Grow Your Email List

A handful of weeks ago, I started thinking about creating a resource that covers email marketing for theatre companies: what to write about, how to get subscribers, what tools to use, etc. The ideas are starting to take shape. I’ve written a few parts of what will probably eventually be an ebook on this subject.

I want to share one of the sections I’ve been working on here on the blog. I’m interested in hearing what your thoughts are. Is this not enough detail to get started (or too much or just right)?

After creating Reaching a New Audience, I realized what I had was a big, hairy resource that was great for anyone who needed an overview of the entire marketing process. It’s all neatly bundled up into a great launch pad if you’re just getting started promoting your theatre.

That marketing kit doesn’t make as much sense, though, for people who already have many aspects of their marketing process in place. Now if you have specific areas you want to strengthen (like, say, email marketing?) you need a resource that doesn’t take as broad a view of so many topics – but instead helps you focus on just one topic in more detail.

If I create a focused resource like that, it’s valuable to that other cross-section of people who don’t really need Reaching a New Audience, plus I can produce it at a lower price point because I don’t need to try to cover so many disparate topics at one time.

That’s my thought process anyway. So take a look at this excerpt and let me know what you like and/or don’t like about it in the comments, over email, on Facebook, or wherever you want to get hold of me.

2. Growing your email list

Whatever form your communication with your potential audience members takes, you need to be able to contact them. With email that means you need two things: their email address and their permission to send them messages.

One way that someone gives you permission is by having purchased a ticket from you in the past. Yes, that is an acceptable form of permission in the eyes of both the law and the average theatre goer. You need to give them the option to unsubscribe from future email contact, of course – and they will if you send boring emails! But if someone has bought a ticket from you within the last year or two you are safe to email them.

Note: I’m not a lawyer, but I am telling you that’s my understanding of what the law says. It’s how I approach email, but please consult with the appropriate legal professional as needed.

Not everyone who receives an email message from you is going to buy a ticket – and that’s fine. Even if they don’t buy a ticket for this production, if being on your email list provides them value (we’ll get to that shortly) they will stick around and maybe buy a ticket to a future production.

But only a fraction of the people on your list are going to buy a ticket for a given production. Let’s say that fraction is 10%. If you have 200 people on your email list, that means 20 tickets sold. If you have 800 people on your email list, that translates to 80 tickets sold. Check my math, but I think that means you want as many quality names on your email list as possible.

How do you get more email addresses? If someone ordered tickets online and gave you their email address in the process you’re all set, but what about everyone else? Here are some techniques for growing your email list.

Signup in the lobby

Before the show and during intermission the lobby is full of people who have a few minutes to kill. There are almost endless ways you can use this fact to your promotional advantage, but the one I want to mention here specifically is a simple signup form.

It might take the straightforward form of a notepad and paper where people are invited to write down their email address for updates. It might have the look and feel of a ponderous guestbook. Or it could just be a slick tablet where guests type their email address right on the screen.

Whatever you use, be smart about the location. Where do people congregate in your lobby? It might be by the house doors, the bathrooms, the concession stand, or right next to the box office. Put it somewhere it will get noticed.


A successful contest requires a prize that people want. The cross-section of people that you want to get on your email list all have one thing in common: they want tickets to your show. They want it so badly that they are willing to pay for them.

To that group of people, giving you their email address and permission to contact them seems like a pretty sweet price for tickets. If you want to make a bigger splash, offer more than just tickets. Include backstage tours, private talkbacks, dinner with the director, or anything else in the overlap between things your audience values and things you can provide.

These type of contests are ideally suited to push on social media – so again don’t think I’m trying to say social media isn’t valuable.

Special incentives

Contests won’t appeal to everyone because some people aren’t interested in the possibility that they might win something that they value. These same people can be very responsive, though, for getting something very concrete in exchange for their email address. Not every “prize” works for this type of incentive, though. If everyone who signs up gets a free ticket, you’re going to feel a financial crunch when one thousand people sign up.

Digital products work great for this, though, because for all practical purposes an infinite number of people could subscribe without causing you any hiccups. The more the better, in fact.

Examples of this type of product might be a digital copy of a collectors program. If your show features original music, let people download a couple mp3s in exchange for their email. Any digital files that are printed or projected as part of the set.

Pro tip: Maybe these type of incentives aren’t just when someone signs up. If you can crack the code of what your audience truly values, maybe you pick something of this sort that everyone on the email list gets for every single production. That way your audience will want to stay subscribed.

Interested? Check out the full guide, The Email Marketing Primer For Theatres.

Want More Stuff Like This?

Get my best tips and insights delivered directly to your inbox. Plus I’ll send you a free copy of the marketing calendar template I start with to build the marketing plan for every show I promote.

Learn How

Your Thoughts?

* required field