The Message: Green House Group and End of the Road
The Message, in partnership with I AM POP, is a new monthly insight into the latest direct message and Facebook Messenger marketing methods.
For the first edition, Alex Lee Thomson from Green House Group describes how the company is using I AM POP’s Messenger platform to market End of The Road Festival, among other events.
Who are you, and what is your role in music marketing?
I’m Alex Lee Thomson, director of Green House Group, a music marketing company that works with bands and festivals to help them reach fans. Recently, we’ve worked with the Specials on their no 1 album campaign, and the Kooks’ biggest ever headline show announcements.
You’ve been integrating direct-to-fan messaging in your marketing strategies for a while now. What lessons have you learned along the way?
As it’s not a platform which sits there visibly, being engaged with day to day, it does sometimes get a bit forgotten in terms of admin. To really maximise its value though, you need to keep adding new subscribers.
You have to keep coming up with ways to incentivise signing up – it just being there is only going to provide a trickle of interest, so properly integrate its development into your wider marketing strategy. Work it into your plans every week and don’t forget about it.
You used I AM POP’s tool to market the last edition of the End Of The Road Festival. Could you tell us how you went about getting people to subscribe to the festival’s Messenger channel?
Our first mention was simply letting followers know it was there, and that it was a portal for information. Ahead of that we made sure the channel was set up to cater for all the key FAQs, so it would act as an easy to navigate version of the website’s info section.
Where we didn’t want to drag it into too much detail, we simply out-linked back to the main site for more information. It’s always good to remember the user experience. You can get carried away trying to put the whole website on there, but try to keep it streamlined… and fun to use!
After launch we included the Messenger link in standard info posts going forward. Where in previous years we would link to the site, now, we let people start their quest for knowledge on Messenger instead. It became part of the standard marketing vocabulary, so we were always adding new people as we went along.
It’s worth bearing any exclusive content in mind as an incentive to get people hooked – for instance you could offer cryptic clues as to what some of the bands are you’re going to announce in the build-up. If you’re feeling particularly ballsy, you could even announce some acts on Messenger exclusively.
Setting up a competition element is always a winner as well. Maybe give away some merch or tickets to a random subscriber each month. I’d love to say there’re some big secrets we’re keeping close to our chest, but done well it’s as simple as making sure it works, tell people to go there and give them a reason to.
“You have to keep coming up with ways to incentivise signing up”
How did you run your messaging campaign after that? How was it received?
Part of the user journey was creating-sub groups, where we could direct specific posts. For instance, if you keep a weekly updated Spotify playlist, you should segment this somewhere in your automated broadcast. Then, when you make additions to the playlist, you can let all your listeners know.
Same for travel, merchandise, stage times and anything else, really. If you think ahead to what you might need further down the line, start integrating that into your Messenger channel as soon as you can in a fluid way. Knowing that the audience is a bit more inner-circle, and very immediate, it’s a good place to run countdown messages with some element of emergency.
As an example, for End of the Road we let subscribers know that there were only a few hundred tickets left for the event. Likewise, if you’re down to only a few merch items, you can let your subscribers know first, as they’ll be more likely to buy, and it keeps some sales messages away from main channels. We also shared key information on secondary ticket selling once the festival was sold out, and directed solo travellers to a bespoke group we set up on Facebook.
You used a direct message to inform visitors of the festival to bring cash for parking costs, which was a smart move. Were the effects noticeable?
Heck, it’s often hard to gauge the real-world effect of digital marketing at the best of times. However, during the event we received, I think, no messages about this via social comments or messages. As they say, no news is good news – which I hope means that it all just clicked together well and all attendees knew what to do.
Can you share some stats from the campaign? How were the open rates and ticket sales, for instance?
Like a lot of our use of the Messenger platform, we received a much higher view rate for our posts compared to traditional social messages. After multiple posts over the last 12 months we have a 98.9% average open rate on our Messenger broadcasts. The post about car parking had a 100% open rate as this was directed only at people who over the campaign had clicked our ‘travelling by car’ segmented group.
The ability to highly target this information, which on the face of it is quite dry and only applicable to some, is for me one of the most exciting aspects of the platform. Using this as part of a wider marketing campaign, I’m happy to say that all tickets sold out.
We have launched the Messenger platform for all of our events now, which, in fact, all sold out in 2018. Considering they are all independent festivals, with modest marketing budgets, this is a huge win for us at Green House Group.
