Last weekend I went to London to see ‘West End Live‘ in Leicester Square and, somehow, ended up going to see Avenue Q. The trip to the theatre was totally unplanned, and when thinking about why I went to see it, I noticed a number of parallels with online business. Below are some of the things I took away from this realisation.
You need to stand out from the crowd. Avenue Q did this in a variety of ways, the most obvious being the fact that the characters are singing puppets… which means they can get away with a LOT more than a human character would. Musical theatre, as online, is full of shows (websites) that are quite similar, so doing something different will make you stand out from the crowd.
Play around with prices
When Cameron Mackintosh brought Avenue Q to the UK he decided to try different price brackets. Initially that meant knocking a few pounds off the average ticket price, however during the move to the Gielgud theatre he added some new £10 seats.
Having a broad range of prices opens up your audience considerably. Having cheaper products brings in new customers and gets people who were otherwise unsure, to give your product a try – you can then push pricier options to them later.
Have knowledgeable, efficient, support staff
I bought my tickets by walking in off the street – so I had to talk directly to the people at the ticket office. The man I spoke to was really helpful and recommended I buy the £20 seats rather than the £35 ones. He explained that one of the seats had a slight obstruction to the view (a safety barrier) but he said we’d hardly notice it… and he was right, the view was fantastic! When we got home we looked up the seat prices and saw that the people next to us had paid £35 and the ones in the middle of the row had paid £50.
Make sure your support staff (even if that’s you) give good honest advice. Try not to get wound up and always take a step back if people are being argumentative or abusive. Support work is often not that bad if you come at it in the right frame of mind, and customers will appreciate honesty over lies and excuses.
Small teams = good
The cast in Avenue Q is tiny. There are only 6 main cast members who, between them, voice and act for all of the characters (remember – the characters are puppets). Obviously there’s the band and stage hands but essentially that’s it – and it works really well.
Online the same rules apply. Smaller teams are cheaper, more efficient and need less management. If you grow as a business then it’s going to be worth hiring more people but I would always recommend keeping the jobs to a minimum.
With songs like ‘If You Were Gay’, ‘The Internet is for Porn’ and ‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist’, Avenue Q was bound to generate some chatter – even creating their own internet memes. As mentioned above the fact that it’s puppets singing makes all of this quite easy to swallow – not to mention the fact that a lot of people will find themselves secretly agreeing with the songs.
From this I would consider creating controversy in a non threatening way. Too often controversial subjects are done just for press – and people soon forget about them – however if you do something that from the outside is daring, and then turn it around so that it’s a positive it should hopefully make people more likely to remember you.
The show was actually really good fun and I would recommend it whole heartedly (ooh – generating word of mouth!). The songs were catchy and the antics of the puppets was considerably more mature than you might first think.