Barter Theatre’s Formula For Success: Make People Happy2Add a comment.
We love it when our clients are successful. Take The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA, for example. While we've all been seeing stories about how far tourism numbers have fallen, Barter has quietly had a good year with an increase in attendance.
This is quite a feat when you consider that 91% of the theatre's loyal patrons travel up to 250 miles to get there. To be fair, the majority of those people come from within a 50-mile radius. However, at a time when we're all considering alternative commutes, a 100-mile round trip to see a play is nothing to sneeze at. But consider this: a 100-mile round trip drive is still a lot cheaper than round trip airfare and lodging anywhere else.
When you think about the experience that The Barter Theatre delivers with every performance, it makes a lot of sense to go there instead. One of their patrons illustrated this point beautifully when she said this about Barter's production of Beauty and the Beast:
"We have seen the short version at Disney World and had no idea what we were in for! I never thought a little theater like Barter could surpass Disney, but you did it in spades!"
To their credit, the theatre's management staff understands that the performance is just one part (albeit, the main part) of the entire Barter experience. They also understand that customer service is critical. And they know that people will visit their website for information about shows, local accommodations and dining options.
Peter Yonka, Barter Theatre's Marketing Director, talked with me about the added value that their improved web presence has given the theatre. He said the patrons love the fact that they can get all sorts of content about each show and purchase their tickets from the same page. Even if they don't want to purchase their tickets online, they can still see what seating is available and call the ticket office to order them over the phone.
What Peter and the rest of the staff at Barter realize is that this is all part of seeing a show. If they made it difficult for someone to get in touch with them or find the information they need, they might still sell tickets, but they would have done nothing to build a relationship with a patron.
Barter Theatre is a non-profit business, which means that they are able to keep their ticket prices below the national average. It also means that they work within a limited budget, so building and maintaining relationships is critical to their success.
Courtney Bledsoe, Barter's Associate Director of Marketing, gave me some specifics in regard to how well the site we built for them is helping them meet this goal. Back in February of this year, the site had just recently launched and they were averaging right around 550 visitors per day. Through the end of October, they were getting just over 800, with sustained peaks over 1,000 visitors per day.
In October alone, they recorded 24,000 visits from 17,000 unique visitors. Not bad for a non-profit regional theatre. Especially when you consider that aside from the goodwill of making information easy to find, they've also seen a 15% increase in online ticket sales.
Another trend that Courtney is noticing is that people are coming to the website the day after a show to leave comments and get information about upcoming shows. She mentioned that she used to get 4-5 emails per week from their old site and now she gets that many every day.
This contact from patrons is allowing them to build a valuable database. Of course, not every comment is a happy one. Once a week or so, someone will write in with a problem they experienced during their visit. But in those instances, the staff takes the time to respond and makes every effort to help fix a problem.
Barter Theatre is succeeding because they know that there's more to business than the bottom line. It's all about relationships – and that goes beyond their own walls. The theatre just won The Virginia Torchbearers Award for small businesses in the state. This designation recognizes them as a business that is not only succeeding on its own, but is also helping to serve other businesses within their community.
For a small theatre, they sure do make a lot of people happy.