I have always believed that marketing success starts with the product. If the quality of the artistic product isn't there, there is nothing a marketing director can do to put more butts in seats. Audiences will leave no matter how thought out or brilliant the marketing strategy. That being said, if the product is strong, a primary function of a marketing director is eliminating the barriers to purchasing.
Several weeks ago, I began to feel that even with a strong product, in today's economy, we must give people a reason to buy. No longer would a strong artistic product marketed well be enough. I tested this hypothesis by developing the NEW DEAL program at Arena Stage, which resulted in sales significantly beyond our expectations. The reduction in ticket price, even if for a day, gave potential patrons the reason they needed to make the purchase, especially on something that was dependant upon very limited discretionary spending.
So I wasn't surprised by an article in the Washington Post entitled "Holiday Shopping in a Downturn: Deals or Nothing at All." The basic rule of retail businesses on Black Friday is to offer highly attractive "door buster" sale items to lure customers in the door. The idea is that even after the "door busters" are sold out, customers will stay and purchase non-sale items. It has worked well for retail businesses for over a decade. But it didn't this year. The rules have changed. Customers showed up for the "door busters" as usual, but once the deals were gone, so were the customers. They didn't stay and shop. Once the "reason to buy" was eliminated, the sales stopped.
It seems like all the rules have been thrown out the window. We know the small profit margin on new car purchases, right? Dealerships make most of their money on the financing. But to get people to purchase, there are several dealerships offering "buy one, get one" deals on cars. When have you ever heard of that?