How To Create A Movie Marketing Plan (The Ultimate Guide)

This 12-week movie marketing plan will help you sketch out a way to promote your film. The plan includes tips on identifying your audience, places to promote your movie, and strategies for working with films distributors. While there are no guarantees in this or any business, having a plan for how your film will reach the market is better than relying on hope.

There is another benefit to managing your movie marketing. Unless your film becomes the next film festival sensation, most film distributors have a limited amount of time and advertising dollars they can put into your movie. So if you can identify a specific audience that wants to see your film, you can create a marketing plan that you can budget and control, independent of any distribution deal. And this gives you leverage in deal negotiation.

The first step in your movie marketing process involves setting realistic goals for your project. Knowing your goals will motivate you to keep promoting your film when you don’t want to. And having this clarity will help you decide what promotional and distribution opportunities are worth pursuing or ignoring.

To start the marketing process, take a moment to answer the following questions:

  1. Who is your general target audience?
  2. How many movie views / unit sales must you sell to break even?
  3. What do you hope to accomplish over the next 12 weeks?

Answering these questions will help you define the sales goals for your film. Once you know your goals, you can create a film marketing plan with a timeline and budget. And you’ll also have the clarity to evaluate distribution offers and only focus on the deals in line with your goals.

Week 01 – Movie Target Audience

There is a saying in movie marketing that “everybody is nobody and niches will make riches.” You don’t have a studio-level marketing muscle to reach the masses. But you also don’t have the burden of trying to recoup a studio film budget either. Targeting a particular audience is more affordable and allows for grassroots tactics.

If you made a movie about purple pinecones, for example, your audience would be people interested in pinecones. (I’m not sure if this audience exists, but it might be worth the research.) Or if you made a film about a small-town football team, you would be marketing towards sports fans. Or if you made a film about skateboarding, there is an audience.

Is there an audience that already exists for your film? Where does your audience hang out online? What are their interests? Where do they typically watch movies? Do they still read magazines still available on the newsstands?

  • Make a list of 5 ideal movie fan categories for your title
  • Figure out why these fans should watch your movie
  • Think about what makes your film different than other films

Once you have identified your target audience, you can create an audience profile, including their age, income level, and how they differ from the wider audience.

Week 02 – Your Movie Website

Because many video-on-demand services are available online, a large part of movie marketing is internet marketing. One of the easiest things you can do is create a website for your film that includes behind-the-scenes photos and videos, a detailed synopsis, artwork, and a trailer.

movie website

There are many ways to make a film website. The easiest is to use a drag-and-drop website builder like LeadPages that automatically creates an online presence. A second way is to leverage the power of WordPress. And if you have the budget, you can always hire a developer who can code HTML.

The two things you need for every website are hosting and a domain name. A domain name is the web address your users will type in to find your movie website. A hosting service provides space on its servers for your actual website. Usually, when you buy hosting, the hosting company will also offer an easy way to secure a domain name.

The following resources may help you build your movie website. Just keep in mind that these are affiliate partners, which means we receive compensation to promote. For this reason, we recommend you research these companies before choosing any one provider.

  • If you decide to use wordpress or hire a developer, this is our affiliate link for Bluehost. When you select the option to purchase your hosting package, Bluehost makes it easy to select a domain. We like Bluehost because it’s easy to use. And the customer service is pretty good
  • When it comes to using a drag and drop email builder like our affilaite LeadPages, you will need to secure your own domain name seperatly. At FilmmakingStuff, we tend to use GoDaddy to buy domain names to use with our LeadPages account
  • In the next step, you’ll discover the benefits of growing an email list. If you want to get a head start on the process, we reccomend using our affiliate Aweber for your email marketing. The company has been around for a long time. And the customer service is great

Regardless of the method you use, the first draft of your movie website will not be perfect. And this is okay. You can continuously improve it later. The most important thing you need to focus on is adding content to your website. Without content, people are unlikely to find or return to your movie website or remember your film.

Week 03 – Attract Your Audience

When it comes to marketing your independent film, one of your most important goals (aside from actually making the movie) is identifying and building your audience. Doing this is valuable for your current film and future projects.

One of the most sustainable ways to build an audience is through email marketing. Email allows you the ability always to have a running count of your subscribers. And unlike social media, because you own your list, you’ll have the ability to communicate directly with your audience whenever you want.

Your audience is your business. Without an audience, you have no business!

