Monday, September 18, 2006

Initiators' Night (the experiment)

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. We are getting ready to open CROWNS at Virginia Stage Company and things have been a little hectic around here. Today's post is about a program that Virginia Stage Company just launched. We all know that about 80% of your business can be directly traced back to about 20% of your customer base (these individuals being the most influential and enthusiastic customers you have). There have been many names given to these types of customers. At Virginia Stage Company, I refer to them as Initiators. Initiators are the types of people who like to discover new things, and then tell all of their friends about it. They have influence with a large number of people. In short, they are the trendsetters. The key is to get these individuals to adopt your product as the new trend.

At VSC, we have just launched an Initiators' Night at the Wells. We try to locate those Initiators in our community, and then bring them in to sample our product. For example: With Crowns, I researched who I considered to be the most influential people within the African American community of Hampton Roads. These people included pastors of historically black churches, directors of political organizations such as the NAACP, administrators at our two historically black universities, leaders of African American social groups such as LINK, African American media personalities and African American government officials. We even added in owners of African American salons (the thought being they talk to a lot of African American women and could pitch our product for us). We invited over 120 Initiators to the first public performance of CROWNS. We provided them with free tickets, a complimentary catered dinner and an open bar. We made a little pitch to them about the show, asked for their support in getting the word out and then gave them a lot of marketing materials (including flyers for discounted admission). All of them left the performance last night pledging their support. Hopefully we will have 120 advocates in the community to help start a word of mouth campaign.

As they say, the proof will be in the pudding and time will tell. I will let you know how it turns out.

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