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Andy Williams

What The Edinburgh Fringe Festival Taught Me About Digital Marketing

25th Jul 2013 Brand 10 minutes to read

Edinburgh Fringe FestivalAugust 2nd 2013 sees the start of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (or Festival Fringe if you prefer), the biggest arts festival in the world. Around 1,500 acts will all descend on Edinburgh in a bid to get good reviews, possibly get spotted, find agents and of course to bring in the audiences.

The Edinburgh Fringe brings back good memories for me having taken a show up there with my best mate in 2003 in my comedic persona. Were we any good? We were awesome (and we can all write our own reviews). Actually we were quite good and got some good reviews but it was a seriously hard month with non-stop work and promotion. If memory serves me right we ended up in the top 10% for audience figures.

However the work that went into it during that month actually taught me quite a few lessons that hugely mirror digital marketing. The basic techniques used while we were in Edinburgh are the same that all online businesses should be carrying out today.

If You Build It, They Will Come

No they won’t.

You could have the greatest comedy show in Edinburgh during that month but if no one knows about it or is told about it, they won’t come.

You are up against 1,499 other shows. Don’t be fooled by the crowded streets of festival goers; don’t think for one minute that there are enough people to go round. That isn’t how it works. Most people in Edinburgh during that month are there for the Fringe but that doesn’t mean they can afford to go to a different show every hour. People have limited budget.

So you need to make sure your audience know you are there, they know where to go, at what time and how amazingly funny you are.

It’s no different for your online business. Just because your site is live and your product is great doesn’t mean people will find you or even come looking for you. Unless you are a huge worldwide brand – no one is going to come looking specifically for you.

Live with it.

That is just a fact. The internet is the biggest and most crowded market place ever created. If you just sit there waiting for the phone to ring and for people to come to you – you will go under.

This is basic stuff.

Rule 1: Page 1 – You need to go to where your audience is. If you don’t someone else will, simple.

So think about some of these rules:

Get Optimised

Months were spent getting ready for Edinburgh. Flyers, posters, media, the lot. We did it all. We arrived in the city thinking we were totally ready. We had hundreds of posters; we had hired a company to get some put up around the pubs and clubs prior to the start of the Fringe. We had boxes of flyers. We had been in local Newspapers, we had a website.

We bossed it.

And on that first day we realised that so had everyone else. It was (as it turns out) the very least that any act should do before going up there, especially the more unknown acts.

Optimising your site is the very least any online businesses should do. Before you do anything else – make sure you optimise. Make sure it’s done correctly. It’s the very least that your competition will also be doing. If you don’t, you will be left behind before you even start.

Don’t make the mistake we made in thinking you were the only ones doing it. You won’t be. Its how you act from here on in that will start to make the real difference.

Go Where YOUR Audience Are

If you really think about it, it couldn’t be more obvious. Go to the places where your audience are hanging out, chatting and looking for your services.

We spent countless hours every single day handing out flyers, talking to people down The Royal Mile trying to convince them to come to our show. Hours and hours spent promoting just to try and get at least 30 people through the door – that day. And then we would do it all again the day after. But we soon learnt that more than just handing out flyers was needed. In the first week we spent a lot of time talking to the wrong people. We were talking to people who were looking for shows that weren’t even close to what we were offering. So we learnt very quickly to talk to the right people – the right audience.

We started going to the right places.

The first week was slow (the first show only had 4 in the audience) but it picked up and come the final week we were filling our room. But once we got in front of our audience they knew about us and they came along. Hopefully they all enjoyed it (apart from the lady who stood up half way through the show and openly stopped us in our tracks to ask us if this was the show that was actually going on in the room opposite).

But listen, no one will know about you, your site or your products unless you go to your audience and tell them about you. Never for one second believe that you are so big people will just come to you.

If your business model is set up whereby your sole aim is to rely on rankings for business you are set up to fail, especially in the current online marketing landscape. Go and find your audience. Go and talk to them, go and let them know about you and what you offer.

I know, you are thinking “if only there was a free service that allowed me to see who might be talking about the products or services I provide, what people were saying, what they were talking about, who they were talking to in real-time, that also allowed me to connect with them by simply following them”.

It’s Twitter, it’s free and it is one amazing tool.

Yet still people don’t think it is for them. Personally I feel it’s almost like cheating. All you have to do is monitor who is talking about the products and services you are providing and get involved. See who is following your competitors and follow them, then build that relationship with them.

