No one said business was easy, but that’s what you signed up for when you decided to start a theatre company. Perhaps it’s time to really think about how to build loyalty for your brand to keep your audience coming back for more every time.
The nature of theatre, being as fleeting and temporary as it is, poses a problem for companies who seek to build a loyal and loving audience (something every company should be working tirelessly to attain). More often than not, I’m seeing audiences come and go like a transient occasional hook-up. We give and give (suppressing our gag reflex) and hope that by the time we remove our stage make-up that there’s still someone in our bed ready to snuggle and take a long nap. They’re not. They’re already on their way to their next thrilling escape. It’s so challenging for a theatre company to create a relationship with its audience that stands the test of time between full-scale productions. However, as technology evolves, so should our means of communication with the people we seek to entertain.
Face it folks, the business of theatre is, in fact, a business. Perhaps it’s time we started looking to other businesses for examples of what we can learn about building brand loyalty.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I specifically go to Shoppers Drug Mart for all my toiletry and manscaping needs. I do this because I get those sweet sweet Optimum Points (and when I spend another $300 I’ll get that $10 off those Energizer AAA batteries I need for my… ahem… TV remote). Guys, loyalty cards have been around for a hell of a long time. Why? Because they work and it allows for ample opportunity to collect valuable consumer insights. Perhaps there’s a way to adapt this loyalty generating method for the purposes of retaining our theatre audiences? What can we give to our audiences to reward good behaviour?
It’s very rare I get to say anything positive about the TTC, but I will say that they are doing something very smart by letting kids (under the age of 12) ride for free. It’s statistically proven that behaviour learned before the age of 12 has staying power. Get those kids on the subway now and they will be much more likely to ride the rocket when they are paying adults (and bumping you with their backpacks or falling asleep on your shoulder to boot). Maybe instead of offering discounted child pricing, we let those little rascals in free. Hell, they’re likely going to be accompanied by their parents. That’s a ticket sold that you might not of otherwise and that kid will learn that theatre is a unique and viable form of entertainment (if you do good and entertaining theatre that is… if you don’t… well, stop… you’re ruining it for the rest of us).
Have you ever returned anything to H&M? I have a million times, often having worn the clothing item for a day or two before realizing “nah, I don’t like how flat it makes my ass look.” Have I ever had a problem returning anything? Nope. Never. And that’s one of the reasons why I keeping going back to H&M to buy shitty, but dirt cheap clothing.
It goes without saying that if someone doesn’t like what you’re putting down, well, they’re not coming back for more. Truth be told, if you fuck it up, you might have lost that audience member forever (and so might the rest of the theatre producing community). So for the love of god… DON’T FUCK IT UP. However, this is art that we’re creating, not $6 t-shirts made by a little boy in Indonesia. Sometimes our art works; sometimes it’s self-indulgent, but often it’s too late to realize that we’ve been joyfully sniffing our own farts for the past several months. That being said, it’s never the audience’s fault if they don’t like what we give them. You might want to think about this for a second and check your pride when you do. How can you make sure that every audience member leaves satisfied (whether they liked your art or not)? What incentives can we give them to make sure they return?
No one said business was easy, but that’s what you signed up for when you decided to start a theatre company. Perhaps it’s time to really think about how to build loyalty for your brand to keep your audience coming back for more every time. If you can achieve this, then you will have done better than 95% of all the theatre companies that have ever existed… Good luck and God Speed.