10 Tickets From 5000 Postcards

Lately I’ve been enjoying The Next Stage, a Vancouver blog about the business and marketing of theatre. The other day Simon, the blogger behind The Next Stage, linked to a diverting interview with Jim McCarthy, CEO of Goldstar, which I gather is an American discount ticket seller.

I’m always interested in the business of local, live entertainment, and the interview covers plenty of ground. My favourite bit is McCarthy’s view of advertising:

I’ve literally heard people say they were about to send out 5000 postcards for their show and so they were going to wait to see what happened after those hit before they figured out the rest of their marketing plan. Well, let’s do the math on that: 5000 postcards get delivered, but maybe 20% get read. That’s 1000 postcards. If 10% of the people who read it are interested, that’s 100 postcards, and if 10% of those people actually remember how to buy the tickets and actually go through with a purchase, that’s 10 customers buying a couple tickets each.

The simple fact is that most traditional advertising is overwhelmingly ineffective now. Even “traditional” web advertising has dropped to levels of responsiveness (or unresponsiveness) that we would have been startled by back in ’98 or ’99. If you’re counting on some kind of media buy to solve your marketing problems, you’re going to have a hard time hitting your goals, so you have to do something else.

When I give talks, I do my best to disavow any social media marketing zealotry. I emphasize that, at best, this new webby stuff is just another tool in one’s marketing toolbox.

I am a zealot, however, about measuring. I tell whoever will listen that they need to precisely measure every marketing activity they undertake. If they do that, then they’ve got the answer to the frequently-asked question “how should I spend my time?” is simple. If, for example, their billboards and bus shelter ads prove to be a better spend than time spent on Facebook and Twitter, then get thee away from thy computer.


  1. That is one of the most overlooked and common sense ideas that I am just as adamant about. The social marketing zealotry has just got to stop. Yes, some of it, in some ‘niches’ will absolutely work. But to think that a Twitter account and Facebook group is going to drive sales/visits etc, is just flat out wrong (again, the vast majority of the time – not always). Trying as many methods as possible, and MEASURING THEM, is absolutely the only way to go.

    As a personal example – I’ve setup and used Twitter, Facebook, MyBlogLog, I’m a member of 9rules – you name the social networking/media group/service – I’ve tried it. And images.google.com drives more traffic to my site – one that isn’t at ALL about photography – than every web 2.0 site combined. So, I spend my time making sure that the alt and title tags are included on all the images (which 99% of the time are in fact just screenshots).

  2. You know, one of the great things I like about you, Darren, is the fact that you are a data junkie, like me. Measurements are key. In my field (environmental policy) you need to measure pollution reductions, investment in energy savings, etc. I imagine the same applies to social media.

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