What if there was one simple thing you and I could do when promoting a concert that would get more people to come? And what if it was an easy, inexpensive thing to do–no additional cost necessary?
Well there is, and here it is:
When You’re Promoting Your Event, Tell People How It Will Improve Their Lives to Attend, Not Just What You’re Going to Perform!
[Sidenote: I’m in New York (yay!–and where the weather is actually much better than in Indiana this week). On Wednesday I’m doing a teaching demonstration on Distinguishing Between Features and Benefits When Marketing Concerts for the Network of Music Career Development Officers, which includes not only people who work in career and entrepreneurship centers at music schools and conservatories, but also music faculty who teach entrepreneurship and other career-related courses.]
Overdramatic? Sure. But marketing professionals tell us that successful promotional material does just that–it tells the prospective customer (in our case, prospective audience member) how he or she will benefit from purchasing the product or service. Marketing and advertising professionals make a distinction between features and benefits. As I discuss below, most of us in classical music spend too much time on the former and not enough on the latter.
Look at virtually every classical music advertisement, press release, or promotional email. What do you see? What’s being performed. Who’s performing. When the show is. Sometimes there’s performer information (including pull quotes from reviews) and information about the works, sometimes with a few adjectives (“heart-wrenching,” “exciting,” etc.) thrown in.
Those are the details of the performance. They are are interesting–to at least some of those who are among the existing classical music audience. But rarely do they answer this question:
Why should I spend my time and money to attend this performance?
Features v. Benefits
Go to seminars and workshops aimed at people in the for-profit entrepreneurship world and read material on marketing, advertising, copywriting. Stressed over and over and over again–so much that it is a truism–is to focus on benefits rather than features in promotion and branding.
A post over at printwand explains the difference well:
- Features are defined as surface statements about your product, such as what it can do, its dimensions and specs and so on.
- Benefits, by definition, show the end result of what a product can actually accomplish for the reader.
Oil Gardner at unbounce.com provides a clear example. Two battery-extending cases for iPhones, side by side in an Apple store. One iteration (for the 4 and 4s models) stresses that the battery has a capacity of “2000mAh.”
What the heck does that tell me as a customer? Unless I am a technical geek, nothing. It’s a detail, a feature.
Hanging next to it, the next generation of the same device. “Up to 120% extra battery” life.
Yes! I got it! That’s how it will benefit me–my phone will last more than twice as long as I’m out roaming the streets of NYC. This packaging also points out that the battery is pre-charged. Great idea–it’s when my battery is running low that I’m most motivated to buy something to extend its life.
How much longer will my I be able to use my phone without recharging? That’s the benefit. (Actually, it’s still phrased somewhat like a feature. I think it would have been even better to put “Use your phone more than two times longer without recharging!” in big letters.)
Gregory Ciotti’s helpscout.net post Features Tell, But Benefits Sell uses Apple’s introduction of the iPod as an example.
Apple understood this when they released the first iPod. MP3 players were nothing new, and the technology trounced CDs. The problem was marketing; the right pitch hadn’t been made to explain just how much better customers’ lives were going to be once they owned an iPod.
How do you think Apple decided to frame the magic of the iPod? Around its technical prowess, or what customers could do with it?
The message was persuasive because, in the words of Seth Godin, it was all about “Me, me, me. My favorite person: me.” Gigs of data have nothing to do with me, but a pocket full of my favorite songs certainly does.
Here’s the Apple ad itself:
I like that Godin quote. “Me, me, me. My favorite person: me.”
Well, maybe I don’t like it. After all, we want it to be all about the music, the music, the music.But human nature is human nature, and it’s a keen insight. For the audience, it’s really about what’s in it for them.
People Don’t Buy Products, They Buy Better Versions of Themselves
That’s the tittle of a recent post by Belle Beth Cooper. She points out the in the (evidently famous among marketers) iPod example, “When everyone else was saying “1GB storage on your MP3 player”, telling people about the product, Apple went ahead and made you a better person, that has 1000 songs in your pocket.”
Me, me, me.
The other day, my partner and I wandered by a Hästens bed store not far from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That’s an expensive neighborhood, and the handmade Swedish beds must cost a fortune. We went in. There were no prices anywhere, on the beds or even in the catalog (maybe it’s one of those if-you-have-to-ask, you-can’t-afford-it places). There was a big sign over one of the gorgeous blue-and-white beds that said that three days of good sleep could change your life. On their web site, they explain,
“At Hästens, our mission is to change the way people think about and prioritize sleep so they can enjoy a better quality of life.”
