AS I SEE IT - 4/22/2003:
Thoughts on using the Internet to promote your indy shows...
by: Bob Magee
As most readers know, PWBTS, the flagship site of AS I SEE IT, features lots of coverage of independent wrestling.
As someone who happily shills independent wrestling promotions whenever possible, one of the things that's the most maddening to me is the way independent promotions seems to have no sense about the basic sorts of things that they need to do to promote their product.
So I figured this week, I'd offer some observations as to some of those things I think that promotions need to do to publicize their product online.
I realize that some people may find some of the suggestions listed below to be obvious ones, but trust me...they aren't. All too many independent promoters don't use some or all of these ideas. I've seen all too many cases where promoters don't...well...promote... with crowds suffering accordingly.
Marketing Theory 101 says whether you're running wrestling shows or selling hamburgers, the most important thing is to
advertise your product.
Along with the usual (and necessary) grunt work of postering, leafleting, and flyering...necessary no matter what, the most cost-effective way to promote your shows is online.
First, does your company have a website? If not, why not? it's one of the easiest ways to promote your product to fans. A website doesn't require technical genius to put up and keep current. Basic ones also aren't expensive.
Geocities, Tripod, and others allow you to create and host websites free. So do many internet service providers. Many ISP's will let you post a personal/hobby page, which could serve as your promotion's page.
If you want to spend a bit more money, you can also buy a domain name (e.g. http://www.mywrestlingpromotion.com) and pay a basic monthly fee to have it hosted.
What should that website consist of?
If nothing else, it should:
- Tell fans when your upcoming shows are...far enough in advance to let them make plans and so they don't attend a nearby competitor's show instead.
- Tell fans where the shows are, and
how to get to the shows. The locations of your shows should be listed on your website, with directions from nearby areas, using local landmarks and major highways. You can also use Expedia or Mapquest to illustrate where you're running a show.
California's Revolution Pro is one example of how this is done, listing an upcoming show at the Boys and Girls Club in Harbor City, CA and telling fans to click for a map of the show's location here.
- Tell fans who is on the show and tell fans your current storyline behind key matches, so fans feel there's a reason to come to see them.
- Tell the fans what your tickets cost, and
where they can get tickets. If you have standard ticket costs, list them. If you have remote ticket locations (local merchants that sell tickets for you), list them and where the merchants are located.
If you have an e-mail address, hotline, or ticket phone line (local numbers or 800/877/888 numbers are preferable), list those as well.
If possible, have a part of your website devoted to online ticket orders. Some promotions, depending on which venues they run, may have to utilize
Ticketmaster.com, Tickets.com, or other regional ticket brokers. If that's the case, you obviously have no problem. Let Ticketmaster do the work. But link on your website to the exact place people can order tickets for your show.
For the rest of you, check out the examples of the CZW's Online Ticket Reservations System or Ring of Honor's online ticket reservations site as ways that you can use your website to sell tickets to your show.
Both allow ticket orders online. Some sites will accept credit/debit cards. Others use PayPal or similar systems. Find out which works best for your needs and your budget.
- Sell your merchandise.
Let's face it, if you're an independent promoter, you need every revenue stream that there is....or to put it another way, you need any way you can to make a dime.
Some promotions are small enough that the wrestlers just sell gimmicks at the shows. But others can also do so on their website.
Here are some examples from promotions of varied sizes.
- Ohio Valley Wrestling uses their Shop OVW page to sell videos of OVW TV shows and major shows at such venues as Louisville Gardens, programs, t-shirts, and other gimmicks.
- Carolina Wrestling Federation uses their online Store to sell videos, autographed photos and other wrestling items.
- Premier Wrestling Federation uses their online Store to sell videos/DVDs, t-shirts, and other wrestling items.
- NWA-Wildside uses their online Merchandise Section to sell videos, CDs, t-shirts, and baseball caps.
Promotions can also use tape dealers like Smart Mark Video, RF Video, TC Tapes.net to sell and tape their shows; or use Highspots.com to sell tapes and a variety of other merchandise.
Those are just some very basic suggestions for what you can include on a basic website, and some examples of how some independent promotions do those.
Now, does your promotion send out press releases before a show, or results afterwards?
If not, why not?
First, press releases. They don't have to look something out of Northwestern University's School of Journalism. But they need to do a few things. Those things are largely the things we've discussed above... namely to:
- Tell fans when the show is
- Tell fans where the show is
- Tell fans how to get to the show
- Tell fans who is on the show
- Tell the fans what tickets cost, and
where they can get tickets.
Any basic business course in college would tell you that a business must make it as easy as possible for a customer to give you their money.
But you'd be surprised at the e-mails I receive that don't provide each of those items.
