Be careful of how much you ask your audience to do.

Over ten years ago, my productions of The Awesome 80s Prom and Altar Boyz were two of the first shows to send an email to their audience after they saw the show: to thank them for coming, and to ask them to come back, spread the word, etc. (see the now so outdated NY Times article about it here.)

I experimented with a whole bunch of different types of marketing “asks” in those emails and in the emails we started sending to customers before they came to the show as well.

And while engagement rates with these emails were always high, I noticed something pretty quickly when I asked them to do too many things.

I was reminded of this the other day when I got a marketing email from a show that wanted me to buy tickets . . . and download a CD . . . and watch a video . . . . like the show on Facebook . . . and write a review…

What did I do?

None of them.

What I learned way back then (and honestly what I have to remind myself every time I design an email to an audience mine) is that your audience gets distracted very easily, and even more so today than ten years ago.

If you offer your readers too many choices, not only may they not do the thing that is most important to you (in this case, buy tickets), but they may just not do anything at all.

The moment I started putting one . . . just one . . . call to action in my emails, surprise, surprise, I started getting better results.

So rather than try to push three things one time in an email, I started pushing one thing THREE times.

Boom.

I know, I know . . . as Producers, Writers, Entrepreneurs, we have so many things we want to tell our audience. We’re like kids at the zoo! Look at this, Ma! And this too! Did you see this?

But guess what . . . your audience doesn’t care about it like you do.

You’ve got a much better shot at trying to get them to care about one thing . . . just one.

(And if you think this is just my opinion, then read about the famous “Jam Study” here.)

So the next time you’re designing an email or any type of communication to your audience, follow this checklist:

  1. What is the ONE thing that you want your audience to do?
  2. Push that ONE thing at least three times.

And if you’ve got something else you want to get them to engage with?

Do that one thing next time.

The three rules of doing research.

I’ve always been a big believer in focus groups and research.  We’re one of the few industries that spends millions of dollars developing a product, but won’t spend a few thousand testing that product, or even determining how challenging it may be to sell that product.

That’s why I always put my shows through quantitative and qualitative testing at some point in their life cycle.

I recently did some testing on Once on this Island and was reminded of the three rules of doing research by my expert analyst, who made me sign off on them before he signed up to test my show.

  1. Never do research unless you’re prepared to do something with the results (or never ask a question you don’t want an answer to). Research is a waste of time unless you’re ready to listen and act upon those responses. I plan my research to coincide with a pivot point, either before a new ad campaign, or a new creative developmental period, so I have the resources ($ or time) to put behind the answers I get in order to achieve the maximum results.
  2. The answers are as important as the people giving them. When acting upon said research, it’s essential your answers are coming from the right audience.  This is why major changes to your campaign or your show should be based on research results from the precise audience you’re trying to target.  Ask the wrong audience and they’ll send you down the wrong rabbit hole.  This is why research can be expensive, and why one of the most important questions you should ask when hiring a research company is, “Where do you get the people taking the surveys?”
  3. Let the research guide your gut, but don’t let it be your gut. As much of a fan of research I am, and while I do believe it can give you a competitive advantage in our very risky industry, I never take action based on its results that I don’t believe in.  Theatre is an art.  And Producers and Writers are entrepreneurs.  The most successful entrepreneurs in any industry create products that the audience doesn’t know they need yet or buy products that surprise and delight them in their marketing.  So use research to help you focus and become more efficient in your strategies, but don’t let it rule them.  Data is a tool.  It’s not the craftsman.

For sample surveys we use on our shows that you can use on yours (including readings and more) check out TheProducersPerspectivePRO today.

 

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.

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