The Fizzy team was recently hired to provide marketing and PR services for the third annual Movies & Meaning Festival, a highly unique event based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, combining film, storytelling, and social activism.
When I jumped into the work during our first week together, I assumed that the event’s offerings would sell tickets on their own. With a headliner like Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple, it seemed that this would be a piece of cake. The main thrust of our inbound strategy that week was something like: “make sure the opportunity to see X gets in front of people who are interested in X.”
We quickly saw in the ticket sales that this wasn’t enough. Tickets weren’t being grabbed up the way I thought they should be.
With a limited time frame and budget for A/B testing, I sought some advice from Ben Keesey, former CEO and current board chair at Invisible Children, leadership consultant at Humanity United, and board member at the Center for Action and Contemplation. He has over a decade of experience crafting powerful campaigns that truly mobilize audiences.
Ben said that our early approach represented a product-based mode of thinking that is increasingly irrelevant online.
He continued to explain: it is almost never the content of a product or experience that sells. Even if your product is literally a product, you should be thinking of it as a service.
The relationship between a consumer and a service is: “I choose to hire X for the purpose of X.”
It’s no secret by now that the nature of industry in the U.S. is changing, growing much more in the direction of services. Online services, memberships, and subscriptions are changing the way people think about (and research) their purchasing choices. Compounding these trends, the average person’s online access to sheer oceans of products and experiences raises the bar on what it takes for the content to be enough to sell itself.
Even in terms of a simple or straightforward product—say, a coffee maker—the sheer variety and repetition of offerings causes the marketing challenge of selling a single coffee maker to be, “Why should a person hire my coffee maker for the service of coffee-making in their life?” And the marketing products should reflect answers to this question.
In terms of our work on the Movies & Meaning Festival, this is the difference between telling people they have an opportunity to hear Alice Walker speak in April and getting people excited about the opportunity to become more of who they want to be in life—someone who cares about art and activism. “Alice Walker,” in this scenario, represents a way of being.
After my conversation with Ben Keesley, we have continually reframed the Movies & Meaning Festival in these terms on the website and in social media, emails, and ads. How can we provide services to potential attendees that connect them to ideas and people they care about? How does this single event address the challenges our audience is facing?
As a result, ticket sales have been zooming upward. Immediately after reframing the opportunity on our website (and with some thoughtful A/B testing on pricing and other aspects), we saw a 400% week-over-week increase in sales.
By reframing the festival in terms of why someone might hire the experience to achieve something unique in their lives, we’re able to reform the entire way the event is presented online and connect to people for whom the experience truly will be transformational.
Take this away: Regardless of what you’re selling, treat your product or experience like it’s a service you’re offering your audience. Use Fizzy’s moves with Movies & Meaning as a template for how that major shift in strategy will create stronger connections with real buyers, and quickly boost sales for your business.