But often when people look at the cost of advertising, their brains immediately jump to the worst case scenario.
What if it all fails?
What if you spend all that money, put in all that work, follow all the tips to promote your show and still nobody shows up?
This is lizard-brain thinking. It's the fear of the unknown.
There's nothing wrong with emotional reactions. It's how we survive as a species. But it's always useful to ground them when we can.
Here's the first fact: when you go from doing nothing to promote your show to doing something, you will see improvements.
When you go from doing a little bit to doing a little more, you will see improvements.
When you make your little something a little better, you will see improvements.
If the marketing strategy you work hard to build is not helping you meet your goals, follow these steps.
1. Pick dramatic images
If your ads aren't working or if your emails aren't getting clicked through or if your cast won't hang your posters, you can turn things around with better images.
You want to interrupt people's daily routine. You want to draw attention and to make them lean in.
Powerful imagery does that.
Get a professional photographer to take your pictures or a professional designer to design your artwork.
When you're taking promo photos, choose the moments where your characters are most distraught, most conflicted. Pick your major turning points or your climax.
Capture compelling moments through:
2. Write compelling copy
Writing is hard.
When you're writing for marketing, it's similar to telling a story. You want to give away just enough information to pique your readers' interest and get them to the next level.
It's a fine line. Give away too much too soon and they won't feel the need to satisfy their curiosity.
Give away too little information and you'll just frustrate them.
If you have grabbed your readers' attention with an image, your headline has to answer the question of, "What's this about?" You are contextualizing that image for your readers and enticing them to read further.
You're only getting glances so your copy has to be industrious:
Choose dynamic words
Activate your sentences
Use numbers when appropriate
Stay on message
Don't be lazy
In other words: write well.
We tend to separate literary writing from copywriting. But wouldn't you love to read ads written by Margaret Atwood? Or a landing page by Zadie Smith?
Be expressive, use literary devices, break all the rules except this one: communicate your ideas clearly.
3. Fix your landing page
When people get to your landing page, do they know what to do next or do you keep them guessing? Does it continue the storyline your audience has been following or does it require a mental shift?
Your landing page exists for one reason and one reason only. It serves one purpose. It has one CTA. That must be clear. Make it so obvious that's what you want your audience to do that a 2-year old could figure it out. Click this button.
Everything on your landing page supports that one goal. If people landed on this page, you can safely assume they're intrigued. Direct them where you want them to go, don't overwhelm them with choices.
Your landing page can be as long as it needs to be. Don't listen to people who say that no one scrolls past the fold. What it needs to do is answer your audience's questions.
Remember: the Internet is a visual medium so use pictures, videos, icons, break up your copy into headlines, bullet points, short paragraphs that can be looked at rather than read.
4. Focus on your target audience
One of the biggest problems with marketing is when you try and talk to too many people at once.
You're trying to appeal to a young hipster underground crowd and a highbrow elite at the same time.
"Whatever you do," you say to yourself, "don't ruffle feathers."
Don't stay safe.
Safe makes you boring. By trying to talk to everyone, you end up talking to no one. You're silent about issues that matter to you and that matter to your audience, because you're afraid you're going to lose those three other people who are on the fence about you anyway.
If you insist on talking to different groups, then build clear audience personas and segment your messaging.
You want to attract a young suburban couple as well as theatre students as well as that hipster underground crowd? You can build different streams that will speak to each one specifically. That means they get their own email, their own ad, their own landing page...
But if you don't have time (let's face it, you probably don't), pick one. Pick who this play will resonate with most and speak directly to them, address their problems, talk about their values, connect with them.
And more people will come to you. Because there's a clear you.
5. Start remarketing
What happens when you send an email to your list and 50 people click to your website?
What about when you use Facebook Ads or Google AdWords? Or when somebody gets to your landing page from an organic search? Or when they watch the video you produced?
A small percentage of that audience (typically under 50%) will convert and buy tickets then and there. But what about the other ones?
They're not lost! By clicking, they've indicated interest in your show. This tells you that they want to know more. So give them more!
Use all of your channels together to continue to engage your non-converting prospects with valuable content.
You can send another email within a week, segmenting those who clicked on your last email but didn't convert.
Or create a targeted Facebook Ad to people who made it to your landing page but didn't progress to your confirmation page.
Vary the content you send out. If they've seen your video, introduce them to your cast, or share a preview the local papers have written, or if it's during your run, link to a review.
6. Produce better plays
So what if year after year, you put in this work, you invest in great photography, your copy is crisp, your landing page is compelling, your audience is well defined, and still, your seats are empty.
What do you do then?
First of all, reach out and talk to me because this would be a fascinating case.
But second, you might want to look at the plays you're producing and at the experience you're delivering.
At the end of the day, your marketing strategy can only do so much. If you pick mediocre plays, good luck selling them.
Every marketer's dream is to have a quality product to sell. So make that job easy: pick great plays, take an interesting stance, be relevant, create a production that makes your audience's jaws drop.
Choose a title that has appeal, a theme that's irresistible, or a beloved playwright. Pick a story that is intriguing, memorable and relevant.
Cast great actors. Hire the best designers who'll turn your sets and costumes and lighting into visual masterpieces.
And on top of all that, deliver a customer experience that has your audience tweeting about how great their evening was.
You don't have to go from nothing to Apple's marketing strategy to get results that matter.
By going from a little to a little more, you'll see improvements. Focus on one thing at a time. You'll do it better.
It's by starting with a little and learning to do it a little better and then stretching to do a little more and learning to do that a little better that slowly and surely you will grow your audience.
You might fail. And that's okay. Just learn from your mistakes, get up off the ground and do it again.