Remember that sinking feeling as you look out across the house and see so few faces looking back? How could it be so few? If only people understood how strong this production really is. Your community doesn’t get a chance to see this kind of work very often. Here is glorious, entertaining art for the viewing… and they’re missing it.
And you know this night will be in everyone’s minds when you pitch the next show you want to do. Sure, everyone agrees you put a good product up on stage, but how are we going to keep the lights on if your shows can’t draw an audience?
How will your actors respond? It’s discouraging to play to an empty house. Will they be reluctant to audition for you in the future?
I’m an actor.
I love being part of a show and bringing something engaging or amusing or thought-provoking to the stage. It’s hard work, but it’s a lot easier than being a director or a producer. All the blame when things go wrong. The tiniest fraction of glory when things go right. Directors and producers are ultimately responsible for everything about the show – even ticket sales.
I have become very good friends with several directors. (I assume that friendship is because I’m always well-prepared for rehearsal, I take direction well, and I’m pretty goofy – but only when it’s appropriate.) When I ask them how they feel about promoting their shows, the response I get is almost always filled with a little (or sometimes a lot) of frustration. As near as I can tell creating a stellar show that is criminally under-attended is something that every director experiences at least once in their career.
I’m also a marketer.
I spent 5 years working at a small marketing firm on the north side of Indianapolis. Most of my day was spent coming up with big picture marketing strategy and online promotion tactics. In January of 2013 I left that firm to focus on arts marketing. It turns out many of the marketing trends that have taken off in the business world over the last 5 years are just as effective in the arts.
Just relying on season subscribers and word-of-mouth for your ticket sales results in a lot of empty seats
Because of my background in marketing and my passion for getting up on stage – I’ve found myself marketing plays and musicals. Sometimes it’s in a formal capacity where I lay out a marketing calendar, gather and create promotional material, and build websites. Other times it’s just fanning the flames on social media to grow the buzz around a particular show.
Every director I’ve ever talked to has had one show (and sometimes dozens) that brought something remarkable to the stage… but never found an audience. While we all appreciate the individuals who do make it out to an under-promoted show and always give them a fantastic performance, let’s be honest: it stings a little. When your best work doesn’t get the attention that it should, there’s no way to pretend that it doesn’t… well, suck.
How your next show will be different
It’s tempting to shrug at low ticket sales and say it just wasn’t meant to be, but you don’t have to accept that. In fact you shouldn’t. I’ve taken all the things I’ve learned in the last few years about getting in front of the people that will love your show, and I’ve put them together in an easy-to-use kit. The pieces of this kit will help you understand why old promotions are losing their effectiveness. More importantly I share the new promotions that are making a difference at the box office, and how to put them into practice to market your own show.
- Walk through how to identify your show’s unique hook. You’ll be able to tell people what they can only get from seeing your show, and just how badly it will hurt if they miss out.
- Learn what makes people share links to your show. Friends and peers will be only too happy to encourage other people to buy a ticket for you.
- With a little preparation you can identify exactly who can build buzz for you, and exactly what you need to say to get these influencers on board.
- Discover the easy (but not obvious) steps to take with Facebook to tap into other people’s networks.
- Take a look at examples of unconventional theatre promotions that cut through the noise and force people to pay attention.
- I’ll also give you an email script you can send to the cast and crew at the beginning of the production. With that script your team will be happy to help you create promotional material and spread it around.
“If you direct or produce theatrical events, Clay Mabbitt may be the best friend you’ve never met. Combining his thorough knowledge of theater and marketing, he has created a system that will help you sell out your next production. I’m particularly impressed with his knowledge of new/social media and how to use it to target your audience. I’ve seen it work with my own eyes!
If your last marketing plan consisted of hoping your cast members hung posters in the grocery store, you need REACHING A NEW AUDIENCE.”
– Eric Van Cleave
Lafayette Music Productions
Filling seats with Facebook
Sometimes Facebook seems like a mirage. You hear stories about organizations that have managed to connect with a whole new audience through the social network. It certainly seems like it should be possible, but you can never quite make all the pieces fall into place. I’ve been there, and this is where my experience at a marketing firm – seeing how Facebook can work across a diverse array of businesses and industries – benefits you. I’ve seen the strategies that succeed and fail, and over time I’ve honed them into a winning combination for promoting live theatre.
