Hand to Mouth Marketing

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have to find new customers for tickets all the time [shudder].

Here’s what I tell the Goldstar team about that: We don’t find buyers for our tickets. We find tickets for our buyers.

If you know what you’re going to be selling, but you have no idea who’s going to be buying, that’s what I call hand to mouth marketing, and it’s expensive and difficult. It’s expensive because if you’re selling to strangers, you have to start by getting them acquainted with who you are right from the start of the story. If Goldstar had to start every interaction with our buyers by saying, “OK, Goldstar is a place where venues reach audiences for their events, and you can go online and find … ,” we’d be dead.

Likewise, if a live entertainment organization completely relied on educating entirely unschooled new people on what they did, it would require much more communication, media and, therefore, money than if some or most of the people started with some knowledge and a favorable feeling about the organization.

Ticket brokers mostly do hand to mouth marketing, but it (kinda) works because if they get the pricing right, they can make a ton of money on each ticket. Neither you (if you’re in the primary selling market) nor I can afford this. In fact, it doesn’t work all that well for ticket brokers, either. You’ll notice that most of them have been overwhelmed by just a handful of organizations (like StubHub and TicketNetwork) that do this hand to mouth marketing on an extremely large scale and work to use brand to make it less hand-to-mouth as time goes on.

"Choit at temple dedication," © 2014 Garry Wilmore, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

“Choit at temple dedication,” © 2014 Garry Wilmore, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

The key to avoiding hand to mouth marketing is to build your “choir” — your audience of people who are fans of or at least interested in what you do. Everyone has at least some of these, but some organizations have gotten very good at making this the main focus of their marketing. At Goldstar, we were on the leading edge of this years ago, and our business is, in fact, founded on the very idea. Indeed, our goal is to build a meta-choir that allows us to get people interested in being part of YOUR choir.

We’re far from alone, of course. The technologies of the last decade make this easier than it used to be. Let me revise that: The technologies of the last decade make it possible. It’s still hard because you have to put practices and disciplines in place and you have to develop an organizational mindset that centers and focuses on your core audience. If you don’t do that, the technologies really can’t help. They’ll just either collect dust, or they won’t be of much use.

Hand to mouth marketing might have been effective at one time, when traditional media (print, TV, radio, etc.) was expensive. It captured people’s attention, perhaps if you had a decent product you could make this work if you had the budget. Those days, I think, are gone.

How much of your attention is focused on growing and cultivating your choir? And how much is focused on hand to mouth marketing?

In two or three years, how much could you move your attention in the right direction? You may want to consider starting.

Got a comment or question? Join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

Sign Up for Emails