5 Things I Stole From My Mastermind For You.

I’m going to tell you a little secret.

I can’t do everything I do myself.

First and foremost, I lean on my crackerjack staff to help me get through the day to day and keep everything we do optimized and efficient.

But there’s another group of folks I rely on who you’ve never met, and probably never will.

That’s because they don’t work on Broadway.  They don’t even work near Broadway.  Literally and figuratively!  They are a group of entrepreneurs, digital marketers, risk-takers, rule-breakers, soothsayers, and more, from every industry you can imagine, from SAS to nutritional supplements to small business accounting.

And they’re all members of my Mastermind.

I’ve been a part of Masterminds for most of my life.  (For those of you who have never heard about this concept before, a Mastermind is a term coined by success guru Napoleon Hill in the late 1920s (!) to describe one of the tools he believed was necessary to achieve big-time success.)  But last year, I tripled-down on my Mastermind experience by joining one that meets for two days, four times a year, to share best practices, get inspiration, network, and just get all the good ju-ju from being around people who are trying to do big things.   This Mastermind costs me the same as a year of college.  But in my first session, I learned more than I did during four years of school.

How?  Because I’m not just learning about what it takes to work in MY industry.  I’m learning what is working in other industries . . . industries that are light years ahead of Broadway, industries that have more dollars to spend testing best marketing practices, and industries that are evolving faster than ours in the new economy.

In fact, just one, ONE takeaway from the first weekend that I applied to the marketing of Gettin’ The Band Back Together has already recouped the cost.

During my sessions, I gather all sorts of real-world case studies of what is working and what is not, and apply it to what I do (produce and create Broadway shows) . . . and now . . . I can share it with you.  🙂

I’m kind of a knowledge smuggler.  And if you won’t tell, I won’t either.

My most recent Mastermind was a few weeks ago, and as always, it was chock-full of takeaways. And, for the first time, I thought I’d share five of them with you . . . some specific, some general, and all with the potential to provide serious ROI when applied.

Ready?

Here are five things I stole from my Mastermind for you.

  1.  When it comes to web design, think mobile FIRST. All websites should have a purpose.  They are designed to get you to do something.  A Broadway show’s website is designed to get you to buy tickets. So, all of the e-commerce discussions we had were about how to get our customers to do what we want, faster and more often.  (Conversion is the key.) What I learned was that when designing NEW websites, the top designers and marketers are no longer designing a site and saying, “How will this look on a desktop?”  Now they are thinking about how the site will look (and convert) on a mobile device BEFORE they think about how it will look on a desktop! That’s right.  Mobile first.  Desktop second. (This is even more important for us in the tourist market who aren’t even near a desktop when they are considering buying tickets to a show.)
  2. Are you on Instagram?  Twitter is tweetin’ off into the distance and Instagram is fast becoming the social media place to be to market your brand.  And thanks to their parent company, Facebook, expect Insta to expand over the next few years. Several companies we spoke to have several accounts . . . one of the brand, and one for the individual (CEO, Founder, etc.) behind the brand.  People want to buy from people.  Not from companies. Your show should be on Insta.  But so should you.  So should your actors.  And tell your “friends” to follow your people on Instagram.  If they get fans, your show will get them by association.
  3. You’re Not That Important . . . This was one of my favorites. A question came up asking how often we should place ads, send emails, communicate with our customers, etc. Because of course, so many people are worried about drowning their customers with too much messaging. One of our guru marketers answered this query best when she said, “Just because you send it, doesn’t mean they see it!” In other words, you’re not that important to your customers as you are to yourself. You may think they are reading everything, clicking everything, but they just aren’t. This means you’re going to have to follow up, remind, advertise, email, etc., more often than you think in order to capture a consumer’s attention in today’s cluttered market. One entrepreneur told us he runs the exact email sales campaign every two months to the same list . . . word for word . . . and it sells the same amount every time and no one, no one, has ever said, “I just got this message last month.”
  4. There is remnant real estate everywhere. Pop up stores have been popping up all over the country, and we had a whole session on negotiating deals with landlords to try and secure some temporary space at a much-reduced rate. I can’t help but think how valuable remnant real estate could be for theater companies, emerging playwrights, etc. In fact, I think someone should start a theater company called, “Pop-Up Theater Company” and it should only do shows in remnant real estate. Need space?  Look around for unconventional places, because landlords are much more open to this possibility than they were five years ago.
  5. We have the ability to . . . I told you that one of the reasons Masterminds exist is to relight the fuse that sometimes gets snuffed out in the day-to-day grind of trying to do something super. Well, on the way out the door, our farewell speaker reminded us that every single one of us, no matter what we do, had the ability to change people’s lives. Nutritional supplements can help people get healthier.  Dating websites can help cure loneliness. Accountants can help business owners make more money so they can take their kids to Disney. And I’d argue that not one of those professions can change people’s lives as much as someone who works in the theater. So remember as you go about your day-to-day . . . yes, think about how to be a smarter marketer, and what unconventional space you can use for your next show . . . but also remember, you have the power to change lives.That’s what great art does.

