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Topic: A question for professional school show performers
Message: Posted by: arthur stead (Apr 22, 2012 12:33PM)
A question for professional school show performers.

Just curious: In today's school show market, how much success are you guys still having with printed materials? I've actually stood beside librarians and school PTA/PTO's as they sorted through their daily mail ... and watched them toss anything unfamiliar right into the wastepaper basket!

Obviously, repeat customers will read our promo materials. But what sort of success rate are you experiencing with new clients to whom you've mailed promo material? And what other methods are you using?
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Apr 22, 2012 01:13PM)
I haven't used printed promo materials in 7 or 8 years. I do post cards not for promo but other purposes.
Message: Posted by: arthur stead (Apr 27, 2012 09:30PM)
Thanks for your response, Mindpro. I'm surprised no one else has chimed in on this. So let me rephrase my question: If not printed materials, what DO you use for marketing? And for what other purposes do you use postcards?
Message: Posted by: Sam Sandler (Apr 27, 2012 11:39PM)
I printed material I use a post card very large one that gets sent out at the end of each year then 2 weeks later begin the phone campaign.
during the conversation most will be asking for more info which I then direct them to my website as well as offer to email them the info as well.
some request snail mail and that is fine.

the combo of print and phone calls works well. it also helps to have a good show LOL

I find that being able to mention that I was in a school in their district recently is very helpful and usually gets the booking done.

you need to find what works for you but I can tell you that you need to be very aggressive in your marketing and have a show that they WANT.

Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Apr 28, 2012 07:05AM)
Arthur, I agree too at being surprised more people haven't chimed in. I have noticed, especially with the school market, we tend to be very protective as to our methods and what is working.

I am almost 100% all email marketing and promotion. The only time I use post cards is if I am appearing at a convention or expo in their area and I use it as a Special Announcement/Invitation/"Stop By & See Me" reminder. I only send these to those in the immediate area, that are on my Hot List, VIP list, or that have inquired but not yet booked.

Occasionally if I have some avails in my touring schedule I'll send out a post card of my schedule with open routed dates.

Other than these two rare possibilities it's all e-mailings (opt-in of course).

As Sam mentioned if I have been or am coming to their area (district) that carries a lot of wait when the post card of open dates allows them to see the other schools in their area that have already booked. This as he said, does help a great deal.
Message: Posted by: Ken Northridge (Apr 28, 2012 07:14AM)
You have to realize the success rate of direct mail is 2%, and always has been. It is a frustrating to know that 98% of your mailing will end up in the trash can, but if you do it right that 2% could be gold, or even turn into regular customers.

I have never followed up with a phone call, or used any kind of cold call technique.

I am not secretive about my methods. In fact, I ‘tell all’ in an soon to be released free podcast on The Magic Bistro.
Message: Posted by: James Munton (Apr 28, 2012 09:01AM)
Yes, Ken was extremely generous with the info he shared. I'll put the podcast up sometime next week.

Ken, even the Bistro members don't know you are the next interview! I was going to do the anagram quiz. You are the Red Hornet King - that's the best anagram yet!
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Apr 28, 2012 09:40AM)
Wow a Ken Northridge podcast. I have listened to all of James' interviews, and I look forward to listening to my friend Ken tell me how he is able to support his large family while putting two kids through college without a day job.

Can't wait buddy
Message: Posted by: Blair Marshall (Apr 28, 2012 10:03AM)

2% return is based on a lot of factors. (Many of which have been gone over on the Café before.) And actually that 2% may be calls from your material not bookings. It all depends on the timing, the offer etc.

98% ends up in the trash......I would suggest more so with certain folks within the school system ie. principals (at least in my experience based on calls when I have not been actively mailing).

But I will tip this....direct mail lives forever in a school system. You may not get a call from this mailing but 2 years from know when the new committee takes over, that hard copy file may be opened and there you are. MANY librarians will keep your info., daycare/after school programs will keep your material, Moms on committees will keep your cards and material if they are involved with fundraising etc.

So you may only get a 2% return on your initial mailing, but perhaps 25% is kept for future reference and use. It would be interesting to know this figure.

When I mail to principals, I would agree, 98% hits the bin, maybe EVEN BEFORE they get it (ah yes...that gatekeeper!!!)

By continuous mailings you want to own as much "real estate" in that hard copy file as possible. In that way when it is passed on you are there!

So you have your initial hit (2% plus, depending on your list) and then you have the retentian factor which is built on with each subsequent mailing and the 2% rises).

Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Apr 28, 2012 10:46AM)
Taking the time to find out WHO to mail it to, and even almost as important WHEN TO MAIL IT will help that return rate. Often people you might not imagine become allies and get things through.

For example many secretaries have a quite large input on what does and does not make it to a principals in box. Just a bit of research helps quite a bit.

Finding out WHEN they are looking for things never hurts either.
Message: Posted by: Ken Northridge (Apr 28, 2012 11:10AM)
Good points Blair. When I say a 2% return rate, I mean 2% actually book directly from the mailing in 4 to 6 weeks. I’ve measured this and have gotten as high as 4% before. You are correct that some will hold onto the mailing for years and pass it down to someone else and book at some point. Then you have to factor in the percentage of the 2% that turn into repeat customers. How many papers in the trash is that worth!

Concerning the ‘who,’ this is what makes it more frustrating because it varies greatly from school to school and state to state…and year to year. Blair, you suggest that principals where you are don’t do the booking. In New Jersey, I’d say 30% of my bookings come directly from the principal.

On 2012-04-28 10:40, Al Angello wrote:
Wow a Ken Northridge podcast. I have listened to all of James' interviews, and I look forward to listening to my friend Ken tell me how he is able to support his large family while putting two kids through college without a day job.

Can't wait buddy
[/quote]Make that putting FOUR kids through college and another 16 year old yet to consider! LOL
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Apr 28, 2012 11:11AM)
I find that a lot of the day care centers I send my post cards to just spent their whole years entertainment budget last month, so I send out four day care mailings a year, and James Munton taught me to follow them up with an email reminder.
Message: Posted by: Blair Marshall (Apr 28, 2012 11:23AM)
Principals in this area do "spontaneous" bookings ie. oooops let's do something for Halloween, end of school etc. rarely is anything from a principal anything out in the future. These shows I would refer to as "entertainment" shows though not part of a planned program ie. bullying etc.

Message: Posted by: socalmagic (Apr 28, 2012 11:26AM)
I mail out three times a year. It's a full-color piece and it's sent to the person in charge (not a title). I have the email of 1/4 of the recipients, so I will email them right when the mailing piece is sent out telling them to look for it. I think there is a different approach when you are established and have been in a market for a long time. I don't view a mailing as a one-time event and don't get concerned if it gets a 2% or 10% response. I'm more concerned with keeping in touch and my mailings are one way of staying on their mind. Emails communication alone is too easy to dismiss or delete. I get tons of emails that I would be interested in reading, but I don't have the time. A mailing is a little easier because I can look it over while eating breakfast, etc.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Apr 28, 2012 12:35PM)
Danny makes a few good points, as knowing who to direct your mailing or contacts to makes a big difference and does increase your return ratio.

The thing to remember is the school market has many layers and is more complex than many understand or give credit for. About two to three times a year the topic of school mailings or contacting comes up here and while some okay general information is given, it never tells the complete story. The truth of the matter is there is not a secret "bullet" to school mailings. One person does not handle school bookings (as nice as that would be). There are Principals, parent committees, faculty, after school programs, PTA events, and so on. Each typically handled by someone different, There is a mentality to direct mailing to the Principal, but as mentioned they may actually get and read a very small percentage if this info. They don't simply forward it to the proper person as we would wish. It does happen but not enough to count on it.

At a administration conference maybe four or five years ago, in a discussion panel the topic of mailing and solicitations came up and surprisingly (this caused me to restructure this area of my marketing operation completely) a huge majority of the panel as well as administration attendees in the audience said they simply toss out anything not directed to a specific faculty or administration persons name. No titles, they are automatically considered junk. Do not forward. There attitude (and two of them actually said this) if they don't know who these people are they're trying to contact, they don't want to reach them too badly. Big eye opener.

The problem is it is a bit of work and due diligence to find all of this info as it is not as simple as going to their web site or calling them, as they often don't have the fundraising representative or Assembly Director (usually a volunteer teacher) listen, and when you call they secretary may not always know or be able to give that info out. I booked several assemblies recently that were coordinated by the school nurse! It doubles in complication on the high school level for similar reasons. Plus more and more schools are using a secured contact system for emails and direct phone contacts, where yo must me whitelisted first in order for you contact to be received. The the security screening in advance at at the door upon arrival. The school market isn't the breeze everything (without any experience) seems to think it is.

Much also depends on not just the school's contact but the type of program - entertainment or educational. During school, after school, etc.

