How To Build Your Audience Through Email

As a filmmaker, you can’t attend any filmmaking event without someone talking about the importance of why you need to build your audience. So you can imagine my surprise when at a recent speaking gig, a filmmaker raised her hand and asked:

“When you say build your audience, what does that mean?”

Admittedly, until I got this question, it never really occurred to me that the whole “build your audience” mandate is opaque to some filmmakers and downright confusing to others.

So let me quickly address your questions:

Question: Why do I need to build an audience?

Answer: Because when you build your audience, you have power. You can walk into (or out of) any negotiation knowing your project has value beyond just being a great movie.

As I explained in this movie marketing article, I was hired by a filmmaker to help sell a movie at the American Film Market. We received tons of buzz (and a few solid offers) because the lead actor had 3,500,000 YouTube subscribers.

In this example we are appealing to distributors because having a “name” represents potentially thousands of people who can be reached without spending money on advertising. This is also the reason major studios pay millions to Tom Cruise. He’s a star. He brings an audience.

But let us assume for a minute, you’re like a lot of filmmakers. You don’t have access to a major or minor star. Yet you want to share work that sparks emotion. You want to make movies that sell.

Build Your Audience

How To Build Your Audience

When I first got into filmmaking (which was over a decade ago) things were much different. Back then, we actually shot on film. There was cool filmmaking stuff like pre-sales and negative pickup deals.

Back in those days, the goal was to simply make a movie, get into festivals, garner a gazillion dollar check and level up your Hollywood career. There was never any talk about movie marketing or how to build your audience… I mean, isn’t this the whole reason you partnered with a distributor?

At least that is what we thought.

But video on demand has disrupted and changed everything.

Without physical media, distributors can no longer make a business deal with Blockbuster and bank on the fixed revenue associated with manufacturing and shipping 5,000 DVDs. Instead successful distributors must now directly market to consumers.

Make no mistake… This is NOT the same model.

What I am describing represents a significant shift from a wholesale business to business model to a retail business to consumer model. And while most of Hollywood wants to pretend differently, the winners of this paradigm shift are the filmmakers who understand self-distribution and marketing.

Filmmakers must build their own audience listAnd ironically, the filmmakers who get the best distribution deals are filmmakers who don’t necessarily need the deal!

Email Marketing Trumps Social Media

One of the best, most cost efficient ways to market is by taking time to build your audience. The good news is, much of this will happen through growing your email list.

Think about it. Trying to break through the online, conversational noise is challenging. Email cuts through some of that clutter. And to reinforce this thinking, here are some facts about other platforms:

  • When you post to Facebook, only a small percentage of people see your stuff.
  • Most people who “LIKE” a page never return.
  • When you Tweet stuff, your tweet is only seen for a few seconds.

Email trumps social media because it serves as a private, direct line to a real person.

By real person, I mean YOU.

You’re not just some reader in a vast ocean of faceless readers.

And neither is YOUR AUDIENCE of email subscribers. They follow you because they LOVE your work. They are giving you permission to share with them.

Your audience consists of people who have dreams, desires and ideas. And is it up to you dear filmmaker to make sure you always remember and respect this. But most importantly, the people who make up your audience have problems that need solving.

Email Marketing Rules

After working professionally in VOD film distribution for quite some time, I know some of these email marketing tactics can be confusing.

So to keep it simple, just remember this: Your goal is to communicate directly to your audience, while consistently providing them with thought provoking, interesting and entertaining movies.

Once you understand the value you present, the actual mechanics of capturing email comes down to some simple software. I have explained how to set up an eMail Marketing campaign HERE.

And if you’d like to find out more about the movie marketing and film distribution, you may benefit from checking out my newly updated, How To Sell Your Movie System.

Email Marketing For Movies (Why You Need To Start Now!)

Did you know that email marketing for movies is as important as making your movie?

Sounds weird right?

I mean, you’re a filmmaker. What does email marketing for movies have to do with your success?

Everything…

In fact, I believe that email marketing for movies is essential.

