As most of you know, PWBTS.com, the flagship site of this column, focuses on coverage and promotion of independent wrestling. As someone who happily shills independent wrestling promotions whenever possible, one of the things that pisses me off 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.
Instead, some promoters seem to think that the way to draw is to hold grudges against any independent promotion operating in their area. They’ll take shots at these competitors online or in print. They’ll tell their talent: if you work for [insert name of competitor], I won’t book you on my shows. They’ll hold multi-promotion tournaments, and not invite the largest one in their area…who just happens to be said competitor. They’ll deliberately run shows against even charity-themed promotions, try calling local police to disrupt their shows…and all sorts of fun things like that.
I have a better idea…how about actually advertising your OWN product?
I’d like to 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 painfully obvious, 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… and crowds suffer accordingly. But that’s not all.
If you want something even more amazing…consider that Devin Cutting, who submits a ton of independent wrestling news to PWBTS and many other websites…has actually been told by a handful of independent promoters to remove the items he’s placed online….with the comment by the promoters that “they can do it by themselves”. That misguided handful of promoters should consider going to their locker rooms at the end of the night, and ask their workers if they enjoy working in front of 50 people, and not getting paid… all because their promoter decided he could “do it all by himself”.
You don’t need to attend the Wharton School of Business to know that the most important thing, no matter whether you’re running wrestling shows or selling cars… is to advertise, advertise, advertise. If marks like me who run wrestling websites are ready to help you do so…you’ve lost nothing, spent nothing…and quite possibly gained a lot. Better yet, you can promote your own company online as well. Along with the usual (and necessary) grunt work of getting up posters, handing out flyers, as well as getting sponsors to defer the cost of your show, and help sell tickets for you… all of which are necessary no matter what kind of fan base you have, the most cost-effective way to promote your shows is online.
Here’s some of the things that can be done…that don’t cost much, and can potentially help a lot.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA. C’mon…a Facebook page? Twitter? Anything? Not hard to do these days…just done in a way to get someone’s attention. Even a plain old website (and if you have one, keep it updated. Nothing turns a fans off more than your website showing a three year old show, rather than the one you’re running this weekend). Those work well to promote your product to fans. Even a website doesn’t require technical genius to put up and keep current. Basic ones also aren’t expensive. Hell, just do a Facebook page for each individual event. If you want to spend a bit more money, you can also buy a domain name like mine at PWBTS.com, and pay a basic monthly fee to have it hosted.
What should that website/social media notice consist of? If nothing else, it should use intelligible English. Use spell check. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE use spell check, and ask someone to check it for grammar and spelling mistakes before you send it out. While website owners know you want to push your show…lay off releases sent in all caps and with a dozen asterisks and exclamation points. Every match is a great one (or you’d like potential fans to think so…we get the point).
Then…UPDATE THE DAMNED THING. Pages with matches from three months ago make you look like amateur hour.
Tell fans when your upcoming shows are…far enough in advance to let them make plans, so they don’t go to someone else’s show instead or just stay home.
Tell them WHERE your 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 Google Maps (my favorite), Expedia, or Mapquest to illustrate where you’re running a show. It also would be nice to include mass transit directions if you run in a city where mass transit connections exist to your venue. You can find these directions easily enough on your local transit agency’s website, then post them in your shills. Google Transit is useful in large markets to tell people where transit connections are to specific addresses.. You can also cheat a bit and use nearby landmarks or an existing map, which
typically have websites and /or maps that you can use.
Other things to do are: 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.
The one and only booking related thing I’ll say here: if you list a “major surprise” for your show, DON’T. “Surprises” as an attraction for the most part have been way overdone. Unless you honestly don’t know if you can get someone, or there is a storyline reason not to announce…announce it ahead of time.
Do it AHEAD OF TIME…not just days before the show. Tell the fans WHAT your tickets cost, and where they can get them. 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, 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 (or for their own ease), may have to utilize Ticketmaster.com, Tickets.com, Brown Paper Tickets, or regional ticket brokers. Others use PayPal or similar sites. If that’s the case, you obviously have no problem. Let them do the work. But be sure to post a direct order link for YOUR show, as opposed to just a generic link to the websites.
In addition, don’t simply depend on social media. Yes, that means you have to do posters or flyers. Make sure you flyer wrestling and other entertainment shows in your area in the weeks before your show. If you';re running a show for a charity, make sure they’re publicizing it. yes, that means ASKING THEM if they are publicizing it, and how they are doing so. Ask local stores if you can post a flyer in their store window. See if they can become a sponsor of your show.
Then, sell your merchandise. Southern wrestling survived on it, and still does through gimmick sales…
Let’s face it, if you’re an independent promoter, you need every revenue stream that there is….or in English, 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. Promotions can also use tape dealers like Smart Mark Video (an unpaid ad, as they’re very good, very quick, and all of them love the business) to sell and tape their shows.
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 very things.
Now, does your promotion send out press releases before a show, or results afterwards to websites like PWBTS…or the Wrestling Observer…or a hundred others? If not, why not?
First, press releases. They don’t have to look like something out of Northwestern University’s School of Journalism. But let me suggest a few dos and don’ts.
Unfortunately, some promoters seem to subscribe to the Old School of Wrestling Website Interaction…namely, that online reporters and sheetwriters are better off dead, or are “parasites” and “scum” and ignore them. Call me stupid…but if someone’s going to help me advertise my product for free…I’d kiss up to them in a New York minute.
Independent promotions that are able to do so should spend some time with the Dave Meltzers, Wade Kellers, 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 (not a week, or two or three later) or to wrestling websites. 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 one more mark sitting in the seats, who just wants to see independent wrestling succeed….at a time when wrestling fans need alternatives…badly.
Until next time….