Nancy Richards of North Coast Rep in Solana Beach, CA

This interview originally appeared in the new BroadwayWorld Monthly Marketing Update, a monthly email designed for theatre marketing professionals. In each update, we’ll share data and trends from our audience, wider trends in the marketing industry, helpful tools and resources that you can use to promote your shows and seasons, and, introduce you to some of the best marketers working in the arts today.

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Nancy Richards is an accomplished marketing professional with a distinguished career in the world of theater. As the Director of Marketing and Press Relations at North Coast Rep for the past decade, Nancy has been instrumental in elevating the theater’s brand visibility and driving ticket sales to new heights.

What is your biggest challenge in marketing productions at the moment? How are you facing it?

Our current marketing landscape presents us with a unique challenge: effectively promoting our world premiere productions. It’s important to note that our subscription rates have remained healthy, mirroring pre-Covid levels, indicating the strong loyalty and trust our audience places in us. However, as we embark on this new season featuring two exciting world premieres, we’ve encountered a distinctive hurdle. Patrons, understandably, tend to approach new and unfamiliar productions with caution.

This hesitancy poses a significant challenge in generating initial interest. In these cases, our marketing efforts heavily rely on the power of word-of-mouth recommendations, as the allure of the unknown can be a tough sell. Even with substantial marketing budgets at our disposal, convincing our audience to take a leap of faith on an unfamiliar production remains a formidable task.

Nonetheless, we’re committed to embracing this challenge creatively and persistently, working to build intrigue and anticipation around these world premieres through strategic campaigns and engaging storytelling.

What advice would you offer to other marketers based on what is working for North Coast Rep at the moment? 

We have found success in offering a bundle package alongside our standard subscription of seven shows. In this bundle, patrons have the option to choose three shows from the seven-show lineup at a discounted rate of $9 off each show’s full price ticket.

This approach addresses the hesitancy some patrons have in committing to a full season, especially when they are unfamiliar with the productions. By allowing them to select three shows that pique their interest, we offer flexibility and encourage them to experience our theater. It’s a strategy that focuses on flexibility and affordability to attract a broader audience.

How do you approach designing the various assets for your campaign? Is it driven by the marketing department, the show’s creative teams, or a hybrid? 

The approach to designing various campaign assets at North Coast Rep is primarily driven by the marketing department. However, it’s important to note that the creative direction can also be influenced by the Artistic Director’s choice of the show. The strategy may vary depending on the nature of the production.

For instance, if we are promoting an unknown show, our marketing efforts might be more pronounced to build awareness and generate interest. On the other hand, for well-established formats like musicals or comedies, the approach may be different. The allocation of marketing dollars varies accordingly; we tend to be more conservative with spending on shows we anticipate might be challenging to sell.

Why do you utilize BroadwayWorld as part of your marketing mix? 

Our utilization of BroadwayWorld in our marketing mix is driven by two key objectives. First, it plays a vital role in branding our theater and shows, both within our local community and on a national scale. Notably, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we experienced particular success when we leveraged BroadwayWorld to promote our streaming productions.

By strategically targeting major cities across the U.S., we were able to garner media attention from prestigious outlets such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, effectively expanding our reach far beyond our immediate vicinity. Second, we place significant value on the BroadwayWorld eBlast as it allows us to reach a highly relevant and engaged audience consisting of individuals who actively attend theater events in our area. The re-blasting feature, which targets those who have already shown interest, provides a second opportunity for potential patrons to consider our shows.

We firmly believe that repeated exposure is often essential to effectively connect with our target demographic. Moreover, the excitement of seeing our show’s interstitial prominently featured when subscribers open BroadwayWorld adds an extra layer of engagement to our marketing strategy. This visibility and interaction contribute significantly to our overall promotional efforts.

What has been your favorite show that you’ve had the pleasure of putting together a campaign for?

One of the most memorable shows I’ve had the pleasure of putting together a campaign for at North Coast Rep was Neil Simon’s “Laughter on the 23rd Floor.” This production holds a special place in my heart for several reasons. First and foremost, we were fortunate to have an incredibly talented and hilarious cast that brought the script to life in a remarkable way. The production values were top-notch, and we had all the right elements to work with.

What made this campaign particularly enjoyable was having a generous budget at our disposal. This allowed us to think outside the box and come up with creative and engaging marketing strategies. One standout idea was the creation of a large cut-out featuring the main character, which we strategically placed in various local locations. We turned this into a “Where’s Waldo” style promotion, inviting the community to guess the cut-out’s whereabouts. It generated a lot of buzz and excitement around the show.

Additionally, we encouraged patrons to interact with the cut-out by posing with it when they attended the show, creating memorable moments and a sense of connection to the production. “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” offered us numerous opportunities to step beyond traditional advertising and engage our audience in fun and interactive ways, making it a truly enjoyable campaign to work on.

With over 20 years of experience in promoting theater, Nancy is also the visionary founder of Richards Marketing Group, creating a line in the production budget for marketing and promotions, a testament to her commitment and passion for the arts. Her journey began in the bustling theater scene of New York, where she honed her expertise and achieved remarkable success increasing tickets sales, promotions, and brand awareness for Broadway shows.

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