Bus Brainstorming

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Today I write from the 8 a.m. Bolt Bus heading back to Boston after a great weekend in New York. I saw three incredible plays this weekend, yet it’s my mode of transportation that gets my marketing gears going.

There are a handful of cheap travel options between Boston and New York. Travelers can choose from the speedy Acela train to express flights to my preferred method, the super-cheap-reliable-enough coach bus. Easy enough, cheap enough, and sometimes quick depending on the (hateful) traffic. The service is a commodity and bus companies have to be competitive to grab customers. Greyhound has name recognition, the Chinatown busses have the lowest flat rate and don’t land in the middle of Herald Square or Midtown. You can choose the feature most important to you and sit back in pseudo comfort. I prefer the MegaBus or Bolt Bus for cleanliness, wifi, outlets and – here’s the big one – price scaling. You can “bolt for a buck” if you get tickets online in advance, and the service fee is a pittance. These companies know their customers’ demographics. They know we want cheap options at last minutes notice. I used to walk up to the bus and stand by for a seat, because I appreciate the time flexibility of the hourly busses – a big reason I would never fly to the big apple – and I didn’t have a preference for which company I rode with beyond that criteria.

BUT Bolt Bus has won me over with a terrific model arts organizations should follow: if I buy online in advance I get the cheapest ticket in the first boarding group, and after 4 round trips I get one ride free. Sound familiar? Small organizations often don’t have the inventory or programming to create a subscription worth selling beyond family members and roommates, but what about creating a nonexclusive rewards program for your audience? Bolt Bus sells tickets for less than $25, but the opportunity to get a freebie has locked in my loyalty. They provide comfort, flexibility, a few fancy features and they’re strategic in keeping me brand loyal, all for less than the price of a dinner date. Until someone finds a route that beats the traffic, I’m sticking with Bolting to and from Boston.

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  1. #1 by Jeff Kubiatowicz on June 14, 2011 - 12:30 pm

    Hi Robyn: Are you suggesting that a fringe theater company doing, say, a three-show season at The Factory with ten performance of each show should not attempt to use a subscription model to sell the season in advance?

    • #2 by robynlinden on June 14, 2011 - 8:15 pm

      Jeff!
      I think a company who does a three-show season in a small venue can certainly do subscriptions and follow this format:
      -inventory is cheapest the farthest in advance, much like Bolt Bus and MegaBus
      -loyalty is rewarded — commit to more than one ticket at a time and receive an awesome benefit
      I generally think subscriptions are tricky to do at the Factory, for example, because it has only 49 seats. The wonderful intimacy of the space also means you can’t offer much difference in seating for those who subscribe, which is typically a benefit of doing so. That means companies should get creative with what they give the subscribers. Maybe it’s a free concessions, maybe a gift, maybe an invitation to closed rehearsals and events.

      What do you think?
      Robyn

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