Theatre on The Edge, also known as ToTE, is a comedy improv troupe from Waterloo, ON. There might be many other improv groups in the region, but none that exists for 37 years like ToTE does. Established in 1991, ToTE has made audiences laugh with hilarious and uplifting improv comedy shows made up on the spot, just based on suggestions the audience provides. The ever-changing cast has been performing weekly shows in addition to special off-site gigs at corporate functions, birthday parties and anniversaries throughout Ontario. The company’s goal is to make their audience laugh, to enjoy themselves, and to ensure that nobody leaves feeling that they should have rather watched a show on Netflix.
In 2015, ToTE went through a rough spot, the venue where they are performing the weekly shows and teaching workshops doubled the rent, some of their best players had to leave due to family responsibilities, such as getting married and having children. Their audience was dwindling and so were their financial resources. It started to look very sad and ToTE was on the brink of death. A crisis meeting was called and the business model was reviewed in depth. In the meeting ToTE decided to change and improve the following things:
1. Ticket Price
ToTE did the same as the venue, doubled it, from $5 to $10. The reason was that current audience attendance was low, and if the overall re-vamp succeeded new audience members wouldn’t mind paying $10, which is still a reasonable ticket price.
The drop-in workshop format was changed to a course model and is now being held at a different venue where rent is much cheaper.
3. Show Format
To make it more interesting for the audience, different show formats have been created, such as “Mountain View Murder”, an ongoing murder mystery, played once a month where audience members voted on which cast member must die, or “Singled Out” – a monthly bachelor show.
There hadn’t been a make-over for many years and the website just looked as if it was done in the 90ies, which was actually true. A facelift was needed to give it a more modern look and feel.
5. Advertising Material
Since the financial resources were extremely limited, there wasn’t a budget that allowed for fancy advertising materials. Free or inexpensive resources needed to be found to help update the stage set, and to spread the word of ToTE’s existence.
6. Social Media
The tasks were divided among performers and implemented shortly after, with the result that ToTE is now flourishing again. Within a few months things started to get much better.
A performer who is also a graphic designer, volunteered to create a new logo and a banner.
The website got a face-lift and social media a makeover as well. The traffic on Facebook and Twitter started to increase and within eight months the number of followers doubled. Just recently Instagram has been added to the mix and will be launched as soon as enough posts have been scheduled and the page design is completed.
The improv courses started to fill up and sold out after only one term. Now ToTE doesn’t even advertise them anymore.
“I recently asked our new Level 1 improv class how they heard about us, and they all gave the same answer — they did a google search. Simply having the classes listed on our website was enough to draw people.” says Bernie Roehl, founder of Theatre on The Edge and still a multi tasking performer of the troupe. He teaches the intermediate course and is part of the marketing team, as such he is responsible for the newly implemented monthly newsletter that gives the regular audience members more advance notice of upcoming special shows and new cast members.
Students from the advanced courses started to join the existing cast after graduating and brought a fresh take to the performances, as well as attracting new audience members.
The social media team started to release regular posts with fun pictures and entertaining info.The upcoming social media campaign is focused on customer engagement, where people have to answer questions in order to win a free submission to a show. Every post will be accompanied with a funny action shot from one of the performers. Moreover there will be teasers for new shows that have a different approach and guest appearances. This will be accompanied with a countdown to build excitement and at the same time remind followers of the upcoming show. Designated hashtags will be created to make it easy for followers to share. ToTE is ready to jump into conversations on social media and is determined to keep it going. After all, they are masters of improv and that is what they hopefully keep doing for another 37 years!
Lessons for Others
Social Media can save lives. Lives of businesses that can’t afford expensive advertisement or billboards at main streets. Social Media has the power to create or destroy, and therefore needs to be actively managed. Blogs, comments, ratings or reviews on social media can reach more people than any one of the old fashioned advertisement options can, therefore an actively engaged team is a must. A single customer can bring you new opportunities and revenue streams you might not have thought off.
Theatre on The Edge
Name of Organization Contact: Bernie Roehl, Founder of Theatre on The Edge
Authored by: Gita Pattison
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