You'd also be surprised at the way some of those e-mails are written. To be blunt, I get some press releases that look, at best, like a third grader wrote them.
Again, press releases don't need to look like something out of Northwestern University's School of Journalism...but it would be nice if they had correct
s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g and at least reasonably good grammar. That's why Bill Gates made spell-check, folks.
I've gotten promotional shills for shows that I had to spend 15 minutes re-writing in order to post them at PWBTS. I refused to run shills for a particular New Jersey-based independent, because the promotion's shills were written so poorly that the company should have been embarrassed to send out in public. Recently someone else took over the duties for the promoter, and I've been running their shills again.
Remember that your press release/shill is how a new fan sees you. If your press release is professionally written (or at least literate), that new fan is more likely to read it, and their money is more likely to come your way.
A good example of press releases that accomplish this are the work done by Brian Reigel of the Pottstown, PA-based Premier Wrestling Federation. If you're looking for a good example of how to do them, check out his press releases on PWBTS and other sites.
Another good example are the releases from IWA Mid-South Wrestling. They don't come with bells and whistles, but they give you all of the above information...doing just what they need to do.
Where you do send those press releases?
- To wrestling websites such as PWBTS (feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com); Jess McGrath, Mike Johnson, and Georgianne Makropolous at 1wrestling.com; firstname.lastname@example.org for the Pro Wrestling Torch; Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer...to name just a few.
- To regional wrestling websites, such as Socaluncensored.com or Chicagowrestling.comthat cover a variety of independent promotions in their area.
- To your local daily or weekly newspaper. See if that newspaper has a weekly wrestling column. Newspapers like the Chicago Sun-Times, Philadelphia Daily News, New York Daily News, and Charleston Post and Courier (just to name a few) have such columns. They'll often run shills for your show.
If your local newspaper is a smaller weekly or daily, send it to whoever runs a section for community events, particularly if the event is to benefit a local charity, church, or community group. That's always a good hook.
- To your local TV station, especially if the event is to benefit a local charity or community group.
Put together a e-mailing list of regular contacts and send it out to them to plug each and every show you run.
Now, let's talk about sending out results, including accurate crowd counts.
Let me use an example of a particular promotion I report on frequently. In the eyes of their fans they recently received what they believed to be unfair treatment in a recent Wrestling Observer report about one of their major shows.
They believed that the Observer report low-counted their crowd by a good 25-30% (thus ignoring the fact that they drew their second highest crowd ever), and knocked some of the booking in the show.
I know there have been times in the past when the same promotion's fans and staff were upset at 1wrestling.com for reviews of shows that were posted. I've seen where their fans and staff basically said
"f#&@ them [1wrestling.com]". They said pretty much the same thing in this case regarding what they feel the Observer report said.
Let me say this. This particular promotion is friendly to me, as I've gone to their shows since the very beginning. I've generally liked their product, and feel I've given them fair reviews.
That's all well and good.
But the fact of the matter is that a site like 1wrestling.com gets more hits in an hour then PWBTS does in a day. A newsletter like The Wrestling Observer gets at least as many readers on a weekend than I get page views in a week. The Observer's reputation is also far more well-known and respected by wrestling fans than PWBTS or this column will ever be in my wildest dreams.
Therefore, giving me information to publicize their product is a good thing, but it'd be far better if they also did the same for 1wrestling.com, the Observer, or ther Torch.
Let me use an example from a different field of entertainment. If you wrote a Broadway play, and had a previous play you'd written panned by the New York Times; does that mean that you'd stay pissed off at them and wouldn't try to use them to promote your next play, and would just send your releases to Newsday?
You'd spend some time talking to the reviewer (yes, promoters, that means kissing up) and try to get them on your side. After that, you deliver a good product, hopefully. Without a good product, no good press will help.
In the same way, independent promotions that are able to do so should spend some time with the Dave
Meltzers, Wade Kellers, Jess McGraths, and Mike Johnsons of the world, and develop relationships with them so as to get fair reviews for their product and encourage new people to come to shows.
Again, send your results... that night or the next morning to wrestling websites such as PWBTS to me at email@example.com); or to Jess McGrath, Mike Johnson, and Georgianne Makropolous at 1wrestling.com; to firstname.lastname@example.org for the Pro Wrestling Torch; or to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer...to name just a few.
Give a basic outline of who went over, major storylines that were advanced, how well you drew (especially if the crowd was good for your promotion), and a reminder of when your next show is happening. If you had a good show and drew a good crowd, make a point to get the word out...that's advertising, too.
I'm not a graduate of the Wharton School of Business. I'm just trying to provide some thoughts from the viewpoint of a person who wants to see independent wrestling succeed....at a time when wrestling fans need
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by
e-mail at email@example.com)