It’s one thing to direct a full production – it’s another beast to make sure your tickets are sold. Marketing is a crucial piece of the theatre world, regardless of the company’s size. Spreading the word and promoting your show goes far beyond passing out fliers – it’s important to invest time and careful thought in your marketing plan to ensure you get as many people in the audience as possible over the course of your run.
Sure, you don’t want your audience members on their phones during the show, but you do want them on their phones in the weeks prior. Social media is today’s most useful resource for keeping audiences informed. Use Facebook and Instagram for basic information – but these tools are good for so much more. Backstage information is a great way to engage people. Let your core cast members take over the Instagram story for a day and show your followers what it’s like to prep for a performance. Take photos of the rehearsal rooms and share those on Facebook to rev up excitement for the finished product. Use the Boomerang setting on Instagram’s camera to capture and replay fun moments (does your choreography have acrobatics? Does an actor make an extreme face when they respond to another character?). Keep posts about your production public so excited followers can spread the word, leading to relationships with new guests. Use simple tools like show-specific hashtags at the end of your captions. (TicketPeak has collected a few other ideas on how to use social media here.) By giving guests access to content they wouldn’t normally see, you make them feel involved and invested. You should still post information reminding guests about upcoming shows, too, but don’t shy away from social media’s full potential.
There is nothing wrong with using old-fashioned posters and fliers in your marketing plan, but printing can be labor intensive and expensive. Consider printing smaller amounts of physical marketing tools and displaying them in specific places, like your most popular restaurant and coffee shop, rather than every telephone pole. Get creative when you engage the community: Host an art contest and let the winning piece be the design for your posters – if you’re going to print posters, make them meaningful instead of using stock images. If you host a fundraiser in preparation for your show, auction off a walk-on role to the highest bidder. Let someone from the community play an extra or one-line character on a special night and publicize that unique debut. Your guests will love seeing a familiar face onstage and you can use this to boost sales for that night. There are ways to harness your community’s excitement without blowing your budget on paper tools that inevitably get thrown in the recycling bin.
Use Your Network
No doubt your cast and staff want their friends and family to see the show. Some of our clients reward or recognize cast members for bringing in audience members. With TicketPeak’s E-ticketing software, you can add a question at checkout, like, “Do you know a cast member? Who?” or, “Did someone refer you? Who?” The feature enables you to see who is working hard to drive ticket sales.
Special Performances or Sneak Peeks
Organize special performances or sneak peeks in the weeks leading up to opening. If you’re doing a musical, find a way to perform 1 – 3 of the songs in the show in a public place. If the upcoming show is a play, perform one pivotal scene or monologue (not the climax – don’t give away the whole plot in a preview). This is a great way to capture attention, and your cast will feel involved in the marketing process. Don’t feel pressured to give away the show for free (you don’t need to go for a full flash mob), but sharing some of the show’s content ahead of time is a great way to engage people in real time. Ask a local restaurant or café if they’d be willing to host a small, cabaret-style preview of your show. If there’s a public park in the area, organize a mini-flash mob and use the space to your advantage. By putting a fraction of the material out in the open, you’re likely to grab attention and intrigue people who may not have heard about your theatre before.
Marketing can feel daunting, but dedicated effort makes the difference. The goal is to engage your audiences and the community around your theatre. There are plenty of tools available to you, but you can be creative in how you want your message delivered. As long as the information about when and where to see your show gets published, there’s really no bad way to market your work.