3 Lessons For All Ticket Sellers From Rob Davies’ Viagogo Article

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Rob Davies wrote a piece in The Guardian yesterday about Viagogo’s traffic falling off the cliff since July when Google shut down their use of Google’s AdWords platform due to Google feeling like Viagogo was in breach of their terms and conditions.

While most folks are going to be applauding the fall of one of the more notorious actors in the secondary market, I think the lessons from this situation are informative to all people selling tickets and experiences and that we can all learn a few lessons. Here are 3 that I think are important to always keep top of mind:

  1. Your marketing mix can’t and shouldn’t rely too heavily on just one platform.
  2. Relying on your platform partners to sell tickets for you and drive your sales can be a risky proposition.
  3. Every business has one job: create and keep customers.

Let’s dig a little bit more into each of these points.

What does your marketing mix look like?

In Rob’s article, he lays out that Viagogo’s traffic dipped around 80% when Google took action against the company. Then there is a quote from Viagogo talking about their marketing mix with a lot of blah, blah, blah, about diversity and other things that don’t seem to be true by the surface.

This is important because Scott Galloway has written a lot about the power of Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple to make or break your business because of the way that they have perverted the way we market and sell things due to the sheer size and control their businesses have over the act of commerce in countries around the world.

In a less long-winded way, this means those four companies pervert your marketing mix.

Another way of looking at it is that they pervert your marketing mix and most marketers are lazy and don’t go deeper than everyone else is using Google AdWords, Facebook ads, and we will throw in a few things to call it a mix.

I’m far from saying you shouldn’t be using tools that work, but when you rely so heavily on any one source for your traffic or the impact of your advertising, you are in danger of being disrupted anytime that platform gets a wild hair that they want to take out on someone.

This isn’t a secondary market only problem either. We’ve seen the capricious nature of what Twitter, Facebook, Google, and other companies call inside or outside of their terms of service and we know that there isn’t anything resembling consistency going on with any of these organizations.

So the first point here is that all of us need to really give a hard look to our marketing mix and ask ourselves a series question, “Does our marketing and advertising rely too heavily on someone else’s platform or someone else’s audience?”

If the answer is “yes, actually!” What are you doing to do to change that, now?

Putting all your eggs in someone else’s basket…not a great idea:

I am hopeful that all of you have heard the cliche: “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.”

When I read Rob’s article, I see a lot of businesses that have all of their eggs in other people’s baskets.

In the States, far too many people rely on StubHub, Ticketmaster, Vivid Seats, and others to market and sell their inventory. In other parts of the world we have other companies filling those roles, but the point remains…far too many transactions are happening on other people’s sites or due to other people outside of the organization.

Why has this happened?

The why here deserves its own post, but here are two primary ideas about why:

  1. The secondary market has done a better job of marketing and branding themselves as the destinations for tickets. But with that marketing and branding success has come a number of unintended consequences that artists, teams, and venues are struggling to overcome.
  2. While the secondary market has been doing a good job of marketing and branding, far too many organizations in the arts, sports, and other forms of entertainment have lost the plot on how to effectively brand, market, and sell their products. This has fed point 1.

These things act like a feeder system for each other.

The big point here for anyone selling tickets or experiences is that having partners is great, essential, even, in today’s world. But you can’t rely on your partners to have all the answers to your challenges. And, expecting them to and putting all of your eggs in their ability to solve your problems; to sell and market you effectively at all times, that’s a losing proposition.

The most basic idea behind any business:

Businesses have one job: create and keep customers.

What the story about Viagogo’s loss of traffic shows me is that they were really great at creating customers, but seemingly awful at keeping them.

This is more dangerous than it seems on the surface for many reasons.

First, you have the whole way that Viagogo was practicing business and the number of legal complaints, public relations nightmares, and consumer uprisings against the company.

You might think that this is a Viagogo issue, but it really isn’t.


Because most consumers aren’t necessarily going to attach all of the blame to Viagogo.

They are going to just look at their experience as depressing, bad, and move on…maybe to write off going to shows or not going to shows nearly as often any longer.

Looking at the real attendance numbers and the Twitter feed of Empty Seats Galore, none of us can really allow that to happen.

Second, if you are selling so many tickets and still 80% of your traffic is coming through Google AdWords, this is a pretty clear sign that your keeping customers post-sale activities aren’t up to snuff.

It is simple math.

If you were doing a good job of keeping your customers, you wouldn’t see an 80% drop in traffic to your site when one piece of your marketing mix shut you down.

Third, while I’ve looked at Viagogo with the first two points, this same idea applies to every platform or partner.

If everything is built on driving traffic through external acquisition, that is a game that is expensive to play and can often change by a fluke of chance.

This entire situation lays bare a well-worn idea of mine that I don’t see resolving itself in the near term, but our job as people trying to grow and sustain our businesses, organizations, and audiences is that we have to control the way that we acquire and keep our customers.

While there is a lot of room for partners and will continue to be room for partners, this Viagogo story highlights the need for all of us to do everything in our power to ensure that no one platform can make or break our business, we don’t rely on any one source to market and sell our experiences, and, maybe, most importantly, we need to always focus on the end goal of creating and keeping a customer and that job really has to lie internally.

What say you on the topic? Let me know in the comments below! 


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