Broadway Eblast - Marketing Broadway Shows using email blasts - How to have a successful email blast, avoid spam complaints, maximize sales and build a better relationship with your clients - Part 1

Email is the original social networking form that just won't go away, and it continues to work well as a marketing tool for many business types. Broadway shows are no exception. Broadway producers have been using email as a successful marketing tool since 1995, and email is still part of every Broadway show marketing campaign, as well as the newer forms of social networking such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace.

An email consists of two components, the subject line and message body. The subject line must make a compelling statement just to get the recipient to open it, and the message body must deliver upon the subject's promise - otherwise the recipient feels slighted and credibility is damaged. If you don't gain the recipient's trust, the next email you send will not get opened.

Broadway email blasts (or "eblasts," as they are known in the industry) are a great method to reach the masses with a Broadway show marketing pitch. The advantage the eblast has over conventional advertising techniques is that it is quick to create, cheap to send, and produces results quickly. If the pitch is wrong, the price point too high, or the target demographic is wrong, the results can be seen quickly in the form of email opens, click-throughs, unsubscribes, and ultimately ticket sales. Email promotion allows the show producers (and the advertising agencies) opportunities to "fine tune" the marketing pitch to achieve maximum results.

Often there is a struggle to deliver on three important factors: content, design and deliverability. If the email is too feature-packed, it will have limited reach, but if the email is not compelling enough its popularity will be poor. If the content is too rich, many people will switch off before the pitch, and if the design is too complex, it will fail on many email readers.

There are, however, some rules about eblast content, design, and delivery that will make any Broadway show eblast have more pop, better reach, and ultimately better ticket sales. First, let's talk about Content.

Eblast Content

The Subject Line Must Be A "Compelling Call To Action"
Creating a compelling subject line in the email blast that makes the reader want to open the email is critical for the eblast to be successful. But oversell the pitch and the reader will switch off, delete the email, mark you as spam, or even unsubscribe from the email list entirely.

The various items that can be included in the subject line are: a Broadway discount ticket offer, names of stars in the cast, time urgency content, and critic endorsements. Even negative critic endorsements about the Broadway show can work as locals often ignore the critics anyway, its the out-of-owners who will read the reviews - if that's your Broadway show demographic it may work to your advantage.

Of course, common sense prevails on the use the use of CAPS (30% max) otherwise spam alarm bells will be sounded all over town and keep the subject line short and free of non-alphanumeric characters.

Eblast Content
Deciding the message you want your eblast to convey is very important. What exactly do you want to say? The most compelling content for a Broadway email blast is the "Broadway ticket discount offer", but announcements about tickets going on sale, presale offers, celebrity additions to the cast, and any other significant show announcements all have value to the reader. Also targeting the email to the right demographic can really help.

Clarify The Black Out Dates and Restrictions
If the eblast is a discount ticket offer, nothing annoys the eblast recipient more than random blackout dates and confusing restrictions. It's fine to say no to Saturday nights, but readers don't respond well to a tome of arbitrary blackout dates and restrictions that make the eblast feel like it's a bait and switch. Similarly, make sure that there is enough ticket inventories that can be sold for the offer period.

AVOID the civil war between the warring factions of Content, design, and deliverability

With more people in the decision making mix, an eblast can become a battleground between the various factions of content, design, and deliverability. Clearly the content must convey the special message and the design must allow that message to have legs, but overall, deliverability is the most important factor. If clients don't actually get the eblast then the other two disciplines were for nought. This means that the most important thing is getting the IT group to ensure deliverability as much as they can. This may mean limiting the eblast to certain groups, cutting out certain domains (especially web-based email domains where spam complaints are the most prevalent), and generally dictating what things the content and design team can and cannot do. Many design concepts have to be thrown out because they feature Flash or DHTML, both of which cannot be included in an eblast. Often a content team will want to dictate the subject line, with little attention given to the IT problems of spam false-positive and routing issues. Content and design teams often have their head in the clouds; it's the IT team's role to bring them back to the reality of limitations and proven methods.

