Finger Lakes Opera has been delighting patrons with their productions of grand operatic masterpieces since 2013, complete with spectacular sets, dazzling costumes, inventive staging, and a professional orchestra. Over the past five years, they’ve outgrown their humble beginnings as a collaboration with SUNY Geneseo, into a standalone organization that calls Canandaigua their home.For their 2018 season, Finger Lakes Opera reached out to Grid for our expertise in planning and executing marketing campaigns to promote their productions. Our work began with the creation of a detailed marketing plan that would help guide the financial and marketing decisions over the course of the year.
The goal of a marketing plan is to provide a business or organization a time and budget roadmap for marketing efforts over a period of time. This can be everything from the start and end dates for specific campaigns, to print deadlines, to when media buys need to be solidified. When done correctly, your annual marketing plan will also serve as the starting point for future years’ planning - reducing the amount of time and guesswork needed exponentially. (If you’re still unsure about the importance of a marketing plan, or would like to learn more about how to create one, check out our Knowledge Article titled “How to Build a Marketing Plan”)
Although the end product of going through the marketing plan process is important, the REAL value is in the questions, takeaways, and decisions that are made DURING the process. Let’s step through some of the outcomes of Finger Lakes Opera’s experience:
One of the largest and most glaring aspects to FLO’s previous years marketing efforts was that very little of it had been trackable, so they were unsure what value they were getting from specific efforts. Was print ad A, priced three times higher than print ad B, producing three times the ticket sales? Was print ad C, which was run in an experimental market, worth the investment this year or in the future?
By raising these questions, we were able to show FLO the impact that collecting this data (even down to a per-advertisement level) could have on future marketing decisions. This also gives us the opportunity to put tracking processes in place for this years advertisements. With these processes in place, we’ll be able to make more data-driven decisions in future years.
When it comes to media buying, there is significant power in pre-purchasing. Publications and media outlets (print, radio, television or digital) would rather work with you once to sell four ads, than try to sell you a single ad four times over the course of the year. While working through FLO’s marketing plan, we were able to determine our purchasing needs across publications for the entire year, which gave us significant negotiating power when it came to cost (not to mention, it let us finalize the timelines relating to producing each ad, so we knew nothing would sneak up on us!)
In the case of Finger Lakes Opera, we knew that printed collateral played a huge role in their overall marketing budget. With this in mind, we made sure pay attention to printing needs right from the start. What may seem like a small decision (such as whether to produce a trifold brochure, or expand the content into a four page booklet), may have a dramatic impact on the final cost of printing - and when you’re talking about printing thousands of copies, these costs can add up. To make sure we had a full view of the marketing plan and budget for the year, we needed to make sure all costs, including printing, were accounted for right from the start.
Our example in Unaccounted Expenses naturally leads us into the idea of streamling your collateral. When we first sat down with Finger Lakes Opera we discussed a number of different print collateral options for the coming year, including a bifold, a trifold, a rack card, a booklet, a postcard, a fact sheet, and a donation envelope. After discussing the goals and usage of each piece, we were able to streamline this year’s collateral needs down to just a few pieces that could be used in multiple ways. Making decisions about the print needs for the coming year will result in a significant cost savings, as we know exactly what types of pieces we are producing well in advance.
Part of our considerations for streamlining collateral involved how we could make design adjustments to certain pieces so that they were usable over several years, letting FLO access more advantageous print pricing for higher quantities. For example, we discussed separating information regarding individual and corporate donations (information that doesn’t change year to year) out into its own document, so that it could be inserted into other collateral that had to be reprinted every year.
In addition to FLO’s ongoing marketing needs, there were several “major projects” that they had been considering, chief among a revamp of their website. Once we had all other costs and timelines laid out, the marketing plan made it very clear that embarking on this project within this year’s timeframe wasn’t reasonable. Without having laid out the entire year’s marketing plan, neither we, nor FLO, would have known that the proposed timeline would have overlapped with the productions for that year. The last thing we want to do is have the website down during the peak of their season!
Last, but certainly not least, through the marketing plan process FLO was able to identify areas of opportunities for forming mutually beneficial relationships with other organizations. For example, with their list of their final print needs FLO will be able to approach a local printer to guarantee them the entire portfolio of work in return for a sponsorship opportunity and ad placement within the appropriate collateral.
We’re incredibly excited about working with the Finger Lakes Opera for their 2018 season, and hope to see you at this year’s production of Die Fledermaus and other festival offerings!