What does the Z Deli have to do with Broadway?

A couple of weeks ago, I made my daily trip to the Z Deli
on 8th Ave and 49th St., which is just a block away from my office.  I got my
usual mid-afternoon snack of Red Bull, a cup of ice and some vanilla wafer
cookies (Mom, please don’t comment . . . Just let me eat like a 12-year-old boy
already, ok?).  I went to pay and the cashier rang me up wrong.  I
asked, “Are you sure that’s $4.50 because the sign below the Red Bull says
$3.95.”  She made a face like she had just seen a cat get run over by a
bulldozer, sighed, and then screamed annoyingly to a subordinate to check the
price.  She was wrong.  She didn’t say anything, corrected the
mistake and charged me the right amount.

A few days later, there I was again, with my Red Bull and wafers (Mom – zip
it), and a different cashier rang me up . . . wrong.  I asked, “Are you
sure that’s right?”  The cashier paused, and then up walked you-know-who.
She looked at me and said, “Ugh.  He always does this.”  I
looked at her like I had just seen a cat on water skis.  I was so
confused, because she was wrong both times.  I said, “But I was
overcharged.”  She said, “Whatever” and walked away.

And then you know what I did?  I paid the wrong price for the goodies
because I really didn’t care that much, and then I walked away . . . and never
walked back.


Because in New York City, there’s another deli on every block.

I counted it up, just for kicks.  That woman’s ‘tude cost that deli about
$10 – $15,000 a year in Red Bull, wafers, slices of pizza, batteries, paper
towels and all the other stuff that I’d buy within the course of one year.
I bet if that owner knew what this woman in need of anger-management
classes was doing to his customers he’d have some ‘tude of his own.

So what does this have to do with Broadway?

Just like there’s a deli on every block, there’s another show on every block .
. . And more importantly, there are so many other entertainment options on
every device known to man available to your potential customers.  If you
think you can afford to pee-off just one person, you may just lose them to Netflix, the net or their cousin Nancy . . . forever.

And maybe the Z Deli can afford it.  But the theater can’t.


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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?


3 Things I’ve learned from the NBA, NFL and MLB.

Since Broadway and Off-Broadway shows can’t afford to have marketing laboratories trying every idea we come up with, I often look to other industries to see what they’re doing, in the hopes of being inspired to try something in ours.

Here are three simple ideas that I got from the NBA, the NFL and MLB.

  1. Have a ‘Bat Day’.Need a reason for people to come to the theater on a Tuesday?  Need a reason to get some of your marketing materials in the homes of your advocates?  Most importantly, need a reason to get some press?  Give something away!  People love free stuff, whether it’s a bat, a hat, or a souvenir program.  On Oleanna we gave away Mamet’s latest book, which got us in the press, gave the customers more of a value, and put a big, bulky, hardcover impression on hundreds of coffee tables.
  2. Sell your turf.The NY Giants recently announced that they were selling off the pieces of their stadium before it gets demolished this year.  You can buy turf, seats, even the goal posts.  Why not?  It’s environmentally friendly, it’s gonna make some fans happy, and it’s gonna make the Giants some money.  We just did something similar at Altar Boyz and donated a chunk of the money to BC/EFA, and used the rest to write down some of our closing costs.
  3. Retire your best players’ jerseys.When great players leave the game, they raise the jerseys into the air where everyone can see them and remember the history that is a part of each franchise.  Why don’t long running shows do something like this?  It seems like 3,425 people have played Billy Flynn in Chicago.  I’d love to see a picture (or even the same small costume piece) from each one of them along the walls inside the Ambassador.  And I think audiences would eat it up as well.  A list of well-respected actors that have come before the current cast could give the production even more weight, and more for an audience to talk about.

Marketing is everywhere.  Don’t be afraid to snatch another industry’s idea and make it your own.

They’d do it to us.  The problem is, we haven’t come up with anything first.