New Year’s Resolution #4: Experience
Did you know . . . the time between when the curtain goes up and the curtain goes down on a show only consists of about 35% of the customer experience when attending live entertainment? While your competing shows may be of the same standard, it is that other 65% of the experience outside the theatre where you can make a big difference for your customers. And this will be a big focus for 2016!
New Year’s Resolution #4: Extend the customer experience outside the theatre experience
The customer experience is equally as important as the quality of the show you are watching. Yes, that is a big statement but it is completely true. Have you ever been to a fantastic show but all you can tell your friends about the experience was the horribly cramped seat or being told off by ushers for taking photos? One bad experience can damage your whole perspective.
So how do you maximise the 65% of the experience that sits either side of the show? There have been some great examples coming out of 2015.
Melbourne’s The Production Company have been on top of this idea for many years now giving out free programs to every audience member who walks into the theatre. The program may not be as detailed as some of its big name competitors who do much longer runs, but the act of giving out a free program says to the customer ‘You are valued’ and ‘We want to make sure that you have the best experience possible so we aren’t asking you to fork out any more money when you reach the theatre’. It may only be a small gesture but it sets the audience up with a really positive mindset ready to enjoy the show . . . something which can’t be said when you rock up at a theatre only to find you have to pay another $25 or $30 just to find out what the show is about!
This gesture has been seen across America for many years now with their Playbills. By no means are these free booklets a substitute for the full page glossy photo program featuring production images, but they provide the audience with information that they may want to know about the production and the cast.
Victorian Opera has also recognised the importance of the pre-attendance stage sending out a helpful list of handy hints to all concert-goers in the days leading up to their operatic experience. A bit of information about the production, creative team and cast bios, a few pictures and some valuable information about picking up tickets, getting to the venue and where to grab a bite to eat before or after the show. No longer does the attendee need to spend time doing their own research about their experience before the show, the production company does it all for you!
What about when you enter the theatre? Does the audience need to sit patiently and wait for the glamourous curtain to rise? Not any more.
Broadway favourite Once was the master of this pre-show entertainment inviting audience members into the bar on stage to order their drinks and have a pre-show jam session with the actors. But many shows have been taking lead from this production (although not quite to the same level). The Anything Goes revival that reached Melbourne earlier this year had actors milling in the mainland bar before the show started. The Production Company’s La Cage Aux Folles had audiences entering the Cagelles dressing room upon entering the theatre with the girls getting ready on the stage. And Matilda has created their own take on this action bringing it to the interval. Mr Wormwood casually graces the stage to lecture the audience on the importance of television compared to books before bursting into song while the audience are still returning to take their seat.
If there is one marketing component that you should focus on first and foremost, it is the customer experience because it will turn your audience members into show ambassadors when they return home to tell all their friends and family about their memorable experience. More and more productions are slowly taking it on board and extending the experience well beyond the theatre, but Once is still the winner (by far) of the best pre-show experience . . . maybe 2016 will create a challenging competitor?