“Producing a successful show takes great collaboration and even greater marketing. Without Clay Mabbitt and his talent for getting the word out about a new production our past summer production of “465” would never have made it to the top of the list for the Indy Fringe Festival in 2012. Clay is committed and dedicated to using social media as a driving force for marketing. Over the past four years Clay has worked with Red Boat Productions on several theatrical productions and in each case they have been successful due to his tenacity and ability to market our product. Success today depends on not only print but social media. Without Clay and his expertise, Red Boat Productions would not be as successful in launching new theatrical productions.”
– Lynn Lupold
Red Boat Productions
How much time does it take to promote a show the way you describe here? – Less than you probably fear. You will need to spend some time, but the point of this kit is to give you some of the most effective strategies you can use. So whatever time you do spend on marketing you will see the best possible results for that time invested. Most of the modules can be completed in less than 20 minutes, so you can keep the promotion machine humming even in those last few weeks before opening night.
Can someone else implement all this material for me? – Maybe. You need someone who is motivated to help the show and has available time. Fortunately this kit is designed to walk someone through the process even if they don’t have much marketing experience. The most important skill for someone going through Reaching a New Audience is a strong desire to see a full house when the curtain goes up. If you have a self-starter and you’re not sure how to use them, hand them this kit and see what they can do.
Do I need to have special skills? – If you happen to be a talented photographer or graphic designer that’s great, but it isn’t necessary. You can find people with the necessary skills to help you implement your promotion ideas. If you are paying it’s very easy to find people, but even with a limited budget you can do a lot with free tickets to the show and some good relationship building.
My show opens next week. Is it too late to use this guide? – The earlier you can start, the easier your promotion is going to be. That being said we do live in an age where technology allows for almost instantaneous communication. You may not be able to use all the tactics I share on that limited time frame, but there are ideas in Reaching a New Audience that can help even after your show has already opened.
What if this doesn’t work in my market? – I’ve used these tactics in small markets where I can count the number of professional and amateur theatres on one hand. I’ve also used them in Indianapolis, home to dozens of theatres and a slew of other entertainment options that compete for the attention of my potential audience. You can and should be keeping your eyes open for ways that you need to adapt this material to reach your specific audience in your market, but I firmly believe that you will find insights and ideas you can use regardless of where you live and what kind of venue you perform in.
“Clay Mabbitt took our original, unknown show and turned it into a must see EVENT vs. “another show I have to put on my calendar.” I’ve worked with Clay on two very different shows in two contrasting markets: a premier of an original musical theatre piece in a small, conservative market (Lafayette, IN) and an adult themed show targeted to the savvy theatre go-er (downtown Indianapolis). Both shows were sell-outs and exceeded even the most optimistic forecasts.”
– Kenny Shepard
Worcel Shepard Productions
Fill the house for your next show
I’ve taken the steps that I personally go through when I’m marketing a show and put them into an easy-to-follow digital kit that will walk you through how to find the people that are going to love your production and get them to purchase a ticket. With the materials in Reaching a New Audience you’ll be able to…
- identify what’s unique about your show
- create promotional materials that people want to share
- connect with the influencers that can spread the word about your show
- use social media to reach more people faster
- see examples of original promotions you can adapt
- engage your cast and crew to happily help you fill the seats
How many additional tickets do you think you could sell if you had all that at your fingertips? 50? 100? It doesn’t matter what number you come up with because Reaching a New Audience is priced at $97. If you only sell a handful of tickets that’s more than enough to pay you back on your investment. And you can reuse these tactics for every show you do.
What if it doesn’t work?
Download the digital kit and use the tactics to promote your next show. Experiment with them. If you don’t feel like it was worth $97, I will give you a full refund. No questions asked. We’ll still be friends. 🙂
I’ve designed this material to be quick and simple to implement. It’s broken into bite size pieces that you can tackle here and there when you have 20 free minutes. Let me show you how to make the time you spend on promoting your show as painless and effective as possible. If you don’t feel like this approach works, I’ll give you a full refund. The kit is digital so you can purchase it and get started promoting your show in literally just a few minutes.