I can say, conservatively, that I've played a part in selling about six million dollars worth of tickets to arts events.
I've done most of that without a written marketing plan. I've helped my clients write their own marketing plans but I haven't used one personally in about five years.
For me the single most effectively marketing tool I use is a pro/con list.
Whenever I start the marketing process for art I create a list of pros and cons for each production. For example, here is a pro/con list I created for a show my day job is doing right now, The Mountaintop.
- Strong history of producing work featuring characters of color.
- Well timed with current events, i.e. the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington
- Good relationship with target audiences
- Good relationship with community partners
- The Chicago theatre scene is crowded in the month of September, when the play opens, so it may be difficult to get the play to stand out
- The bulk of the marketing for the show will take place in late August, a time when it is difficult to get our potential audience to pay attention because they are still in “summer” mode.
- The subject matter of the play has been considered slightly controversial. Doesn't mean that our version will have that problem, but it's something to be aware of.
Please note that I try to make the list as specific as possible and that I try to include EVERYTHING that may hurt or help the art. I think about the price, I think about the time of year the art is being produced, etc.
You should also notice that I list cons that I’m not even able to change. I can’t change the time of year the show is being produced. That decision is out my hands. All I can do is make the best of it.
This pro/con list can help me (and you) figure out how to market the art. For example, if I think it will be difficult to attention in the summer I may factor that into the revenue expectations for the show. I may also increase the advertising budget to offset the lack of attention.
If price is an issue, I may need to work on a limited time sale offer on tickets. You get the idea.
This pro/con list is a surprisingly simple and effective tool for great arts marketing. Individual artists can do it, small arts organizations can do it, large organizations can do it.
Put your list together and see if it helps you make better marketing decision.