This 12-week movie marketing plan will help you sketch a way to promote your film. The method includes tips on identifying your audience, places to promote your movie, and strategies for working with film 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.
Unless your film becomes the next film festival sensation, most film distributors have limited 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.
- Week 01 – Movie Target Audience
- Week 02 – Your Movie Website
- Week 03 – Attract Your Audience
- Week 04 – Always Track Everything
- Week 05 – Movie Marketing Refined
- Week 06 – Movie Site SEO
- Week 07 – Create Relevant Content
- Week 08 – Build More Buzz
- Week 09 – Leverage Social Networks
- Week 10 – Launch Your Film
- Week 11 – Leverage Email Marketing
- Week 12 – Grow Your Community!
To start the marketing process, take a moment to answer the following questions:
- Who is your general target audience?
- How many views or units must you sell to break even?
- 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, 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.
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 users will type 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 offer an easy way to secure a domain name.
The following resources may help you build your movie website. Remember that these are affiliate partners, which means we receive compensation to promote. For this reason, we recommend you research these companies before choosing any provider.
- If you decide to use WordPress or hire a developer, you’ll need some hosting. We promote WpEngine as an affiliate and use it for this site.
- You will need to secure your domain name separately using a drag-and-drop email builder like our affiliate LeadPages. 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. We recommend using our affiliate Aweber for your email marketing if you want a head start on the process. The company has been around for a long time. And the customer service is excellent.
Regardless of your method, 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 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 always to have a running count of your subscribers. And unlike social media, because you own your list, you’ll be able 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 a 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.
You will need to set up tracking tools to 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 that 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. One simple tactic is to add 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, your job is 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 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 some aspect of your movie 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, not the filmmaker, who reveals what aspects of the film 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. Your content could be 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 writing, 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.
This article is an example of how SEO works if it’s not already apparent. Maybe you were interested in finding ways to market a movie. So you searched or 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, this “content” will continue attracting visitors free of charge.
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 include clips from your film, behind-the-scenes videos, and interviews with the cast and crew.
Regarding 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 a timeline for how frequently you will deliver the content
- Optimize 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 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 will be impossible.
To make things easier, list the sites on 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 an excellent time to publish and distribute a press release
Once you contact the content creator, ensure 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 your movie is way better than most other crap, a crop-dusting type of social media 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 to your website and 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 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. Your movie may be made available in theaters, on television, and 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 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. 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 them at pre-determined intervals.
- Reach out to other filmmakers and ask if they would promote your film
- Ask your current audience to share your movie with their friends
Over time email engagement may go down. When this happens, it’s always good to send emails asking questions. This allows you 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!
These words should echo in your filmmaking mind:
“My audience is my business. Without an audience, I have no business.”
Regarding 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 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 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 must 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!