The Secret to My Success in Marketing Theatre

There is a single, very straightforward tactic I use every time I’m involved with marketing theatre productions. It’s been incredibly successful for me over the last few years.

You don’t need to buy an expensive piece of software to do it. (In fact it’s often free.) You don’t need any particular, unique skill in order to do this. You don’t need to work at a marketing company like me to have access to any special tools or people. Literally anyone can use this tactic, although very few people actually do.

The benefits are enormous. Every show that you promote will get progressively easier. As time goes on you’ll be selling more tickets with less work. Have a guess? Think the tactic is email marketing to your audience? That’s close, but this idea is timeless. It doesn’t matter how technology and culture change down the road. This tactic will never become obsolete. Maybe you’re thinking about building your personal brand? You’re getting warmer, but not quite there yet.

Enough suspense

My secret weapon in theatre marketing is simply this: try one new thing with every production.

I know. Doesn’t seem like a very big deal, right?  But it’s huge.

…if you market the same way you always have, you’re going to get the same crowd you always have.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking of your marketing as something you need to check off your list on the way to opening night. We go through the same boring routine. We get posters printed, we put them up on some community bulletin boards, and hand a small stack to everyone in the cast. That’s fine when you are doing a show that will sell out based on the name recognition alone, but it’s not going to help you sell tickets to new and lesser-known works. I’ve written about informational and missionary marketing elsewhere, so I won’t rehash that here.

My point is if you market the same way you always have, you’re going to get the same crowd you always have. If you’re already selling out all your shows that’s fine, but are you? Even if you are, wouldn’t it be great if there was consistently so much demand for your shows that you could raise ticket prices?

I propose instead that you add some brand new promotion to the mix every single production. You’ll find some things that work fantastically in your market and some ideas that are duds. Repeat the things that work well, cut the flops, and with every show you’ll be honing a bag of marketing tricks that can literally sell out your entire run.

What do I mean one new thing

So what would a new thing look like? I say get creative. Actors who nail their auditions get cast, and your promotions for the show are how you audition to get an audience. Here are some possibilities to get you thinking:

  1. Have a contest to win free tickets on Twitter
  2. Perform excerpts from the show at local schools
  3. Create a video trailer to put on YouTube
  4. Write an opinion piece about the arts for your local paper
  5. Have the cast video blog during the rehearsal process
  6. Do the classic Q-and-A after one of the performances
  7. Create social media accounts for the characters in the show
  8. Hold a contest for regular folks to earn a bit part in each performance
  9. Heavily promote the businesses and organizations that lent the furniture and art used in set decoration
  10. Schedule one performance where the audience is encouraged to blog/tweet/post photos during the show

Better still do something that’s tied directly to the content of that show. Run a puppetry workshop to promote Avenue Q or have the cast of Willy Wonka film a commercial for your local candy store.

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