Now, if you’re not a transparent Ticket Seller, you’ll get a big fat ticket!

You’ve “heard” me blog/talk about this idea before.

And it looks like we weren’t the only one thinking about it.

Because that “it” is now a law.

New York State passed a law a few weeks ago that now requires secondary market sellers to disclose that they are, well, secondary market sellers.

Why did Albany get involved?

The problem has been that consumers like my mom (true story) have purchased tickets from Secondary Sellers online without knowing they were Secondary Sellers, and paid them more than they needed to pay.  Moms all over the country have felt ripped off, and what’s worse is that they started to believe that theater tickets were higher than they actually were.

The counter-argument from the reseller is . . . “Hey, if you’re looking for a fridge, and you google around and find a site that has the fridge you want for $500 and buy it, yet another site has it for $400, why is that the fault of the site?  Isn’t that good marketing?”

It’s a decent argument and had there not also been a problem with many sites deliberately trying to confuse customers by buying domains with the name of the theater or the name of the show, or other ‘black hat’ SEO tactics, this probably wouldn’t have been an issue.  But certain sellers (and not all, mind you), got greedy . . . and that’s when the lawmakers stepped in.

So now . . . a Secondary Seller has to be transparent and disclose to their customers that they are not the Primary Seller.

And the only Sellers that should be disappointed with this new law are the ones that were trying to confuse consumers.

Because being transparent and telling customers exactly what you do and why you charge what you charge is not a hindrance . . . it’s actually a benefit.

If I were an SS, I’d just tell people the reasons I charged more.  “We get you the best seats, when you want them, hand-delivered, no fuss, etc., etc.”  There are plenty of people that will pay more for that experience.

Businesses in all industries, not just ours, should embrace exactly what they are.  They should be 101% honest about their place in the marketplace and the service they provide.

Sure, they may lose some customers in the short term, but they’ll retain a lot more in the long.  And successful businesses are not about getting a customer one time, they’re about getting a customer (like my mom) one hundred times.

 

Why Wall Street Doesn’t Know @#$% About Marketing.

Disney recently released a new prequel in the Star Wars franchise entitled Solo, about that Millenium Falcon-flying, Han Solo.

It, ahem, “underperformed” at the box office and looks like it may end up being a loser when all the fancy Hollywood accounting is said and done.

In this article, a Wall Street “analyst” said the reason for the failure wasn’t weakness in the franchise (defending his bullish rating on Disney, no doubt), but rather “poor marketing.”

And he wasn’t talking generally.  He got specific, implying that the movie would have done better if the Han Solo character appeared sooner in the trailer.

Look, he may be right.

But is a few seconds the reason why the film will finish in the red?

No.

Don’t misunderstand . . . I’m a marketing guy who has built my business on finding unique ways of getting the message of my shows out into the market, from this to this.

But good marketing, even GREAT marketing, can’t make the difference between a failure and a success.  It only takes something that already works and makes it better.

Because what’s the most important “P” in the 4 Ps of Marketing?

Product.

The best marketing is in the creation of your product.

And it’s not even about having a GREAT product.

While we all want to create great things, we also all know that sometimes things that aren’t “great,” sell anyway.

Great product isn’t about quality . . . it’s about product that people want to see/use/consume.

And there’s a difference.

You have to create something that people want, then make it great . . . and then market the @#$% out of it.

So in this case, the failure of the film wasn’t the # of seconds it took for the character to appear in a trailer. Heck no.  Because we’re all smart enough to know that the #1 reason people buy tickets is word of mouth.  No one is showing a trailer when recommending the show to friends.

The reason this prequel didn’t work in my opinion?  It’s the product itself.  No one wants Han Solo without Harrison Ford.  And the movie just wasn’t good enough to make people want to see it and recommend it.  (And yeah, the title is an issue too – because if you’re not a Star Wars person – or even if you are – “Solo” can mean “single” and just take you a second to figure out that they’re trying to make you think of a character.)

The takeaway for us?

First, Wall Street should stick to analyzing algorithms and p/e ratios.

Second, for commercial success, you need to create something that people want to see, both in the idea and the execution.  Think about the audience first, and your desires second.

Of course, like Hamilton and the iPhone, the biggest successes occur when you create something an audience wants, without them even knowing they want it.

The Top 5 Reasons Why Broadway Grossed Almost $2 billion bucks.

Last week, I wrote about the record-breaking reported Broadway gross of $1.7b (and why I believed it was more like $2b).

And this week, I want to talk about why we’re smashing records like a 1950s preacher who thinks rock-n-roll is the devil.