I'll have to check out this Magic Bistro and see if I can listen to Ken's podcast if I get a chance. Congrats Ken.
Message: Posted by: Sam Sandler (Apr 28, 2012 02:07PM)
Yes yes yes I should have mentioned that in my post that I have the mailers addressed to a specific person BY NAME not their job description.
I should also ad that the nurse handles bookings for all your HEALTHY magic shows.

years ago the rule of mailings was the rule of 7 that is mailing 7 times a year thus creating that top of mind awareness meaning your name in front of them often. however in this day and age of FB, internet, websites, email etc etc, you need to diversify your ad campaign

I just mentioned to some one else that I use the rule of 5 for a school year and with that each piece goes out to the principal addressed to HIS or HER name and then follow up with a phone call and or an email. remember it might take some work to make that first contact and get that first booking but once you have it most schools look to build relationships with entertainers that they like. they want to know they are getting something good each time.

I have also for local schools met with the PTO to explain the options I offer and help them better understand what I can do for them with my shows.

great points and this is good thread with some really good info.

Message: Posted by: TomBoleware (Apr 28, 2012 02:17PM)
I agree, it should go to a person.

Everytime direct mail comes up we hear about people throwing the mail into the thrash without
even opening/reading it.

At my preschool business, I would be upset and probably threaten anybody that threw away my personal mail.
Wouldn't you?

So that is the answer right there, make your mail special, not just another advertisement.

Message: Posted by: Blair Marshall (Apr 28, 2012 02:51PM)
I think there is an exception to "know who to send it to", you can of course send it to a name with a title/position and hope that the person sorting the mail will not just think/say "oh, that person is no longer here" and dump it to heck with the title.

Many schools will not give out names of parent volunteers, and yes, you can be devious and try to get them, but when doing extensive mailings, to find out who is on the home and school, P.P.O., the fundraising committe for the senior trip. etc. would take up a lot of time, resources etc. In these cases, I just address to title. But then that's me.

Message: Posted by: Blair Marshall (Apr 28, 2012 02:53PM)
But Arthur,

To answer your initisl question, I use ONLY printed materials, no e-mails, no calling.

Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Apr 28, 2012 03:14PM)
What's your preference post cards, letters or other Blair?
Message: Posted by: Blair Marshall (Apr 28, 2012 04:16PM)
I would love to use postcards, but here in Canada the cost of mailing is the same, and actually when you get up to a booklet size envelope the oversize postcard is actually more! In Canada all is first class mail, 61 cent stamp plus close to 15% tax, so say 70 cents for the stamp.

I do have a postcard (just a photo, no offer etc.) that I send out individually on occasion. However that being said I would like to vary my material, so my thought is to have a special card done for a Fall mailing on it's own.

In my current mailing each envelope has a flyer for the specific show/product I am promoting, a reference page, a general flyer, a photo postcard and a business card, LOT's of STUFF to take out and look at!


P.S. Arthur I should have mentioned, in case someone points it out, I do have an ad twice a year in my local family directory. I do do some market specific promotional events, and recently only the odd ad on Craigslist....I think that covers it. Oh, I am also quite active on Social Media, mainly Facebook. So many "little" things I do to add to the whole!
Message: Posted by: Sam Sandler (Apr 28, 2012 05:30PM)
I should also mention that if you are doing a school mailing generally you should mail to:
principals- educational type shows such as no bullying, math, etc
nurse- healthy eating or fitness shows
PTO- fund raisers and family night shows.

not always but I have found this to be the general method in most schools. ultimately the principal decides and approves the assembly or evening event but you need to work the other channels first to get them to pitch the idea.

for my current show I address all the postcards and letters to the principal BY NAME.

Message: Posted by: Blair Marshall (Apr 28, 2012 10:09PM)
All my principal mailings go out with name, some other ones also. But ones where there is a changeover (PPO, H&S,etc.) it's by position.

Message: Posted by: stempleton (Jul 12, 2019 02:46PM)
I guess it's a good time to raise this thread again now that the new school year is approaching.

I have read what I think is every thread, and if I've missed it, forgive me. But my questions is, "when do you mail for a new school year?"

I ask because, if you mail in the summer, no one's there, and upon arrival for the new school year, your mailing is one in a thousand in the box, right? But, if your show is themed around, say, September or October, when should you mail, when schools typically start the new school year in August.

Would love to hear from all you who have mastered the art of school shows. Many thanks.
Message: Posted by: TomBoleware (Jul 12, 2019 03:05PM)
There are people in and out all summer, especially the office.
I don't think they let the mail pile up all summer.