  • Discover where your fans congregate, both online and offline
  • Create as list of popular publications that cater to your fans
  • Make a list of influencers and other filmmakers who reach your audience

The basics of email marketing are pretty straightforward. Just be authentic. Share good stuff. And always lead with the intention that everyone on your email list is a friend. Over time, you will find ways to share value between your film projects. Check out our affiliate, Aweber, for your email marketing.

Week 04 – Always Track Everything

In movie marketing, it is widespread for everybody involved in a project to present a gazillion ideas on best marketing practices. But the truth is, the only good marketing idea is the one that works. And the only way you know if your strategy is working is when you test it.

film website analytics

You will need to set up tracking tools so you can understand user behavior. While there are a gazillion tracking tools, one of the most essential is Google Analytics. At the very least, GA (as we marketers call it) will show how many people visit your site, what pages they go to, and where these visits originated.

It’s important to note the internet traffic is meaningless if you don’t know what to do with it. And because your site visitors are busy and distracted, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to join your email list. This can be as simple as adding a LeadPages pop-up, or you could create an entire landing page for this purpose.

  • Add Google Analytics to your website to track visitor activity
  • Modify your website to get people to subscribe to your email list
  • Consider adding a pop-up through our affiliate partner, LeadPages

As mentioned earlier, the main objective of your marketing is to build an audience through email. If your website visitors are willing to give you their email, they are interested in your work. In exchange, it is your job to share value continually so you can build a lifelong fan.

Week 05 – Movie Marketing Refined

Have you ever noticed when a big studio releases a movie, they sometimes first push it as an action flick? Then later, the advertisements shift to a love story? Why does this happen? It happens because movie marketers continually test the film to find out what works and what does not. You will want to do the same.

The goal for your movie marketing is to be remarkable. You want audiences to remember the film and like it so much that they tell their friends and family about it. You also want to do whatever you can to make money from the film. So if there is some aspect of your movie that resonates with your audience, you will want to highlight this in your trailer, email newsletters, and other promotional material.

  • Refine movie messaging based on audience feedback
  • Create your hook and refine it to emphasize your unique story
  • Get your movie in front of influencers  in your target market

It is usually the audience and not the filmmaker who reveals what aspects of the movie are most exciting and memorable. It would help if you were open to change.

Week 06 – Movie Site SEO

Since you do not have a multi-gazillion-dollar movie marketing budget like the big Hollywood studios, you will need to focus on creating and sharing great content. This could be in the form of videos, social posts, podcasts, or articles. In the internet marketing world, this strategy is called “content marketing.”

Once you have great content, your next step involves optimizing your content for search. This is called search engine optimization (SEO), and there are many strategies to rank your content in search. Since many of these strategies are beyond the scope of this article, one thing you can focus on right now is keyword research.

To use the purple pinecones example from before, you would write an article about finding pinecones. You would optimize the article for people who search “how to find pinecones.” They may click on your paper and visit your blog. At the end of your article, you might include a clickable call to action like this: “If you liked this article, check out my new movie Attack Of The Purple Pinecones.” The reader then clicks your link and subscribes to your email list.

If it’s not already apparent, this article is an example of how SEO works. Maybe you were interested in finding ways to market a movie. So you searched, or you followed a link from another website or a social media share. And here you are. This article is content.

  • Conduct keyword research relevant to your audience
  • Implement your movie website, with SEO friendly framework
  • Define your content strategy, based on keyword research

While it took me a long time to write this article, I only wrote it once. As long as I continually revise and update, then this “content” will continue to attract visitors free of charge. Many visitors will join our filmmaker newsletter. And some will invest in our film distribution training. All of this is made possible by creating content.

Week 07 – Create Relevant Content

In addition to your website, setting up a YouTube channel and frequently posting videos can be a great promotional strategy. This is because Google owns YouTube, making it the second-largest search engine on Earth. Your video content could consist of clips from your film, behind-the-scenes videos, and interviews with the cast and crew.

When it comes to promoting videos on YouTube, one tool worth researching is our affiliate partner TubeBuddy. The app helps you optimize your YouTube videos, so they potentially get more views. The basic version of TubeBuddy is free, and the premium version offers some additional features that may be worth exploring.

  • Outline a content strategy based on movie/story/genre specific keywords
  • Work out timeline for how frequently you will deliver the content
  • Optimzie your YouTube video content for search, and share the videos

Once you get into the flow of creating content, you’ll quickly figure out what types of content get the most engagement and generate the most traffic. Your main goal is to create a bunch of original content so that you can publish quickly and keep things fresh.

