5 Tips for a Successful Street Team in Times Square

The middle of NYC, also known as Times Square, is now like the Wild West.  Instead of gunslingers, we’ve got street teams peddling Broadway tickets, stand-up comedy tickets, photos with Elmo, and even Scientology.

So if you’re trying to sell tickets to your Broadway show, Off-Broadway show, or . . . uh . . . religion . . . how do you stand out from the crowd?

Here are five tips to running a successful street team in Times Square:

1.  Speak several languages.

Remember, Times Square is oft called The Crossroads of the World . . . so English isn’t the only language spoken in this district.   And according to the most recent Broadway League demographic report, 14.1% of our audience is from outside of the US, with a little over 9% coming from non-English speaking countries.  Guess what street team an international visitor is more likely going to speak to?  One that speaks his/her native tongue.  If you’ve got sellers that can speak Spanish, French or any other language, you’ve got a leg up on your competition.

2.  Don’t just sell your show.  Sell any show.

Sure, you’ve got a pitch, and you’ve got to get it out.  But if your street team acts like a concierge and gives honest advice about restaurants, shopping, and yes, even other shows, you’re more likely to gain trust and then sales.  Remember, most people are in the city for more than 24 hours.  My street teams constantly bring back stories of repeat visitors who buy from them on the second day, not the first.

3.  Appearance matters.

Keep your street team clean, neat, etc.  The choice of branded clothing is up to you (some argue that too much branding scares the poor tourist, and a subtle, “let me help you and not hard sell you” is better, but it depends on your show), but one thing that is a must for every street team member to wear?  Remember what Annie said?  You’re never fully dressed without a s-m-i-l-e.

4.  Be active, not passive.

I laughed out loud yesterday while strolling through Times Square and saw two street-teamers leaning against a wall, with their hands out holding a flyer . . . expecting someone to run up to them, grab the flyer and thank them for their generosity.  Did those two think they were holding on to gold?  Diamonds?  Book of Mormon tickets?  Does a fisherman hold their hook above the water?  No.  Dive in.  Swim with the fishes (in the good way).  Talk to people.  Find out where they are from.  How long they are staying in town.  What they’ve done so far.  What they want to do.  Recommend something non-theater related, and then, when they know you, when they like you, when they trust you, sell ’em your show.

5.  Snuggle up to the other Street Teams.

They may seem like your competition, but they can also be your greatest ally.  You’re all out there doing the same thing, right?  And at the end of the day if someone wants to see a tragic play, and you’re selling a happy musical, well, you’re never going to convert them.  Send them over to your buddy who is hawking something Shakespearean, and you just might get a return favor soon enough.

 

All these tips can help lead to more sales for your show, but you know what the most significant thing you can do to increase your Times Square sales is?  Go to Times Square.  So many people I know avoid walking through the area because of the traffic.  I actually take every chance I can to walk through the grid, because every time I do, I learn something.  Watch pedestrian traffic patterns.  See what billboards they are looking at.  Notice which street performers attract the most interest.  As the Music Man said, “You gotta know the territory.”

And when your territory is Times Square . . . you better know it well, if you’ve got tickets to sell.

 

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Comments
  • Dan Rich says:

    I have to admit, when I’m in NYC I do my best to avoid Times Square like the plague. If I’m going to a show, I’ll head up 8th instead of trying to fight my way through the crowds.

    The street teams are part of the problem. They are boulders in the stream that the crowd has to try and flow around. Whether it’s someone hawking tickets to a show or seats on the tour busses, they are annoying and are more likely to convince me *not* to see a show than they are to get me to buy tickets.

  • Paul Argentini says:

    When Clifford Odets walked into his playwriting class and found the room filled, he looked around and said, “Why aren’t you all home working on your play?”

    Why aren’t you busy producing my play?

  • Paul Mendenhall says:

    You seriously imagine that those incredibly annoying street-hawkers sell tickets? Wow. I guess producers MUST believe that, or they wouldn’t spend money harrassing their potential audiences that way. Personally, I have deliberately avoided seeing anything that one of those public nuisances has approached me about, but I certainly have never seen a show because of one. And I bet there are a lot more people like me than there are people who appreciate them.

  • Mickey McGuire says:

    I have worked on a street team and you make very good points, but I would like to add that there is a distinction.
    You can have a “STREET team” and a “TKTS team”. Your street team should be heavily branded. Look at the Chicago girls, they walk around dancing and they probably hand out a couple thousand flyers a day. Great branding for the show, and they’re able to get their discounts out to people who very well might walk up to the box office. But nobody is going to ask a Chicago girl where to grab dinner, where to shop, etc. They are NOT concierges.

    On the other hand, if you put a branded team on the TKTS island, people avoid them like the plague. They DO want a concierge to give them an honest opinion. I used to work on a team that required us to wear branded clothing, even though our team represented various shows. Every time I wore a t-shirt with the show name on it, I guarantee I sold more tickets for the shows I was not branded with, because then the customer believed they could trust me. At TKTS, you absolutely want your team to be extremely knowledgable, down to earth, and as Ken puts it a “concierge”.

    One point you did not bring up that I think is very important for any Producer. A successful street team needs incentive. Why were those two street team members leaning against a wall and not selling hard? I bet it’s because they don’t get paid any different whether they do well or not. These are sales people, and successful sales people get paid commission. “Keeping your job” is not good enough incentive.

    It also needs to be reasonable – you have to remember how little these people make. If a street team member is directly responsible for selling TWO tickets (meaning the patrons had no prior knowledge of the show and only decided to purchase purely on the sales advice of your street team member), then they have already recouped their salary for the day.

    It can be very difficult to assess whether it is the street team member’s success or the success of another marketing effort that is driving up day of sales or TKTS sales. But if you consider how low the expense is compared to any other marketing initiative, I think it’s worth giving your street team the benefit of the doubt. A well paid, highly motivated team will perform much better for you.

  • John says:

    I am a consumer, who goes to Broadway about twice a year. The best street teamers are the ones that smile, are not pushy, and simply aks a very good question…..”Have you decided what show you are going to see yet?” The best ones are the ones who are positive, friendly, attractive, well dressed, without slumping shoulders, enjoying what they are doing. Chicago had one of their dancers out last time I took my family, and she answered a ton of questions for my kids (who are into performing). It helped that she was about 6 feet tall, looked like a model off the cover of Cosmo, and smiled. The worst street people are the pushy, loud, sloppy ones who are only pushing their own show. It’s easy to tell they don’t want to be there. I overheard two of them last time I was there complaining right next to the TKTS line that they hated pushing tickets to a “bad show.” And, standing in line sat the TKTS window I heard at least three different languages (Chinese, French, and some language I could not place). Honestly is the best policy, the street teamers should be REALLY honest about the shows, and familiar with them.

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