Broadway has been growing by leaps and bounds over the last few years and, while there are a number of reasons we are where we are, here are my top five.

1. It’s a Family Thing

There are more family musicals on Broadway now than there were decades ago.  This past season we had all the Disneys (including the new Frozen) as well as Anastasia, School of Rock, Charlie, and more.  And when you’ve got a family musical, the average customer’s order is more than 2 tickets.  More tickets = more bodies = more bucks.  And despite the increased number of shows that favor the family, we haven’t seemed to reach an oversaturation point.

2. There is no Top Price anymore

A little over 10 years ago, we introduced the “Premium Ticket,” which was a higher priced ticket for the better seats in the house.  In the past few years, the price of tickets has become fluid, rising (and falling) due to demand, just like an airline ticket.

And one trend that I’ve noticed lately is that most shows aren’t just relying on their General Managers to handle the complex process of analyzing and tweaking prices daily.  Producers are now hiring analysts either inside their ad agencies or independent experts to handle this for them.  Why?  It’s easy to justify the extra expense with the amount of money that could be made with even the slightest tweak up on ticket prices or the slightest tweak down on ticket prices (that moves more volume).

3. He’s The Boss . . . and Events

Certainly one of the biggest gross bumpers in the last season was the surprise long runner, Bruce Springsteen.  While everyone expected him to gross in the millions. . . no one expected him to stay this long!

While some have grumbled that he’s occupying a prime theater when a new musical or a new play could be in his spot, you won’t hear me complaining.  A short-term loss of a theater for the long-term effects of getting new audiences and frankly, just being able to say, “Broadway is so cool, Bruce Springsteen played here,” is worth it.

But The Boss isn’t the only one who has helped spike our numbers over the last few years.  We’ve had a lot of short-term fillers that have popped into theaters in-between bookings and added to our bottom line.  I’m talking shows like The Illusionists and Rocktopia.  Ok, ok, so those shows may not be what we want the world to think of when they think Broadway, but if a theater is dark, something is better than nothing.  (A dark theater is one of the most depressing things there is.)

4. The Hamilton Effect

Hamilton got a @#$% ton of press.  And still does!  A reporter at a local news org told me that her editors instructed her to write about Hamilton every chance she got because the views on each article were off the charts
.
Hamilton was a lightning rod to our industry.  People were talking about it all over the world.  And when shows hit juggernaut status and are featured on The Grammys and on the cover of Rolling Stone, etc., that doesn’t just sell more tickets to Hamilton… it sells more tickets to Broadway.  It’s the trickle-down effect, and all of us are benefiting.

So if you see Lin-Manuel, say thanks.

5. We’re creating great content

The most important reason we’re killing it these days is the most simple and also the best way to build any business . . . we’re creating great product. Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away . . . we haven’t put this many big-grossers on our boards since 1957-58, when West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and Music Man were all on the boards, or since Les Mis and Phantom opened a year apart.

Don’t let any fast-talking marketing guru sell you on billboards, direct mail, or remarketing as the secret to selling tickets. It is much simpler.  The best marketing in the world is creating a great product.

Yes, we’ve gotten a lot of attention over the past few years thanks to Hamilton, The Obamas attending Broadway shows, Glee, Smash, Live Telecasts, and more . . . but that attention wouldn’t convert to sales unless we were creating shows that people wanted to see.We’re rising to the challenge, and that’s something we should be proud of.

Want more of my analysis of our business?  I write five exclusive articles a month on marketing, our grosses, and more, solely for my Pros.  Click here for more.

GUEST BLOG: Should Bots Be On Broadway? by Monica Hammond

Imagine a world where everything is automated.

Actors move on stage with the click of a button. Their voices echo through the theatre like Alexa and Siri . . . hey, they can even do accents! Light cues are triggered automatically by blocking bots . . . the whole theatrical experience is run by a bunch of 0s and 1s!

No?

Well good. Because that’s not the kind of Broadway bot I’m talking about!

I’m talking about marketing bots.

Marketing bots are the hot topic today at all the major Marketing conferences across the country, and these bots take many forms. From Facebook messenger bots to pre-filled website chats, bots are automating the customer journey for many businesses.

Imagine you are on the ticketing page of a Broadway website and you’re confused as to where the best seats are located (a common question on our Once On This Island chat), then an automated pop-up asks, “any questions I can help you with regarding seat location?”

“Why, I thought you’d never ask!” you may reply!

After typing your question, a real person is alerted on the other end via a pop-up notification that you’ve started a conversation and now you’re speaking with a living and breathing person! After your questions are answered, you feel confident in your seat location and whip out your credit card!

