The Theatre Marketing Tools I Use
Throughout the site I mention tools and resources that will help you draw an audience. Maybe you thought one sounded interesting, but you didn’t have time to check it out when I first mentioned it. Maybe you were in the middle of tech week. Or life. Or one of a hundred other valid reasons.
Now that you have the time to come back and check it out you might not remember the name. Fret not. I’ve gathered the most critical and most useful resources here.
Please note a few (although not all) of the links below are affiliate links. That means – at no additional cost to you – I receive a commission if you click through and decide to make a purchase. I’m recommending these resources because I use them and I think they will help you NOT because of the small commission I make if you buy something. Please do not spend money on any of these items unless you also believe they will help you.
- Marketing Calendar Template: This is the free, simple and (in my opinion) incredibly useful spreadsheet that I share with anyone who signs up for my email newsletter. It includes a timeline of example marketing tactics leading up to the opening of your show. Use this as a launchpad, and start customizing it to fit your production.
- Reaching a New Audience: If what you really need is a high-level primer on what theatre marketing can and can’t do for you in today’s world of social media and short attention spans, Reaching a New Audience gives you a state-of-the-union-style analysis of the industry, and a series of modules to walk you through taking immediate action with tactics that work today.
- The Open Book Project: Look over my shoulder as I promote a show at a small theatre without a large existing audience. I share what marketing activity is happening each week, including the course corrections we make along the way. It’s a free blog series.
- Hootsuite: This free website makes it easy to both broadcast and engage on Twitter and Facebook. You can schedule updates ahead of time and look at some lightweight analytics. I don’t know of any theatres that are getting much out of LinkedIN or Google+, but if that’s important to you Hootsuite can help you out there to. There are paid versions, but frankly the free version has always been sufficient for my needs.
- BufferApp: I happily pay $10/month to Buffer because they make it so easy to broadcast social media updates. I use if for Twitter, although you can also set it up for Facebook, LinkedIN, and Google+. You define a schedule ahead of time (i.e. weekdays at 8am and 2pm) then pour social media updates into the queue. When one of your scheduled times hits, Buffer will pull the top update off the queue and post it. For updates that aren’t time sensitive, nothing could be easier.
- Mention: In theory I love the idea behind Mention. You define a term that’s important to you (like “theatre marketing”) and Mention will alert you in real time as relevant updates show up on the web. I’ve stopped using it because I was sifting through a lot of false positives, but I’m using it to connect on a very general topic. Previous podcast guest Kayla Hulen has used it specifically in the promotion of a show with great success.
- Tagboard: If you are going to promote your show across multiple platforms, you should use a hashtag. And if you’re going to use a hashtag, you should use Tagboard to see in one place all of the activity with that hashtag across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. There are paid services to monitor hashtags that I don’t like as much as Tagboard – and Tagboard is free.
- WordPress: If you want a website for your theatre or show that is easy-to-maintain, well built, and inexpensive I recommend WordPress. This is the platform Sold Out Run is built on. It’s the most popular blogging platform today in part because it is both easy for novices to use and flexible enough to let experienced users add advanced features. It’s highly customizable, and it’s free.
- Bluehost: The files that make up your website need to live on a server. Ideal for local businesses like theatres, Bluehost pairs very competitive fees for web hosting with well-conceived, well-executed customer service. Plus, they have a one-click setup to install WordPress on your site and get rolling. I don’t expect it, but if you do hit snags setting up a site on Bluehost, send me a message. I can probably help you sort it out.
- The Email Marketing Primer For Theatres: This guide helps you use your list of email addresses to sell tickets; including tips for growing your list, sending email messages that strengthen the loyalty of your subscribers, and tracking how effective your emails are.
- Aweber: Hopefully you are collecting email addresses from your audience so you can stay in touch with them. If you’ve signed up for Sold Out Run emails and downloaded the marketing calendar template, then you’ve seen how Aweber works up first hand. The simple management of automatic follow up emails alone is worth the low monthly fee. Most important to me: you don’t get charged each time you send an email. It’s a flat fee for the month no matter how many emails go out.
Online Ticket Sales
- BrownPaperTickets.com: Going strictly by social proof, this is the online ticket vending service I see used most often for productions here in Indianapolis. Maybe that’s because there’s no minimum size – you can create an event that only has 10 tickets available – and your event can be anywhere in the world. (Although they appear to only have English, Spanish, and French versions of their site.) I haven’t personally been called upon to set up ticket vending for an event before, but if that happened today BPT is the service I would use.
- Art of the Turnaround: This has been one of my favorite books for years. I give it as a gift to friends in the industry. Michael Kaiser gives his accounts of repeatedly taking faltering arts organizations (often national dance companies) and changing the culture and practices of the organization. There are elements of marketing, but also a lot of other layers. I consider this a must read for the leaders of arts organizations of all sizes.
- Marketing the Arts to Death: If you still create promotions for your shows the same way you did 10 years ago, you might feel like Trevor O’Donnell is talking directly to you personally in this book. He breaks down why the old, familiar ways of marketing the arts aren’t relevant today and – more importantly – what you should be doing instead.
- The How of Audience Development For the Arts: If you are someone who really enjoys getting into the details of something, then this is the book for you. Shoshana Fanizza digs into the data with real world examples and case studies to support her approach to audience development – an initiative that is a wonderful complement to theatre marketing.