Sadly, for many Branson shows, that might just be true. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s a lot harder for shows to make it in Branson that it was 15 years ago. As Branson visitors enjoy all that Branson offers, all the shows, attractions, and other entities providing that experience, are competing against each other trying to entice those visitors to spend some of their money and time “with” them. Branson could have 100 million visitors but, as to individual shows, their success depends on how many of those visitors end up sitting in the seats of their show.
Folks, the movie, “Field of Dreams” aside, it’s not a matter of “build it and they will come.” You can have the best show in town, but if people, for whatever reason, are not filling up your seats it’s not going to end well and, an Ole Seagull just has to believe that there’s a lot of great Branson shows that are not filling up their seats.
At this junction, assuming, for the purposes of this discussion, that the quality of all Branson shows is equal, even though we know that’s not the case, lets discuss the three words critical to a shows success in Branson, “‘Marketing,’ ‘Marketing,’ and ‘Marketing.’” “But Seagull, they’re the same word.” “Really! Well then let’s just use one word, ‘Marketing,’ because, regardless of how good your show is, if people don’t know about it, getting them into your seats is going to be a challenge.”
Here’s three ways that shows shoot themselves in the foot from a marketing perspective:
1. Relying on the Branson Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to do their marketing: Unless you are one of the shows featured in CVB TV spots or other marketing media, at best, your show will be but another grain of salt in a shaker full of similar salt. The shows that are featured get a marketing advantage, but an Ole Seagull believes, they are chosen because of CVB’s belief that they will enhance the overall ability of the given marketing piece to draw people to Branson or its shows in general, and that any advantage to a specific show is incidental.
2. Reliance 3rd Party FIT or Other “Marketing Partners” for primary marketing: The Ole Seagull wishes he had a nickel for every time a show asked him if he thought that lowering their ticket prices or giving a better FIT (Free Independent Traveler) rate would sell more tickets. His general answer is, “No,” because just about every discount ticket reseller in Branson sells almost every show and, absent an exclusive, would be selling the tickets for every show they sell at a severely discounted rate.
Some Marketing Partners however, try to maintain the box office pricing and actually invest a lot of time and money to market Branson shows, in general and specifically, out of market. This results in actual ticket sales prior to the visitor arriving in Branson and, in any case, enhances the awareness of the show, that can be of an immense value when intercept marketing comes into play. Even in these cases however, any show that treats such marketing as anything more than a supplemental step in its overall marketing process is, in an Ole Seagull’s opinion, making a huge mistake.
3. Not demanding more efficient marketing of Branson shows by the CVB: The Branson Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s (CVB) 2014 BRANSON VISITOR PROFILE, Year‐to‐Date through December 31, 2014, (Profile) indicated that Branson’s Live Shows were the primary reason people gave for deciding to visit Branson. Its 59.70 % was about 2.5 times greater than the second place reason. It also showed that the number one activity that Branson visitors did when they got to Branson was see Branson’s Live Shows. It was an incredible 76.8% yet, the same profile showed an alarming downward trend from 2010’s 80.3% that appeared to be accelerating. An Ole Seagull just has to bet that trend has not reversed over the last couple of years.
There are some who say that the shows have no problem, “Look at ‘Dixie Stampede’ and ‘Moses.’’’ From a marketing perspective, comparing them to the typical Branson show, is like comparing the height of “Mount Everest” to “Mount Branson” in terms of what a normal mountain height is.
Albert Einstein defined “Insanity,” as “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” My heart cries out in frustration, as shows seemingly are satisfied with the status quo and do nothing, even as their audiences continue to trend down. Maybe, “We have met the enemy and it is us.” Only time will tell.