Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Theatre Artists....Always Be Closing!


The Boston Theatre Marathon played a few weeks ago. I didn’t make it this year, what with work and other commitments.

Larry Stark still has the best and most detailed run-down of the Marathon at the Theatermirror. The major dailies used the aforementioned cookie cutter style to run-down the festivities. At least Terry Byrne of the Herald attended and reviewed, whereas the Globe and the Phoenix sent the stringers.

Phoenix stringer, Liza Weizztuch was granted extensive space to cover it, though she includes reviews of two other plays. I have been incredibly busy and this has resulted in my being too late to link to some of the reviews.

Perusing the reviews was akin to the experience of taking out the same old cookie cutters every Christmas. The template for reviewing the Marathon is always the same, maybe because a Ten-Minute Play Festival format yields pretty much the same results every time. The festival puts on about 50 ten minute plays a year and has by far the best concentrated sampling of talent, both writing wise and acting wise, of any other theatrical event in Boston.

However, from attending in previous years, and reading the reviews this year, I started to think a little statistically. What is really valuable about the experience of concentrating so many works into a short period of time is that it makes a little petri dish in which we kind of quantify artistic output.

Now the Boston Theatre Marathon puts on about 50 ten minute plays a year. My career is sales, and I would like to present a sales statistic from a few years ago. There is no getting around the fact that sales is a numbers game. We have probably all heard the maxim, "If you are not making sales, you are simply not talking to enough people." Well, let's break down those people into two groups. In sales we call them Suspects and Prospects.

Suspects are basically the "looks like a duck" assumption. They are a company or person who looks, from a casual glance, like they might have the money and the need for your product. In the case of the Theatre Marathon, they are the scripts they receive when they put out their intitial call. These Suspects seem formatted the right way, they are typed, they have characters, dialogue, some of them have plots. In other words, they look like a duck, walk like a duck, etc.

In sales, the suspects must be contacted and QUALIFIED? Qualifying basically consists of calling suspects and finding out if they really do need your product, and if they really can afford your product. If these things are true, the suspects become prospects.

Prospects are people or companies that could use your product, and can afford it. Prospects are the people you start selling to. You send them direct mail, you call them once a month, try to get in front of them for a presentation, you take them to the US Open. Basically, you kiss their ass and, as we know from the great Mamet play, you are always closing.

So how does this relate to a the Boston Theatre Marathon? Some of you following closely may already be onto it, others have probably clicked some of the links on the right side.

Well, basically, an understood sales statistic is based on contacting 100 Suspects. Not leaving a voice mail, not mailing them a letter, but having a qualifying conversation with them on the phone. (Don't even try to think about how many actual dials you have to make to contact 100 people.)

Well, after you make these qualifying conversations you will find, right away that 50 of the 100 are simply not interested. They don't have a need for your service or product, they can't afford it, or they are happy with the way things are currently.

So that leaves you with 50 . Basically, these are the ones you want to clarify further, you want to nurture them. But you still have to understand that these 50 are not going to all be buying customers. They might....maybe further down the line. But not right now.

Here is how the remaining 50 usually break out:

35 - These could be a future lead, they might say
"contact me again next year, etc. There are some promising things there, but really, intheir current state they are nothing to get excited about right now.

(The remaining fifteen are now able to be called Prospects.)

10 - Seems very interested. They are open to talking. You see
ways in which you could work together soon. Your product or service could help them.

5 - Hot Lead! There is an urgency and excitement. They
want to meet with you right away. There is no doubt that you have an answer to their problem. The only question is, Is it the right answer?

Now out of the Hot Five you can count on anywhere from two to three being Buying Customers. In other words a perfect Prospect.

So out of 50 top suspects only 3 buying customers.

Relating this to the Theatre Marathon, statistically speaking, out of the 50 plays you probably should only count on about 2-3 being Outstanding.

I have though about this in regards to theatre in general. Eugene O'Neill wrote about 50 plays, could we break his down into these categories, with Iceman, Long Day's Journey, and Moon for the Misbegotten being the three buying customers?

It made me think a lot about how many new plays are produced a year, (not enough,) and how many are really worthy of that top three status. I think the movies get this a lot better than we do in theatre. Although I can't confuse Hollywood with art, as David Mamet talks about in his article, "Bambi Vs. Godzilla" in Harper's this month.

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