A magician walks into a bar with Bill Clinton? A comedian walks into a bar with Spinal Tap? A TV host walks into a bar with Dr. Phil?

How about the ultimate: A comedy club owner (who also happens to be a magician, comedian, and TV host who’s collaborated with Clinton, Tap, and the Dr.) walks into his own comedy club (one of three). His name is Rick Bronson.

Rick Bronson, Owner of The Comic Strip and House of Comedy

“I started as a magician when I was 12 years old,” Bronson tells ToneDen. “At 15, I was doing standup comedy and somehow I’ve managed to parlay what was a childhood hobby into a living. So I’m very fortunate in the respect that I’ve never had a real job. I’ve never had to work for anybody. I’ve only ever worked for myself, which either means that I’m a very good entrepreneur or no one will hire me because they hate me.”

Bronson’s entrepreneurial ethos permeates operations at the three comedy clubs he owns with his wife Tammy. There’s The Comic Strip in Edmonton, Canada; House of Comedy in Phoenix, AZ; and House of Comedy in Bloomington, MN.

In addition to overseeing the venues, Bronson handles marketing for all three. “The background as an entertainer,” he admits, has been an asset to him as “a marketer or advertiser. Because that’s what you do as an entertainer. You’re selling the hell out of yourself.”

When you’re promoting venues some 1700 miles apart, you can’t be counting on magic tricks to sell out your shows. You need a partner that doesn’t try to sell you sleight-of-hand, which is why Bronson says: “I don’t see us ever not working with ToneDen.”

The In-House Advantage

Before signing with ToneDen, Bronson was outsourcing his marketing. “I was working with a social media company that was charging me a small arm and a leg to handle what I would consider at the end of the day a mom-and-pop shop. I also had a real problem with a lot of the social media companies out there … just because they understand algorithms doesn’t mean they have the ability to write really good copy.”

To Bronson, all the social media savvy in the world isn’t worth anything without strong creatives. “Without good content or creating a good ad or putting something up there that’s going to spark some interest or light a fire rather with whoever it is you’re targeting, it’s kind of all for naught.”

He didn’t set out to do all the social media marketing himself, but he immediately saw the benefits of bringing that can-do approach to building ads for his clubs. He saved around $8K a month, gained control of his own social channels, and developed a sophisticated, analytical approach with the help of ToneDen. “I’m able to do all the fancy testing that I was paying a social media company to do for me because of the software you guys designed. It put, on average, $100,000 a year back in my pocket.”

A 14.3X Strategy

In the venue world, the average rate of return for ToneDen users is about 9x. When Bronson came onboard with The Comedy Strip in Edmonton, he was determined to surpass that benchmark.

One of the main strategies he used was audience targeting, something that had been out of his hands when the external agency handled his social media marketing. As he puts:

“I target two groups. We go after the groups of people that we know who have been to our club before because we’ve already proved to them what we can do. And then, through ToneDen’s help, we build lookalikes based on the success we’ve had with the people who are continuing to buy tickets with us and expanded our reach to a whole other group of people.”

Tips from ToneDen’s team have helped him continue to re-up his audience game. “Just last week, Ali [ToneDen’s CMO] had me add a new audience. We built an audience based on the Lookalike of Purchases [based on our pixel traffic]. That one, out of the gate, has been a surprisingly strong audience for us.”

The combination of Bronson’s creatives, his club’s reputation, and ToneDen’s powerful audience optimization capability has helped The Comic Strip leave that 9x rate of return in the dust. The Edmonton club’s 103 campaigns have an average of 14.3x return on ad spend. And Bronson is thrilled.

“You find me any business in the world that’s doing a 14x ROI, where for every dollar you invest, you get fourteen back. I don’t think that happens.”

Automating to Advance the Arts

Bronson is a busy man. His Phoenix club’s roast of hockey player Shane Doan aired on NBC; he’s working to get a slot on Amazon or Netflix. That’s why he appreciates the automation provided by ToneDen. “At the end of day, it’s nice to know that my money’s being moved around to best advertise for me and that I don’t have to be the guy who sits there and watches it.”

ToneDen gives users like Bronson the tools they need to re-conceive their total marketing footprint — everything from the contests they run to the creatives they showcase on social media to the design of their website. “Just using ToneDen opened up doors for me to recognize ways for us to improve,” he tells us, “we’re actually restructuring a new website now.”

Partially, the benefits are the guests. ToneDen makes buying tickets a “seamless, quick process, and certainly it’s been wonderful to be able to track the success of some of that return.” But Bronson is a performer at heart, and his heart is in the arts. He believes other comedy stores, comedians, entertainers, and magicians could benefit from ToneDen.

“We need more live entertainment and we need more software like ToneDen that gives us the ability to keep those seats full so that we can keep supporting live art, no matter what it is.”

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