Shining the Spotlight on New Theater Marketing Ideas

Successful Theater Marketing

by Lu, OTL City Guides & Seat Fillers

I’ve been having fun sharing ideas about event marketing, partnerships marketing, and 2022 marketing trends. But our real expertise here at OTL Seat Fillers is theater marketing.

Believe it or not, our seat filler members attend more plays and musicals than anything else. That means theater ranks higher than comedy, music, sports, or other events and activities. It’s funny because even in cities like Austin and Nashville, where concerts typically reign supreme, OTL Seat Fillers are a part of community theater marketing plans.

So, I wanted to devote this blog post to theater marketing trends and ideas. And, yes, most include seat filling, but I’m going to mix things up a bit to provide a bigger picture.

If you discuss theater marketing with others who aren’t in the industry, they might assume a singular focus of selling tickets to shows and events. And, yes, of course, that’s the primary objective. But there are three theater marketing trends I want to share before we get to the fun stuff.

  • Play the long game
  • New ways to promote online
  • One-on-one marketing
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Play the Long Game

One of the top theater marketing trends is to look beyond a single event and play the long game. It’s essentially planning for the future and creating additional income streams. If COVID lockdowns taught us anything, it’s that nothing is certain. So, a little foresight can go a long way.

How?

  • Expand your patron list – theater marketing lists
  • Create new theater offerings

Theater Marketing Lists

Regardless of the business, one of the best tools in any marketer’s toolbox is a quality opt-in list. It can take a while to build, but it helps to combine resources.

For example, you could have an email opt-in popup on your website, collect emails from ticket buyers, and have your actors take to the streets (or the mall, sidewalks, or front of the theater) with clipboards or iPads in hand.

New Theater Offerings

Another theater marketing trend is to shine the spotlight on your venue differently. You could offer acting classes, a kids' theater camp, or fundraisers with amateur performers.

While you can generate additional income, the idea is to use your venue as much as possible. Become an active member of the community, encouraging rentals, bringing on new volunteers, and overall recognition.

Even without mandatory lockdowns, you could still take your live performances online as well.

Or, when you’ve got a really hot ticket, do a simultaneous outdoor screening of what’s happening inside the theater. It’s pretty easy to set up a massive screen and sell concessions. You could keep it simple and have the outdoor audience bring blankets or their own seating.

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Theater Marketing Ideas - New Ways to Promote Your Theater Online

When you think about online marketing and promotion, I bet two things come to mind – social media and online ads, like Google ads.

Now, I’m not a big fan of social media (sorry!). However, I recognize that I’m in the minority, and it’s essential to create an online presence. So, I wanted to share a few other theater marketing ideas for online exposure.

  • Community Calendars
  • Ticket Sales Portals
  • Directories
  • YouTube
  • Content Marketing

Community Calendars

Whether they’re called local calendars, community calendars, or event calendars, they’re prevalent regardless of your venue location. I suggest spreading the word by posting on every calendar you find. We’ve got event calendars on OTL City Guides powered by Evvnt, most media outlets provide them, and Patch.com is another go-to.

Ticket Sales Portals

It doesn’t matter if you have a top-notch automated box office system; ticket sales portals offer additional exposure. Through Evvnt (once again), OTL City Guides has free ticketing portals that create a custom URL for your venue and shows. You can even create a QR code and put it on a brochure or sign, sending ticket buyers right to your mini-site.

Directories

Similar to community calendars, it’s helpful to add your theater to every local and national directory you find. Even if you’re not a part of official theater associations, you can still find many listings.

YouTube

Instead of a few clips here and there posted to YouTube, I suggest trying something new when marketing your theater. How about behind-the-scenes glimpses of your rehearsals, blooper reels, or a 60-second mini-show showcasing your talented cast?

Content Marketing

When it comes to exciting subject matter, you’ve got the market cornered with your theater. People love live entertainment, are curious about actors and actresses, and appreciate glimpses of the inner workings.

One of the most influential theater marketing ideas is to build up your blog going beyond your performance dates and synopsis. You can also integrate those unique YouTube videos into blog posts and get twice as buck bang for the buck.

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Expand Your Community Theater Marketing Plan with One-on-One Marketing

I know. The term one-on-one marketing seems daunting. You barely have time to create and implement a standard marketing plan for your theater.

However, one of the top marketing trends for 2022 is personalization. That means getting in front of your patrons or sponsors with what you do best.

Now, I realize you can’t take to the streets, sell individual tickets, and then follow up to make sure they enjoyed the show. But there are other ways, like having everyone check in with an email and sending a follow-up “thank you for attending.”

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Benefits of Community Theater Marketing with Seat Fillers

If you recall, I mentioned that I’d discuss local seat filling in this blog post, and it also fits the bill for one-on-one marketing. Plus, you don’t have to take to the streets!

When you partner with OTL, let us know how many comp tickets you want to issue. We then put up a private and detailed posting in the members-only area. Local seat fillers review opportunities they can attend and make online reservations. On the day of (or the day before) the show, we send you a will-call list, and you distribute the tickets.

Why is local seat filling an effective theater marketing strategy?

  • It’s private – no one knows you’ve provided comps, so your regular ticket sales are intact
  • Fewer empty seats
  • Increased food, beverage, and merchandise sales
  • Super easy – it only takes you five minutes
  • It’s ideal one-on-one marketing - you’re issuing special invitations to people who love live entertainment, can collect their emails as they check-in, and follow-up accordingly
  • Oh, and it’s free!
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Other Theater Marketing Info

I hope you found this post helpful. It’s been a challenging few years. However, a little out-of-the-box theater marketing might be the ticket!

Here are a few other blog posts you might also be interested in checking out:

Your 5-Minute Guide to Partnerships Marketing Success

The Best Free Event Marketing Strategies

2022 Guide to Marketing for Events Without a Big Budget

Theater Marketing FAQs

What are the top marketing trends that are ideal for theater marketing?

Three effective theater marketing trends include playing the long game by building patron lists and repurposing the venue, new ways to use online promotional resources, and one-on-one personalized promotions.

Are there tips for building an email opt-in list for theater marketing campaigns?

In addition to having every ticket buyer and audience member sign in upon arrival, integrate email opt-in forms into social media and content marketing. It's also fun to send actors out in costume armed with clipboards or iPads to promote the latest performances and capture emails.

What are the best free theater marketing ideas?

There are quite a few theater marketing ideas you can implement for free. In addition to social media, use online resources like directories, event calendars, and ticket sales portals to get your venue as much exposure as possible. Another free theater marketing idea is to invite local seat fillers through OTLSeatFillers.com. You can also post unique videos, like blooper reels or fun outtakes from rehearsals, on YouTube.

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