As the theater comes crawling back to life, marketing is going to be more important than ever.
Every dollar we spend, and every dollar that comes back, is going to be 10x as important as it was. We’re all going to have a bunch of startups. And startups demand more attention to details than ever before.
I’m a big believer in audience research. I became obsessed when I attended a focus group about the Bernadette Peters revival of Gypsy I worked on in 2002. (Some of the people we talked to didn’t realize it was a different production from the Tyne Daly Gypsy from the early 90s! It taught me that just because you eat, sleep and breathe your show and all of Broadway, doesn’t mean your audience does!)
The most important question to ask your audience is the following:
How did you hear about “INSERT NAME OF SHOW”?
That’s it. So if you WANT to do research but DON’T want to do complicated surveys or focus groups, you can learn a ton with JUST that one question.
Tracking the path your customers take to buying a ticket is how to understand . . .
1 – What is working . . . so you can double down on it
2 – What isn’t working . . . so you can turn it off.
So what’s the one answer I LOVE to get every time I ask this question?
When I started out and needed an ego boost, I LOVED hearing that the customer heard about my show through an advertising buy I authorized (a billboard, etc.), or through a marketing stunt I came up with.
But then I realized that my favorite answer was . . .
“I don’t know.”
This meant two things:
1. It meant that they most likely heard about it through word of mouth, which is the most important form of advertising. It’s the most effective, and it’s the cheapest. Getting WOM, especially in an industry with challenging economics like Broadway, is essential for the show to survive.
2. Not knowing what morsel of marketing got them to buy a ticket means your marketing is working under the radar. And that’s the best form of marketing. It’s working without them knowing it’s working. It’s branding.
Now, unfortunately, there is no quick hack to getting this kind of response.
You have to do great work . . . and do it for a long time.
And that’s the quickest way to NOT be a hack.
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If you’re looking for marketing tips, check out the marketing course included with your membership in The TheaterMakers Studio.