How a Salt Lake City cabbie schooled us arts marketers

by Marc van Bree |

A few weeks ago, when I traveled to Salt Lake City for the NAMP conference, something happened. I wanted to tell you the story because it holds some good lessons for arts organizations. Well, for any business, really.

After touching down in Salt Lake City, I headed over to the airport taxi stand. It was quiet. I was the only customer and there was only one cab waiting.

I got in and immediately noticed the impeccable interior, but most of all the two little water bottles on the backseat armrest. Right away, he asked me if the temperature was okay.

This started off well.

During the short drive to downtown Salt Lake City, we struck up a friendly conversation. His name was Sam. We talked about what I was in town for and more small talk like it. I think I mentioned my kids, so he proudly told me about his six-day old.

That registered.

We arrived at the hotel and he asked me when I would be leaving. I told him tomorrow. He asked what time I needed to go to the airport. I said 3:30 p.m. He then asked if I would like to be picked up at that time, and if he could have my number so he could confirm. He also gave me a card with his number.

I was impressed.

Here was someone who really wanted to work for his business.

The next day, at 3:00 p.m., I got a voicemail. It was Sam. I called back and told him where to pick me up.

Now, here’s the thing. As I was waiting, a free hotel shuttle was about to leave. I could have easily ditched Sam, jumped on the shuttle, and gotten a free ride to the airport.

But I didn’t.

I waited for Sam and spent $25 on the ride. Actually, more. I tipped him an additional 30%.

So what’s the lesson here?

I gladly spent $25+ on the ride because: 1) the experience was unmatched; 2) he worked hard to get my business again; and 3) he personalized the transaction.

Now you probably already see where I’m going, but let me translate that to the arts for you.

  1. Deliver an unmatched experience. It’s not just the performance. It’s parking, it’s the will-call line, it’s everything. It’s the little water bottles.
  2. Work hard to get them to return. Make it easy for them to come again. Make sure you know how to reach them. Keep your promise and follow up.
  3. Make it personal. Tell your story. Make sure it registers. That 30% tip I gave? That was because of his six-day old. In my story it was a tip, in yours it’s a donation to your organization.

Remember, I could have picked the free ride, but didn’t. How will you make patrons pick you?