First-time Subscribers: Are You Inadvertently Turning Them Away?

Today’s guest blog post is written by Shasti Walsh, Training Specialist, Patron Technology. 

Dear arts marketers: I am your prime target.

I’m a long-time arts fan and frequent single-ticket buyer to many different organizations. I’m also reaching a point in my life where I’m a bit more financially secure and my schedule is a little more predictable. Two years ago I bought my first choose-your-own package of six shows at my favorite local performing arts organization; this year I upgraded to a full season package and started looking at introductory packages at other organizations. When I receive a brochure, via mail or email, I read through it for shows that interest me, and if I find more than three or so, I start thinking “Hmm, maybe I’ll try a small subscription this year.”

But recently, on two separate occasions, I planned to buy first-time subscription packages but have yet to follow through. Why?

Dear arts marketers: I am also your classic shopping-cart-abandoner.

In the first instance, I received a mailing from an organization I visit regularly. The brochure was gorgeous. The images were exciting, the show descriptions were compelling, and a few different pages mentioned that I could build my own subscription starting with as few as three shows — I was hooked! I made it all the way through the brochure, circling the shows I was most excited about along the way, eager to buy my first mini-subscription to the organization and lock in my seats in advance. I got to the end of the brochure, credit card in hand, ready to place my order, but there was no order form. 

Then I went back to the beginning, looking to see if I had somehow missed the part where it listed any details about various package options, such as the price, or where it said “To order your subscription, _____”, I hadn’t.

I then went on their website and clicked around until I found the “subscribe” link. I chose the build-your-own option on the menu and tried to add the shows I had circled in the brochure, but it turned out only one of those shows was available with a build-your-own package — the rest were only available as part of a different targeted full series. At that point, I gave up and decided that I’d buy single tickets to the shows I wanted to see, later, once single tickets are on sale if I remembered.

About a week later, I got a marketing email from a local classical music organization, and opened it on my phone, as I normally do. It mentioned a limited-time offer on a create-your-own package and had intriguing teasers about what the full season contained. I got excited and clicked through to see what options I might want and if a subscription might work for me.

The instructions said to “click here to choose your shows” so I clicked… the link opened a single scrolling list of the entire season (well over 100 performances), listed by performance date, in a non-phone-friendly format. For each option, all I could see was something like “SATURDAY 9/9/2017, 8:00PM — BEETHO…” I made a valiant effort, swapping between two tabs to read the performance descriptions in one and match that up with dates in the second, but after a solid ten minutes of that, you guessed it, I gave up. I’ll probably buy single tickets, though, once they go on sale, that is if I remember.

Dear arts marketers: I am feeling a little discouraged.

You’ve got great materials, your brochures are stunning, and your emails are compelling. But have you streamlined the steps your first-time subscribers will have to take in-between getting excited and submitting their order? Is your website mobile-optimized? Pretend to buy a subscription on your phone and see how it looks! Does your brochure include obvious information about how to place an order? Read through it as if you’re a stranger and make sure those instructions are clear.

A few days after the second instance, I got another season email from a different theater. This one was also exciting and made me think I might like to subscribe. In this case, I clicked through (again, on my phone), the website was phone-friendly and easy to navigate, the subscription options were straightforward, and less than a minute later I was a proud new subscriber to a theater I’ve been attending as a single ticket buyer for years. Now I can’t wait to bring my friends!

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