The three rules of doing research.

I’ve always been a big believer in focus groups and research.  We’re one of the few industries that spends millions of dollars developing a product, but won’t spend a few thousand testing that product, or even determining how challenging it may be to sell that product.

That’s why I always put my shows through quantitative and qualitative testing at some point in their life cycle.

I recently did some testing on Once on this Island and was reminded of the three rules of doing research by my expert analyst, who made me sign off on them before he signed up to test my show.

  1. Never do research unless you’re prepared to do something with the results (or never ask a question you don’t want an answer to). Research is a waste of time unless you’re ready to listen and act upon those responses. I plan my research to coincide with a pivot point, either before a new ad campaign, or a new creative developmental period, so I have the resources ($ or time) to put behind the answers I get in order to achieve the maximum results.
  2. The answers are as important as the people giving them. When acting upon said research, it’s essential your answers are coming from the right audience.  This is why major changes to your campaign or your show should be based on research results from the precise audience you’re trying to target.  Ask the wrong audience and they’ll send you down the wrong rabbit hole.  This is why research can be expensive, and why one of the most important questions you should ask when hiring a research company is, “Where do you get the people taking the surveys?”
  3. Let the research guide your gut, but don’t let it be your gut. As much of a fan of research I am, and while I do believe it can give you a competitive advantage in our very risky industry, I never take action based on its results that I don’t believe in.  Theatre is an art.  And Producers and Writers are entrepreneurs.  The most successful entrepreneurs in any industry create products that the audience doesn’t know they need yet or buy products that surprise and delight them in their marketing.  So use research to help you focus and become more efficient in your strategies, but don’t let it rule them.  Data is a tool.  It’s not the craftsman.

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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.