The single largest challenge facing the live ticketing industry today is…

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I’m just back from a quick chat with some executives at a few ticket companies on both the primary side and the secondary side and the overarching theme of every conversation was the need to generate more demand. 

Which couldn’t be more obvious.

At this point, most people are familiar with the ongoing debate about the challenges that Major League Baseball is facing in getting people to actually go to the ballpark. 

This mirrors the ongoing decline in attendance at NFL games, MLS matches, college football games, and on and on. 

While we have any number of excuses that are offered up:

  • Millennials are bored by the pace of baseball.
  • People can’t be torn away from their in-home experience.
  • Sports is too violent…too long…too expensive.

All of which may or may not be true. 

What is certainly true is the idea that all of these challenges aren’t challenges of demographics, but challenges of demand…specifically the fact that whatever it is being sold isn’t perceived to be valuable enough to get people to make a buying decision. 

I’ve gone on and on here about the challenges of pricing. 

I still feel like a lot of pricing decisions are based on faulty data such as what prices are listed at on the secondary market.

But even more than just the fact that many tickets are poorly priced at the start, they have the additional issue of then being discounted. 

These factors run into each other and create one of marketings worst problems, the loss of brand integrity. 

How would I define brand integrity?

I’ll define it as the perception that your market holds in their mind about the value of your product or service. 

It is the flip side of the differentiation gap, which is the gap between how you are viewed in the market and how you perceive you are viewed in the market. 

What we see in the world of tickets is a wide gap between how sports, concerts, and entertainment view themselves and how their consumers view them.

The bad news, this gap is widening. 

This is in part due to the poor demand generation practices that are being undertaken by venues, teams, and other sellers. 

You can’t expect that someone is going to pay full price for a season ticket if you know that there is a strong likelihood that they are going to be able to sit next to someone that paid pennies on the dollar for a comparable seat a week or so before the game. 

You can’t expect that someone is going to buy their ticket early if you know that the secondary market has trained people to take a chance on waiting until the last minute to buy a ticket because there might be an abundance of inventory. 

And, in the above situation, it could be worse because instead of waiting for the price to drop to buy…the price could rise or fall and people just decide not to go at all. 

I could go on, but all of these issues come back to demand and incentives. 

Here are 3 quick ideas about how you can work to increase the perceived value, build demand, and sell tickets. 

Incentivize early purchase: 

There are likely tons of different ways you can incentivize behavior. Here are a few, none perfect, but better than doing nothing at all.

  1. Offer a bonus for early purchase. When U2 came to DC, they offered a copy of their new album to all purchasers. I bought my tickets at the box office, so I never got mine! But that does open the door to offering an incentive for early purchase. Maybe a special t-shirt, or an experiential aspect during the show or game? 
  2. Release tickets in a different manner: I realize that there will be problems with any system that offers prices that elevate over time or that don’t release tickets at once, but I think that the current system sometimes does a lot to depress demand unless you are a band like Pearl Jam that is almost guaranteed to sell out every show they do at this point. Maybe you can roll out tickets like airlines do, with different prices and locations dropping in over time. 

Get better at marketing and selling to customers over a lifetime: 

I think one area that we all need to focus on more and more is how do we increase the lifetime value of a customer. 

One way is that we pay attention to them over the long term. 

With all the talk about data, one thing that I know is that in many cases, the data is captured and never used…or never used effectively. 

That’s a missed opportunity. 

The secondary market does a much better job of getting you into their system and working very hard to keep you there. This is one of the benefits they have gained due to the fact that tech companies try to optimize a lot of their practices, they do a better job of working to keep you buying in their ecosystem. 

The sad fact is that too many places are doing too little to make sure that customers don’t buy just once, but buy over and over again. 

Customer acquisition costs are high and for most people, getting higher. The cheapest form of customer acquisition is to treat the customers you have already like gold! 

You do that and you are going to have a much easier job building continuous demand. 

What does this look like in practice?

1. Ensure that the experience your customers and guests receive at the venue is top notch. 

Customer service is the best form of marketing and building a long-term relationship with a customer begins with the first touch point. 

That’s why it isn’t enough to optimize the customer journey through the ticket buying process, you also have to make sure that they are treated well when they get to the venue and that every care is taken to make sure that people have the best time possible. 

This means keeping an eye on the interactions with the various ushers, ticket takers, and vendors. 

It means working to ensure a quick ingress and egress. 

It means working to make sure that F&B is quality and the lines are as fast as possible. 

On and on. 

2. Follow up after the fact:

This doesn’t mean for you to just send a quick, “We hope you enjoyed your visit” email. Which if we are being honest with each other, feels a lot like sitting on hold and listening to the loop of, “Your call is very important to us.” 

Follow up in a genuine way. 

Maybe you pick a random number of ticket buyers and email, call, text.

Maybe you incentivize people to give you honest feedback. 

Whatever version it takes, make sure you are learning about your customers after the fact. 

3. Stay in touch with your buyers: 

My friend, Peter Shankman, will tweet out, email out, and Facebook out a reminder that you should be reaching out to your network at least 2-3 times a year. 

Which is a good thing to think about because for too many venues, the only time they reach out to the customers is when they want something…preferably for you to spend money. 

This is bad and I bet it hurts demand and conversions without looking at the data. 

Why can I say that?

Because I’m a human and if someone only comes with their hand out, I don’t take too kindly to that. 

So make sure you are staying in touch with your audience as much as possible. 

Think of a newsletter that you can create…this was an example that Adam White gave me on my podcast recently. He talked about how Lexus generates prospects through the racing events that they sponsor and instead of just blasting them with a pitch, they feed them interesting and relevant content that moves them closer and closer to the brand so that when the person is in buying mode, Lexus is right there. 

You can and should do the same. 

Because I might not be a good prospect for Cher, but I might be a great prospect for Britney Spears. 

And, if you are delivering value through the way you communicate with me consistently, I’m likely to pay a little more attention and have greater awareness when those opportunities bring themselves around. 

Rethink the value proposition: 

Ultimately, this is everything. 

People don’t buy things that they don’t see value in. 

We might say its too expensive, but what we mean is that it doesn’t have value to us. 

We might say that something isn’t interesting to us, but we mean it doesn’t seem like a good use of our time. 

On and on this cycle goes. 

One of the things I have been pushing here and everywhere I go is that you have to keep in mind that you aren’t your market. 

In some cases, you might share a similarity or two, but in most instances, your market isn’t the same as you are. So making value decisions off of what you think is cool, valuable, or interesting is often a quick way to cut short your sales. 

The reality is that there likely isn’t a one-size fits all scenario for anyone, but that shouldn’t give you permission to offer cookie-cutter solutions or to not offer any new value. 

It does require you to be more creative in the way that you view and create value. 

At arenas all over the world, far too much emphasis is placed on the waiter service, catering, and parking spaces when selling premium. 

Quick secret: premium buyers don’t care! 

Their assistant might. They don’t.

They care about their ability to entertain a client or prospect. They care about their ability to have a good night with their family. Or, something else. 

You have to make that clear in your value proposition. 

This goes for everything you are selling. 

The days of just rolling open the doors and waiting for people to throw money at you are over. You have to earn that more than ever before. 

That means you have to be creative, you have to be thoughtful, and you have to be consistent. 

Other than that, demand creation is pretty simple. 

What do you say? What ideas do you have to improve demand generation? 

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