And here’s one example why:

Picture This – You’re meeting a prospective investor for the first time.

You enter her gigantic office and you sit down. The assistant asks if you’d like anything to drink. You politely decline. (The truth is, you’re thirsty – But this is a big meeting and you don’t want to spill anything on your shirt.)

After a few minutes, your prospective investor walks into the room, sits down and you start talking. Everything is going well and the conversation organically flows into why you’re there. You’re there because you’re looking for investors. Specifically, you’d like her to fund your movie. And it goes something like this:

[Disclaimer: I am not a tax, legal or investment professional. So what I am about to share should be no way construed as any sort of advice. In fact, I am merely demonstrating via dialogue why I believe email marketing for movies is essential for filmmakers. Please speak with a qualified professional before taking any meetings with anybody anywhere in the universe.]

BEGIN SCENE

Filmmaker
I’m going to make a movie right here in this town. And I am looking for prospective investors who would be interested in backing the project.

Prospective Investor
Sounds interesting. As you can probably imagine, I have meetings like this every week. Last week someone proposed I should invest in their purple-pine-cone business. They are already profitable. And they are offering me an amazing opportunity with very low risk. Why should I invest in your project?

Filmmaker
We have this really great script. And we are going to make a movie. Take it to Sundance, sell the movie for maximum profit. And then we are going to use those profits to make more movies.

Prospective Investor
Get out of my office!

Filmmaker
Why?

Prospective Investor
Because what you just presented is not a business. It is a gamble. You don’t know if you’ll get into Sundance. And you don’t know if someone will buy your movie. And even if you do, you have no idea how much they will pay.

Filmmaker
But Paranormal Activity did awesome!

Prospective Investor
Get out!!! And only come back when you have a REAL business plan.

END SCENE

The world of independent filmmaking is changing.

The market is flooded with backyard indies. As a result, there is no longer a world where you get into Sundance and simply sell your movie to the highest bidder. And even if that world still existed, it was always a crappy bet for new filmmakers and inexperienced film investors.

Email Marketing For Movies

Email Marketing For Movies

As a result of these changes, filmmakers who want to make a living making independent movies need to start thinking about their target audience BEFORE YOU MAKE YOUR MOVIE!

While I would never suggest that you completely forgo your artistic integrity, I would suggest you answer the following questions:

  1. Who is going to buy and watch your movie? (Hint, if you answer everybody, you answered nobody.)
  2. How will you reach your intended niche, target audience?
  3. How many VOD downloads will it take to recoup your initial investment?

Since those of you who make movies are mostly filmmakers, not marketers, it becomes increasingly challenging to market your movie and your work. But some aspects of marketing are easier than you think.

How to get started?

One easy thing you can do is set up your own email marketing system. Email marketing for movies works like this – The bigger your list of targeted subscribers, the more sales you can potentially make. And for an example of how this works, click here to grab your free filmmaker checklist.

Pretty cool right?

Did you see how that big box just jumped right at you?

If you signed up, you did so because the Filmmaker Checklist is more valuable than the time it takes to type your email address. (And I really did put a lot of work into making it valuable for you.) This is what marketers call an “ethical bribe,” “opt-in candy” or a “lead magnet.” And you need to create a lead magnet for your movie website visitors too.

Common lead magnet examples for movie website usually consist of: behind the scenes photos, movie song downloads or soundtrack, poster downloads, short video clips, or pretty much anything your audience would value…

There are two tools I utilize to create this and build my list. And both pay me to promote. (So do your own research.) One is called Aweber. And the other is called LeadPages.

Aweber manages my professional email correspondence and helps me avoid ending up in the Spam trap. And LeadPages links with Aweber and helps me come up with really awesome subscriber forms like the one you clicked above.

As a rule of thumb, never email blast from your own servers. Always use a 3rd party email marketing company that insists on something called a double opt-in. A double opt-in means that after people submit their name and email to your list, they will still need to check their email for a confirmation link.

Then in each subsequent blast, the email will always provide an easy way to unsubscribe.