Would we be buying a bed? Yes, but more than that, a “better quality of life.” Better mes. Now don’t get me wrong, they also presented plenty of features–the handcrafting, the natural materials, the old-world traditions. But that was all to support the prime message of how our lives would be better if we got one of these beds.
A useronbaord.com post has a great graphic (to which Cooper links):
So you see how this works in the for-profit world.
That’s the thing I rarely see addressed in promotion for performing arts events. How is attending this going to make me, for the lack of better words, a “better person.”
So let’s explore this features vs. benefits issue a bit more.
The printwand post mentioned above has a several excellent examples of benefit-focused selling. One is for Martinelli sparkling cider. I used to buy a lot every holiday season for my kids, so they could have something special when the adults had Champagne or wine.
What are the features?
- It’s inexpensive.
- Tastes pretty good (if you like cider).
- No alcohol.
- It’s bubbly like Champagne.
- Little kids think it’s special.
What are the benefits?
Well, if you drink it you don’t get drunk. You can have a good time without spending a lot of money (assuming you don’t want a buzz). Kids like it. So if you or I were creating a promotional campaign for Martinelli, you’d find a benefit to focus on for a particular market. Don’t get drunk and don’t spend a lot.
I’m not sure how to spin that. But someone did, in this case for the partying-adult market.
Pretty cool! You can have a good time, save money, and actually remember what you did the next morning.
Applying This To Promoting Events
Now we are moving into imagination mode. I think the entire field of classical music, including many of the classically-trained musicians who combine genres, can do a better job of, well, evangelizing for our art. Unfortunately, none of us have the kind of cash flow to pay for the sophisticated marketing materials of international corporations like Apple, Hästings, or Martinelli. Most of us have to be our own publicists.
Most of us have no training in this. I just received a flyer from a chamber group in which a friend of mine plays. “The XYZ Ensemble Plays Music By A, B, and C,” the time and date, the location, and the suggested donation. Which is about all most classical-music posters do. Sometimes there are more visually engaging photos, but rarely is the engaging nature of the experience communicated. Who, what, where, when? Those are features. Unless a prospective audience member happens to know the players or is really into those composers, there’s no reason to come. Especially at a time when we are looking to expand audiences, we need to find ways to attract new people to our concerts. If we start thinking about promoting the benefits of attending, we may find new areas of success.
So I’m going brainstorm a bit, using myself as an example. Let’s say I’m doing a concert of Bach Suites. “Edberg Plays Bach.” Cellist Eric Edberg (me) plays, say, the first three Bach Suites for Solo Cello.
You see advertisements for concerts like this all the time. “Gilbert Conducts Swan Lake” is on the New York Philharmonic site and in print advertisements right now. If I’m an Alan Gilbert fan and I like Swan Lake, I may be sold. If I don’t know who Alan Gilbert is and I’ve never heard of Swan Lake, or it brings to mind only images stereotypically affected ballet dancing, then I’m not going to care.
To those in my circle of friends and fans who love both the Bach cello suites and my cello playing, the benefit of coming will be self-evident. But to the rest of the world, I need (or whoever is promoting the concert needs) to let them know what’s fantastic about this music (which many of them may be unaware of), what I’m like as a performer, and why they’ll be better off for having come. And, of course, I’m going to have to play them really, really well–with life and engagement and commitment.
I’m now thinking out loud. It’s extraordinary music that takes us through virtually the entire gamut of human emotion, from calmness to playfulness to heartbreak to anger to violence to triumph, spiritual solace, and unbridled joy. And to me, the great benefit of of a well-played concert is to feel more fully human, more truly alive. It’s inspiring in very true way. (Of course, a boring concert isn’t going to inspire anyone.)
So how about:
An Emotional Journey Ending In Joyful Triumph.
Let Bach Remind You Why It’s Great to Be Alive
And then of course we’d need something about the program and what a great cellist and performer I am, why the venue is a great place, etc.
There are many dimensions to the experience of a particular event, of course. There are the visual aspects, the social aspects, the atmosphere (formal? relaxed? interactive?), and what we might call the theatrical aspects–it can be amazing to see someone come out on stage and play an entire program of music from memory, and that’s something those of us who do it all the time can forget. Depending on the audience, performers, venue, and program, there are infinite varieties of features and corresponding benefits.
The thing I’m getting at is that for individual concerts and for classical music in general, we have a great opportunity to increase our audiences if we communicate the benefits of concert attendance. Not in a “it’s good for you way,” but it an enthusiastic and energized way.
So let’s go tell people why their lives will be better for coming to our concerts. And if we don’t believe that’s truly the case, then let’s put on concerts that are life enhancing.