Creative Email Marketing


Marketing Automation Mastery: The Movie Theater Metaphor

(This is Part 5 of our 6 Part Marketing Automation Mastery Series. If you want to see all the topics we cover in this series, click here.)

Every time I explain customer development practices and segmentation to a new client, I always find myself using metaphors. It’s easier to understand complicated or new topics when we attach them to things we already know.

One concept that is vitally important to understand is segmentation.

In its simplest terms, segmentation represents the “buckets” that you split your audience into.

For example, if you’re a personal trainer, you may have three main segments you work with:

  • People who want to lose weight and tone up.
  • People who want to improve strength and gain muscle.
  • People who want to improve their health and energy

The reason each of those people belong in their own bucket is because they have entirely different goals, which means you’d likely want to speak to them differently.

With weight loss clients, you’d want to give them information that is helpful specifically for the struggles that come with losing weight. Sending them articles about adding 100lbs to their squat probably isn’t as relevant to them… but it’d be perfect for your strength clients.

Understanding this concept at a very basic level isn’t too difficult, but when you get more into the nitty-gritty details is where it starts to get a bit more challenging.

Recently, I was talking to a client and I stumbled into a new way of explaining segmentation that I think fits unbelievably well.

Look at your marketing like a movie theater…

The Cinema

People come to you because you’ve got something they’re interested in. Imagine your brand as the cinema. 

With a cinema, customers aren’t coming just to look in awe at your fantastic architecture and advanced popcorn popping technology. They’re showing up to be entertained.

If watching movies is your type of entertainment, you’re first going to see what cinemas are around because a cinema is the place you go to watch movies. That’s the value you’re looking for from a cinema.

People who want to get in shape often look for a gym (the cinema) because that’s the place you go to get access to the thing you’re actually looking for, whether it’s equipment, a trainer, or a great place to awkwardly stare at sweaty exercisers.

Once you decide on a cinema, what do you do next? 

You see what movies they’re playing…

The Movie

If the cinema is your brand, then your specific messages and offers for each customer avatar are the movies you’re playing. The movies are your “buckets” or segments.

Some people come to the theater to watch a cute kids movie, others for a witty romantic comedy, and another crazier group come to get their pants scared off by a horror movie.

If you took a random sample of everyone that walks into the cinema, you’d find some commonalities. First and foremost, that they all like movies. But the similarities wouldn’t go much beyond that… until you walk into a specific screen.

When you walk into the theater that’s playing a fun-loving family movie, you can bet that everyone in that room shares a lot in common. They probably have kids, they value spending time with their family, they like having fun together, and they’re willing to spend money to make memories.

Walk into the screen across the hall playing a violent fast-paced thriller movie and you’ll find an entirely different type of audience looking for a very different experience.

None of them are “wrong” for wanting to watch totally different movies, they just want you (the cinema) to entertain them in the way they like to be entertained.

Here’s the beauty of relating a movie to your messaging: they share a ton of the exact same characteristics to be engaging and effective.

In both cases:

  • You need to tell a compelling story and capture their interest.
  • There needs to be drama, a hero, and a challenge.
  • There needs to be a satisfying resolution at the end.

If your marketing messaging is lacking any of those elements, at best, you’re hurting your ability to really resonate with your target audience. At worst, you’re turning away the right people because they don’t know what you do or see the value in how you can help them.

In our movie example, having unclear messaging in your brand is the equivalent of having a crappy movie trailer. If you don’t capture their interest, they’ll never come see the full film. 

When you create “trailers” for your core messages and each of your avatars, it’s easier for them to see what you’re all about and decide if they’re interested.

In your business, trailers might be in the form of lead magnets, free guides, trials, or some other way for people to self-select based on their interests. That’s why you want your free content to be fantastic and clearly targeted.

Now, the truth is, most brands never get this far. But even if they do, this isn’t where it ends…

The Snacks

Oh you know it’s going to be good if we’re talking about movie theater snacks.

No matter what movie is playing, you can be dang sure that there are strong opinions about what wins the competitive title of Best Movie Munchie. 

Look to your left, and you’ll see someone elbow-deep in a bucket of buttery, salty, fresh popcorn. Look to your right, and someone is stuffing their face with cheesy nachos. In front of you, another person is loudly opening a bag of Twizzlers while the equally obnoxious person behind you is chomping down on a box of chocolate Whoppers.

In any given theater, you’re likely to find a hundred different answers to “What’s the perfect movie snack?”

The goal isn’t to try and simply find the most common response and then force everyone else to forget about their favorite treats. If you go back to our article talking about the 11-Star Experience, you’ll remember that crafting the perfect experience is all about the details.

If you banned snacks at the theater, you could take any of those people and put them in front of the movie they want to watch and they’d still enjoy themselves even without their favorite trusty treat. But having that delicious tastebud companion during the movie just makes it so much more special.

That snack is exactly what you need to be focused on to create amazingly special experiences for all your subscribers. 

Now let’s flip the script…

What if you sat down a group of people in front of a blank screen and fed them snacks but never played the movie? Sure, they’d leave with salty fingers and a new nacho cheese stain on their sweater, but they’re probably still going to be left wanting. 

After all, the snack isn’t the substance itself – you still need the movie for that. 

