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:

1.  BLOG IT UP!

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.

2.  SIGNED, YOU.

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

3.  GREET THE PEEPS.

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.

4.  SHOW FACE.

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.

5.  ANSWER EVERY EMAIL

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.

10 Ways to green your show or theater. Come up with an 11th and win $100.

It ain’t easy bein’ green, as Kermit would sing.

It takes extra effort and sometimes some extra bucks.  It’s just like joining a gym!  But it’s time we all got together to make sure our planet has some rock-hard abs.

And that’s why I set out to write this post giving you 10 ways to green your show or theater, until I realized . . . the Broadway Green Alliance had already written it!

What?  Don’t know what the BGA is?  From their website:

The BGA (formerly Broadway Goes Green) was launched in 2008 as an ad hoc committee of The Broadway League. The BGA brings together all segments of the theatre community, including producers, theatres in New York and around the country, theatrical unions and their members, and related businesses. Working closely with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the BGA identifies and disseminates better practices for theatre professionals and reaches out to theatre fans throughout the country.

On their site, they list several ways that your designers, shops, office mates, etc. can green the work that we do.

Some suggestions:

  • Shop from local vendors instead of having items shipped across the country.
  • Design with LED lights (or other energy efficient instruments) whenever possible.
  • Reuse set and costume pieces from previous productions

For more ideas, visit their site here.

But wait . . . you don’t get off that easy.  Why don’t we use this forum to come up with some more super specific ideas to green your shows, theater or workplace.  Comment below on something you do or can do to get on the green train.

Extra credit if your idea saves money and saves the environment.

Ok, I’ll kick it off.

Everyone recycles paper, right?  Right?  But before you put it in the bin, make sure you’ve used the second side of the page.  Use it as scrap paper, fax machine paper, or I have a second “draft printer” that I fill with only half-used paper.  We don’t go through life drinking half a cup of coffee or living in half a house, right?  Why use only half the paper?

Alright, your turn.  And come up with something better than mine, will ya?  In fact, lets up the stakes.

The environment is priceless, but let’s put a prize on it anyway.

$100 (or 100 “green” backs) goes to the best idea commented below. My staff will be the judge.

We close the polls on Sunday at 11:59 PM EST, and I’ll announce the winner on Monday morning’s blog.  Comment away!  (Email subscribers, click here to get to the blog and register your potential winning comment.)

5 Ways to get higher open rates on your email blasts.

Yesterday we dismissed the myth that the size of an email blast list determines its value.  Since we know that the true success of any advertising campaign is the number of conversions and ROI (return on investment), it’s essential that we examine ways that we can increase those conversions.

And before we get to the message inside the blast, we’ve got to make sure as many people are opening it as possible.

Here are five tips you can use to increase the open rates on your email blasts, whether a third party is sending them for you (Telecharge.com, etc.) or whether you’re blasting the subscribers to your own lists.

1.  Customize your “From” field.

Most third party email blast providers (like Benchmark, the service I use and recommend) allow you to send emails from whatever name you’d like.  Make sure it’s not coming from ’emailblast@yourcompany.com’ or anything impersonal like that.  It should come from you or your show or maybe even a character in your show.  The more personal your communication, the better. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s as instantly recognizable as possible.

2.   Avoid Spam flags.

A lot happens to every email you send before it (hopefully) gets to your intended recipient.  Their ISP scans that sucker a few times looking for signs that you are a spammer.  If it sees one of those signs, your email will be sent to your recipient’s Spam folder faster than it would take you to throw up after eating a whole can of Spam by yourself.  Or worse, the ISP may just bounce your email back at you!  How can you decrease the chances of being seen as Spam?  Here are some things to avoid in your subject lines specifically:  exclamation points, dollar signs, all caps, words like “free,” “discount,” “special,” “save,” etc.

3.  It’s all in the timing.

There are not only better days of the week to send emails to increase your open rates, but there are also better times of day.  The tricky part is determining the best day/time for your specific message.  My research has shown more success on mid-week email blasts for the best open rates when pushing a sales message, so I focus on Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday when I have a choice. Since most folks get their emails at work, I try to avoid Mondays (when their inboxes are overloaded from the weekend) and Fridays, when people are trying to get out of work.  Weekends are more successful than they used to be, but I try to steer clear of selling on a Saturday or Sunday.  I time my messages for the middle of the day (around lunch time), in the hopes that the recipient may open it while they’re munching on their salad or sandwich, since they have more time.

4.  Your subject is not a subject, it’s a headline.

A well written subject is the equivalent of old-fashioned direct response copy (click here to read one of the most successful headlines of all time).  It’s an ad for the ad.  Don’t just slap a few words together to say, “save $20 on tickets to XXX show.”  Your subject has to rev up your reader so that they are compelled to hit that “open” button.  Spend time on your subjects.  And watch what subjects intrigue you as you open emails every day.

5.  Test it and tweak it every time.

Split test your emails with two separate subjects, if you can.  If you can’t split, then try different ideas with each blast and see how your open rate changes from blast to blast. Testing is the key to improving anything, not just advertising and not just open rates, but this is one of the areas that we seem to ignore in this industry more than anything.  If we are so dependent on email blasts and open rates, then we have to try different things with each effort and adjust accordingly.

Email marketing isn’t going anywhere.  It’s still your show’s strongest asset, whether you’re buying email blasts from third parties, or sending them yourself (I hope both).  If you focus on improving your open rate with these tips (that, by the way, don’t cost you any more) you can make that asset even more rewarding.

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.

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