Turning Your Audience Into Salespeople

Repeat business. If you are working in the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) industry, then your product will live or die based on repeat business. You want people coming back more often and purchasing more of your product each time. But it’s not really the same in the theatre industry. So what should your aim be for repeat customers?
Diane Paulus

Diane Paulus is one of the most revered people in the theatre industry. Pioneering the idea of experiential theatre in a time when actors extending beyond the stage wasn’t even envisioned, she has created incredible success for herself through The Donkey Show – a reselling of A Midsummer’s Night Dream set in a club – and many Tony-winning revivals including Pippin and Porgy & Bess.

But before these enormous success, Diane Paulus started small. In fact, The Donkey Show began in a small space only big enough for 100 people with the actors getting changed down the road. And you can bet there wasn’t much of a marketing budget for this show. So how did she get word out for a show which ended up on Broadway?

Your previous customers and audience members are incredibly important as a marketing channel, especially when you don’t have an advertising budget. It is these excited audience members who will go out and spread the word to all their friends that they need to come and see the show. But, unlike many other industries, it isn’t that easy to get them back. Tickets are expensive and a purchase which locks you into a time and place is rather high involvement. So how do you keep them engaged with the production so that your biggest advocates become your biggest marketing channels?

Diane Paulus tackled this issue with The Donkey Show.

If people aren’t coming back numerous times to your show, then their income is not a huge proportion of your revenue. So, forget it. The Donkey Show opened up a VIP list where each night there would be a VIP list for people who had already seen the show and they could get back in for free if they brought along a paying customer.

Not only does this reward your engaged audience members who love your show. Not only does it potentially double your audience. But it creates incredible word-of-mouth!

This VIP list encourages all the audience members who loved the show to tell all their friends about the incredible experience they had at the show and gets them to really sell purchasing a ticket (so that they can return for free with them). It is essentially a sales bonus with each of your engaged past audience members becoming salespeople.

Diane Paulus may be an acclaimed director, but with thoughts like this one she clearly has a great foundation of marketing knowledge. Maybe that is what makes her works so powerful . . . and understanding of what resonates with audiences and changes their behaviour? Worth a thought?