in Sheffield and what does that mean for our purposes, for marketing purposes at the copy level: The copy being the blog posts, the web posts, and social media ads and such.

I pulled a plan together for Nick. I think we had four weeks before Christmas to pull this all together from nothing to design brief for an agent, to tweaks and final amends, to programme launch. The time frame here was very, very short, but we got there and we got there quickly and effectively by adhering to an understanding the principles of marketing planning. We assessed our environment, which is where every plan needs to begin. We didn’t just want to put on a series of events that there was no demand for, so we had to prove concept. We went away and through the various tools that you can learn, methodologies that you can pick up, we built a plan and on top of assessing our environment that we were launching this plan into, then build a communications plan, internal and external. Bear in mind, this is a university project, so I built it internally to reach out to the networks there, but predominantly external.

This is a venue that’s not really been used historically for a local market, so it was important to really get our message out there, across the communications mix. Again, something you can learn and need to grasp the different elements of communications. It goes way beyond just social media and putting some statuses and tweets up there. It needs to have a bit of cohesion and a strategy behind it. That’s what we did. We launched middle of January this year. The first show goes live end of March and I think, within the first couple weeks, we managed to get 1000 visits to our website and around 50,000 Twitter impression, which, for limited to no communications budget isn’t too bad. We relied heavily on PR, collaboration between companies and other venues to really get the word of mouth out there and start becoming a bit of an influencer ourselves in the market.

This is a very good insight in to marketing planning and its importance on all markets. I’m interested to share the background behind this one. It’s something I really enjoyed working on. It was an exciting challenge for me because I never had experience in theatre, but I applied principles and that’s what makes the difference here. A really interesting project for me. I hope to chat to you soon about it. I’d love to know your feedback and comments or questions. Thanks.


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