On Saturday, I had the absolute privilege to see Hamilton: An American Musical on Broadway! After trying to get tickets for over a year and a half, it had a lot to live up to, and and it absolutely did!
It was an amazing show, and it also has some important lessons to teach us about event and campaign launches.
"WAIT FOR IT"
Build buzz. Lin Manuel-Miranda actually started talking about this show back in 2008, when it was still mostly just an idea in his head. He had one song written, but he knew the show had big potential.
Lesson: If you're excited about your product or launch, talk about it and get other people excited too. Start with your circle of insiders and biggest fans. And especially if you're trying to sell something, these early conversations will help you decide not only if there is a market, but the value of it as well.
"I AM NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT"
That one song? He sang it at the White House. He was invited there to perform, but instead of singing one of the songs from In the Heights, his hit show at the time, he decided to test out this new material. What better place to talk about a Founding Father? President Obama's reaction to the concept? "Uh, good luck with that." Ha! But then he belted out the title song, "Alexander Hamilton," and people were ready to line up for tickets—years before it would open.
Lesson: Look for unique opportunities to talk about your product or event, even far in advance. This will allow you to build anticipation. And don't forget to include the influencers in your life. Let them help you get the word out as needed. It will add credibility, and help get you in front of new audiences.
From the time Hamilton opened Off-Broadway in early 2015, I heard about it everywhere! On TV, from friends, on social media. It moved to Broadway just a couple of months later, and immediately sold out for months at a time—as it still does. And almost two years later, people are still talking about it. Not only do they have an email list and soundtrack, but they have additional merchandise at the theater and online, and they also released a Mix-Tape last year with celebrities singing some of the popular songs. This gives fans who've already gone something else to remember it by, and people who haven't yet been, and chance to feel included while patiently waiting for tickets and the traveling tour.
Lesson: Whether your event or product has a defined timeframe or an open one, you've gotta hit the marketing hard. Use every available avenue to talk to your fans, potential fans, and their friends. Word-of-mouth still has the strongest return on investment, but there are multiple options for reaching your target audience, and it will likely take a combination of all of them to get the job done. Be creative and consistent.
"RIGHT HAND MAN"
In the emails I received about the show and in the program, there were always ads by relevant services and destinations. In the emails, it was usually about other Broadway shows and ticketing partners. In the program, there were several ads about American Revolution museums, vacations in the Caribbean where Hamilton grew up, or other Broadway shows.
Lesson: When it's right for your event, product or organization, consider taking on partners. These can be short- or long-term. Maybe the services or products are complimentary, maybe the person is speaking at your event, or maybe they just love what you're up to. Just like influencers, partnerships have the ability to put you in front of new audiences and expend your reach. Just remember, it needs to make sense for both parties and be valuable to your audience.
"ONE LAST TIME"
I was finally able to buy a ticket last June, so I had nine months to wait before actually attending the show. Because it was so far in advance, the tickets weren't even ready at the time of purchase. So, a couple of months later, I received an email that my tickets were ready. I still had a few months to go, but I got excited all over again! And a few days prior to the show, I received another email with helpful information about getting to the theater, some Q&A and a digital "Hamilton Tour of NYC."
Lesson: It's not over till it's over. Just because you have initial buy-in, don't dismiss the opportunity to talk to your audience, delight them all over again, or get in on the countdown. And always be helpful. By anticipating people's wants and needs, you'll be the hero.
"BLOW US ALL AWAY"
Like I said, I waited a year and a half to sit in those seats. By the time I did, I knew the music, watched a documentary, and been consuming all kinds of info on A.Ham and the American Revolution. So, not only was I well prepped, but I had very high hopes. However, I knew they wouldn't let me down—and they didn't.
Lesson: You can have an amazing launch, but if what you're actually marketing doesn't deliver, you'll lose the confidence of your audience, and they'll be less likely to follow you down this road a second time. Make sure your product or event has a solid foundation to stand on.
"YOU'LL BE BACK"
On my way out the door, it was all I could do not to purchase every piece of merchandise I saw! I managed to restrain myself, but I did snag another picture of the marquee on my way out, just to make sure I had a really good one for Instagram.
Lesson: After your launch, be sure to follow through. That could mean a survey, or a thank you, or asking people to take some sort of next step. But don't let the experience end with the purchase. Use the purchase to extend the experience.
What are your best practices for a launch?
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I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.