Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Arts Marketing: Now What? (Part 1)

I’ve not written a post about arts marketing for a while so, as I find myself on box office in a quiet moment I thought I’d pop down some thoughts I’ve been having recently. If you work in marketing you may disagree with them – then again I could be about to provide a moment of immense clarity – who knows, this could be either very exciting or a waste of 4 to 7 minutes.

We’ve been going through a period of quiet shows at the moment – it happens every so often – after a period of sell out shows for no inexplicable reason sales crash back down to Earth and a period of soul searching begins – What didn’t we do? Was the artwork good enough? Were the tickets too expensive? Did it just not appeal? Why didn’t it appeal? Are the audience just trying to mentally damage me?

At the core of my self questioning have been a few central point:

  1. Is the % of our budget we spend on season brochures having enough of an impact?
  2. Is there a better more collaborative way than the season brochure?
  3. How can we talk to our audiences in new and clever ways and seek to develop their knowledge of the artform?
  4. How can we foster genuine ownership for the building?
  5. How should we be using our online presence and where does the future lie for websites and social media?
  6. How do we turn our new audience into regular attenders?
  7. Is it possible to produce new work on the small-scale at a price that is economical for theatres?

If none of these points interest you I’d seriously consider turning back right now, seriously, I’d leave, flee.

Still here? Great then I’ll begin.

#1 – Is the % of our budget we spend on season brochures having enough of an impact?

We’re a small theatre and brochures are a heavy burden on the budget, even with vast amounts of corner cutting (It was 55% of our budget, now it’s 27% with new suppliers) with ever decreasing resources (by minimal budget think that each brochure costs £3k and we produce 3 a year!).

Genre segmentation would be one way of increasing impact, however on a small-scale (team of 2 with 110+ shows) it’s not fully practical – also not economically viable with variations of print. This idea is for a very arty small-scale theatre btw…

The brochure has 3 main purposes:

  1. Posting to previous attenders – People who’ve been before and who have a relationship with the organisation. This makes sense – they are the bread and butter audience, they’re more likely to spend money with us surely? OR is this slightly mental? Surely those people are the most informed about the type of work they’re likely to see, they have a relationship with you and if they’ve booked more than once in the past year then you’d hope a positive relationship is there? We want to develop a deeper relationship with these people but they are to an extent a captured audience. So, why not swap the 28page brochure they receive with a 8 page folded leaflet and a redirect to the website – maybe while also reminding people to update their details? We could be even smarter still, instead of sending a brochure about shows we could send a brochure about the organisation, that helps develop that relationship and a deeper understanding of our work and purpose.
  2. Distribution – This old chestnut… Well, each brochure has a high unit price and are placed as essentially disposable literature – gone are the days (for most people) of the brochure that rests on a coffee table (under a glass lid) being read like a Bronte novel periodically. A % of these will be binned by staff, a % read once and then binned and a % will be picked up and used. So, can we assume that these people have an interest so again – need less of the huge brochure and more a starting point – perhaps with links to website (mobile enabled of course) content?
  3. To engage people with the brand identity – Lists of shows only go so far in the brochure context – we should be selling an ideal, a vision, a road to the future – which is maybe why it’d be better to spend budget saved on big 32/28 page brochures and instead reinvest that money in finding a wider audience and offering deeper information with an aim to spread the organisational vision rather than content.

So this is part one.

Written. Yep.

To be honest this isn’t the most well-written thing i’ve ever done but will keep me writing down my thoughts.

If you like what I’ve written then please share AND IMPORTANTLY please leave your comments below.




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One response to “Arts Marketing: Now What? (Part 1)”

  1. Hannah Avatar

    Looking forward to reading Part 2!