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In theory

The starting point for any form of arts marketing lies the art, or the artistic vision, for any show. It is the job of your marketing director, or team, to understand what the play or musical is about - at its core - and succinctly communicate it in an exciting way to your audience. You are charged with appropriately preparing your audience for purchasing a ticket. The ubiquitous tool for doing so, across all industries, is the "marketing mix", and is a very useful place to start thinking about how you are going to persuade ticket buyers to attend your show:

  • Play: Your show! In the marketing mix, this is usually defined as "Product". It's imperative that you have a clear grasp of exactly what your play is and what makes it unique before you can successfully market it (see: Capturing the spirit of your show).

  • Placement: You will often hear marketers saying that marketing is about putting the right product, at the right price, at the right place, at the right time. Make sure your theatre is in the ideal location and be aware of other productions happening in your area that may conflict with yours.

  • Pricing:Make sure that the pricing (or tiered pricing) of your tickets will enable you to recoup as much of your costs as possible. Be aware not to alienate your audience in the process. Overly expensive tickets may prevent their sale.

  • Promotion: This "P" includes elements like: advertising, public relations, social media marketing, email marketing, search engine marketing, video marketing and more. Each touch point must be supported by a well positioned brand to truly maximize the reach of your show and robust ticket sales.

The goal of creating good, fulfilling art rests at the heart of any musical, play, or any cultural endeavor, but it is balanced with the prerogative of the producer to ensure that tickets sell well and secure the future of any company, be it community, school or collegiate performance groups. The fun, and challenging aspect of theatre, however, is that, instead of creating a product based on a particular need or arising out of a focus group (think a soft drinks or technology company), we begin with the art. We cannot, nor should, change the art drastically (like changing the ingredients of shampoo). We must maintain the integrity of any piece, but our job is to communicate it - or package it - in such a way that we can satisfy the needs of our patronage in a meaningful way and still present incredible musicals and plays.

Capturing the spirit of your show

The decision to purchase a ticket, particularly in the arts, is driven by emotion. We want to avoid listing the virtues, or practical benefits, of any show (after all, we are not selling shampoo), but rather that you will feel something. It is important to focus on the human factor, elements that are valued and important to everyone. Think love and belonging, aspiration, self esteem! Things that we value in life, and subjects theatre inevitably centers itself on. For in-depth reading on this subject, check out Maslow's Hierarchy of Need. Everything you do should represent the fundamental character, purpose, values, and drive behind the production. If you can explore and highlight this deep meaning of a show, this is something your audience can understand instantly. Think about some well-known and successful shows that has truly captured this. Read how they communicate the show - on posters, on social media, on their website - and try to make that link.

Consider Hands on a Hardbody.The show is about what it is to Be American, the promise of the American Dream, hardship, success, competition, love, loss and family. It is based on a group of real people, fighting under a scorching Texan sun, to change their life.

Now you're really talking about your show. Workshop with your production team a way to say that in a quick, succinct way that cuts to the heart of your show. Consider how it might read on a billboard on the side of a highway, you have seconds to make that connection: every word counts. Coming up with many ideas and then working them down to 2 or 3 will put you in a great position, and can guide everything you do. From there, combine the "essence" of your show with highlighting great music, history, other affiliations with the show, with other cool assets and you're on a great track!

Engaging and Energizing

Social media is a premier engagement tool for the performing arts. It's a great way to bolster and encourage broader word of mouth and discussion about your show. Devising hashtags for twitter and Facebook, geofilters for Snapchat, and using Facebook's marketing software is extremely useful for targeting the right people and getting your community, college of school involved. Running competitions for tickets or introducing show-centric projects into your IT or Art classes helps your audience engage, energize and convert into ticket buyers. Your cast is a perfect asset for this! Ask them to talk about your show and engage with followers by sharing pictures or videos from rehearsal, or creating their own Snapchat story about the show's development every week.