Marketing plan for the Stephen Joseph Theatre

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1.0 Executive Summary

This is a marketing plan for the Stephen Joseph Theatre. The whole premise is about how the theatre can improve its audience size. The report gives background information on the theatre and goes on to describe the market it’s in. It then goes on to do a S.W.O.T analysis of the theatre showing how its strengths and opportunities at the moment outweigh the weaknesses and threats. The report describes the competition the theatre faces in Scarborough, which is the Futurist theatre, the Hollywood Plaza and the YMCA. The main part of the report is the marketing aspect which describes how the theatre has used the marketing mix and finally goes on to describe three ideas which could help the theatre. These are 1. Create a Relationship with the Train Station 2. Improve advertising and 3. Make it easier to purchase tickets. The report shows that the theatre is quite safe at the moment and doesn’t have to use any of the ideas provided if it wants to remain in the position it is at the moment.

2.0 Situation Analysis

The Stephen Joseph Theatre was founded in 1955 but only moved to its current location at the old Odeon Cinema site in 1990. The move cost �5.2m but involved refitting the circle in the cinema to make the McCarthy Theatre and cinema and remodelling the front of the building to make the ’round’ theatre. This money spent meant that the Stephen Joseph Theatre could show films as well as plays and other productions allowing for a more diverse range of clients than most normal theatres or cinemas. The Stephen Joseph Theatre also has a restaurant and a bar which helps bring in extra revenue. However the Stephen Joseph Theatre is run by the Scarborough Theatre Trust Ltd as company limited by guarantee and operates as a non-profit making Educational Registered Charity and all its profits are put back into the business. Whilst the Stephen Joseph theatre is famous for its comedic plays they are more than willing to show any type of play as long as it is up to standard.

2.1 Market Summary

The theatre has always had a good relationship with the local university, especially English students, and the local community enjoy the world-wide fame the theatre has. Whilst Scarborough may only have a small population the theatre is situated across the road from the local train station meaning is has very easy access especially to the people of York who live close enough to get the train to Scarborough and enjoy a show. With most people who go to the theatre their is no need for a hard sell as they want to be there. They have already made their choice of how they want to be entertained. The one thing about a theatregoer is they can be almost anyone; they can be of any age, gender or nationality.

In general however they tend to have a good level of education and have previously been exposed to the arts. The Stephen Joseph Theatre also has a cinema which means that people who don’t have a good education or know the difference between Leonardo DaVinci and Leonardo the teenage mutant turtle can still have a good night out. Theatregoers are loyal, if they see a good show they will tell there friends and come back again, however they very rarely come to see a show more than once a month especially when most productions run for at least a month. Normally this is completely different with most cinemas and only depends on what films are being shown, but the Stephen Joseph Theatre cinema only has one screen and shows its films for a month at a time, in general, therefore both theatregoers and cinema users can be treated as visiting the theatre at the same rate.

2.1.1 Market Needs and Trends

It is obvious that live theatre is completely different to any other form of entertainment. It is one of the few things that can educate and make the audience think without them realising. The Stephen Joseph Theatre offers this to people of all ages. The current trend in education is to get kids out of the classroom where they can feel suffocated and get them to come to plays and museums to witness new things and broaden their horizons. This is why the Stephen Joseph Theatre is so good because it allows classes to go backstage and show another aspect of theatre. As theatre becomes more popular and commercial and more people are aware of the value that the theatre has on the local community more and more people want to see shows. Some people don’t care which show as they haven’t heard of most of them anyway.

2.2 S.W.O.T. Analysis

The S.W.O.T. Analysis shows the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the Stephen Joseph Theatre. At the moment the strengths outweigh the weaknesses but in the fickle world of entertainment it would be wrong to dwell on these strengths without trying to improve.

2.2.1 Strengths

Scarborough Borough Council has estimated that the theatre puts back �2.6m into the local economy which means that the local council is more likely to give the theatre more funding. One of the major strengths of the Stephen Joseph Theatre is its ability to offer such low prices because of the funding and grants it receives. Most of London’s West End Theatres are commercial theatres, which is why they have to charge such high prices for their tickets. The Stephen Joseph Theatre has a number of unique marketing points; its world-wide reputation for a high standard of productions and world premiers and the state of the art theatre in the round. Their is also the continued residence of its Artistic Director, the world famous playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn.

