Why Channels Matter: The Golden Eggs

For live entertainment and arts, perhaps even more than for most other things, channels matter.

What do I mean by a channel? In nature, a channel is a waterway or a clear and navigable path through the sea. In broadcasting or in marketing, that definition became somewhat more metaphorical, as a TV “channel” is a “path” that the organization’s information travels through to get to you. In marketing, we now talk about channels as ways of getting information to groups of people who actually will pay attention to it. More and more, marketers benefit by working through channels that are valuable, active and can bring them customers. Since traditional advertising (which is indeed a channel) has become less effective, these community-based channels (like Goldstar or others) have become more and more important.

Of course, in my opinion, and as I frequently say, the very most important channel for any live entertainment venue is its own fans and supporters, with whom it must build an ongoing valuable relationship. Organizations have two challenges: taking good care of this channel and growing this channel. In essence, this is any organization’s primary marketing asset. It’s the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs. (Yes, I’m frequently frustrated by the fact that many organizations treat their Goose … well, just the way it was treated in the Aesop’s Fable, but that’s not the topic of today’s post.)

Caring for the Goose is one thing. You have to have a heart and a brain for this, and I think most people in our business at least want  to do this right. It’s about respect, backed up by actions and about thinking in a way that’s oriented to the enjoyment and success of the people you serve. It’s the opposite of ego-driven, and it’s open-minded. It’s a challenge, but it’s one that I think most people have the capability of handling very well if they truly prioritize it.

Growing your channel is a surmountable challenge, too, but it’s different. Your channel grows because you do good work and take care of your base (or Goose in my increasingly strained metaphor). But typically, this isn’t quite enough. You need to grow by reaching people outside your grasp, outside the circles you already move in. This is where channels are so important. Whose influence and good name can you borrow? This is one of the critical marketing challenges of our time because it’s very hard to “buy” your way to influence anymore. If you’re under a certain age, you probably can’t imagine a time when newspaper ads worked, but there was one … at least, that’s what I learned in marketing history class. A good print ad moved the sales needle. That’s a good example because today the vast majority of print ads produce absolutely nothing, and very, very few organizations continue to buy them because they have data that says they’re working well. It’s a channel that, from an advertiser’s point of view, doesn’t have the influence it needs to have.

Of course, old-fashioned advertising has been replaced by digital advertising, and it’s more effective, but people are more and more immune to ads in general. Facebook ads click through at .05%. Stop and look at that number. Not 5%, not .5%, but .05%. Put differently, one in 2,000 people who sees an ad clicks. It only works because of massive volume.

When you have a strong channel, with people in it who have a natural interest or connection to you and your thing, you’re borrowing the hard-won credibility and trust that the channel has established with those people. Those people are, 95% of the time or more, people who currently either don’t know you or have only a passing awareness of you. In other words, it’s a Golden (Goose) opportunity both to generate revenue and to grow that base. Which you are all about.

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