My Experience Marketing a Playing with FIRE Documentary Screening
About Playing with FIRE
Before diving into what I learned from marketing Playing with FIRE, let me tell you a little about the film. It’s a documentary about Scott Rieckens and his wife’s, Taylor, year-long journey to explore and apply concepts taught by the Financial Independence, Retire Early community.
It includes many cameos from prominent members of the financial independence community such as Mr. Money Mustache, Jonathan and Brad from ChooseFI, J.D. Roth, etc.
The primary focus of the movement is to reject the standard consumerism narrative by saving as much money as you can to create more options in your life.
While I personally embrace the financial independence portion of it, I have some mixed feelings about the retirement half.
My Thoughts on the FIRE Movement
In a recent interview I did for Semi Retire Plan, I was asked for my thoughts on the FIRE movement. Here is my response to the question:
“The FIRE movement definitely seems appealing to me, but I don’t think it accurately defines what I am doing. At this point, I am basically making a career pivot. I don’t have any plans on retiring in the near future. Since I am a writer, I’ll always be working on some creative project, for the rest of my life.
With that being said, having 25x my average annual expenses saved up by 55 will give me the option to retire, if my health were to take a rapid decline.”
Although I have no desire to retire early, I am interested in applying the principles used by those in the movement to create a better life for myself and my future family. So much so that I decided it would be fun to host a screening of the documentary!
Creating a Playing With Fire Screening Event in Baton Rouge
At the beginning of last month, I decided that I wanted to challenge myself by seeing if I could host a Playing with FIRE documentary screening. When I discovered you could create your own event through the Tugg platform, I quickly signed up. The application process was easy; I just chose a location for my event, and hit submit.
I chose to host the event at the AMC Mall of Louisiana on Tuesday, July 9th. In my mind, that would allow for plenty of time to sell tickets for the event.
To my surprise, tickets were a bit steep; they sold for $15 a pop. At that moment, doubts begin to creep in about whether I could pull this event off. The question I asked myself was, “How in the world could I convince financially savvy people to pay $15 to learn how to save and invest money?”
After all, wouldn’t people want to exercise some delayed gratification and wait until the documentary came out on Netflix or Hulu? To me, that seemed like the rational choice to make.
I needed to sell 63 tickets in order for the event to take place.
I posted this problem on Twitter and several personal finance bloggers responded with some brilliant ideas. At the moment, I am having trouble locating the Tweet, but I’ll share a few ideas from my faulty memory.
ESI Money and Birds of a FIRE chimed in with some great ideas. They both suggested getting a wealthy person or institution to sponsor the event. Another person suggested reaching out to realtors and financial advisors.
While I thought these ideas were brilliant, for whatever reason, I was afraid to pick up the phone and cold call people. I let the voice of self-doubt prevent me from being great.
Instead of following their advice, I used the instructions Tugg gave me to market the event.
My Spaghetti Digital Marketing Approach
My marketing approach involved sending out press releases, creating Instagram posts, running a few FB ads, and cold emailing people and financial institutions. After three weeks of using this unfocused marketing strategy, I had 25 tickets sold, 38 tickets short of reaching the threshold.
I also wasted $20 running FB ads, because I had no clue what I was doing. To be honest, at this point, I had given up on marketing the event.
Accepting Marketing Failure
With four days left to sell 38 tickets, I had given up. The weekend prior to the threshold deadline, I attended the birthday celebration of one of my nephews. This is where an aunt of mine approached me inquiring about the tickets.
She wanted to purchase tickets to the event and bring my cousin with her. My response to her inquiry was, “I don’t think this event is going to happen because I don’t know if I can sell 38 tickets within four days.”
To that, she responded, “Well, just keep me posted. Keep marketing the event and I’ll monitor the sales.” With her encouragement, I decided to continue my marketing efforts.
Another encounter that inspired me was with one of my sisters. She approached me saying, “You didn’t do what you were supposed to do. I told you to go around and hand out flyers. You’ve got to talk to people offline!”
Her words provided me with the fuel I needed to keep going. I had to keep marketing this event.
Last-Ditch Marketing Efforts
I posted the event in the main ChooseFI group and the ChooseFI New Orleans group; I posted the event in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans subreddits; I continued posting the event on IG, FB, and Twitter.
Along with doing that, I used the email marketing campaign built into the Tugg platform to encourage others to help me spread the word about the event.
As a result of my last ditch-efforts, 20 tickets were sold. With two days left, I had 18 tickets left to sell. My goal, although not completed, was within reach.
To sell a few more tickets, I turned to a market I overlooked, my own family. I didn’t tell my mom or stepfather about the documentary, because I didn’t think they would be interested in it. And, don’t tell them I said this, but it’s sort of too late for them to achieve early retirement.
Reaching the Threshold
With an hour left on the threshold clock, I had four tickets left to sell. The adrenaline was rushing through my veins. That’s when a friend of mine and Mike from MikedUp Blog gave me an idea. “Why don’t you just buy the last four tickets yourself?” they both asked.
I followed their advice by purchasing the remaining tickets with 20 minutes left on the threshold clock! The event would take place the following Tuesday.
Hosting the Playing with FIRE Documentary Screening
On Tuesday, July 9th I hosted the Playing with FIRE Documentary screening. I got a chance to meet so many wonderful people.
People drove to Baton Rouge from several nearby cities such as Lafayette, Lake Charles, and New Orleans. They thanked me for creating the event screening.
During the film, I heard a few people say, “Wow!!” during the parts where members of the financial independence show Scott and Taylor how much faster they can achieve financial freedom faster by reducing some of their expenses.
After the show, I got a chance to speak with a high school friend of mine and his girlfriend about the film. We spoke for almost an hour. They shared with me the expenses they struggled to cut. It turns out we both struggle in the same areas: food.
We also talked about a high school friend of mine who purchased ten tickets but didn’t show up to the event. After conversing with them, I reached out to this old friend via FB messenger to thank him.
His response was, “No problem, man! We have to show support for our own. I wish I could have attended the event, but I had to drive to Houston for work.”
From hosting this event, I learned several things. Here are my five major takeaways:
- When hosting an event, do not assume people won’t pay a premium price for something they value
- Don’t overlook a potentially powerful network: your own friends and family
- Listen to the people who have experience marketing (ESI Money worked in marketing for decades?)
- Never ever give up, keep striving to reach your goals until your time expires
- Spreading financial literacy is important. Don’t assume people don’t want to learn more about their finances. Keep writing and talking to anyone who will listen!
Finally, I’ll leave you all with this quote from one of my favorite poems by Marianne Williamson. Until next time my friends.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
-Marianne Williamson in her poem titled Our Deepest Fear
Jerry is a Business Insider Contributing Writer who is obsessed with personal finance. He believes you can improve your financial situation by applying principles taught by the financial independence community to your financial life.
If you are having trouble saving, he recommends that you join the SaverLife Savings program where you can get a $60 reward after six months (no income requirement). All you have to do is put a minimum of $20 a month into a savings account. Easy, right?
For a fun read, check out his article 10 Signs You’re a Personal Finance Addict to see if you are a personal finance nerd.
Before you go, check out the new From Broke to Financially Woke Interview Series.
Also, please subscribe below if you found his content valuable and want to continue following him as he documents his own journey from Broke to Financially Woke!