But somehow, we’re wired in a way that starting at the screen while entering yourself into a solo popcorn eating competition turns it from a casual viewing experience into a hedonic happyplace of the highest heights.

In other words, your top priority is mastering the movie itself. Your message needs to be solid. But once you’ve nailed that, it’s all in the amazing little details that you weave into the experience that elevate it into the satisfaction-stratosphere. 

Let’s take an example…


Movie Theater Marketing in Action

Selling infoproducts (ebooks, courses, membership sites, etc.) is an amazing business model, but it’s also incredibly competitive.

Let’s look at master marketer and unanimously agreed upon “great guy” Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income. Pat has been able to build a wildly successful brand and raving fan base with his approach to marketing, and I’d argue that’s largely for how well he’s nailed his Movie Theater Marketing.

Pat Flynn Example

Pat’s Cinema

Land on Pat’s website, and you’re immediately greeted by this clear and compelling headline:

“Welcome to Pat’s Flynn’s Cinema, aka, The Flynnema!  😉  We show movies about Building Your Dream Online Business. Interested? Click this shiny green button.”

Pat has plastered across his marquee loud and proud exactly what kind of movies he’s playing.

You know right away if this is the place for you. If it is, you go a layer deeper to see if you’re interested in anything he’s got on screen.

Now, Pat knows that there are tons of different types of businesses, people are at various stages from beginner to expert, and thousands of types of businesses you could build. How does he get more specific and find the right “movie” for each person?


Pat’s Movies

Pat thought about that. When you click “Get Started”, it’s like walking up to the box office to buy your tickets. Here, Pat gives you your options:

These are the different “movies” Pat is playing.

You can learn about digital marketing, online courses, and affiliate marketing, amongst others.

By this point, if you decide to dive into any of that content, Pat knows a few things about you:

  • You’re interested in learning skills to grow your business.
  • You want to build a business you love and makes money.
  • You’re looking for help to get there.

That’s a pretty good start! With that, he can start showing you “trailers” for each of those movies that may fit your interests. Those trailers can be lead magnets, blogs, sales pages, or other forms of content that you dive deeper into.

Pat gets even more clever with it and uses powerful personalized email optin software called RightMessage to ask his audience how he can help:

Here, Pat figures out more about you, what you’re interested in, and where you’re at in the journey so he can suggest the perfect next steps for you.

Imagine asking a stranger for movie recommendations compared to asking your best friend who knows what you like. Pat is learning what you’re in to so he can make a better suggestion about what to watch.

After answering the first question, you’re presented with a follow up question:

This is like diving into a genre of movies…

“Ah, you like comedies. Okay, are you more of a romantic comedy or witty, dark comedy person?”

After answering the second question, Pat is able to make a personal suggestion about what’s going to fit your needs:

By this point, you can be sure he’s going to show you the perfectly tailored trailers to get you hooked in and ready to buy your ticket to the show. In fact, he quite literally gives you a trailer for the free challenge:

Notice the wave of testimonials. Look familiar? It should, because every movie trailer you see is also plastered with positive reviews from critics.

Social proof works in all businesses. People want to know what other people think.

If you wanted people to watch your movie, you’d want to let them know that other people like them thought it was amazing, so they probably will too.

Once you’re sold, he gives you a quick and easy way to “buy your ticket” to the show:

Pat’s Snacks

Now that Pat got your butt in the seat, how does he go the extra mile to really make sure it’s not just a good experience, but a fantastic experience.

First off, he gives you a variety of ways to consume the content. From blogs to podcasts to articles to courses and more, he’s curated his best content on the topic you’re interested in. 

It’s the ultimate form of personalization…

“Here’s what you want, when you want it, and how you want it.”

He’s not telling you that you’re gonna get Twizzlers and you better be happy about it. He’s stepping up with a platter of scrumptious snacks and asking, “What’ll it be, friendo?”

That’s an attractive offer to anyone.

And Pat doesn’t stop there. Once he knows how he can help you, he follows up with personalized emails and additional content to help you down the path.

Every email makes you feel like Pat is speaking directly to you, giving you exactly what you asked for, and then sprinkling in unexpected little surprises to make sure you’re getting the most out of the experience.

It’s no surprise that Pat has built as many successful businesses and has become such a highly regarded marketer. He consistently prioritizes high-quality content, relationships, and ensures that each visitor gets exactly what they need.

Take Action

What kind of cinema are you, what movies are you playing, how tantalizing are your trailers, and what snacks do you have locked and loaded?

Use the example of Pat Flynn above and walk through your own business for each section. See where you’re missing the mark or nailing it!


Marketing can get complex and overwhelming at times. Usually, that’s because we lose the forest for the trees.

We start swimming in a sea of tactics and short-lived tricks that barely keep us afloat. Meanwhile, the businesses who are smooth sailing are focused on keeping it simple and doubling down on understanding and serving their customers as best they possibly can.

…and when at all possible, spicing it up with that extra special snack.

Next week, we’ll be looking at the Holy Grail of customer experience… the Hybrid approach.


We help mission-driven coaches and personal brands grow their businesses by mastering their marketing.

Co-Founder of MAJiK Marketing. As an Email Marketing Master, Creative Copywriter, Business Builder, Exceptional Experience Engineer, Joe loves helping turn great ideas into thriving businesses. Click here to work with Joe.

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[PART 1]

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[PART 2]

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[PART 3]

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