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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