2.2.2 Weaknesses

The theatre has a few small weaknesses, the main one being its size. The theatre only has one cinema screen and one acting stage. This therefore means there are fewer seats, the ’round’ holds 404 people and the McCarthy Theatre holds 165 people. This is a reflection on the town. Scarborough is a small town meaning it has a small population therefore it is going to be difficult to get any customers at all.

2.2.3 Opportunities

As long as the plays continue to get good reviews the fan base of the theatre will increase. If Alan Ayckbourn continues to write plays and have them premiere at the Stephen Joseph Theatre then the theatre will continue to get great publicity. The local university also will continue to bring in new young people from all over the country who can be given a good time at the theatre and make them want to travel here once they have graduated.

2.2.4 Threats

With all theatres there is always the fear that a bad review causes a lot more impact than a good one which means the theatre has to be very careful and continue to produce only the best plays. The major threats that the Stephen Joseph Theatre worry about are a reduction in attendance and whilst the council may be prepared to give funding at the moment the theatre may becoming to reliant on funding. Approximately 54% of its annual income comes from funding and grants.

2.3 Competition

The theatre only has three main competitors The Futurist Theatre, The Hollywood Plaza and the YMCA theatre. The Futurist and the Hollywood Plaza are Cinema’s and the YMCA shows mainly performances. The prices for the cinema’s are pretty similar the only way to compete with them is by the quality of the films shown and in general they get the more popular films as the Stephen Joseph Prefers to show more lesser known films, like Puckoon which is a Spike Milligan comic adaptation, and is willing too wait for the other films for a few months. The YMCA isn’t a major threat as it caters for a completely different type of audience and shows performances which are very different to what is shown at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. They mainly show pantomimes, which only run for a few days at a time.

2.4 Services Offered

The Stephen Joseph Theatre has many things to offer to the general public. They aim to show ten plays a year, with late night and lunchtime shows as well. The cinema shows a different show every month with special show being shown when the right ones come out. The theatre also holds music events and has a shop selling memorabilia. The restaurant caters for most events including weddings, seminars, conferences, meetings, birthdays, anniversaries, christening parties and charitable events. The restaurant also holds special gourmet nights when they specialise in Greek, Italian and a special Orient Express meal. The theatre offers reductions to a number of people, those over 60 and retired, people receiving unemployment benefits or a disability allowance, to full time students and to anyone under 16.

Since setting up at the old Odeon site the theatre has introduced three new departments, education, literary and touring and platforms. The Literary runs regular workshops for writers from all over Yorkshire. The touring and platforms department gets guest speakers, writers and authors to come and do platform talks. The education department’s main job is to help aspiring actors by holding four seasons a week for the local theatre youth group, Rounders.

3.0 Marketing Mission

Stephen Joseph’s mission statement reads that the aim of the theatre is to, “provide the highest possible standard of theatrical experience via the staging of a balanced quality repertoire within a sound financial framework”

And the “theatre’s output will encompass five key areas, in the following order of importance: theatre, cinema, concert/recitals, platform performances and exhibitions.”

Stephen Joseph Theatre (2003)

This shows that the marketing plan cannot try to rearrange the importance of each aspect (e.g. by making the cinema more important) or try to cut back on the amount of money spent on each production or tamper with it in any way. This would be going completely against the theatre main aims.

3.1 Marketing Mix

In order to get a god idea as to what needs to be changed in the marketing aspect, if anything it is important to realise what the company is doing now and how effective that is.

3.1.1 Pricing

The Stephen Joseph Theatre is a subsidised theatre; it gets part of its funding from local authorities and other funding bodies, and can therefore offer very low prices for tickets. There is no major reason to change the price of the tickets especially with all the special discounts the theatre offers to the elderly, young and students. The McCain’s promotion, where McCain’s allow teens, aged between 13 and 19, to pay only �5 and they pay Stephen Joseph the rest of the money is a great idea and the theatre could try to get this done for other tickets. However there is no need to change any prices or worry about the prices they are fine as they stand.

