The Difference Between Marketing and Promotions

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Promotions are incredibly important in any kind of arts marketing, and theatre is no exception. You need to contact the local press, send a message to your subscribers, and make announcements on social media to make sure people are aware of your show. But that’s not marketing. That’s promotion.

If you’ve ever invested a boatload of time and energy begging theatre critics to take a free ticket and plastering posters on community bulletin boards with nothing to show for it in the final box office take – I propose it could be you skipped the foundational stages of marketing and jumped straight to promoting your show.

I stumbled across a great article that appeared in the Philippine Star earlier this week sharing some pearls of wisdom from Dennis Marasigan on arts marketing. I won’t go into all the good points made in the 1600+ word article, but there was one point that really stood out to me.

“And promotions comes, or should come, at the end of a long and systematic marketing process, a process that includes an assessment of one’s product, pricing strategy, place decisions (product availability and distribution), branding (or positioning), and people.”

This is why the first two modules in my theatre marketing kit don’t even touch on promotions. You have to understand – I mean really understand – what you’re putting on the stage and who that appeals to before you can promote anything.

But usually we’re chomping at the bit to just get something out there. We jump right into a campaign of steady Facebook updates because we’ve seen it work for some other show. Does that mean it will work for your show? Maybe. Maybe not.

So what needs to happen before the promotion?

Know thyself. Understand the strengths of your production. What aspects of the show are really going to impress people? If you do nothing else before moving on to the promoting phase of marketing, you absolutely must know what is great about your show. Not good. Great.

Once you’ve figured that out you can delve into who will fall in love with this show, where you can get in front of those people, and what kind of message will grab their attention.

Have you ever tried promoting a show without first identifying what made it unique? Were you successful?

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