With traditional distribution options disappearing for filmmakers it is no longer possible for independent filmmakers to think that someone else will devise their marketing strategy. Just as you create a great screenplay for your film which you then breakdown and storyboard before shooting, having a marketing plan thought out gives you a way to communicate to others the way that you will reach your audience. In this post I will outline the aspects of marketing planning that I found useful for Crackheads.
Creating a marketing plan can be compared to writing a film script. There are plenty of resources out there telling you how to structure it, what kind of elements you need and how it should be formatted. Really you just need to find a way to create a plan that will work for you. And just like a script you need to prepared for that document to evolve and change over time as you take advantage of new opportunities.
Obviously it is important that you have already completed the first couple of steps – summarizing your target market and defining your goals. I will add in here that you do not need to have only one audience for your film. You could target many different groups. The thing that they all need to have in common is an easy way to access them – you need to think of where people gather, whether it is physically or online. (see my previous post Marketing Planning Basics for more information)
Audience for the Plan
The next step that is important when considering your planning is who will be reading the plan. Is it a document purely for you and your crew, or is it something that you will be showing to other parties. The real defining factor here is how much your audience knows about the filmmaking landscape. If they don’t know much you will need to ensure you explain it to them – if it’s just a document for you and your crew it can be a lot less formal.
Researching the Environment
Once you know who you are preparing the document for you can start doing the background research. This is the stage where you fill in any gaps of knowledge you have. Look at other films and what they have been doing, but don’t limit yourself just to film. Your film is a product just like any other going into the marketplace so have a look at the way other products are getting out there too.
The main things you want to cover in your research are:
how your genre (or other films with similar attributes) are doing in the marketplace – are there any trends you should be aware of?
What new technology is available? These days things are updating so fast that there always seems to be a new distribution platform, blog, press site, festival – have a look to see what is relevant for you.
Are there any specific trends that your target market are a part of? How do they generally consume films? How do they hear about them?
What is your competition? Is there anything to be wary of?
What are the logistical elements involved in your release? What censorship rules do you need to abide by? Are there any other concerns/opportunities in your local environment?
Summarize your research
After looking through all of your research make notes on what things would be good opportunities and what threats you need to be wary of. Think about how you can minimize the threats and what would be required to take up the opportunities. Consider what elements will be critical for a successful release.
Target Market – Benefits
Add in your target markets to the plan in easily understandable segments – ‘University Students’, ‘Soccer Players’ – segments that you can see how you will reach them. Then think about what the benefit of the film would be for them, why would they watch it? (Because it’s a good movie is not an answer). Try to think about things from their point of view and what about the film will make it compelling for them.
Goals – Objectives
Think about a way to turn your goals into achievable objectives. Objectives need to be specific and measurable. Generating a certain number of Facebook likes or defining a time period that you want to make your budget back in (be realistic here, this could be a whole post), could be examples. This idea is to have measuring sticks so you can see if your plan is successful.
In this part of the plan you could start using marketing terminology to define your strategies. Of course it depends on your audience, but I’m not sure that’s necessary. Instead think about what your overall Distribution strategy and Integrated Communication Strategies (how you will get the information to your viewers) might look like. You can also consider how you will position your film in the marketplace (genre, budget level, etc) and how you will compete in the marketplace. The key here is to have a general overview of what you will do.
Specific Marketing Elements
This is the section where you go into more detail about the specific ways you will reach your audience. These elements are numerous and most contain a lot of detail and will try to cover most of them in other posts.
The kinds of things you will be thinking about are:Brand Identity – How would you sum up your film, what you want the audience to understand from your materials
Materials – The items you will be creating, posters, flyers, ads (both design and production)
Your web presence – social media, website, online databases etc
Publicity – Stunts, dealing with the press
Distribution Options – the specific distribution pathways you will be pursuing
Festivals – Generating a plan around festival submission
Advertising – If you have a budget, what advertising elements will you be incorporating.