E-Mail plays well for Buffalo's studio arena theatre

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E-mail marketing is revolutionizing the marketing of theatre and cultural organizations. PatronMailáis a key e-mail provider for more than 700 arts and cultural organizations. Eugene Carr, president of New York-based Patron Technology, interviews client Bil Schroeder, director of marketing at Buffalo, NY's Studio Arena Theatre.

How did you make the transition to e-mail marketing?

In 2004 we began analyzing our database, which included a demographic/psychographic append. Suddenly, our audience appeared wealthier and more techno-savvy than we had suspected.

This led to a progression/regression analysis of three seasons of buying habits, which showed us that we were great at attracting new single-ticket buyers, but were having difficulty getting them back into the theatre. So, our database is full of households who know our product, have plenty of disposable income, but need a more compelling invitation back to our theatre.

We needed a solution that was not only more economical than direct mail, but could be deployed more discretely - for special discount offers - faster and much more frequently.

How did you solve the value-add equation for e-mail?

We developed an e-club which offers discounted tickets and "insider information" to the patrons on our e-mail list. If a performance isn't selling well we create a special discount and promote it only to e-club members.

We also offer information and juicy tidbits about the productions - stories that the news media doesn't pick-up - exclusively to this audience. Essentially, our e-club acts as a ticket and information clearing house, and everyone wins. The effectiveness was first apparent when we were launching Ring of Fire, which up until two months before opening was a complete unknown as a show. No one knew what to expect.

We began a series of e-mails where we shared "insider information" and sales jumped. We sent several e-mails, which generated an increase in sales of about $1,500 to $2,000 per day for a period of about three days after each e-mail. So we put our inventory management skills to work, picking out performances that were underperforming at the box office and offering specials, like a free wine tasting along with a ticket discount or free parking. The inventory moved.

Details about the show that we were not able to get the media interested in covering became exclusive information that our patrons could and did share.

E-mail was a significant factor, along with radio and print ads, in taking Ring of Fire from an unknown to a huge success.

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