3 Strategies From Big Business (That Worked On Me!)

I do two things whenever I buy anything.

  1. I record it in Quicken.  (I’m OCD about my e-checkbook.  I have every single financial transaction I’ve ever made since 1991 in Quicken!)
  2. I ask myself, why did I make this purchase?

Recently, three different marketing strategies from big businesses got me to spend a little money with them . . . so naturally I wondered, “How can I steal these ideas for the theater?”  🙂

I’m hard at work coming up with some ways to implement the below into my shows, but I’ll also pass them on to you . . . in the hopes they’ll inspire you to do the same.

Because hey, the more revenue we make today, the more theater we can make tomorrow.

Here’s what got me:


Disney’s Early Access Hours

I’d wager a round trip flight to Florida that Disney’s greatest customer service complaint is “long lines.”  So, they’ve instituted 147 different ways for customers to reduce their wait time for Splash Mountain (my daughter’s favorite), Little Mermaid (her other favorite) and The Funnel Cake Cart (my favorite.)

The initiative that caught my eye and my wallet?  Early access to the park . . . and therefore the rides . . . but only if you’re staying at an official Disney property.  It’s not a direct upcharge, but rather a value add for those who choose to stay in one of their hotels.

Could early access to the theater encourage some audience members to upgrade their tickets?  To get out of the rain, snow, sun or the long lines that now wrap around blocks?  (Especially now with security and health checks?)


Maybe we could even go further and let some audience members watch sound check.  It’s like the batting practice of the theater.

The Amtrak Upgraded

I’m on a lot of Amtraks these days.  Back and forth from Boston to NYC on that super fast Acela.  And when I bought my ticket last week, something fascinating happened .  . AFTER I bought it.

They offered me a chance to BID on an upgrade to first class.

That’s right, they didn’t say, “You can upgrade to first class for only XX dollars more!”  They said, “Hey, throw us a bid . . . and if we like it, you’ll get it.”

They gave me an offer to improve my seat and get a bunch of perks, AND “pick a price”, price-linestyle.

They gamified it.

I was so curious about the whole process that I tossed in a bid.  The lowest one.

And I got it.

Then something interesting happened.  I got to experience all the things.  And it was pretty nice. 

I don’t know if I’ll do it again, but I’ll be tempted for sure.  And that’s great marketing. 

Rewards, rewards, rewards.

Airlines paved their way for the modern rewards program with frequent flier miles decades ago.  Points and rewards followed. 

But lately, they’ve exploded.  I credit apps.  Every restaurant, store, etc, has an app now.  And when you buy, you earn points.  And when you earn points, you save money.

Who doesn’t want that?

That’s why every time Starbucks tells me they’ll give me bonus points for ordering my fave three days in a row, I’m all in.  Or when UPromise tells me they’ll give me free $ for my kid’s education just for shopping at BestBuy or Fiverr . . . which I was going to do anyway.

We have a challenge in our biz in that unlike Blaze Pizza here in Boston (which has got me coming back and earning points every other day), it’s hard to get our customers to come back.  We’re expensive.  Our product doesn’t change.  And we don’t need it to survive, in the same way we need PIZZA!  🙂

But points and apps could be very useful for shows, and even more so for institutional theaters.  


What pricing and marketing strategies work on you?  And which ones could you institute in your theatermaking?

Need some ideas . . . go shopping today.  🙂

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.