Week 08 – Build More Buzz

Here is the thing. Let’s say you are making a zombie movie, and you decide to conduct an internet search for zombies. You will very quickly find thousands of websites devoted to zombie movies. Unless you have all the time in the world, contacting the owner of each blog or website is going to be impossible.

To make things easier, make a list of the sites that come up in the first three pages of Google. Once you have that list, do the same thing on YouTube. Then see if you can contact the content creators. If there is no direct email address, try posting a comment on their work and see if they respond to you.

  • Build a database of the top 50 publications in your niche
  • See if the content creators are responsive and open to cross promotion
  • This is also a good time to publish and distribute a press release

Once you contact the content creator, make sure you present your film in a way that complements the content creator’s niche. With this strategy, finding cross-promotional opportunities should be straightforward.

Week 09 – Leverage Social Networks

Many filmmakers are careless when it comes to social media. They post on multiple platforms, yelling: “I HAVE A MOVIE. PLEASE (potentially) WASTE 2 HOURS OF YOUR TIME AND WATCH IT!” While you know that your movie is way better than most other crap out there, this type of social media crop-dusting will not help you.

Your goal is to have a social media strategy that encourages word of mouth. And one way to do this is to cross-post the content you’re already creating. Posting content can help drive traffic back to your website and also increase your email subscribers.

  • Engage with potential users via social networking channels
  • Implement a guest posting strategy on several blogs
  • Upload videos and create a description with a clear call to action

When you post content, many people will respond with comments. This is an excellent opportunity to get into a conversation with your viewers. And because you are an accessible and authentic film producer, many of these people may become fans of your work for life.

Week 10 – Launch Your Film

The next step in the process is to get your film into the marketplace. To do this, you may consider partnering with a film distribution company. While there are many distributors to choose from, you will want to focus on companies specializing in your type of film.

Most film distributors will follow a release strategy that includes getting your film into domestic and international territories. From there, your movie may be made available in movie theaters, on television, and on many video-on-demand platforms.

  • Divide our launch strategy into several tiers and milestones
  • Send copies of your movie to popular review websites
  • Ask your film distributor “what else can be done?”

Assuming you end up working with a great film distributor, you will have the opportunity to collaborate on maximizing the film’s exposure. While your distributor will work to get your movie the best placement in each outlet, you’ll be able to reach out to your audience with news of each release.

Week 11 – Leverage Email Marketing

At this point in the process, you’ve attracted people to your movie website, built your email list, and you have shared the news of your film’s release. Your ongoing goal is to keep your audience engaged and interested in your movie.

Many email providers also employ a sequential email autoresponder. This feature lets you set periods between follow-up emails. Doing this gives subscribers time to digest the information you send before getting another update. You can use an autoresponder to pre-load a dozen email newsletters.

Sending a newsletter is a great way to keep your audience engaged. While this will include an update on your film, it should also include other points of value related to the topic of your movie. By sharing this information, you’ll keep your audience interested for the long term.

  • Write a half-dozen targeted emails and send at pre-determined intervals
  • Reach out to other filmmakers and ask if they would promote your film
  • Ask your current audience to share your film with their friends

Over time email engagement may go down. When this happens, it’s always good to send emails asking questions. This gives you a way to interact with your audience and get feedback on your film. You could ask your audience what their favorite part of the film was. This will allow you to gather more information about them and your movie.

Week 12 – Grow Your Community!

By now, these words should echo in your filmmaking mind: “My audience is my business. Without an audience, I have no business.” When it comes to film distribution, having access to your audience gives you the power to say no to crappy deals. Because your audience is quantifiable and accessible, it also gives you leverage when talking with film investors.

Your audience is your business, not just for your current project but also for all future titles. And just as importantly, all of your fans become part of your film career, with a vested interest in seeing you succeed.

  • Establish a community for your fans
  • Focus on creating long-term community
  • Get fans into a database that you control

So there you have it. This is a broad overview of a 12-week movie marketing plan that you can implement for your next title. I’ve also offered some recommendations on how to use each tactic. Just remember that marketing is not magic. You have to be willing to test and retest different promotions until you find one that works.

If you know someone seeking film distribution, you might also want to check out the sell your movie system. I hope this guide has been valuable to you. Be sure to share it with a filmmaker who could benefit. And good luck with marketing your next movie!

Photo of author

ARTICLE BY Jason Brubaker

If you'd like more tactics like the article you just read, make sure to grab a copy of the filmmaker checklist. You'll get 65 useful steps you can employ to produce your next feature film.
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