(Not So) Favorite Quotes Vol. XXIV: Won’t you be my neighbor?

One of the couples on my floor loves the theater.  They go on a regular basis, have great taste, and are always asking me for recommendations on shows to see.

Oh, and get this . . . they always pay full price.  (insert “whoopee!” here)

Last week, I ran into them in the elevator and they told me they were on their way to see Red.  I started asking them my usual string of mini focus group questions:  how they heard about Red, if they could describe the artwork, and then I landed on my finale of, “Where do you go to get your tickets?”

Their answer was Telecharge . . . but then the husband’s eyes widened and I could tell he wanted to share some sort of secret.  Here’s what he said:

“Yep.  We buy on Telecharge.  And pay full price.  But we never buy in advance.”

My heart sunk . . . and I kind of wanted them to move to another building.

He continued:

“Yeah.  We find we get better seats when we buy last minute. Whenever we try to get something in advance, we always get crap. But if we go online the day before or even the day of, we usually find gold.”

When I heard this, I wanted to move . . . to Tallahassee. There’s something wrong with a ticketing purchase process that reinforces full-price buyers to wait until pulling the trigger.

So what’s the problem?

There are probably a few issues at work here, but I’d bet a couple of full-price tickets to Red that the issue most at work is that theaters and shows are holding too many of their best locations for House Seats, etc.  House Seats (or quality locations held for use by the Producers, Theatre Owners, Actors, Designers, etc.) that are not used get dumped back into the general pool of available seats 2-3 days before each performance, which is why there is sometimes a flood of good seats available closer to the performance.  My neighbor was probably getting the tickets held for the Set Designer, or one of the Principal Actors, etc.

The problem is . . . there are so many people that have House Seats in their contracts, that up to 75 prime orchestra seats can be held . . . for every performance.  I mean, is the Set Designer or Principal Actor really going to use 2 or 4 seats every night???

In survey after survey, our audiences tell us that the #1 thing that they want is a great seat . . . and we’re holding them back.

By serving our own selfish needs, we’re causing our customers to do one of three things:

– Not buy at all (there’s really no better seat than on your own couch).

– Wait until something better opens up, thereby decreasing our ability to build advances.

– Find better locations elsewhere . . . translation:  they are going to brokers.

That last one is the most ironic.  Everyone in our biz has been concerned about the huge amount of business going to third party ticket brokers.

Well . . . news flash:  we’re part of the reason our audiences are seeking them out.

We’ve got to find a way to give our customers as much access to the best seats possible.  And one of those ways is to decrease the number of house seats we all hold.

Then, after we’ve decreased the number of house seats . . . we can start charging for them.  (For more on house seats, click that link)

Five tips on how to build your blurb.

Ah, the blurb . . . that short piece of copy that’s supposed to encapsulate everything about your show, and convince the reader to fork over $121.50 so fast, they don’t even have time to check for discounts.

Creating the perfect blurb is one of the biggest and earliest challenges that Broadway and Off-Broadway shows face, but it’s one of the most important things in your advertising arsenal.  Right after your artwork, the perfect blurb can mean the difference between a high-grossing week, and losing all of your customers to the show listed right next to you.

So how do you create a blurb that can guarantee butts in the seats?  Here are five tips on how I do it.

1.  People love stories.

We read books (even non-fiction) because we want a story.  We watch movies (even documentaries) because we want a story.  We watch the news because . . . yep, stories.  Give the people what they want!  Make sure your blurb contains details about your story (the plot, etc.), even if it’s a thin one.  Don’t just fill your blurb with accolades, awards, stars, etc.  Those are all great, but if there isn’t a story that the reader finds compelling in your blurb, kiss those bucks bye-bye.

2.  Let the people pick your words for you.

Need help on what words to use to describe your show?  Hear how other people describe it first, then look for commonly used words.  Have ten people read your play and tell them to give you ten words to describe it.  Invite an audience to a reading, have a talk-back and pay attention to the (positive) words that are said more than once.  These are the characteristics that are resonating with your audience, and they will resonate with the reader as well.

3.  Shorter is not better.

Contrary to popular belief, shorter copy is NOT better.  It has been proven time and time again that longer copy converts at a higher rate than shorter copy.  Don’t believe me?

Click here and read what the fathers of advertising found.  Or click here for a more modern test case.

Your truly interested customers want to know as much about your show as possible, so give them all of the relevant details you can.  The person that doesn’t want to read the longer copy and stops after the first paragraph?  Well, I’d bet you 2 premium tickets to Wicked that he wasn’t going to buy your show anyway.  But with longer copy you’ve got a better chance of driving that hook deeper into your customer’s gills.

Of course, don’t write long just to be long.  Your copy still has to be exceptionally relevant, but it doesn’t have to be 140 characters.

4.  Peeking is not cheating.

Visit Telecharge and browse through the shows, reading each blurb.  Notice what techniques are used.  After reading ten blurbs, decide which shows of the ten you would want to see?  Which shows do you not want to see?  Why?  By examining what’s working today (and more importantly what’s not), you can figure out what will work for you tomorrow.

5.  Don’t be satisfied.

Lots of shows pick a blurb and stick with it for extended periods of time.  When you’re just starting out, write TWO blurbs, not one, and test them. Which one converts at a higher rate?  Ok, now discard the loser, write a variation on the first, and repeat.  Then again.  Then again.  There’s always a way to improve the blurb, and it’s your job to keep tweaking and testing throughout the life of your show.

There’s nothing more daunting than the all white Microsoft Word screen starting back at you, just waiting for you to fill it with the words that’ll turn your show into a seller.

But don’t be scared.  The blurb is not The Blob.  Just start writing and you’ll find out that you know what sells your show better than you think you do.

After all, you got sold on it, right?