Institutions can have personalities, too.

I recently got an email from a non-profit here in the city asking me for money.  The message said, “Please give me money.  Signed, Institution.”

Then I got an email from the Scott Elliot, the Artistic Director of the outstanding New Group, asking me to subscribe.  In addition to a much more personal letter (it was signed simply, “Scott”), the email also featured a nice photo of Scott.

Obviously, you know which one I was more inclined to support.

But it goes beyond that.

In addition to this appeal being much more likely to succeed because of the personal nature of the communication, the strategy of attaching a person (with a face) to a institution has many more long term benefits.

Subscribers, donors, etc. are much more likely to support people . . . not buildings and not companies.  That’s why it’s essential for every non-profit, every building, and every company to have a face, or a personality, that represents the human component of what they do.

When I was in London recently, I went to see Deathtrap at the Noel Coward Theatre. When I opened my program, guess who greeted me with a letter?  Cameron Mackintosh! (Cameron owns the Noel Coward).  And the letter wasn’t just a “welcome to my theater” letter, but rather a letter that talked about the show, the actors, and more.

There are many companies around the country and in this city that are already using this strategy, but there is more that we can all do . . . and more rewards to reap from it.

Think you’ve got this covered?  Try my test to see if your company is successfully using personalization properly:  Ask 10 people who are casual visitors to your space what name comes to mind when you say the name of your venue. If they all don’t say the name of your Artistic Director, CEO, or whomever you want them to say within 3 seconds, you fail.  🙂

If you failed, or if you haven’t started yet, here are five things that person can do to expand his or her presence:


I think every Artistic Director should blog, and it should be available right on the home page. Describe your daily successes as well as the challenges you face.  Give insider scoop on upcoming shows (photos and more), etc.  In blog form, these entries might seem more journal-like, and less solicitation-like, and you might find yourself raising money passively throughout the year.


Every letter, ticket confirmation, and donation request should come from one voice . . . yours.  And include photos.


As often as you can, park yourself in front of the ticket takers and shake hands, get recognized, and meet as many of your customers as possible.  And don’t just talk to the Richie Riches.  Today’s single ticket buyer could be tomorrow’s subscriber.

And if you can be there at the end of the show to listen to people’s thoughts, complaints, feedback, etc., even better.


Take advice from Scott and insert your photos into your correspondence. I’d also put photos of you and your team by the box office, and other key places.  You want people to recognize you when you’re at the Duane Reade.


Your email should be plastered all over your site.  Let your subscribers, patrons, and more have direct access to you.  And respond. It’ll mean a lot to them . . . which will no doubt mean a lot to you.

Are these things that difficult to do?  No.  Do these things take time?  Yes.

But I have a feeling you think your institution or your company is worth it.

Paging Dr. House to the theater . . . stat.

I love me some House.

Maybe it’s because he reminds me a bit of my Dad (Dad’s a doctor who admittedly has been a bit nasty to a few nurses in his day).

Or maybe it’s because I like his style . . . it reminds me of how a great marketer works.

When House has a new patient presenting symptoms, he treats with the broadest and least invasive techniques first . . . then he stands back and watches how the body responds.  If that doesn’t cure the ailment, he tries something a bit more creative.  And if that doesn’t work, he goes at it with something totally different.  And if that doesn’t work, he tries something else, and so on, and so on, until he finally cracks it and save the poor bleeding bastard’s life.

When a great marketer gets a new show, they usually start with a broader advertising campaign that features the tried and true techniques that have worked for the most shows.  After that launch,  he watches how the market responds.  If the initial launch doesn’t work, he tries something different.  And if that doesn’t work, he tries something else, and so on, and so on, and so on, until the right medicine stops the bleeding at the box office.

No two shows are alike.  And just because one treatment or plan doesn’t work, doesn’t mean another won’t.  The point is to keep trying.  Keep coming up with ideas.  And if you’ve gotta go experimental, then go for it.

Because if theater means as much to you as it does to me, then keeping a show going may not be life or death, but it sure feels pretty close, doesn’t it?

Broadway’s 1st Quarter Results: Summer Lovin’ happened so fast.

With the end of the summer comes the end of the first 13 weeks of the
Broadway season, which means it’s time for us to check in and see how
the grosses and attendance are stacking up so far.

