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Inside the Margins: A Cleveland Literature Industry Study


Reference Desk


Marketing Plan

Further defining your marketing plan can help you better leverage your marketing resources. Your marketing plan can be simple and focused or it can be complex and wide-spread. In addition to defining your target audience, your marketing plan should address four points:

  1. Product
  2. Place
  3. Price
  4. Promotion


We’ve already discussed product in some detail; now further consider how it fits into the context of your marketing. You can do this by creating a list of every product and/or service that you currently offer. For a playwright, this might be original plays (product) vs directing (service). On the same list, make up a character that embodies the attributes and habits of your perfect buyer, investor or audience for that product. Include lots of detail (What does this person look like? Where do they go? What do they do? What are their values?). This knowledge can give you a picture of the ways in which you can reach a broader consumer-base. If you can reach this fictional person, you can reach hundreds of other real individuals who may be equally as excited about your work.  


In determining the price of the product, establish your monetary goals. Look closely at the costs (i.e. material, utilities, salaries, etc.) associated with the creation of your product, and then ask yourself a few questions. Does the potential revenue that you will make cover the costs (Return on Investment)? Do you want to make a profit? How do your costs compare to similar events or products within the area? Once you are able to answer these questions, you can begin to have a better idea of the appropriate price for your product.

Price can also be a powerful marketing tool in stimulating interest in attending your event or purchasing what you have to offer. Step into the shoes of your consumers as you think about pricing. In doing so, you will realize that price can be either an incentive or a barrier. Consumers are looking for value. Can they get more from what you have to offer than alternatives sources for the same types of performances, objects or works that are more accessible?

You may also want to consider the actual cost versus the perceived barriers.  For example, this may involve considering the cost of a ticket to a show vs.the ticket plus needs associated with accessing the product. These can be things like travel expenses, dinner options, time spent researching the work, or available discounts.

Finally, you should consider perceptions of cost itself. A higher price is associated with higher quality. If you charge too little for your work, some important buyers, partners or investors may question the work’s integrity.

Overcoming barriers


Barriers are a common concern for arts and cultural organizations and can be looked at from three different perspectives. 

  • Practical Barriers :“I couldn’t afford a ticket,” “ We couldn’t find a sitter,” “ We didn’t want be out too late,” etc.
  • Perceptual Barriers :“I won’t fit in,” “I wouldn’t know what to wear,” “I wouldn’t get it,” etc.
  • Experiential Barriers:“I didn’t enjoy my last visit,” “I found that the ushers weren’t helpful,” “I thought the lines were too long” etc.

Help reduce some of these barriers to participation by sharing  pre-developed educational materials,  offering discounts, providing a map to your location that includes local restaurants or businesses. Provide a list of other non-competing arts and culture events occurring in your 

area at the same time. In addition, your website can be used to create a virtual atmosphere for your customers, helping to frame what their experience with you will be like. Keep high-quality pictures on your website from public events and your current work. Offer materials and information that may help your

 customers understand your work and gain trust. Again, your focus should be set on providing value. In addition, you are hoping to establish a long, healthy, and sustainable relationship with your customers, clients or audiences.  These are essential to marketing your work to others. Be sure that their first experience is positive!

Payment Options

As the artist, you must determine what options customers will have to pay for your product or service. In doing so, you must determine your capacity for offering options. For example, can you take online payments at your website? Can you handle day-to-day phone calls? Are credit card

Places accepted for purchases? Do you have an agent or business manager who facilitates these procedures? Some initial costs in building capacity in these areas may help to reduce your costs in the future (e.g. investing in a new website payment system, an additional phone line, staff, merchant account, etc.). Fully understand any contracts before you sign them and shop around before make a purchase.  

It is essential to consider the accessibility of your product. The more accessible it is, the more potential you have to reach a broader audience. Try to understand the perceptual barriers that may be associated with the place(s) your product is delivered. Is it perceived as a safe area?  Is there ample parking? Large or small, these barriers can affect the decisions made by a consumer.

What if your place is an online outlet? A writer, for example may put his work in a blog format to allow consumers public access to the work, driving sales. Musicians are using YouTube and Vimeo in incredibly creative ways that drive attendance to live shows. Social media is a great tool for engaging with your customers in unique ways.

Place can be seen as more than just a physical location to distribute your product, it can be a chance to socialize. Does your place support a comfortable environment? Does your audience come early or stay late? If not, why not? Is there an opportunity for further services to be provided that can increase overall revenue? Some of your patrons may have emotional connections to your location. Marketers have seen this as an opportunity to promote reserved seating or extended hours so that individuals feel as though they have a connection to the place.   

It is a good idea to establish convenience. Always keep in mind alternative ways that consumers can reach your work. Look at the possible media channels and coverage, the distribution means, and the overall ease of gaining access. In doing so, you will be able to gain a much broader perspective on possible product outlets. You may consider bringing the place to the audience. Maybe the best way to reach your audience is by approaching them. Genuine accessibility means that people are enabled to view and interact with your work. More than just letting people view it, let them experience it!


Having a cohesive strategy about product, price and place is essential to using the promotional tool most efficiently. Consider whether your focus is centered around an individual or event. Develop organizational- or individual-centered focus promotions from your artistic philosophy, your history, and previous work. For event-centered focus consider specifically the materials you use to promote a single event. Examples would  include your press releases, fliers, postcards, posters, magnets and advertisements.

There are many ways to utilize the media in order to promote your program. Begin by considering  smaller, more local media outlets. They may be more willing to partner with you and, through a marketing exchange, provide free advertising. Some media organizations like to receive  press releases; however, there are many factors that influence the news each day. Breaking news can potentially delay the printing  of your information. If your press release is not featured the first time, try again. Persistance will pay off in the future if the editor continues to notice your organization and/or event. Creative press kits may catch the eye of some media outlets. Public Service Announcements are free for non-profit organizations, but have some restrictions in the length of time and amount of information that can be shared.

Direct marketing can be relitively inexpensive. It can be short and sweet, but filled with impactful information. Hand-to-hand distribution of this marketing may entice more people to consider the promotion. Social media has become a crucial way for many artists to market their work and events and is designed to keep the conversation going. Alternatively, email marketing allows you to promote straight to your target market in a relatively simple manner. Remember that you must have permission to add individuals to your email list.

Collaboration is key! Look for opportunities to strategically align yourself with another organization or event. This can reduce costs and allow you to reach a much broader and more diversified market.

The Importance of Secondary Market Research     

Secondary market research is just another way of saying do your homework.  You will learn a great deal by just reading about others in your creative field. Get to know how they attract consumers to their work, share best practices with one another and look at trends within your community for participation in arts and culture. Stay up on the major trends and changes impacting your industry or sector. Typically, the best markets to work in are growing; meaning, more and more people are buying that type of product or service or the same number of people or buying more. The tech industry, for example, is booming right now. The most dangerous markets in which to operate a business are stagnant or shrinking markets. This leads to businesses resolving to steal customers from one another rather than bringing in new audiences. Through our research, we have learned that individuals who buy from one local arts and culture business or organization are more likely to buy from others. Consider how you can form strategic alliances with other artists, without having to steal gigs or step on toes.The best way to have an understanding of your market is to get involved and grow your network.

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