For a recap, here are the three steps you take to get started with email marketing for your movie.

  1. Come up with a “lead magnet.”
  2. Get started with Aweber (they pay me.)
  3. Link Aweber to Leadpages (they also pay me.)

Collect Email From Your Movie Website

In the context of movie promotion, several other movies do this really well. Check out Food Matters, Camp Takota and Forks Over Knives. Each example is a highly successful movie. And one major reason for this success is, you guessed it:

Email marketing for movies!

As you can see, most of these movie websites are very streamlined, usually limited to trailer as well as an opt-in form. This is intentional. Above all else, building an email list is essential for the long term success of these movies, selling related merchandise and subsequent sequels.

Copy this strategy for your own movie website! Like these other filmmakers, start collecting names and email addresses of prospective audience members as soon as you can. Or to put it another way:

You are no longer in the movie business. You are now in the audience engagement business.

Through both online and offline marketing efforts, your objective is to grow community around your movie – which could spread positive word of mouth. This could eventually lead to direct video on demand sales! And the other benefit? If you start now, you could begin to grow a list. this can help you while you’re raising money.

Here’s that example again (with the added value of a robust email list.)

BEGIN SCENE

Filmmaker
I’m going to make a movie right here in this town. And I am looking for prospective investors who would be interested in backing the project.

Prospective Investor
Sounds interesting. As you can probably imagine, I have meetings like this every week. Last week someone proposed I should invest in their purple-pine-cone business. They are already profitable. And they are offering me an amazing opportunity with very low risk. Why should I invest in your project?

Filmmaker
We have this really great script, a robust email list of 15,000 raving fans! So far, the responses for this next movie seem favorable. So this at least gives us a direct market base to hedge our bets. Aside from selling the movie directly, many have expressed interest in additional merchandise, like t-shirts. So this offers us a great opportunity to create multiple retail, revenue opportunities.

Prospective Investor
Sounds like you’ve done your homework. Tell me more!

END SCENE

While this is a totally fictional example, I am hoping you see the power of email marketing for movies. Having a plan for email can accelerate the growth of your movie business. And we aren’t just talking your current movie, but all movies moving forward!

sell your movieSometime down the road, long after your movie has played the festivals and sold out on iTunes, you may find there is value in promoting other movies of a similar genre – or better yet, selling your next movie. This is when email marketing for movies really pays off. Remember, with email marketing for movies, the real money is in your list!

If you liked these marketing tips, you will love the sell your movie action pack.

 

Why Do Filmmakers Need A List?

Like it or not, many social networking sites run the risk of going out of vogue. So as a filmmaker, if you are working to build a relationship with your audience – From day one, you will want to migrate your fans off the social networking sites and get them into your own email, mailing list.

For this, I recommend using a reputable third-party email marketing service such as www.AudienceList.com.

In full disclosure, the company does pay me to promote, but it is the company I utilize for my own business.

With this tool, as soon as you sign up for one of their inexpensive accounts, you can easily create ways for your movie fans to connect with you. For an example of how this works, STOP: If you would like over $47 dollars in useful filmmaking tools for FREE, sign up below:

 

If you just clicked that link, you probably got an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Assuming you clicked, you were then redirected to a “Thank You Page.” And on that page you were able to download all sorts of premium filmmaking tools, for free. This is what legitimate email marketers call the “double-opt-in” process.

While I am obviously utilizing list-building to create a more meaningful relationship with filmmakers (and YOU), this model can be (and should be) applied to your own movie business.

The major difference between email marketing and traditional movie marketing methods is that members of your target audience find you, and give YOU permission to email them. This is important, because unlike traditional movie marketing methods, with email marketing, you will only communicate with people actually interested in your movie.

To make this easy, your audience list is simply a collection of email addresses. Most filmmakers will also collect the person’s first name with the email address so that they can personalize the email. So instead of saying “Hello Zombie Movie Lover”, you can say “Hey, Jason!”