    So let’s do it.

 

Because of the success I’ve had with Masterminds, last year we quietly starting organizing the only Masterminds out there dedicated solely to the Arts and Theater.  And they were a big hit.  If you’re looking to join a group of people dedicated to doing great things in our industry, whether you’re a writer, producer, actor or anything, click here.

 

Well, this will change things for the Secondary Market.

Years ago, my Mom told me she wasn’t going to be able to take her grandkids to the theater anymore.  “Why not,” I cried, feeling a bit betrayed.

“It’s too expensive!  I took them to see Annie in Worcester, MA and paid over $500 for just three of us, and we didn’t even have great seats!”

That price didn’t make much sense to me, so I did a little googling.  Turns out, my Mom didn’t buy from the official site.  Instead, she did some googling of her own, like most people do when looking to buy something that isn’t on Amazon.

When she got the results, she clicked an ad that sent her to a secondary market seller, who was charging well above face value.

The problem?  She had no idea she was buying from a reseller and could have paid less.  (In fact, this Secondary Seller was engaging in some black-hat tactics to make my Mom think she was buying from the official source.)

It’s stories like this that make me and my Producer Peers nervy.  My Mom was ready to give up on the theater, all because she didn’t know where she was buying from.

That’s about when I started writing blogs and speaking at conventions hoping the government would come in and make Secondary Market Sellers be upfront and transparent about who and what they are.  See, I have no problem with what they do.

Well, despite my e-shouting, the government never stepped in.

But last week, someone even more powerful did.

Google.

In an effort to protect consumers, Google announced that in order to use its AdWords advertising platform, Secondary Market Resellers will have to adhere to certain guidelines on their websites, including revealing that they are not the primary source for the tickets and that they may charge a higher fee.

(And I’d expect their super-secret algorithm for how they deliver results in their organic rankings will also figure out who is playing by the rules and who isn’t.)

Like playing poker without one of the Aces, this move is a game changer.

It’ll help Producers as it’ll put us on a (more) even playing field to be able to compete in the important AdWords market for our own titles.

And it’ll help Consumers make smart choices as to where they get their tickets.

This is a big risk on Google’s part, as the secondary market spends a ton of bank on ads (they can afford it since their margins are so high), and I applaud the Big G for taking a short-term hit, in order to help consumers.

And Secondary Sellers . . . I’m convinced this is good for you too.  There are people who will always want what you do.  And there are some things you can do so much better than we can.  In the 21st Century transparency is an essential part of a successful business.  So if you focus on that white glove service that you can provide instead of hiding behind an e-mask, I bet you’ll see your business grow on Google.

Who went to see Broadway shows in 2016-17? Demographic study results revealed! (Updated)

A new year and a new study, hot off the presses from the Broadway League of who, exactly, went to see Broadway shows in the last super successful season.

Let’s go straight to the bullet point big picture takeaways . . .

