How To Dream Up Something Brand New For Your Marketing

I talk a lot on this blog, the podcast, and social media about trying something new in your marketing with every show you promote. You might be thinking to yourself, yeah, that sounds great, but I barely have time to do all the existing marketing that’s already on my plate. So I thought it was worth talking about the logistics of actually coming up with a new idea and implementing it. How do you really pull that off?

First of all let’s talk about where the time is going to come from. If you’re like most theatres you don’t spend enough time marketing. Sorry, but it’s true. It’s not because you don’t want to (well, maybe that’s part of it) but it’s because you don’t have more time available. Right? (You probably do have time available, but my point with this post isn’t to convince you of that.)

Finding time

Let’s say you really have blocked off every second of every day between now and the end of your run. How do I expect you to make time for a new marketing tactic? Simple: drop one of your current tactics. Stop doing whichever marketing tactic is weakest and replace it with something new.

Why is this so important?

If you aren’t introducing new ideas regularly, your marketing is going to stagnate. Your audience is going to grow accustomed to seeing your posters in the same windows, the same rehearsal photos, and the same posts on social media. Once successful marketing pieces will stop jumping out at people quite so much, and eventually they just won’t be noticed at all.

I don’t recommend doing completely different marketing each production, by the way. Most of your tactics will be the same as what you did last show, but you’re going to bring in a new idea to experiment with. Some of those experiments will be successful, and when appropriate you’ll fold those into your “core” promotional mix.

Where to get new ideas?

  1. Ask your audience what they’re doing this weekend. It’s simple, free, and easy. Just ask people in your audience what their entertainment plans are. What are they buying tickets for? You can ask them directly face-to-face or you can send them a survey if you have a list to reach out to. (Better still, do both.) Once they tell you their plans, you ask the all important follow up question: how did you find out about that? That will give you a concrete example of a marketing channel or promotion that solidly connected with the type of people you want to reach.
  2. Look at how non-profits recruit volunteers. Small to medium sized non-profit organizations often sink or swim based on their ability to reach out to people and make an emotional connection about their mission. They don’t have a ton of financial resources to throw at recruitment, so they have to get creative about both how they shape their message and how they get it in front of people. Bonus points: take the community coordinator of a local non-profit out to lunch and pick his or her brain about how they go after new volunteers and members.
  3. What’s working in a channel? If there’s a particular channel that you’re interested in (like the local morning radio shows or an arts magazine) look at who is promoting there right now. Pay close attention to people that continue to promote there month after month. If they keep spending money, it’s because whatever promoting they are doing is working. How are they framing their message and what sort of incentives are they offering? Can you tailor those promotions to your production? Would these promotions work if you moved them to a different channel?
  4. Examine well-funded events. What do the big boys do? They have the money to research a lot of possibilities and use whatever works best. You can benefit by copying what they do at a smaller scale. As I write this the cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past are doing social media chats, taking pictures, and demonstrating that they are excited about this movie. Maybe (probably) you can’t do a red carpet event in 7 international locations, but what’s stopping you from scheduling a Twitter chat where people can tweet questions at the cast or the director? (Hint: it’s free.)
  5. Where other theatres are dropping the ball. You can also look at what other theatres are doing. Focus on ideas that are neat, but don’t quite hit the mark. Maybe you see that someone did video interviews with the director, but the questions and production value are terrible. Take that idea and do it better. Or maybe they did a costume contest, but that particular show didn’t lend itself to that idea. (If you’re worried about stepping on toes in your local community, then look to theatres everywhere except your town.)


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