While I usually stick to just collecting a name and email address, www.AudienceList.com also makes it easy to collect information such as the address and phone number of your site visitor. While this extra information may help refine your  marketing strategy – the truth is, most of your movie website visitors will not take time to fill out an extensive opt-in form.

An opt-in form is a little box that asks visitors to provide you with their name and email address. Here is an example:

 

With services like www.AudienceList.com, as soon as your visitor opts-in, the contact information is added to your database and managed for you, automatically! These subscribers are now part of your “list,” and you can email them with updates, deals and movie festival screening times – to name a few examples.

The other week I gave a talk at the UCLA film school. And someone asked me why I emphasize audience list building so much – So this is important. Given the disruption to traditional distribution sales channels, building an audience list for your movie and your career might be one of the most important decisions you ever make. Why? Because regardless of how the independent movie industry changes, one constant will always hold true. YOU will need to get people to sit down and watch your movie, and hopefully pay you for this privilege. www.AudienceList.com can help you get started.

Free Marketing Advice For Filmmakers

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Filmmakers need to source their target audience. Image via Wikipedia

Given the erosion of traditional movie distribution sales channels, as a filmmaker you must now find your target audience wherever they hang out and then get them to know you, know your work, and hopefully pay money to watch your movie.

In the past, filmmakers never had to worry about sourcing an audience because the entire movie industry operated like a big factory. Filmmakers made the product and the distributors sold the product through theatrical and DVD distribution. But as a result of the internet and enhancements to video on demand technology, distribution has been disrupted and the old model has been forever screwed up.

So now, if you want to succeed as a filmmaker, it is not enough to simply get you movie into iTunes. I mean, anybody can do that. What you also need to do is have a killer website, attract your target audience, and then get them to take action.

While it’s nice to believe that all website visitors will automatically buy your movie, the truth is, most visitors will not buy your movie on the first visit. For starters, they don’t know you. And they probably don’t know anything about your movie. So your job is not necessary to focus on the sale, but rather, focus on opting them into your audience list.

There are many ways to create an audience list. But unfortunately, most of the methods are crap. In my career, to save money, I have tried forgoing using a reputable email marketing company, and opted instead for one of the popular social networks. For awhile, this was awesome – even thought it took years, I had 8000 “friends” and one one of the sites… But then that site went out of vogue. As a result, my sourced audience was useless.

To avoid the same fate, I HIGHLY recommend that you use a reputable 3rd party email marketing company to manage your audience list. While there are some great companies out there, over the past three years, I have utilized a service called Aweber. This is a reputable email marketing company… [and yes, they DO pay me to promote – so conduct your own due-diligence.]

But the reason I promote this service over other services is this: Aweber adheres to Spam Laws and requires “double-opt-in.”  This means, after your visitor opts-in, they get an email asking if they’re sure they really want to hear from you.  And because of their business practices, Aweber is respected by email service provides – like Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail- which helps avoid spam filters. Additionally, as part of the service, you are able to set up something called a sequential email auto-responder. An auto-responder allows you to pre-write and create multiple emails for your audience.

So let’s say you were trying to sell your Zombie movie. After the opt-in, your first email could tell your audience more about your movie. And over the following weeks, your subsequent emails could then provide more and more value to your prospective customer – the result of which compels your fan to BUY NOW.

Once your prospect makes a purchase, you could automatically migrate this person to your customer list. And once this fan is in your customer list, you could then promote another zombie movie (from another friendly filmmaker). And because you “sourced a zombie audience member,” the odds of getting a second sale are greater.

Most filmmakers don’t get excited about the wonders of sourcing an audience. But again, most filmmakers do not realize we are in a new era of independent filmmaking. The good news is for you is, with a website, some creativity and an email marketing mechanism, you can start sourcing your audience TODAY.

If you would like to find out more about email marketing and how this can help you with your own independent movie business, you can get some FREE information below:

“The Money Is In The List



AWeber proves it to thousands of businesses every day.

Learn how email marketing software
can get you more sales, too.

 

Happy Filmmaking!