Audiences are limited. There may be one million people in your area, but to weight them all as equally fair game as your target audience is both inaccurate and insane.
In marketing, it's considered far less productive to attempt to convince someone to purchase your product if you have to change their mind, their beliefs, their habits. In the age of options, you have to meet your audience far more than halfway and determine who is just a step away from that purchase.
Here is a basic list of ways you can subdivide your target audience:
- Income Level
- Family Type
- Sexual Orientation
- Education Level
- Career level
- Where they currently spend their money
Keep in mind that this should be done for your company as far as membership is concerned, and then again for each individual production. Take a Venn Diagram approach and see which audiences fit in both sustaining member and one-off show audience categories and give those people the most attention.
An example: when I produced my play Marathon: A Comedy in 26.2 Scenes in 2004, I bypassed the usual theatre audience altogether and papered every running store in town. Why? Because the theatre lover has 100 choices for entertainment on a given weekend. The runner has zero. With one simple decision I eliminated my competition. And yes, the run (ahem) was completely sold out.
I'm reminded of a conversation I had with someone from the American Ballet Theatre marketing department a few years back. I was trying to establish a partnership between ABT and Gen Art, for which I was currently running membership.Unlike most potential partners, ABT was unfazed by the sexy young downtown demographic of my company's audience. Their research had proven that their primary member was overwhelmingly a specific sex, age range, and even worked in one of three industries (you'd be surprised which three). The partnership wasn't worth the investment of their time or resources because we couldn't deliver on their slam-dunk demographic.
Save yourself and your company time and money by getting specific on your target audiences. This is not the time to reach or create philosophical arguments about why certain people "should" see your show - staying focused and ranking audiences by priority will pay off at the box office - and in loyalty down the road.