In my last post, I spent some time talking about advance sales and discount ticketing strategies, as well as how it’s too easy to train the patron to wait for a better deal if you offer large discounts late in the game. I mentioned that “the right thing to do here is create a marketing strategy that offers the most discount to people who give up the most convenience.” It’s enticing and effective to trade one thing for another (in this case, giving up convenience to get a discount back). I think we’ll see this idea of “trading something for something else” pop up again later on.
I also began to talk about discount ticketing, below, we’ll cover group-based buying programs (the half-price ticket program being an old favorite, and new group-purchase sites such as Groupon.com and LivingSocial that have recently come on the scene).
Half-price tickets are hot. From the TKTS booth in New York City, to your local arts service organization with a half-price ticket list, the idea of “half-price tickets” activates the brain in an exciting way. First, there is the idea of the huge discount — similar to what you might feel when you say a $200 awesome leather jacket marked down to $100. A steal, right? Then there is the idea that they are limited (and we recommend limiting them) — get them while they’re hot, as they won’t be around long. Two powerful incentives to buy those tickets right now!
Pricing and marketing arts event tickets isn’t easy. When faced with the need to “put butts in seats” it can be tempting to do whatever it takes. In this article, I hope to give you some explanations on why some discounting strategies would be a better choice than others, and help you avoid some short-term successes that could lead to long-term problems. Picture this. You’re a big supporter of a large cultural music venue, so when you receive an email from the institution that tickets have gone on sale for an upcoming concert, you pick up the phone and buy your tickets (or better yet, buy online). You get your confirmation that you paid the listed price, and since the concert isn’t until a month from now, you go about your business. Three weeks later, you get an email from the same organization, offering two-for-one tickets for everyone who buys a ticket going forward. But only for people who haven’t bought yet. Wait a minute. You bought your tickets early, and now you can’t get the deal. You call the organization, and they tell you this offer is only for people who haven’t bought tickets yet. You’re angry, and understandably so. You think to yourself, “I could really make a scene here and demand that I be given the same offer,” but you probably don’t act on that idea. Instead, you smolder about it and swear to yourself that you’ll never be caught in THAT situation again. Next time, you’ll wait until you get the offer before buying anything.
I hear a lot of opinions about social media these days. A lot of them are positive, from people who have the time to experiment and build real relationships. And a lot of them are negative, from people who “tried it, but it didn’t work us” or from those who say they can’t see any return on investment (ROI). The latter can be due to a variety of issues, but often is due the difficult job of tracking social media movement. Think about wildlife trackers. They are skilled at seeing small signs and interpreting large results — a bent twig here, a small footprint there… the animal went that way. They see things others do not, because they have taken time to be trained to notice the small details. Tracking ROI on Facebook is similar, and subtle. If you get into the tracking mindset, you can discover a great many things, but even then you have to be ok with animals seemingly showing up out of nowhere at your box office. And the path they took to get there can jump many channels and be all over the place!
As an example, recently I decided to see a production of the “musical play” Opus at TheatreWorks in Mountain View, CA. It was excellent — the kind of theatre that changes you. My companion and I left the theater talking about the show from a bunch of different angles (mostly trying to decide if the last scene should have been kept in the show or cut — I favored keeping it). I went home, and jumped on Facebook. I wrote the following: