This morning I was reading about Tyler Perry after watching last night, part of an episode of The Oval, a miniseries created by Tyler Perry, which now airs on BET. The article written by Mark Olsen was entitled Tyler Perry puts his faith behind, and into, his work (Chicago Tribune, 2005). I am very happy about Tyler Perry’s success and the way he initially marketed his work. I remember hearing about his plays from fellow church members back in the day, when I lived in New York, and wanting to go and see one. On a cold Saturday night in 1999, I finally got the chance. I took the train from Far Rockaway, Queens, where I lived, to the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan and saw his play “I Can Do Bad all By Myself.” I laughed all night and totally enjoyed the play, especially its message. Realistically, at that time, Tyler Perry was known mostly by black people, and particularly by church going black people. He was not heavily publicized. The question is: how did all of us get to know about his plays? As black history month comes to a close, we would like to end on a high note, as we take a peek at how this legendary black entrepreneur used the basics of marketing to push-start his phenomenal success!
Tyler Perry (born Emmitt Perry Jr., September 13, 1969) is a well-known American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter. In 2011, Forbes listed him as the highest-paid man in entertainment, earning US $130 million between May 2010 and May 2011. Perry is famous for his performance of Madea, a tough, elderly female character, whom he created. Perry’s films vary in style from the usual filmmaking to filmed productions of live stage plays. Many of Perry’s stage-play films have been adapted as feature films.
The article I read said:
“Initially inspired to write down his own experiences by an offhanded comment Oprah Winfrey made on her TV show, Perry moved in 1992 from his native New Orleans to Atlanta, where his plays began to attract an audience. With minimal advertising, relying largely on word of mouth and a now-massive mailing list, Perry has mounted and toured numerous plays since 1998, also selling videos, and amassed a devoted fan base and a rather sizable fortune.”
Later on the article stated:
“Michael Paseornek, president of production at Lions Gate Films, said he had become aware of Perry after a package arrived containing a script and a video.”
“It isn’t like we were tracking Tyler’s activities. He did so much from a grass-roots level, through his Web site, through the church, through word of mouth, that he completely slipped under the radar of the film industry. I got this package with a cover memo from William Morris saying something like Tyler has done 57 gazillion dollars in sales, something outrageous for someone I’d never heard of.”
What this shows me is that anyone can become a success if you are good at the basics of marketing. Here are some of the main points I took from this information:
Tyler Perry was inspired to write not from being taught that, but by watching the movie “Precious” and hearing a comment from Oprah Winfrey on her show. Tyler Perry had no degree in marketing and actually only had a GED. Nonetheless, he had a very troubled childhood which he seemed to work into his plays. He found a love of writing and just went with it. Many of us are inspired to do what we do for various reasons. Find your inspiration; find your reason for living. Enjoy it, love it, and persist in it.
Tyler Perry, then and now, advertised what was happening in his entertainment world through his website. I remember seeing his plays advertised there and finding out where they were playing. He basically kept a newsletter of what he was doing. He kept his fans informed and updated on new plays (and now movies and TV shows) so they could plan to see his content. Back then, it was a gallery of pictures and text on his website. Today, it’s all video which is more appropriate for his market. A good website advertises what a person or business is doing, and keeps its viewers engaged. That’s what Tyler Perry did.
The next important thing Tyler Perry did is that he developed a list. So many times, I speak to entrepreneurs, business owners, so forth, and find out that they do not maintain their lists. Your list is your life source. Whether you are making B2B connections or retail customer connections, one of your main goals is to keep them informed, even when they are not in front of you. The general rule is that “6 touches lead to a sale”. In general, the more ways you can connect with a customer or potential customer, the better. Those “touches” may mean some calls, some postcards, advertising or even some emails. What can you provide them that would be helpful in their current situation? Is it offers, new services, games, etc.? Going to one of Tyler Perry’s plays made you want to go to another one…and bring some friends with you. To take it to the next level, see if you can get the “troopers” on your list to do some social media organic advertising for you, to increase the size of the list. The more “troopers” who do this the better. Tyler Perry developed a list of interested and devoted fans that made him a millionaire before he made all those relatable movies many of us, brothers and sisters love.
Tyler Perry had to adjust locations. He knew that Atlanta was a hot market for his type of shows. There are a lot of affluent black people living there. They were his target market so he went where his target market was. Sometimes you have to move your shop to a different place, or focus on a different target market, where you’ll be more successful. Some would say why didn’t he go to NY?; perhaps, he wanted to test his plays in Atlanta, before hitting the big stage in Manhattan. Tyler Perry was smart about this, not holding onto New Orleans, where he could not be as successful as he wanted to be.
Tyler Perry is great at making content that speaks to his core black and Latino viewers and even moving to more mainstream viewers occasionally. To people like me, he will forever be known as one of the most successful black entertainment entrepreneurs. In 1999, many of us had very few places to see shows that spoke to the experiences we had growing up, especially in a light-hearted way. Anyone with the courage to try can achieve a similar level of success. You just have to start with the basics and not give up. More opportunity will come over time as it did for Tyler Perry.
Todd Sayles, Principal of Creative Mind Consulting Group, has built a successful organization that services real estate, retail, hospital and wellness clients among others. His team’s expertise includes problem solving/market strategy, design and marketing consulting, creative design, online website development, content and design creation for digital media and print collateral, public relations, search engine optimization and collaboration with outside designers and writers.
Creative Mind Design Group teams up with clients to strategize on marketing challenges and design goals. We partner with companies to ultimately create brilliant results which feature inspired design.