Clearly the best solution is to allow a progressive IT team to lead the eblast design. I say progressive because most IT departments don't really want to do anything, but they are the team with the most knowledge about what things will work and what things will fail from a technical perspective. If the IT team isn't progressive, then it’s going to require a member of the other two teams to head up the IT element in the eblast.


It's About the Message, Not the Email Addresses
When talking about eblasts, too often people get obsessed with a discussion of who owns the email addresses. The fact is that the Broadway theater owners have most of the coveted data and they aren't likely to part with it any time soon. So the rest of us in the industry need to concentrate on crafting good emails to serve our customers. It's not just about "how many people can we blast to at one time?" It isn't that this isn't a valid question, but it can't be the sole focus of your email marketing efforts. When you are creating your eblast, you must be thinking about the message that you're delivering to your customers. You want to be mindful of what you are saying to them and when. Are you giving them a good offer or useful information? Having a big email list to blast out to is great, but if you are alienating your customers with bad eblasts, then you will lose them quickly. Remember that you want to be sending them quality eblasts.


A Happy Customer Brings More Customers
Although the eblast may seem like it is only useful for reaching your current customers, it is actually a great tool for bringing in more customers. How so? Because word of mouth is the best (and cheapest) marketing out there. If you send out an eblast with a Broadway discount offer, and the recipient buys a ticket, sees the show, and loves it, then that person will start raving to their friends. Those friends may very well go straight to the box office and buy full price tickets. And if they like the show, they will rave to their friends, and so on.

Tons of research on live performance reinforces the reality that, when choosing what show to shell out money for tickets to, potential audiences put a lot of weight on word-of-mouth and personal recommendations. And in the age of social networking, that word-of-mouth spreads even faster, as people post on Facebook, tweet their opinions, and write their own Broadway reviews on personal blogs. Even if your customer does not like the show, they will be less likely to trash it if they feel that they are respected as a valued customer. This means providing good customer service when called for and it also means not wasting their time by sending out eblasts with offers that are of no interest to your customer base.


Eblasts That Serve the Customer
For the Broadway theatre audience member, the Broadway experience doesn't end with buying the ticket. There are plenty of opportunities to send emails to the customer that address other aspects of their on-going theater experience. These email eblasts might contain directions to the theater and recommendations for nearby restaurants, they may include a survey asking for post-show feedback, or it could be a "thank you" note that also invites the customer to remain connected to the show through a mailing list, online fan club, or Facebook page.

Offering a discount to someone who has seen the show is a surefire way that a thank you results in a win-win situation. Offering their friends or family a special offer or special seating is another way of cementing the relationship.

Data shows that these types of offers in email form get extremely high open rates, the reason obviously being that these customers already feel connected to the show and therefore don't consider such eblasts to be junk mail. Tying the eblast to the shows' pages on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and YouTube will serve the client well at their chosen social networking site. Dropping show specific content on YouTube will greatly increase the amount of traffic back to the primary web site or to the social networking sites.

If They Ask, They Shall Receive
Another type of email to keep in mind is the eblast that you send to your "fan base". These might be truly fanatical devotees, the people who see your Broadway show multiple times, or they may just be individuals who enjoyed the show and want to stay "in touch". The point is that these are the folks who have actually asked to stay in the loop. These are the people who become a friend on the show's Facebook page or opt-in to receive a regular newsletter. It can be easy to let communication with these customers go by the wayside as you worry about getting new customers and sending out that next Broadway eblast, but don't neglect them because they can be a powerful base (and provide lots of good word-of-mouth). However, if you start forgetting to send out those fan newsletters, they will start to forget about your show.

Email Service To Rented Email Address Lists
A lesser-explored territory in the Broadway community is paid emails to rented lists. These are email services that you pay to have email sent to possible ticket buyers who did not actually consent to receive emails from you. A lot of money is spent in this realm, but there are not many known statistics for how successful this approach actually is. There is great risk to the brand in this solution - at the very least annoying potential clients, to completely alienating them on the other end. When someone doesn't ask for something and they feel that have been pitched to, it can often be a big turn-off to the buyer.

Now that you know what content to put in your eblast ...
t's time to move on to the next chapter of the Broadway Eblast Bible - DESIGNING A GREAT EBLAST