GUEST BLOG: Marketing Offline in an Online World by Amanda Bohan
When producing a show, your to-do list can often feel endless. (You’re nodding your head right now, aren’t you?)
You’ve got capital to raise. A production team to assemble. Venue scouting. Casting calls. Script revisions. And the list goes on and on.
And while your to-dos may differ from someone else’s, I can guarantee you one thing:
Marketing is on everyone’s must-do list!
What exactly is marketing?
For the purpose of this blog post, it’s the process of promoting and selling your show!
So basically, it’s one of the most important things that you need if you want to see your show survive. (No pressure, right?)
Are there different types of marketing?
First, there’s the golden child of marketing — online marketing. This is the one that you likely hear the most about, spanning from email to social media, search engine optimization, and more. It’s also probably where a lot of your dollars go — on things like Facebook ads, banners, e-blasts, the list goes on…
Then there’s the offline side of things, surrounding partnerships, promotions, events, and other more “traditional” tactics. I imagine this is the side you hear less about or even the side you pay less attention to. But if that’s the case…you may be missing out!
Here are just some of the ways you can utilize offline marketing methods to promote your show in today’s online-driven world:
- Hold an event early on.
There’s nothing like actually hearing and seeing a show. So a sneak peek event can often be the perfect way to reach potential patrons, and influencers — think hotel concierge, groups sales reps, social influencers — giving them a glimpse of your work.
If you’re a musical, this might mean performing a number; if you’re a play, this might be a brief reading.
I’ve witnessed first-hand how well this can work for The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show. Each time the show returns, my team and I will host exclusive events for local “mom influencers” with their kids, decked out with coloring stations, snacks, and a sneak peek of the show. As a result, we see upticks in sales and increase in word-of-mouth both online and off.
In case you’re concerned about cost, know that events don’t have to be lavish. Often a few cocktails (or juice boxes for the aforementioned example) with a brief presentation is all that’s needed, since most people aren’t going to want to attend a super long event anyways.
And finding a space for your event might be easier than you’d think! There are lots of local establishments that would jump at the opportunity to partner if someone asked them… so it really just comes down to putting in the time to find a place. Which leads me to the next tip…
- Get creative with your outreach.
There are countless entertainment opportunities for New Yorkers and tourists to take in. So just going after the “theatre-going crowd” won’t cut it. To be successful you’ve got to go beyond your target audience in order to really make a dent in the market.
Always think about audiences beyond your “lowest-hanging fruit.” They might not be the most likely audience member, but they have some connection to your production’s subject matter.
For example, on the recent hit play Afterglow, my team and I reached out to nudist groups as a potential angle. And as luck should have it, a local (and quite popular) group expressed interest in an event, which led to a buyout of performance and coverage on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.
Not saying you need to do a naked night to get attention… but this goes to show you there are always angles to pursue! And emailing someone to gauge their interest in your show won’t even cost you anything upfront.
- Money isn’t the only currency in marketing.
If there’s one line-item in the budget that always seems to be short, it’s marketing. There could always be more marketing money. That’s just the fact of the matter.
When you want to stretch your dollars or just save some money, try trading tickets for what you want and you may be surprised by the results! Hit the right person up at the right time and you could score anything from a billboard to a radio spot to online banners, even free food for your cast. (Trust me, they’ll love that!)
At its core, theatre has the ability to connect to someone’s emotions. For example, you might be offering tickets to an outlet in exchange for ads and that ad rep may just love the topic of your show or might personally want to see it, making them more likely to want to accept your trade offer, regardless of the exact value. Or, they may just want the tickets as perks for their clients or employees. (This actually happens quite often.)
- And last, but certainly not least…
for those productions that are lucky enough to have longer runs, always remember to embrace your super fans!
These people were there first and will likely be around last, so take care of them.
Beyond social media banter, consider randomly sending your biggest fans signed playbills or posters, or special merchandise items. On School of Rock it’s not uncommon for my team to send out signed Playbills to superfans who deserve a little something more.
Or if you want to get even fancier, leave something special at the box office if you know a past patron is returning. This could be as simple as a drink ticket or invite to stay after for a post-show meet & greet, which would no doubt lead to them telling their friends in person, as well as posting on social media.
In the end, it all connects. And your offline efforts will directly impact what happens online, creating a continuous cycle. So be sure to embrace all sides of marketing!
Now what are you waiting for? Go sell your show!
Amanda Bohan is the founder & president of ABM, a full-service advertising & marketing firm specializing in theatre, arts & culture, and live events. Their services include marketing & promotions, traditional & online advertising, social media, and creative services.