This week, we interviewed Clay Mabbitt from Sold Out Run. Clay is an actor in Indianapolis and produces a monthly theatre podcast about how to promote shows and grow an audience. He shares the insights he’s gained from 5 years working in the “traditional” corporate marketing world. Clay’s advice can immediately be put into action. In this interview, Clay discusses his podcast and his thoughts on marketing theatre productions.
What is one of your favorite Sold Out Run episodes?
I think episode 67 is very useful. I managed to get some feedback from several arts journalists about the best (and worst) ways they receive press releases and invitations to shows. I highlighted some of the tips and warnings I got from them in a podcast episode.
When is the best time to start marketing a production?
Ha! Before you start writing it! In all seriousness there are different types of marketing you do at different phases. Before you even cast a production or have a venue you can start recruiting allies to help you promote the show.
Everyone has a circle of influence, and if you talk to people about your show very early on and sell them on the vision, you’ll get some people who are willing to give you a positive endorsement when it gets closer to opening. People are much more willing to take on this role if you approach them very early on, and convey that they are important and valuable to you. If you wait until the week you open, it makes them feel like an afterthought or that you’re just reaching out to them to try to get something from them.
What is one of the most under used marketing methods that has proven results?
It’s not necessarily under used, but it’s often used poorly: email. I’ve seen so many theatres churn out depressing email newsletters. Instead of fostering a connection that pulls me in, these emails actually make me not want to come see their shows. It’s such a prevalent problem, that I wrote The Email Marketing Primer for Theatres.
What is a major theatre marketing pitfall? How can this be avoided or solved?
Complacency. When theatres aren’t having much luck finding an audience, a big component is often trying to use the same marketing tactics over and over again. I’ve heard this saying so many times that it’s almost a proverb: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
What have you found to be the most effective way to fill seats?
Care. That probably sounds flippant, but if you care about getting people in, you’ll make it happen. There’s no silver bullet to marketing, so you literally have to keep trying new and different ways to find people and entice them to put down money for a ticket. It’s hard work.
If you decide you just want to put on a show, and you don’t care who shows up, well that’s what you’re going to get. If you really care about bringing people in, though, you’ll keep hammering away at the problem until you conquer it.