- Do you want to get bigger audiences to come to your concerts?
- Do you want to recruit new choir members?
- Would you like to attract sponsors or supporters?
If you answer “Yes” to one or more of those three questions, then, yes, your choir does need marketing.
I know that many of you will find this a scary thought. You probably associate the word “marketing” with unsavoury characters. Bands of either highly-paid creative geniuses sporting strange facial hair and piercings lounging around on bean bags working out novel new adverts. Or sharp-suited con artists straight out of the TV series Mad Men. The truth is rather more mundane. You may not be able to be like professional music groups and businesses and spend an awful lot of money on your marketing. As an amateur choir with a very limited budget, you can still make a great difference to your success by doing some basic things well. I want to help you to do that – so have created MyChoir Marketing as a source of information, hints and tips specifically aimed at you. I also provide low-cost services to do some of it for you, if that is what you would like.
So, let’s start at the beginning…
What do we mean by “Marketing”?
I have been a professional Marketer for over 35 years and have seen any number of definitions of Marketing from the very academic through to the plain facile. Many people wrongly associate marketing with selling. Or with the “fluffy stuff” like adverts and brochures (I wish I had a pound for every time I have heard my marketing team labelled as “the colouring-in department”). It is much more than that.
Philip Kotler, who is viewed as the father of modern marketing, said “Marketing is not the art of finding clever ways to dispose of what you make. It is the art of creating genuine customer value.” He states that “Marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit”.
While you may say that the “at a profit” phrase is more suited to business, I would suggest the rest easily applies to your choir. You need to understand and deliver what your audiences, members and supporters will value. Why should someone come to your concert? What makes a singer turn up weekly to rehearse? Why should a supporter put in the time and/or money to help you? How can any of them find you or know about what you do?
What do you want to achieve for your choir?
Before you start thinking about marketing plans and activities you do need to think about why you are doing them! In business-speak, you need to have a measurable objective. This should be obvious – how can you know when you have succeeded if you don’t know what success looks like? Set yourself a goal – that could be, for example, to recruit 6 new choristers or to get an audience of 250 at your next concert.
What does Marketing actually do?
You can find rafts of detailed books on marketing theory or practice, and the ever-changing technology landscape continually drives new detailed activities. However, the core “levers” that marketers have to pull and push in order to do their job can still be summarised as what you will hear called “The Marketing Mix” or “The 4 P’s of Marketing”:
- Product – what is your audience/singer/supporter actually ‘buying’ (not necessarily what you think you are selling)?
- Price – what does this cost (not just cash but time, effort etc)?
- Place – how do you make it easy for your audience/singer/supporter to get what you are offering?
- Promotion – how do your audience/singers/supporters find out about what you are offering?
These 4 constituents of marketing are interrelated and making changes in one area will often mean you will need to change the others.
You might feel that to pull on one thread could cause the whole lot to unravel, so let’s look at a very simple process I like to take my clients through.This is a cyclical process. Don’t assume you need to start from scratch creating a brand new choir as going through this thought process will help you ‘tweak’ things in an existing choir as well.
Understanding before action
Many businesses, especially in my old area of IT, still make the basic error of racing ahead to develop a wonderful new product that never gets sold. They failed to think about, or understand, who they were building it for and why.
This is the same with your choir. Don’t rush headlong into designing your website, posters and spending money on Facebook advertising or setting up Twitter accounts without understanding your market. Take a simple example – do you know what sort of person you want to join your choir? Are you looking for schoolchildren or adults? Do you want them to be established singers or can they be total beginners? Do they need to live in a specific area to get to regular rehearsals? What sort of voices are you looking for (e.g. male voice, mixed, ladies-only)? By the way, another mistake often made by new businesses that you might also be tempted into is answering “everyone will want it”. By not focusing on what marketers call a “niche” you will not create a compelling offering to anyone because you are trying to be “all things to all men”.
The answers to those and other ‘profiling’ questions will drive decisions you make about your “4 P’s” – the product, price, place, promotion mix. You also need to understand your competition – and here I do not just mean other choirs. In our example what competition do you have for the attention and commitment of prospective new choir members such as in work, sport or social life? I call this the “Understand” phase and will be exploring what you need to do here in more detail, with some tools you can use, in a future resource posting.
Build your value proposition
I will try and avoid using too much marketing jargon in these advisory posts, but you might like to know that you now will understand your target market and buyer profile. Sounds impressive huh? But so what?
This means you can now “Build” what it is you are offering – what type of music you will perform, where and when you will rehearse and perform, how you will find the new members and how you get them to be involved. This building doesn’t just refer to your offering itself but also building what is known as your “value proposition”. In other words, what value it brings to your audience/choir member/supporter. In our example of attracting new choir members, you may highlight not just the opportunity to sing, and to improve their singing ability, but also the health and social benefits of joining a choir.
Engage with your target audience
And now you’re ready to go into the phase that most people associate with marketing – what I call “Engage”. This is where you find and communicate your offering and value to your target audience/choir member/supporter. This is also where there is a danger that you could go off putting a lot of effort and cash into activities that are simply not worth it. For instance, if you are looking to recruit new men to your male voice choir who are, shall we say, of “a certain age” you probably wouldn’t use Instagram or Snapchat. However, perhaps you’d be surprised to learn, you would consider Facebook. Find out more about why I say this and how to do it in a later post. You need to take what you learnt and decided in the Understand and Build phases to guide you on priorities along with the advice I will provide in future resource posts.
Or you could just contact me for a chat.
Why does your choir exist?
But first…one last question you need to consider that might just help you in your marketing efforts, and it may seem flippant, but bear with me here:
“Why does your choir exist?”
This may take quite a bit of pondering and discussion. What is the central reason you do what you do? Is it for members to get better musically? To entertain an audience? As a social gathering? Is it to raise money for charity? I am sure that you will have a combination of these motivations, but try hard to identify what the central driver is. When you identify that, you will find it far easier to communicate value and create compelling reasons for your audience/chorister/supporter to ‘buy’ what you have to offer. I strongly recommend watching this 5 minute TED Talk from Simon Sinek called “Start with Why”
OK – I hope that I have given you enough of an introduction for you to understand why you need to market your choir. Future posts will provide more practical “how to” style advice. Sign up to receive notification about these resource posts as I produce them or just review the ones already on the site, and let me know what you think.