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Ruddigore Marketing, 2003-2004

The Durham Savoyards, Ltd.

Ruddigore Marketing -- Overview

Notes on Audience Attendance.

  • We've sold only about 1/3 of the house in the last 6 years; only Pirates surpassed 50%.
  • Our audience draw has not grown with the surrounding population.
  • Our attendance is clearly sensitive to the particular show being produced, perhaps too much so.

We are at a critical time in the life of our organization.

"A first objective of fiscal policy for The Durham Savoyards, Ltd., shall be to be self-sustaining from earned income..." - Bylaws, Article XI.

  • We've just done the three best-known shows (Pirates, Pinafore, Mikado) and barely broke even. In the past, these shows made a profit that could offset the expected loss from upcoming lesser-known shows.
  • We're about to do a string of lesser-known shows: Ruddigore, Patience, (probably) Gondoliers.
  • We are at significant risk of losing money at a increasing rate such that our reserves may be completely depleted within 5-10 years.
  • Our marketing efforts have been significantly underfunded. Consequently, we have no way of knowing what our potential is for improving ticket sales.

What to do?

  1. Increase our marketing activity with a budget set at an appropriate level. While this is not guaranteed to pay for itself in increased ticket sales, it will, at the very least, give us a better understanding of our audience draw potential. A generally accepted rule-of-thumb is that a group's publicity budget should be about 20% of the total production budget.
  2. To reduce expenses, we should consider dropping the second production week and revert to a single 4- or 5-performance production week. This is unlikely to have a significant effect on audience attendance, and should yield significant net savings.
  3. Continue the current "Friends" program, coupled with an active membership drive. Presently there are only 87 people on our mailing list with current dues. That's less than 25% of a typical party announcement mailing - not enough to pay for the mailing. Initiating a more comprehensive development program is a huge project, and if not properly managed, can do damage.

We have a good product - people will "buy" it if they know it's there.

Marketing (not just publicity, which has a more passive connotation) should be a year-round effort. It should focus as much on the organization as a whole -- to increase our presence, stature and visibility in the community -- as well as the upcoming production. These objectives go hand in hand: if we can sell more tickets, we'll develop a broader base of potential donors and participants, which, in turn, will increase our audience base in the coming years.

Every effort should be made to measure the effects of our marketing initiatives. Marketing is not an exact science, so careful observation of expenditures, attendance and audience surveys is important.

  • Marketing should be aggressive - 20% of production budget is the generally accepted rule-of-thumb.
  • Small increases to the publicity budget may be ineffective, perhaps wasteful.
  • We have a HUGE advantage in that we have funds in reserve; we don't have to raise money first.
  • This is an ideal time to make a big marketing push. Ruddigore may be one of the lesser-known shows, but it has some promising marketing potential (e.g.: the "witch's curse").

It is generally accepted that a show's marketing budget should be at about 20% of the production's total budget. (Remember that the marketing budget is a component of the total budget. If you increase the marketing budget, you therefore increase the total production budget and recalculate the percentage. In any case, the 20% figure is only a rule of thumb, not a measure of success.) In the past, our publicity budget has been less than 10% of the total production budget.

What can we expect if we do what we've always done?
(publicity budget as a percentage of total show budget: <10%)

  • Original preliminary publicity/show budget: $4,400/$44,700
  • Expected paid audience: 1,600 (RLL's guess based on historical data - usually fairly accurate)
  • Expected ticket revenue (average ticket price: $20): $32,000
    • Shortfall: $12,700 ($44,700 - $32,000 = $12,700)
  • Expected ticket revenue (average ticket price: $22): $35,200
    • Shortfall: $9,500 ($44,700 - $35,200 = $9,500)
  • Problem: We can't afford to do this for many more years.

What if we spend an extra $2,500?
(publicity budget as a percentage of total show budget: <15%)

  • Revised preliminary publicity/show budget: $6,900/$47,200 (adding $2,500 to publicity budget)
  • Expected paid audience: 1,800 (RLL's revised guess, assuming that increasing advertising expenditures will result in 200 additional tickets sold).
  • Expected ticket revenue (average ticket price: $20): $36,000
    • Net revenue increase: $1,500 ($4,000 - $2,500 = $1,500)
    • Shortfall: $11,200 ($47,200 - $36,000 = $11,200)
  • Expected ticket revenue (average ticket price: $22): $39,600
    • Net revenue increase: $1,900 ($4,400 - $2,500 = $1,900)
    • Shortfall: $7,600 ($47,200 - $39,600 = $7,600)
  • Problem: Our break-even potential is still not known. We continue to lose money.

What do we hope to accomplish with an "appropriate" marketing plan?
(publicity budget as a percentage of total show budget: 20%)

  • Goal #1: Increase the general image and visibility of the group.
  • Goal #2: Increase paid attendance to break-even level (by roughly 800-1,000).
  • Goal #3: Measure audience response as a basis for revising future marketing and development strategies.
  • Assumption #1: For the purpose of this example calculation, the non-publicity elements of the production budget were left at last year's levels. The actual Ruddigore production budget has not yet been determined.
  • Assumption #2: With marketing effort at a generally accepted level, we will get an accurate assessment of our over-all break-even potential.
  • Estimated publicity/show budget: $10,000/$50,300 (adding $5,600 = $2,500 + $3,100 to original publicity budget)
  • Target break-even paid audience (Pinafore '02: 2,300; Pirates '99: 2,800) (average ticket price: $20): 2,515
  • Target break-even paid audience (average ticket price: $22): 2,286

Our unique challenge in marketing:

Unlike most other arts organizations, the Savoyards has only a single annual activity. Groups that have a whole season or series of productions and/or activities can spread marketing and publicity resources across multiple venues, keeping the per production cost relatively low. While $10-12,000 may seem like a lot to spend marketing a single show, that single show is, in effect, our annual season. A portion of the marketing budget (say 25%) should be viewed as directed toward development of the general image and visibility of the group, with the remaining (75%) portion directed specifically toward marketing the upcoming production.

Appendix A: Example Marketing Plan

Appendix B: Example Marketing Budget