This transaction was prompted all because of an automated chatbot. The customer’s questions are answered and the show gets to put some butts in seats. Seems like a win-win to me.

Bots can provide proactive customer service by prompting and answering frequently asked questions to help customers overcome objections and lead to a quicker sale. They also lessen the need for humans on the phone until one is truly needed, which can help reduce costs for businesses and streamline communication.

Sounds pretty efficient, right?

As an experiment, I visited the website of 18 Broadway shows to see if any were using a basic automated chat feature. I was surprised to find that 18 out of 18 Broadway show websites did NOT have a chat feature, at least that I could detect, and it made me wonder . . .

Why isn’t Broadway using bots?

Some patrons prefer to pick up the phone and ask the box office where they should sit, some want to send an email, and others prefer to chat their questions. So why not offer chat as another option?

If bots and automation are at the forefront of digital communication, then why hasn’t Broadway caught on? Should we reallocate customer service team members to accommodate a new mode of conversation? Are we stuck in the digital Stone Age? Are we too focused on the concept of “authentic conversations” in the digital space to try a bot? Does the use of bots automatically mean inauthentic?

The world of bots is advancing by leaps and bounds each day, and the potential for marketers seems truly endless. Bots are the new email, the new phone number, the newest mode of conversation, and Broadway should consider the implications of their use with our audiences, because not all bots are bad.

What do you think? Should bots be on Broadway?

___________________________________________________________________________________

Monica Hammond is the Director of Marketing for Davenport Theatrical Enterprises. Broadway: Once On This Island (Circle in the Square) and Gettin’ The Band Back Together (Belasco Theatre, 2018), Spring Awakening (Brooks Atkinson Theatre). Off-Broadway: Daddy Long LegsShear MadnessThat Bachelorette Show, as well as the North American Tour of A Night With Janis Joplin. Monica also manages Ken Davenport’s members-only community for theatre professionals, The Producers Perspective PRO.

If you enjoyed this content, join Monica at her upcoming Crafting Your Marketing Plan workshop. Extremely limited availability remains!

Affiliate Marketing for Theater Tickets.

Back in the late 90s, when Amazon was $48/share and my broker told me not to buy it because it was too expensive (PS, it’s $1,608/share now, which means a $10k investment would be worth $335k), they unrolled an aggressive marketing strategy that turned their customers into ambassadors.

That system?

They paid people for recommending them.

It’s called Affiliate marketing, and it has become a thing for many online retailers.  It goes like this:

You register with a company to be an “affiliate.”

You tell your friends, followers, subscribers, etc. about products and services that said company sells by sending them a unique URL or code.

If your friends buy a product or service from that company, you get some cash.

You don’t get paid much, but it’s something and it requires little or no effort at all.

And in exchange for those few bucks, companies like Amazon get a marketing army of online ambassadors sending traffic to their site . . . and they only pay when they make a sale!

Amazon’s affiliate system was an early initiative that they incorporated in their attempt to gain massive market share . . . and fast.

Now, here’s the interesting thing . . . almost two decades later, Amazon dominates the market.

So now that they have so much traffic, you’d think they’d abandon the affiliate system.

And you’d be wrong.

And when a company is this successful, yet still rewards their customers for sending other customers their way, it’s worth taking notice.

This isn’t a new concept.  Referrals are one of the most important parts of the sales process.  You sell someone on something (a ticket, an investment, whatever) and then you ask them if they know someone else who might be interested in the same product.

So . . . my question . . . you guessed it . . .  is why don’t we have affiliate marketing on our ticketing sites for ALL of our customers that is as easy as Amazon’s?

Both Ticketmaster and Telecharge have affiliate programs  . . . but they are not for everyone.  It’s more for B2B relationships.

And I’m not sure I understand why it’s not more of an open-for-all program.  What Producer wouldn’t pay a few bucks from their ticket price to gain the potential online ambassadors of an affiliate system?

We pay MORE than a few bucks for advertisements to sell tickets, why wouldn’t we pay consumers for recommending us?

Affiliate marketing is actually a cheaper and more effective form of advertising than most of the media we’re buying.

That’s why Amazon still does it.

And why you and I should too.

In fact, you know what?  I was going to end the blog with that last sentence, but I just realized something.  While I may not be able to create an affiliate program through my official ticketing sites, I can create a workaround.

So if you like my shows, from Once on this Island to Gettin’ The Band Back Together and want to make some extra money from home, email me . . . I’ll hook you up.

And if you’re producing a show, drop me a note and I’ll tell you how to set up a program like this for yourself.

 

 

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