Message: Posted by: stempleton (Jul 12, 2019 05:53PM)
Hey, Tom, thanks. I have your daycare book and it has proven invaluable for that market.
Message: Posted by: TomBoleware (Jul 12, 2019 06:19PM)
Thanks Steve. Hope you have the new download version too.

I’m sure the public schools are a little different from state to state, but around here there is something going on in the building most of the summer;
things like summer classes, teachers redoing rooms, cleaning and remodeling, etc. Maybe not daily but I would think the mail would be read fairly often.

It would be interesting to hear from some of those that mail to the public schools and what their mailing schedule is.

Message: Posted by: Ken Northridge (Jul 13, 2019 05:44AM)
I like to have the mailing drop on the principals desk about a week before school begins, first day of school for Guidance Counselors, and a week after school begins for PTA/PTO. I used to do mailings in very early January too, but I got a very poor return the last time I tried that.

Since this thread started I believe direct mail has become less effective. I would love to know if anyone else is seeing that trend.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Jul 13, 2019 10:02AM)
That trend has been happening for quite a while. I think there are places where physical mall may never go away and it is possible this is one of them. But it has been trending why down for quite a while.
Message: Posted by: Donald Dunphy (Jul 13, 2019 01:31PM)
My experience is similar to Ken's.

I've found that Principals are in the schools a couple of weeks after the end of the school year, and a couple of weeks before the start of the next school year.

However, other staff such as secretaries and teachers aren't in the school until nearly the start of the school year.

That has been my experience when calling to get the current Principal's name in mid-August (schools in my area start in early September, and end at the end of June). *** In my area, there are online directories that publish the Principal's name, but those usually aren't updated until late September thru late October. So, you can't rely on them to be accurate in August and September.

In regards to mailings to school PACs (Canadian equivalent of PTAs), I usually wait until a week or two into the school year, to start on those. And generally, I mail to the title of "Parent's Council" instead of a name (those names are harder to obtain).

For the past few years, I've been including my rates in with my mailings to schools. That's my personal preference. That way, they are ready to book when they respond. I usually send a cover letter, rates sheet(s), & brochure, in an envelope.

Above, Blair explained why he would send a letter instead of a postcard. 6 years later, the reasons remain the same here in Canada. You don't save money by sending a postcard. Minimum postage is 85 cents plus tax, and some mailings are $1.27 plus tax because of their weight or size.

- Donald
Message: Posted by: Chad C. (Nov 10, 2019 09:26PM)
I have done libraries and schools for the past 14 years or so, and when I did mailings it started as a brochure for the first mailing in August to the media specialist (school librarian) in an envelope with stamp on it. Then I would do 2-3 post card mailings - the first to the Principal/PTA President (I put it that way so it would have a better chance of finding one of the two mailboxes when the secretary looked at it. The second post card mailing was usually back to the Media Specialist as all my shows have a reading/literature theme to them.

These got a decent response rate - with the average % people have already mentioned - but here is how it goes beyond that. The postcards and brochures directed folks to my website and also had my phone and email on them. Once I got a call or an email and booked the program, I would ask the media specialist (99% of the time this is who booked me) to email the other media specialists in their system to let them know that the day before/after is available (or that the other half of the day is available if a half day was booked) - at which point I would oftentimes book at least one more school from their email.

Then, after the performance, I would email them a quick survey and then ask them to share their thoughts with the other media specialists if they would recommend the show. This would usually result in more bookings either that school year or the next - plus I would usually book the original school again the following year as my elementary show changes each year with the summer library themes.

I do mostly middle/high schools now, and some of them started with the postcard/brochure but then they spread the word and I have kept the original school and added others by their word of mouth - they will oftentimes also email the other media specialists across the state via there email list serv and I have many bookings from that. I haven't done any mailings in the last 6-7 years - it's been all repeat customers, referrals, emails, and the occasional conference. Some of my original schools are booking shows for the 13th year in a row this year - and new schools are still added as well. But I have gotten to the point where I book a certain number of the regular schools a year in advance - very much like the summer library market until I retired from summer shows summer before last.

So, I would definitely do a handful of mailings as you are starting out, but make sure to ask them to "assist" you in spreading the word - especially after they see your show and hopefully LOVE it! They are usually more than happy to do so and after a few years you can really lessen the mailings until you don't need them unless it's just an occasional reminder.

I do still hand out my post cards when I'm at conferences so I always have a few stacks of them for that.

Hope this helps!