Theatre companies have been harnessing the power of Word of Mouth for centuries. Most theatre-goers are familiar with the curtain speech that sounds a little like, “If you liked what you saw here tonight, please tell your friends… If you didn’t like it, tell them you saw Cats.” See, they get the most basic principal of WOM that a lot of businesses look past: It’s free and easy to ask your loyalists to tell their friends about you.
However, there is a dilemma to posing that ask during the curtain speech of a limited run theatre production – it may be too late to gain any traction. Childsplay, an Arizona theatre company for young audiences, is trying to get a step ahead of the problem.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending Childsplay’s “Friends & Family” night for its upcoming production of Busytown. They gathered about thirty Childsplay loyalists to their Tempe rehearsal hall to meet with actors, designers, the choreographer, the music director, and the director. They were given a WAY behind the scenes peek in to the production weeks before opening night. But, most importantly, they were given the opportunity to be a part of Busytown through their early participation.
Childsplay understands that without their audiences there would be no reason to show up for work. So, instead of waiting for the lights to come up to include them, they give them ownership from the start. That’s what Word of Mouth is all about. If you give me a sense of ownership of your product, then I have a vested interest in your success. That gives me extra motivation to spread the word for you.
By giving the audiences a sneak peek of Busytown, Childsplay gave these audience members ownership of the production. They got to ask questions, get to know the play, and are now armed with information to share with their friends with enough time to build some momentum. They even got to learn one of the dance numbers.
And, of course, the curtain speech happened… but long before the curtain went up. Rosemary Walsh, Childsplay’s Marketing Director and all-around wonderful human being, made it very clear that we had invited them there for a reason. She told them that without their help, there is no Childsplay and asked them to spread the word and hand out free passes for the show. These Childsplay evangelists were ready and willing to help. All she had to do was ask.