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Marketing Ideas

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Marketing to the Customer

Marketing really depends on the buying habits of the customers. Good things to assist the process are:

  • Sell the next season during the last show of the previous year. If the organization had a good show/season , it is easy to pick up 20% or more subscribers for the next year. Make sure that the price that the subscriber can buy for is the lowest possible (e.g. do not invent a discount to be used later in the year that makes the early subscriber think that they should have waited). Typical discounts for early season subscriptions is 20-25% or 5 shows for the price of 4. Something that will enhance those sales is a deadline where regular subscription prices are only 10-15% discounts.

  • There is usually a local paper section that everybody reads for movie listings, entertainment guides, upcoming events. Choose that paper and advertise in it. A suggestion for a season that starts in the fall is to put something in the paper that coincides with early renewals -- it can usually be included with advertising for the last show of the previous year.

  • Decima Research (A Canadian study in the arts industry in the early 1990's) indicated that 50% of the people make their buying decision 4 weeks in advance of the show. So for a 4 week run, start advertising 4-5 weeks in advance and throughout the show. Also, most people read a specific days newspaper. In Calgary, the 'Scene' comes out on Friday - so Friday is an extremely good day to advertise; followed by a Tuesday advertisement.

  • People listen to radio on the way to work; so a contract deal with a local radio station for a few free tickets for a caller as long as the giveaway is done during the morning driving hour is a good thing. Depending on the type of theatre, give away a show package that is less than the average number of attendees - so that they will be compelled to buy one or more tickets. (e.g. For children's theatre, the average attendance is 3.5 (one adult and 1-3 children, so give away only two tickets).

Getting names in the database is very important for direct mail. Good 'guerrilla' tactics are:

  • Have a draw for a meal for two at a local restaurant - but the patron must provide name, address, telephone number, etc. Drawing is done on the last performance. Now the names can go into the database. Chances are the local restaurant will give the organization the meal in exchange for some tickets.

  • Use a 2 for 1 coupon book and make the coupons valid for slow performances (e.g. Wednesdays or Thursday). Some people will do anything for a discount and the organization gets their name.

  • Do some co-op advertising with a local business and use their mail list. A clothing store or electronics place where they record names is a good thing - ideas may include 10% off a tie with purchase of a ticket or 10% of a ticket with purchase of a tie -- they do the mailer with the theatre's flyer and everybody wins.

Organize some special days where the people get to interact with the production people. Examples are:

  • Talk back to the director day.

  • Special award night.

  • Autograph day for the kids where actors sign for the kids in the lobby.

  • Sleep-overs in the theatre (the organization can charge a bundle for the tickets).

  • Theatre Tour and wine tasting night.

Remember to use a mail list. Once people buy, target them for similar shows and they will buy again. They just need to be asked. A telemarketing campaign to people on the list who have not yet bought subscriptions during the last show and before the early discount arrives is a very good thing. Best time to get people is between 5:00-8:00pm. And the caller needs to have a good script like:

  • Noticed you came to our show for the first (or second) time...

  • How did you like it...

  • Anything that would have improved your experience and made it more enjoyable...

  • Would you like to be our partner next year and come to all shows...

  • etc., etc., etc.,

It's all about building a personal relationship with the customer.


Determining When the Customer will Buy

The ideal time to sell tickets is dependent on the customer base purchasing habits. Evaluate if the customer base plans out their activities, or whether they wait until the last minute to make a purchase decision. Once the organization determines the purchasing habits, then determine the most effective time to advertise the event, at which time, be prepared to start selling tickets. There is no need to advertise unless the customers are in a situation to buy.

The organization may find that people typically buy tickets first thing in the morning (e.g. 9:00 am), over an extended lunch hour (11:30 am - 2:00 pm) and there is always a rush before 5:00 pm. In the hour before the event, there will be walk up sales so plan on having the box office open at least an hour and a half before the event starts.

For a large community or city where there is competition with other events, start advertising and selling tickets 6 to 8 weeks in advance to insure that they purchase the organization's tickets first before another organizations tickets. For a smaller community or town where there is less competition with other events, start advertising and selling tickets 3 to 4 weeks in advance.

If the event adverting is focused for children, the organization may find that many tickets will be purchased at the last minute, as children get sick; go to birthday parties; have recreational activities (soccer, hockey, baseball) and the parents may not make a decision to go until the event is within the next few days. With events focused on adults, the organization normally can count on them more, so the organization may see that they will purchase tickets more in advance as they plan what they will be doing in the upcoming weeks.

Again, the key to determining when the best time to sell tickets has to start with knowing the purchasing habits of the potential customers and knowing the audience that the organization is trying to attract.

And remember to use Theatre Manager to assist in finding out purchasing trends. Theatre Manager's cash flow report tells when people buy for a show. It's very important because the organization should see two or three major humps. One at early season renewal, one in the fall when the season subscription campaign occurs, and sales start to rise about 4 weeks in advance of the show. There should be mini spikes after a prior day's advertising. (e.g. Friday should see some extra Saturday sales, or a Tuesday advertising should see some Wednesday sales). If not, move around the advertising to different days, or move around to different advertisers.