It’s not easy getting noticed outside of the regular theatre-going crowd.
And while you should never forget your hardcore audience, there’s plenty of opportunity to attract new customers and sell more tickets for your next show (without breaking your budget).
We’ve put together a few quick tips to help you do just that – from old-school community marketing to modern social media.
Put together a short trailer to promote your show
You’ve already got lighting and sound experts on hand – and you’ve already got a cast of eager performers. So play to your strengths by putting together a quick and slick trailer to get people excited about your production.
It doesn’t have to be cinematic, and it doesn’t have to have a big budget. It just needs to be exciting, entertaining and shareable online. And with a bit of tight editing, you can squeeze a lot of different ideas into a 60 or 90-second trailer. You could include:
- Action-packed clips from your dress rehearsals – fight scenes, athletic dance sequences, or impressive special effects. Some production companies have even strapped a GoPro to their performers during the rehearsals of intense scenes for a dynamic first-person view from the stage.
- Quick interview sound-bites from the cast members and director. Get them to talk about why this production is special – why they’re excited to be involved, and what the public can expect from the experience.
- Reaction and opinion clips from the audience at your previews or first shows – while they’re watching, while they’re socialising during the intermission, or as they’re leaving the show at the end.
- Footage of busy crowds and queues around and inside the theatre. If you’re careful about the content of these clips, you can even use older footage from your last popular production.
Alternatively (and if your director has a few cinematic talents) you could make a trailer that’s created without any clips of the on-stage production – like this trailer for ‘Skin in Flames’ by the StoneCrabs Theatre Company.
They’ve used short cuts with close-up shots in just a single location. They’ve also deliberately obscured faces and kept the details to a minimum: the voice-overs, music and editing are doing all the hard work.
With no particular sets, scenes, action or dialogue, a powerful and dramatic trailer like this can be put together quickly with almost no budget or special equipment – and still look like a high-end piece of art.
Get your production company onto social media
We’re constantly hearing about how important social media is for all businesses.
But for theatre production companies (or any entertainment business) it’s an especially good fit.
People on social media don’t really want to buy or be sold to – they want to be entertained and intrigued. They want to share stuff that’s fun and exciting, and they want to have a bit of banter along the way.
Luckily for you and your theatre company, you’re already in the entertainment industry. Social media is the perfect place to start posting and sharing your:
- Slick new trailer
- On-set and backstage photos of the production
- Dramatic lines and quotations from your current show
- Special offers and discounts for tickets (like 5% off tickets if they retweet your videos)
- Competitions and contests (such as joining your email list for a chance to win free tickets)
- Links and recommendations for other exciting (but non-competing) theatres and productions
- Short interview clips from the cast, crew, director or writer – even a smartphone on a stand can be good enough to record these quick little videos.
Just remember to keep the direct selling to a minimum. Your main focus should be giving people something fun, interesting, intriguing or impressive to enjoy.
And when you do post out something like a special offer or discount, make sure you’re getting something in return. An ongoing email subscriber list of interested theatre-goers will probably be your most valuable long-term project for marketing any future productions – so make sure every person who gets a discount has to sign up first.
It’s a difficult balance to master. But as a general rule, we’d recommend that you keep more than 80% of your social media content sales-free. Once you’ve established your production company as an account that’s worth following online, you can start to work in a few posts that are focused on sales – and with that positive reputation behind you, people will be far more likely to respond.
…But don’t forget about the real world
Online promotion is great for reaching people you’d never find normally.
But if you want a reliable audience that keeps growing every week, you’ll need to spend more time and effort on the locals.
First, you can start to lean on your good relations with other local businesses. That could mean:
- Selling advertising space in your theatre programmes to local bars, shops and restaurants
- Getting your posters and flyers into local stores (perhaps in exchange for a free ticket)
- Asking restaurants or stores to provide refreshments for the show (either for free tickets, or for a mention in the programme).
Just remember that they need to see a benefit – most businesses won’t really care about your show. So if you want them to promote your production, make sure you can offer them something in return – like a dedicated advertising space when you print your theatre programme.
Next, you’ll want to find ways to cement your production company as an important part of the local community. That could mean:
- Turning your final dress rehearsal into a day-time sneak preview for local schools to watch the show for free. Parents (and adults in general) are more likely to take notice of a company that’s doing good things in their town.
- Getting a few of your cast members (in costume and in character) out to schools, markets or other local events to draw attention and hand out flyers – this type of guerilla marketing is particularly eye-catching if you’re running a period drama or a pantomime, and works especially well with your funniest, scariest or loudest characters.
- Partnering with local charities – donating a percentage of your sales to a good cause (and advertising this fact to encourage people to buy tickets).
Finally, you’ll need to hit the streets.
As your show approaches (and even during its run), you’ll need a way of reminding as many people as possible that your production exists.
So print a large batch of low-cost flyers, and rope your cast members and production crew into a sweep of your local area, dropping flyers into every letterbox.
It’s not the most exciting way to promote a show, and the response rate will probably be low. But it’s also the only way to catch all of those people who’ve somehow managed to miss everything you’ve been doing online and out in public.
So what’s next?
By now, you should have a few new ideas to help your theatre production pull in more punters.
But if you’re working on a tight budget, you need to keep your costs down along the way – so take a look at our affordable flyer printing, poster printing and theatre programme booklet printing to help give your production company the sleek and professional edge it needs to stand out.
Dean Williams is a design and marketing blogger working for Print-Print Limited, promoting business and building brands through quality print marketing. If you’re interested in small business promotion then please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org