Plug into your audience for continual improvement

Connecting to your audience is an area of emphasis for a lot of businesses — and it’s something they’d pay money to be able to do. That’s why I found it interesting to hear how the theater company Shadowbox Live does this.

“At the end of the day, the only effective way to get anybody into a theater is word of mouth,” says CEO Stev Guyer. “You can advertise to remind people that you exist, but there’s got to be a friend that says, ‘You must see this show.’”

Feedback loop

Shadowbox gives every audience member an opportunity to fill out a card that rates the various elements of the show. What’s noteworthy, though, is that of the 220 to 250 people who typically attend a show, nearly half fill out the cards. That gives the company a lot of feedback to work with.

Guyer says they follow up to ask why someone had a bad experience, and also publish the comments and ratings every single day. That way, everyone knows how a show is doing and where are the problems.

Along with audience feedback, company members also are aggressive about watching the shows themselves, which helps them continue to improve the performance.

Of their audience, Guyer says about 40 percent are first timers, while 60 percent are regulars.

Regulars will come back multiple times to the same show, or come more than once a week to see different shows. So, Shadowbox spends energy connecting to the first timers, in order to build loyalty.

Showing appreciation

“The other thing that we do, which I think is really, really important — somebody, usually me, stands near the front door at the end of every show and thanks everybody that came,” Guyer says.

This allows you to gauge whether people really liked the show.

“It’s possible to say, ‘Yeah it was great’ and actually not mean it,” he says. “But you can tell when you’re looking at someone’s face.”

By saying thanks, it also shows appreciation and helps the audience feel ownership.

“There is a quality about Shadowbox that goes well beyond a traditional business model. Perhaps like the old-school general store, it’s something that everybody feels that they’ve got a little piece of,” Guyer says.

To learn more about Shadowbox, check out this month’s Uniquely Columbus.