What’s the #1 reason to sell tickets online? The answer may seem obvious, but most people in our industry get this wrong.
There are certainly many benefits that follow when a patron buys a ticket online. We tend to focus on the operational and customer service benefits: Online ticketing lessens the work at the box office, allows people to buy tickets during off-hours, provides a wider distribution of our tickets to people who might not know our organization well, and puts the customer in control of the entire experience.
But all of that fails to identify the most important benefit, which is all about marketing and fundraising. When you sell online, you collect rich customer information — name, address, email, and sometimes other demographic data.
Let’s be honest: The walk-up customer who pays cash for a ticket is a lost opportunity. You have no way to reach that person after the performance, no way to build a relationship, and no way to assess how interested he or she is in your organization after the fact. Which means you can’t raise money from that patron — ever.
The idealized path for audience development looks something like this: You bring people into your organization for the first time, coax them to come back a second time, engage them further to turn them into subscribers or members, and then get them to become donors. If that goes well, perhaps they’ll become lifelong donors or even board members. But the whole equation falls apart if you don’t start with getting those customers’ information the first time they show up!
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked with in just the past month who complain that vast numbers of patrons flow in and out of their organizations every year and they have no idea who they are.
My solution to this is simple: Make it an organization-wide goal to get (at minimum) the name and email address of every person who makes a transaction. What’s the easiest way to do that? Incentivize online ticket sales! When patrons buy online you have to get their names and contact info, and you can also collect additional information about how they heard about you, or their contact preferences. When that data is associated with their customer records in your CRM system, you’ll be able to communicate with those people again, in a targeted way (segmenting by when they bought, what type of ticket, etc.).
I encourage you to embark on an obsessive and never-ending quest to improve your website buying experience so more and more people will buy online, and fewer and fewer will pay cash at the door. (This is particularly challenging in a museum environment, where advance purchase and limited seating is never a problem. That just means you have to work harder to entice people to buy online.)
What might you do to achieve this? Well, for one thing, why not charge more at the door than online? I still don’t understand why more organizations don’t set their ticket prices lower online than at the venue — after all, we are all familiar with “early bird” specials that get people to buy tickets in advance. Why don’t we do this as a matter of course, like the airlines do, offering web-special pricing for people who buy on the Internet versus in a walk-up or over the phone?
All of this boils down to your overall marketing and fundraising strategy. What is the most important thing your organization could be doing to improve your bottom line? Increasing the percentage of people who buy from you online opens the door to an enormous relationship-building opportunity.
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February 11, 2014
Last weekend I arrived at the Southwest Airlines check-in counter at 9:30am for a flight at 11. As I hoisted my luggage onto the scale, the ticketing agent said, “We’ve got a flight departing at 9:50; do you want to get on that instead?” I hesitated, thinking it would be a huge hassle to change the flight, but practically before I could say, “Wow, is that really possible?” he handed me a new boarding pass. This interaction got me thinking about how differently Southwest operates from other airlines, and what we might learn from it.
I’m a bit of a student of the airline industry because I believe that, more than any other industry, it offers a useful analogue to the arts and live entertainment field: The value of their product drops to zero the moment the flight takes off, customers are obsessed with where they will sit, and pricing is incredibly complicated by deals and discounts. Those familiar qualities suggest we ought to notice and analyze every innovation that the airlines try out... and Southwest is one of the most innovative.
If you know anything about how Southwest handles reserved seating, you know that basically they just don’t. They line you up at the gate in number order based on when you check in for your flight, and then when you get on the plane, it’s entirely open seating. There are definitely trade-offs for the consumer because you don’t get to know where you’re sitting in advance — however, the upside of this approach revealed itself to me last week. How long and how much effort does it take to switch your seat on another airline? A lot! (click to read more...)
’Tis the season to summarize 2013 and predict the future. And this year, my summary is pretty simple. Technology now serves a new master: the customer. It’s helping companies of all types and sizes (especially small ones) build the kinds of direct and personal relationships that marketers have dreamed about for decades. This is the essence of marketing, and the essence of CRM.
For those of you who produce live events, here are a few examples of what I mean:
- The night before your next show, send an email to all first-time ticket buyers welcoming them and inviting them to meet a board member in the lobby.
- When you’re in the theatre, view a report on your iPhone to know where major donors are sitting.
- Get a notification as major donors arrive and scan their tickets, so you can greet each one personally.
- The next morning, email ticket buyers who attended; include a trackable offer for your next show. Follow that up three days later with a message to only the non-openers. Track responses and ROI as they happen.
- Track social posts and conversations about your organization within all social networks (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Pinterest, and Twitter) and prioritize the people you respond to by how much influence they have (based on their number of followers).
- Standing in your lobby, access your entire customer database from your mobile phone, and review your patrons’ donor history and most recent emails. Create a task for a co-worker to follow up with a patron next week.
As you can see, by having a single cloud-based CRM system, you can interact with customers more effectively, send them more targeted communications, and create an ongoing record of all your interactions with them in one place. And with the rise of mobile devices, you can do all of this on a mobile phone, iPad, or your computer at the office.
At Patron Technology, we saw this transformational potential of CRM early — nearly four years ago — when I wrote this blog post introducing CRM to the arts industry. (click to read more...)
Today's guest blog post is written by John Kollmer, Assistant Client Success Manager here at Patron Technology.
In recent years there has been a huge push in the business world to collect, study, and use data on our patrons. Although this was once only a concern for big box franchises and Wall Street firms, the importance and usefulness of data-awareness quickly spread to small businesses and non-profits; what was once out of reach is now quickly becoming standard practice, whether you have one employee or 100. It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that the only good data is clean data, but what exactly is “clean data” and how can you ensure that your data is good?
The answer lies in the system that your organization is using to obtain and store your data. Collecting data is easy enough to do; but once you have that data, what does your organization do with it? Take a look at your system and your staff’s procedures, and figure out what, if any, changes are needed to improve the health of your data — a solid foundation is the key to maximizing the potential later. Let’s look at some examples of how many organizations collect data on their patrons, with an eye for what is working and not working. (click to read more...)
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