“Even if you’re not sure yet how to integrate Messenger into a wider campaign, get it set up and start building subscribers now”
Direct message marketing calls for a different approach than traditional marketing channels like socials and email. What kind of approaches do you think work best for direct message marketing in the live music space?
One of the selling points of Messenger is that it’s so instantaneous. You get to broadcast to everybody you want, directly into people’s pocket without having to work around algorithms or wait for organic pick-up or viral sharing. And then sharing something that reaches everybody you want it to.
This does however mean that we have to treat the Messenger audience differently, and not dilute the approach, upsetting fans who might feel they are being spammed. It’s very much a ‘less is more’ dynamic. It can be viewed as quite invasive, which is a big selling point, but you should be careful not to milk it. We don’t want to abuse the trust that subscribers have given us by signing up.
It’s not about daily messages and repetition – it’s about giving some inner-circle content, having useful information there when needed, and letting the users decide what content they do and don’t want.
You have the ability to hyper-target your broadcasts, rather than being broad and accessible like you would on a Facebook post. Keep it niche. From an artist point of view, you can create messages and experiences for people at each gig, maybe offering polls on what song to open with, or access to exclusive merch available for one night only. Stuff that isn’t relevant to every one of your fans. A bunch of acts now offer recordings of shows, which you can offer to people who then engage with on-the-night activations by tucking them into a segment group for the show.
How are you planning to use direct-to-fan messaging for the 2019 End Of The Road Festival’s marketing campaign?
As always, the festival has some fun tricks up its sleeve. You’ll have to subscribe to find out what, though! Needless to say that it will once again serve as a hub for important information, and perhaps the odd (very pleasant) surprise.
Any final words of advice for other people wanting to get into direct-to-fan messaging?
Don’t waste time getting this set up. Even if you’re not sure yet how to integrate Messenger into a wider campaign, get it set up and start building subscribers now.
Then really take your time to build the user journey, making sure there are no dead ends. If people go there, don’t like it and want to unsubscribe, you’re very unlikely to win them back. Or worse, the whole experience pisses them off.
Take small steps if you have to: start with a, “Hello, thanks for subscribing”, and build it from there as and when you can, never forgetting to go back and keep every arm of your flows updated as you go.
Figure out your segments ahead of time, as well, and incorporate them from the off. Even if you’re not sure how you want to speak to them yet. If you never use a segment, it doesn’t matter.
Then once you’ve built your app, keep messaging to only the most vital aspects that needs attention. The more casual posts you do, the less interested people will be – especially if it’s messages they’ve already seen on other platforms. Do not treat it like Twitter or Facebook, because it’s not them. It’s a different universe. Learn as you go along, but start now.
EOTR backs Larmer Tree as founders step back
Following 2018’s successful sold-out festival, Larmer Tree Festival founders James Shepard and Julia Safe are handing over the reins after 28 years at the helm of the 5,000-capacity UK event.
Larmer Tree, which began in 1990 as a 200-cap. music and arts festival, has since taken place annually at Larmer Tree Gardens, on the Wiltshire–Dorset border. Its most recent event, headlined by Jake Bugg, First Aid Kit and Public Service Broadcasting, took place from 19 to 22 July.
Lucy Babb joined Shepard and Safe as operations director in 2006, while Rob Challice came on board as a director in 2014.
Now, as the festival’s founders retire, Challice and Babb say they’re looking forward to working with new partners brought on “to secure the future” of Larmer Tree.
“I’m delighted we have gathered a group who recognise how special our festival is and want to secure its future”
Joining Challice and Bergen Live – the Norwegian promoter behind Bergenfest, and also Challice’s partner from 2010–12 on Summer Sundae – as Larmer Tree partners are End of the Road, the 15,000-cap. indie rock event also held at Larmer Tree Gardens, and James Strathallan, who take a small equity stake in the festival.
Strathallan was formerly a director of End of the Road Festival Ltd, but retired in November 2017.
“I’m delighted that we have gathered a group who recognise how special our festival is and want to secure its future,” Challice tells IQ. “We want to take the festival forward while preserving its essence: a small local festival with deep roots in the community where friends and family can have a great party weekend on a beautiful site.”
Larmer Tree Festival will return on 18–21 July 2019.
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