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9 Marketing Lessons from a Comedy Club

October 21, 2013

david the comicA couple of years ago, I took a series of “business of comedy” classes to take a look at the entertainment business from a different perspective. I met a few comics and that led me down a path which included writing comedy, improv, and stand-up performance.

While I learned a lot in the classes I took, it was actively participating in writing and performing comedy where I learned my biggest lessons…

What Can You Learn About Marketing From a Comedy Club?

1. Two-Drink Minimum – Set expectations and make them clear. When you buy tickets to a comedy show, at most clubs, you’ll be informed of a “two-drink minimum,” meaning that you’re expected to buy at least two things off the menu during the show.

Not selling enough books? Not getting enough comments on your blog? Are you making these expectations clear to your audience?

2. “Dim The Lights” – When an act goes on stage, all eyes are on him because there is nowhere else to look.

There is an old marketing saying that “a confused mind always says no.” In other words, if people have too many choices, they won’t know which one to pick, so they’ll pick nothing instead of a potentially wrong choice.

When you give people a single option, they’re more likely to take it.

In a comedy club, dimming the house lights also has a secondary benefit — it allows the audience to be more comfortable.

It takes guts to let yourself go and laugh at something, just like it takes guts to take the plunge and purchase what you’re selling.

How can you make your audience comfortable so a buying decision is less scary?

3. “Warm Up” The Audience – The typical comedy “show” consists of four main acts — an emcee or host, an opener, a feature, and a headliner. The emcee introduces each act as well as warms up the audience before and during the show.

Your business likely has a variation of this. For example, a book author will have somebody else write a foreword that warms up the reader before he gets to the meat of the book. A radio host comes on the air only after an introduction or theme song is played. If you’re an online marketer, you have a free product which acts as an introduction to your paid products.

Do you have something to “warm up” your audience?

4. Prepare Yourself Beforehand – Good comics give a performance that appears off the cuff, but the reality behind a good performance is that everything has been prepared in advance — every word, every pause, and every movement. Even a comic’s responses to “random” events, such as a waitress dropping a glass or a drunk talking too much, are part of a script.

While it’s impossible to know everything about a situation before you get involved, prepare for as much as you can in advance.

What is likely to happen with your next book launch? In your next sales meeting?

5. Test Small (and Track Everything) – Comics tests jokes on small audiences to make sure they work before performing them for larger (or paying) audiences. And comedy clubs test comics with short (some as little as 90 second) sets during off nights before giving them more time on stage.

If you’re going to fail, do it as quickly, so you can move on to something that does work. This will keep you from wasting time and money on bad ideas. There is nothing worse that investing lots of time and money into an idea only to find out that nobody cares.

6. Get to the Point – When I was doing comedy, my goal was six laughs per minute, or one about every 10 seconds. To do this, you need to get to the point both quickly and consistently.

While you may not be going for laughs in your business communication, it’s equally important that you get to the point. Don’t tell people about the labor pains — give them the baby!

What is unnecessary about your sales letter, your blog post, or your book manuscript?

7. Don’t Forget the Backend – When a comic is starting, he’s pretty much paying to perform. And once he gets going, the money doesn’t always come from performance fees, which can be shockingly low. For example, a weekend spot at one of the top comedy clubs in the country right now is only about $80.

So then what?

You make money selling CDs, t-shirts, and other merchandise. You use your notoriety to get voiceover or writing gigs that pay more.

Your business is likely similar. Not everything you do will make money, but hopefully everything you do will allow you to make money via something else.

8. Work the System – On the comedy stage, when something works, you keep doing it. Night after night. Audience after audience.

In your business, when you have something that works, replicate it.

For example, if blogging is working for you, do more of it. If podcasting is working for you, do more of it. If affiliate marketing is working for you, do more of it.

9. Have a Sense of Humor – Not everything you do in business is going to work, so laugh off your mistakes and keep moving forward. Like a joke that bombs, the quicker you recover, the better chance you have of finishing strong.

Break a leg!

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Every Monday, I analyze the good, bad, and ugly about the marketing behind a common business or famous personality. See other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for something (or someone) you’d like me to analyze for this series, contact me via Twitter.

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