  • The 2016-17 season grossed $1.45 BILLION (with a B) in ticket sales.
  • 13.3 million people put their butts in seats, with a 4% attendance increase per playing week.
  • The New York City audience accounted for 22% of theatergoers, the highest percentage in fifteen years – or 2.85 million admissions; another 18% came from surrounding suburbs.  More New Yorkers attended a Broadway show than any season since 1998–1999.
  • Tourists purchased approximately 61% of all Broadway tickets.
  • Attendance by theatergoers under 18 years old was 1.65 million. The number of theatergoers under 18 years old was the highest since this analysis began.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  Remember all those family shows we had last year?  Here they are!)
  • Twenty-five percent of respondents were under 25 years old.
  • Moreover, there were another 1.62 million admissions by theatergoers aged 18–24.
  • Approximately half of respondents said they purchased their tickets online.
    • American theatergoers were more likely than others to use the internet to purchase tickets, whereas those who reside outside of the US were more likely to make the purchase in person.
  • For the past several seasons, approximately two-thirds (66%) of all attendees have been female.
    • Fifty-one percent of female respondents said they made the purchasing decision to see the show, compared to 44% of male respondents.
  • Playgoers tended to be more frequent theatregoers than musical attendees. The play attendee saw nine shows in the past year; the musical attendee, four.
  • Theatregoers reported personal recommendations as the most influential factor when it came to selecting a show to see. (NOTE FROM KEN:  This stat hasn’t changed since the days of Sophocles and Shakespeare.)
    • Other factors included the music, having seen the movie, internet listings and having seen the show before.
    • The most popular sources for theatre information (as reported by theatregoers) other than personal recommendation were TicketMaster.com, Broadway.com, Playbill.com, and the New York Times.
  • The average reported date of ticket purchase for a Broadway show was 42 days before the performance.
  • The average age of the Broadway theatregoer was 41.7 years old.
  • Twenty-three percent of all tickets were purchased by non-Caucasian theatregoers.
  • Of theatregoers over 25 years old, 80% had completed college and 39% had earned a graduate degree.
  • The average annual household income of the Broadway theatregoer was $194,940.
  • The average Broadway theatregoer reported attending 4 shows in the previous 12 months. The group of devoted fans who attended 15 or more performances comprised only 5% of the audience, but accounted for 29% of all tickets (3.9 million admissions).

Why do we care about numbers like these for Broadway, and why should you also care about who is coming to your shows (or your business)?

Two reasons:

  1.  The only way to know if marketing initiatives are working is by analyzing the numbers after the initiatives.  Numbers don’t lie.  You want something to increase?  Try something.  Check the data.  And if it doesn’t come out the way you wanted, don’t make up some excuse as to why it might be “off.”  Just try something else and test it again until you get it right.
  2. Knowing who is coming to Broadway and how/why they’re coming to Broadway, helps make it easier for us to design shows and campaigns for that audience.  Does that mean we only make shows that a female tourist audience will enjoy?  No.  The best theater leads an audience in a new direction (e.g. Hamilton).  But it does tell you that your degree of difficulty for marketing a show about 88-year-old men from Antartica might be a little more challenging.  It doesn’t mean don’t do it, but I’d stoke up on that reserve and that ad budget for sure.

There’s a lot more data in this research report from the League.  If you want the full copy, click here to get one.  It costs a few bucks.

But great research always helps you hone your campaign, which both saves you money and makes you money.

How to spin a story, brought to you by SVU.

I had a staycation over the holidays, which involved some great takeout, some new board games (big fan of this one), and a lot of Law & Order: SVU.

I learned a lot about cops and lawyers and what I would do if I was ever arrested . . . but, I learned a bit about press too.

And I didn’t learn this tidbit from the actual story on the show, but from the way the Network was selling me to watch.

See, the pre-New Year’s Eve marathon I channel surfed onto was pitched as “Commercial Free.”  And it really was!  There were no pee breaks, no pretzel breaks, no breaks of any kind.  Each seven-or-so-minute segment of the show (which always end with these dramatic chords) rolled into the next, which rolled into the next and eventually rolled into the next episode.

And while that type of SVU suspense was a bit overwhelming at times (especially when Andy Karl got shot in a season finale), the idea of no commercials kept the station on all day (including while my wife and I played this other great board game).

So it worked.

And when I finally had to hit pause so I could grab the Chinese food at the door, and give me and my dog a “bio break,” I realized something.

The network spun a negative story into a positive one.

The marathon I was watching started midday, during a holiday period when I’d bet most people were NOT watching TV.  And it started in the afternoon.

In other words, I bet the advertising time was a difficult sell.

So they didn’t sell it.

A business’s first instinct when facing a “down time,” is usually to get desperate and slash prices, offer deals and beg for any business any way you can get it (this is especially true in perishable inventory industries like media, restaurants and the theater).