And lo and behold, it looks like Santa got his seasons messed up, because we got a nice present this summer!

are up a considerable 2.9% this quarter, as compared to the first 13
weeks of last season.  Attendance notched up 1.1% as well.

This is quite a difference from the first quarter last year, when we were down 3.2% in the gross column and 9.6% in the attendance column.

Why the difference?  Is the economy better?  Were there more tourists in town?

I think the answer is simpler than that.

In the first 13 weeks of this season, there were simply more shows.  Playing weeks were up 7.3% over last year.

think we’ll slip back a bit this Fall, as the season looks a little
light (I’m expecting a surprise closing announcement from at least one
show).  However, I am still holding firm with my projection that will see modest increases in both attendance and grosses for the year . . .

. . . Especially now that Spider-Man looks like it’s finally ready to cast his web.

See you in Q2!

Is bigger better when you’re talking about blasts?

Here comes an old chestnut of a joke for you.

Size doesn’t matter.

When people are peddlin’ you email blasts for your shows, they’ll all trumpet the size of their lists. 100,000.  350,000.  650,000! Immediately you’ll feel that “bigger is better” pull and think, “Wow, just imagine all those impressions at a cost of only pennies per!”

The moment someone tries to sell you a list, the first question you should ask is “How many subscribers do you have?”

But don’t stop there.

The second question you should ask is, “What is your average open rate?”  (An open rate is exactly what it sounds like . . . how many people open your email after receiving it).

Then, do some 9th grade math:

# Subscribers x Open Rate (%) = Actual Impressions

My research indicates that most commercial email blasts sold in our industry have open rates ranging from approximately 10-15%.

So . . . that means . . .

350,000 subscribers x 12.5% (in between 10-15%) = 43,750 impressions.

All of a sudden, the size of that list doesn’t seem that impressive, does it?

And that doesn’t mean those 43,750 people even read your “ad.”  Preview panes, mobile devices, etc., are screwing with open rate statistics now more than ever.

The truth is, the open rate isn’t even the most important statistic.

Now we all know that the real strength of these lists is in the number of conversions you receive from the openers.  But obviously, the more individuals that open your email, the greater chance you have at converting a sale.

So how do you increase your open rate?

Tomorrow I’ll give you 5 tips on how to increase your open rate.

In the meantime, don’t be impressed by the size of something.

Because, yes, that old Catskills-like joke is true.

Size does not matter.

(And that doesn’t mean my list is small, by the way. Cuz, it’s not. I’ve got a big list.  I’m just saying that . . . you know . . . it doesn’t matter for those out there that don’t have a big list but know how to use it.  Really.  I swear.)

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s follow up.

Could destination advertising work?

I was at the airport in Burbank, CA a few weeks ago (which is the best kept secret in airline travel to LA, by the way), and on my walk towards baggage claim, I noticed a lot of advertisements for . . .  Las Vegas.

Burbank airport must get a lot of travelers to Sin City, I thought, to justify ad after ad for the hotels, shows and restaurants of this vacation destination.

Since 65% of the Broadway audience depends on tourists visiting New York, could Broadway shows be helped by identifying the key states that send us the most traffic (California, Texas, Illinois) and advertising locally? Could we attempt to get a customer closer to a purchase decision before they get to the city (and before they face a lot more of our competition’s ads)?  And because these locations are outside of NYC, wouldn’t the media actually cost us less?

Shows have been advertising in in-flight magazines for years, and at the NY airports as well.  But as the NY market gets more and more cluttered with shows competing for the short-term attention of the customer, perhaps it’s time to try and get to them earlier.

Whether taking ads in or near airports in other cities would work totally depends on the cost of the media in those locations.  Without a doubt, you’re not going to be visible to as many potential customers as a billboard in NY, so the ad is less valuable . . . but with the amount of inventory available all over the country, perhaps there are deals to be made.

Or perhaps this shouldn’t be a specific show-driven campaign . . . perhaps it should be a Broadway campaign, with the goal of making sure that every person that gets on a plane, train or automobile on their way to NY takes in a show or two or three, during their stay.

To ensure our survival, we have to make sure Broadway is at the top of our customers’ minds.  Getting to them before our competitors do gives us a head start.