The fourth "P" is PROMOTION. This is what most people think of when they think of "marketing"
-- getting the word out about your event, product, or service. This is also the phase most people already know the most about -- so I will try to offer some tips and ideas that may be new or different.
Focus on Awareness
But first, a little rant about awareness, which is a key goal of the Promotion phase. Back in the late 80s, the book and movie "Field of Dreams" popularized the aphorism, "If you build it, they will come." However, unlike Kevin Costner, don't listen to the voices in your head that tell you this. You must acknowledge that this does not apply to raqs events, shows, or products. Whether you live in a market crowded with events, classes, and other raqs offerings or a smaller market where belly dance is a novelty... you cannot sit back and assume that everyone somehow knows about your offering just because you've made a pretty web site for it. If you're not prepared to be an evangelist for your event, you might want to think twice about doing it in the first place.
There are a lot of ways to generate awareness (i.e., promote), and you're probably familiar with most of them. Just use them. Early and often. Talk it up on Facebook, Twitter, wherever your customers congregate. Show up at every local event (or send your students/troupe members), bring flyers, wear T-shirts, and talk about it. Use your students, troupe members, teachers, and friends in the community to help you spread the word. Give them the tools they need to do it -- from the name you give it and the language you use to describe it to online tools they can share (Facebook events, video links, photos, etc.), as well as good old fashioned flyers and posters. None of these things are expensive; they just take time and energy. It's a given that you planned this event or decided to offer this product because you're passionate about it. Pour that same passion into promotion.
My mission with this series of posts (in case you couldn't tell) is to emphasize that all the promotion in the world won't be effective if you don't think through the other three P's (Product, Pricing, and Placement) objectively and get a desirable product, offer it at the right price, and optimize its placement (in both time and space).
When you are ready to start communicating, take a strategic approach. Define the three things that are most important about your product: the messaging you want customers to hear. Then use those messages in every communication.
I feel like I keep ranting about this, but it's critically important to get your message across clearly and quickly. Don't overcomplicate it, keep it focused, and check your spelling. How many times have you seen posters with so many photos, colors, and different fonts that they're almost impossible to decipher? How many times have you read through multiple paragraphs of copy, or clicked on multiple web pages, just to find out how much it costs to register? Don't make those mistakes. Share your materials with other people and get their honest input on how easy they are to understand.
Have a Measurable Destination
You'll need a web page or web site as a central repository for all the information about your product. If you don't have a web site already, the many free blog platforms out there (e.g., Blogger -- you're soaking in it) make it really easy to set up a professional-looking site and (importantly) keep it up to date and fresh. Be sure the site is really clear, simple, and easy to use. Show it to your friends, husband, kids -- people with no context -- and get their input. And make sure it's full of relevant words so it will do well in search engine listings.
An important best practice in marketing today is to create a "landing page" that will be the destination page for all of your online communications (instead of the web site's home page). This page should be very clear and simple, with links to the key pages that potential customers will want to see. Having a consistent landing page will allow you to analyze web traffic data and see what tactics are most effective at driving interest in your product.
If your product is a workshop or show, you're most likely to want to create a page on your own web site for it. Some promoters -- especially for larger events -- have a separate web site and domain name just for the event. To me, this depends on the size of your event, whether you plan to have it on a regular basis, and how closely you want to associate it with your brand as a studio, instructor, performer, or troupe. If the event has its own site, be sure you include lots of branding and links for your own brand -- otherwise, attendees may not make the connection and you won't leverage the power of the event to build awareness for your classes, performances, etc.
If the event page is part of your main web site, be sure it's VERY easy for visitors to find. If your home page has the flexibility to change content, add a graphic promoting the event front and center.
Social media is key in this day and age. Its interactive, inexpensive, and targeted. Facebook in particular is chock-full of belly dancers. If you're producing a show or workshop, it's essential to set up a Facebook Event for it -- as far in advance as possible. Make sure the information on your event page is clear, simple, and compelling. Invite as many people as you can... they will spread the word by inviting other friends. Be sure and update your event regularly with photos, news, and useful information for attendees.
Have you considered Facebook advertising? Here's why you should. Facebook ads are priced on a "pay-per-click" basis. If someone clicks on your ad, you'll pay a few cents. However, many people will see your ad -- whether they click or not -- and that "impression" (as we say in the marketing biz) is free! And you have a lot of control over who sees your ads; Facebook allows incredibly specific targeting by gender, age, location, and -- importantly -- interest. You can set your ad so it will only display only to females 18-49 in your metro area who have expressed an interest in belly dance. Set the daily budget limit to just a few dollars to start. It costs very little to experiment with Facebook advertising, and you'll quickly see whether it's effective in generating interest in your product.
Measure Success and Learn From Data
your event (and during the weeks leading up to it), look at the traffic statistics for the event web site
(another reason to use a blog platform -- stats are readily available).
Where did most of your web site visits come from... search engines, Facebook, links on other sites, advertising? You'll get a great sense of where you can most effectively reach potential customers.
I hope these marketing tips have been helpful! In many ways marketing is a simple, old-fashioned operation. However, few people outside the profession of marketing understand the strategy behind it. I guarantee that applying a little strategic thought and working through the first four P's will make the promotion phase much easier and make your event or product more successful. If it works for companies like Coca-Cola, it'll work for you!