Marketing and promotions in the performing arts for your theatre is often plagued with problems, the public does not always pay attention to such tactics, and marketing in the arts will compete with other forms of entertainment. So when a marketing program is started one should move carefully, testing different methods before committing serious money. I have met people who have already spent many thousands of dollars on some campaigns without a single conversion. They should have spent some to determine the value of the campaign before committing most of their budget to it.
It is of course difficult to market the theater with only a small amount of money or to gauge impacts on such amounts. Even so you must look for ways to work within and build up to the budget you have so that you do not sink it on a useless strategy. The following are some basic ideas and thoughts on marketing the performing arts including possible internet methods.
Theatre is about connection, connection with the audience. That is the difference between theater and film connection. This is the way for a theatre to build audience as will, through a connection with their community, with the people who may potentially watch your plays, to make them the audience.
In one small town this connection was established with existing audience members through a simple hand shake. At the end of each play the actors, and other play participants would come out by the doors and shake hand with audience members who passed by them on the way out. While obviously not possible to a full extent in a large theater, many small theatres could benefit from this tactic. For in this simple act the audience is able to see and connect on a personal level with those who created the performance they just watched. If they did not like the performance initially this interaction is more likely to help them forgive the performers, and so will help the theatre avoid bad PR and word of mouth. This action can also lead those that did like or think the performance was OK to like it more, for we all like performances more when we know the people involved. In this respect this action is especially useful in marketing future theater events, for in that hand shake and a few words with the actor or actress whose performance a person liked, the actor or actress becomes more implanted in their mind and memory. That way if they are on a poster in the future, or on current posters which the person sees with their friends, the person is more likely point the play and the performance out to friends and potential audience members.
Another method of connecting with the local community is by going to assist or speak to high schools, and colleges in your area. By benefiting students, teachers, and contributing to the overall education of a community you have the opportunity to get in the paper, get talked about by teachers, and students in your community. Should there be enough interest you could hold workshops with members of the local community, on acting and directing. Such things help to provide a more supporting base which in turn will help to provide a larger and more consistent audience. For the primary method of marketing of most small theaters, or at least the best one is through word of mouth, so the most important thing you can do is get people to talk positively about your theater.