But instead of getting desperate, and selling the time for pennies on the dollar, this network spun the story around.  And, in a brilliant example of how to control a story, they went public with the opposite tale .  . . that they were not even offering the advertising time for sale!

It was the perfect spin.

The next time you’re faced with a challenge on your show or your business and are going to take a hit no matter what, see if you can turn the story around and get a win out of it in your customer’s eyes.  (e.g. Can’t sell seats on Super Bowl Sunday?  Offer tickets to a charity.)

Because sometimes the best commercial for what you’re selling is no commercial at all.

 

3 Keys To Setting New Year’s Resolutions . . . that you will KEEP.

Happy New Year, readers!

This is normally the day when I’d post a podcast, but in light of the holiday, I thought I’d give the microphone a little vacation and talk about New Year’s, one of my favorite days of the year.

Because this is the day when it all starts over.  And no matter whether you had a great year, or a @#$%, this is the day when we set out to make things better than they were.

A clean slate.  A blank canvas.  A bare stage.

So much potential.

And it’s up to us to realize it.

Today is of course the day when millions upon billions of people set New Year’s Resolutions.

And a month from now is when millions upon billions of people will break those Resolutions.

I’m a super resolution maker (are you surprised?), and I spent many years breaking ’em, forgettin’ ’em, and saying, “What the @#$% was I thinking” about ’em.

But about a decade ago, I started using the Three Keys below to help set my resolutions, and, dangit, I started keeping ’em.  And more importantly, they started working!

So, as we ALL start off this year, and since we all want it to be the best year yet, I thought I’d share these keys of mine with you to help you with your resolutions, whether they are theatrically-related or not.

Here’s how I set my resolutions:

1. Make them “The Two As.”

All of your resolutions should be follow the rules of the Two As. They should be “Ambitious but Achievable.” Stretch yourself, but make sure your goal is something you can accomplish.

I once set a resolution for myself to start and produce a workshop, write a screenplay and start a new website in 90 days . . . while working two jobs that took up about 60 hours a week.

Guess what? I failed. And felt pretty bad about it.

Set a resolution that will challenge you but that isn’t impossible. If you just finished a play, don’t set a resolution to “Get it to Broadway.” Maybe set one to have a reading or a showcase production in the next 12 months.

If you just graduated from college and got your first job, don’t say, “I will make a million dollars this year.” Push yourself, yes, but make it something that is possible.

Because falling short of a goal or breaking a resolution can actually cause you to regress on your journey towards success.

2. Make them specific.

Your resolutions should be as specific as possible. The more concrete and clear they are, the easier they are to follow. Resolutions are like directions. If someone says, “To get to my house, just go that way . . . for like, oh, I don’t know, a while, and then turn . . . and after then you’ll sort of end up there.” You’ll never get to where you want to go or you will spend hours on a trip that should have taken minutes.

But if someone says, “Drive three miles, take a left for 2 miles. Turn left at the stop sign then your first right and I’m the red house on the left with the balloons out front,” you’ll get there. Efficiently.

So don’t set a resolution to “write more,” or “go to the gym more often.” Set a resolution that says, “I will write three hours a week,” or better, “thirty minutes every day,” or “I will go to the gym twice a week.”

Specificity leads to success.

3. Make yourself Accountable.

Find someone and SHARE your resolutions with that person. Make him/her your Resolution Buddy!  For some reason people often keep their resolutions private . . . but the best way to make sure you stick with them is to make them PUBLIC.  Put ’em on Facebook, Twitter, your refrigerator. Or in our PRO Facebook group!!!

And have periodic check-ins with your buddy. Or get yourself a trainer, coach, Mastermind, teacher . . . someone to make sure you do your homework. It works! I’ve had an Accountability Buddy for about 20 years. And have been a member of Masterminds for over a decade.

These Three Keys have worked for me, and I hope they’ll work for you.  And don’t hesitate to tweak to make them your own.  Everyone’s journey is different.  But if you start with these three steps as a foundation when you set your 2018 Resolutions, I’d bet that you’ll have your best 2018 yet.
(This post was this week’s “Tip of the Week” email that I send to my ProducersPerspectivePRO members every Monday (they said it was ok to share it with you).  Want more like it delivered to your inbox every week?  Click here to find out how.)

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