Be Social

People buy into people; by talking to our potential audience we managed to get them through the door. And we didn’t just ask them if they wanted to come along, we engaged with them. We chatted to them, we made up silly quizzes for them to win tickets while they were queuing to buy tickets for something else. Suddenly they had free tickets to our show instead. Suddenly people felt like they were missing out and brought tickets to see us.

But we got social with our audience.

You have to do the same. You have found your audience – now speak to them, engage with them. If you don’t reach out to them the best you can hope for is for them to follow you back on Twitter or like your Facebook page. That’s great but what is the use of building the audience if you then don’t communicate with them?

Get social.

Stand Out

Stand Out

Now, this is virtually impossible in Edinburgh. Everyone is trying to stand out to the point where no one does, unless of course you can think of a fantastic publicity stunt.

Paul Daniels, believe it or not, is great at this. Every time he does a show in Edinburgh there is always an incident right at the start of his run. If memory serves me right in 2011 Daniels had a run in with Sooty (yes that is every child’s favourite hand puppet Sooty). Sooty threw a Pizza at Daniels injuring him. No I am not making this up.

This made headline News nationally but more importantly in Edinburgh and suddenly everyone was aware that he had a show on at the Fringe. Accident or convenient?

I believe another year he was accused of shop lifting. Again great publicity that made him stand out amongst 1,500 other shows.

If you are online, providing something others are also providing – you need to stand out. You need to be seen as different and interesting. Now of course Sooty isn’t always to hand with a Pizza but try and create a buzz about what you are doing. If you can – be different. Make people talk about you and not the others.

But have an aim: What is the end goal of this stunt or action?

If there is no end goal in place, you will fail and that could end up backfiring.

Get Reviews

By the end of week two you are begging for reviews. You are praying that a reviewer has come in and (fingers crossed) given you at least a 3 star review. Anything less and you can’t use it.

By the end of that second week every single poster and flyer wants to be including a starred review score. Those with five stars will spend all night by a photocopier reeling off thousands of copies of the review to hand out to the masses on The Royal Mile.

And it works.

Try selling your show to the public when someone rolls up next to you with their five star reviews plastered all over their flyers.

Guess who they listen to.

The advantage you have is that you can actively go and ask for reviews. You really can. If you have an online store you will have information about everyone that has brought from you, so follow up with an email asking if they would like to leave a review. There is no harm in asking, especially if you explain that the information is valuable in improving customer experience.

Reviews are essential and of course you need good ones. So make sure you give good service. Rankings are no different to being stood on The Royal Mile. You have your 3 star review but you can bet the site with 5 stars gets the traffic.

Get In With the Right People

There is a huge amount of networking that goes on during the Edinburgh Fringe. You get to mingle with agents and comedians you would otherwise never have access to. But such access also gives you the chance to “get in” with the right people.

It’s no different online. Social Media platforms give you huge access to people you may otherwise never have a chance of talking to. Twitter allows you to communicate with anyone who has a Twitter handle. Yes anyone.

If there are certain piers within your sector that you would benefit from having on your side, get talking to them. There isn’t anything to stop you. Having people in authority talking about you or your products can be huge.

It didn’t work for us in Edinburgh – everyone was too drunk by the time the evening rolled round but it was a great laugh.

No Matter How Much You Do – It’s Never Enough

But that doesn’t mean you should stop…

You can put all the man hours possible into your online campaigns but it will never be enough. More often than not someone will always be doing more.

We worked ourselves into the ground promoting and networking but someone would always come up with something better. That said, it didn’t mean we ended up performing to an empty room.

There were only so many seats other acts could fill before they were full, there is always a slice of that audience that you can claim. I mentioned right at the start that you shouldn’t assume that because there are hordes of people around that some will automatically come to you. This is still the case, we had to work for our share but because we did we had our own audience.

This all may sound like a lot of man hours, a lot of endless work simply to compete but this is the reality of digital marketing. It is on-going and you can be sure that everyone around you is doing it. Don’t get left behind.

Don’t just sit there waiting for your audience.  Go and find them.

Image Credits

Elevated view of crowds on Royal Mile during Edinburgh festival by BigStock

Members of Violet Shock Company publicize their show Beth during Edinburgh Fringe Festival on August 11, 2012 in Edinburgh by Big Stock

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Andy Williams

Andy Williams will be giving you useful insights into local search and the overall SEO landscape. Andy has over 10 years experience in the SEO industry including 2 years as the in-house SEO consultant with a leading Web Design company.

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