3.1.2 Positioning

The Stephen Joseph theatre is positioned for everyone and this is shown in the way their discounts are for everyone, from small children to teenagers to students to the retired. They want to be seen as accessible for all and don’t want to force anyone away. Any new marketing plans must be aware of this and not be offensive to anyone for fear of driving a group away.

3.1.3 Product

The product in the Stephen Joseph theatre is the plays they produce. They have already said they are willing to put on any type of production, from comedy to tragedy. With the theatre currently producing on average ten plays a year it could be said that they should try to produce more, at least one a month. However the theatre has to maintain the high standards it has set with its productions so far. There is very little chance of the theatre producing two more plays a year without standards dropping, even if it isn’t by much. That is why ten productions a year is fine the theatre doesn’t want to get a reputation of putting a production on just to make some money. The only way more productions could be produced would be to hire more staff and have one team preparing a play whilst the other performs one and they can swap over at the end of every month. But in reality there isn’t really any need to change the product.

3.1.4 Promotion

Promotion is the one area that the theatre could improve on. Currently they advertise outside the theatre and in the local newspapers. If they could make the general public more aware of special events there is very little doubt they would sell out a lot faster. They need to make people more aware of all the discounts they have to offer and make them excited about going to the theatre. They also need people to know what films they have on the cinema.

3.2 Marketing Objectives

In order to improve sales of tickets the theatre has to address the two main problems it has.

1. Scarborough is a small town

2. There is a lack of awareness on what is being shown at the theatre on both the Round and the McCarthy.

With the proper marketing these problems can be eased and this will be shown by an increase in sales within three months.

3.3 Marketing Strategy

But how can these objectives be fulfilled? Using the following marketing ideas:

1. Create a Relationship with the Train Station

2. Improve advertising

3. Make it easier to purchase tickets.

The first objective looks impossible to complete. This report is not suggesting that the theatre tries to make more people come and live in Scarborough. However the theatre is only across the road from Scarborough train station. The theatre and the train station could begin a relationship that allows people from York to get cheaper train tickets when they buy them in conjunction with theatre tickets. This would require the second part of the marketing plan to be put in place.

Advertising wouldn’t just have to be done in Scarborough but also in York. This part of the plan also needs advertising to reach more people in Scarborough. Put posters in the university, schools and even the library. Whilst the local newspapers have reviews of the plays perhaps the theatre should let them preview the shows so people are more aware of what is coming out and can book their tickets in advance. The Stephen Joseph Theatre website could have review and previews of plays that are shown. The website could also be used to implement the third strategy. At the moment it is not possible to buy tickets on-line this could be a good idea. The theatre already has a mail shooting strategy but could reduce this cost by sending the information via e-mail to people who buy on-line.

3.4 Implementation

The first step would be to see if the train station was willing to co-operate in a trial period of no less than three months. If very few people used the service there wouldn’t be much harm done but if it was a success both firms would benefit. The advertising section would be expensive because of the need to make people in York aware of the offer on the trains. Advertising would have to be put up in York as well as in the local paper in York. Whilst being expensive it could also prove worthwhile advertising on the local radio station, York Minster. The advertising in Scarborough wouldn’t cost as much as it is unlikely the university, school or library would charge.

However the posters would have to be designed for each individual area showing all the discounts available to the potential customers. The newspaper would be pleased to get the opportunity to preview a show as it would give them a unique view of the play. Unfortunately in order for this to work a journalist would have to sit in on a dress rehearsal of the play so he knew what to write. In order to sell tickets on-line the theatre would have to alter some of its website, however this can be easily done and wouldn’t cost a lot. As an introductory offer the theatre might not charge post and packaging for tickets ordered on-line but in time place a small charge on the service.

3.5 Contingency Plan

Luckily none of these ideas if they failed would cause the theatre to become bankrupt. Nevertheless if the theatre wants to increase its number of customers it has to take some sort of risk. The worst possible outcome would be that the theatre would have no marketing budget available. In this case the theatre could use its previous funders to see if they can help out in return for advertising in the programmes sold at plays. This should bring in enough money for the theatre to continue advertising in the local paper and around the outside of the theatre.

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