Talking Tickets 17 July 2020–NATB! Theatre! And, More!


Thanks for being here again this week. If you are enjoying this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues to sign up by visiting this link.

Did any of y’all get a chance to take in the NATB’s virtual conference this week? Let me know what you thought. 

If you are just here for the first time, hello! If you haven’t said hello in a while, send me a note…hit reply. I answer my own email! Also, don’t be surprised if you hear from me outside of the context of the weekly email…I like to just say hello from time to time as well! 

To the tickets! 


1. Change and turnover in sports business are coming over the next 12-18 months:

I definitely have been thinking a story like this would be coming at some point.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while anyway. 

The idea of changing the sales culture is something I talked about with Tony Knopp on my podcast last year and the situation for sales folks was only heading in a more dire direction before the pandemic. 

In the last 3 years, as I’ve traveled more and had a chance to connect with folks around the world speaking, consulting, and visiting, it was obvious to me that the way that sports, entertainment, and tickets were being sold in a lot of places wasn’t keeping up with what is happening in other industries. 

The article is good, check it out.

I do have some reservations about the way the role of CMO is described and I am concerned that the right skill sets might not be the ones that are hired for because we’ve seen talk of change and rethinking before only to see that become lip service. Along with a situation where if you aren’t careful, you hire for tactical benefit and not strategic benefit when strategy is what is needed. 

If I’m rethinking the business of ticket selling in sports, here are 3 things I’m looking at ASAP:

* Rethinking the value proposition of the in-game experience.

Strategy first in other words.

Over the past few years, as more sales have been happening online and prices have drastically increased on so many single seats and packages, the value proposition has failed to be clearly thought out. It often feels like “hot game”, “new building”, or “winning team” is the extent of things…and that’s a problem because if you watch Alabama football like me, you realize that being the best doesn’t mean you are sold out for life. 

* Marketing:

I’m all about a holistic approach to marketing with a recognition that you need to focus on the customer lifecycle, understanding customers at different parts of their journey, and cultivating the customers and fans of the future.

To learn how this stuff is done, there are great examples of museums, cars, food, and a host of other places where you can see the long-term and short-term benefits of different types of advertising and marketing campaigns. 

* Sales:

I’m working on getting one of the best sales thinkers in the world on my podcast to talk about how to reinvent a sales organization.

From the start, the evolution from phone crushers to more complete sales professionals has to begin.

I did some sales trainings at the end of last year and one of the biggest things we talked about was identifying your dream clients, prioritizing your sales efforts, and finding ways to add value through the sales process.

There’s more here including how to use marketing to drive sales and what sales need people and which ones you shouldn’t be using sales teams for, but start with some of the basics like prioritization, identifying prospects, and, maybe, some lead scoring. 

2. College football is teetering on the edge of not having a season in the fall: 

I’ve been pretty certain in my assessment that college football wasn’t going to be played this fall since April when I started hearing about folks in Miami making plans for holding the championship game in June. I didn’t spend too much time running down that idea because I was hoping we would get the virus under control in the States and Nick Saban could get the boys ready to roll. 

Unfortunately, like a lot of the world we live in currently…the only certainty in life is that we have no idea what the next few months are going to look like. 

The challenge for college football is that they are understandably trying to protect billions in revenue for this season.

But we are already seeing repercussions of the uncertainty in life as sports have been canceled at a lot of schools already. We are also seeing schools try and capture revenue from tickets under the assertion that the season is still going on and with very little in the way of a refund policy in place to give fans and alumni certainty in their purchase. Finally, we don’t know to what lengths schools might go to in an effort to try and cajole or threaten their donors into giving money to the schools, using tickets as a hostage. 

This brings up one big idea for me today:

This is the danger of kicking the can down the road and hoping for the best. 

I’ve heard a few stories this week about the efforts that conferences and government officials are pushing to help get college football happening in the fall. 

A better strategy, creating a comprehensive plan, and implementing it early in the year when the pandemic first started becoming an issue would have helped make many of the outcomes we are dealing with now a lot less likely. 

Think of it like maintenance on your car, preventive maintenance is always better than having to fix something that is broken from neglect

Of course, I had a neighbor that never did any preventive maintenance at all and when they went to sell must have spent $50,000 or more to fix up all the stuff that they didn’t fix…so who knows?

In many of our businesses, we are seeing the impact of the lack of stress testing and proper risk management. 

College football gives me room to offer up the idea that we all need to think through a few things going forward:

* How we rethink the live experience to make sure we get people coming back to our stadiums, arenas, and buildings when this is over because we can’t assume folks are just going to come running back. 

* What will a resilient organization for the future look like? If you look at the past 20 years, we’ve had 3 significant disruptions to our businesses in the States and each one has caused our basic value proposition to be brought into question. In 2001 and 2008-9, the businesses came back, but, again, this isn’t an assumption we can continue to make. Think about Kodak film.

Actually, there were two big ideas that this situation brought to mind, but I’ll get to that one in a moment when I talk about customer focus. 

3. Theatre still matters in 2020: 

This piece is a love letter to the need for theatre and the arts in 2020 and is specifically pointed at the UK, but let’s face it…the arts are more important than ever. 

The BBC dedicated a show this week to the impact of the lack of live events in the UK and what that is doing to the industry. (Many friends of the newsletter and the podcast are featured…so check it out and support them.) 

Even with the UK government offering aid, the outlook over the next few months is problematic or awful, depending on your mood that day. 

It is even worse in the US as something like 90% of independent venues could go out of business. I have no ready estimate for theatres and other venues that might not fit this classification, but it looks bad. 

This is potentially catastrophic for organizations around the world and we need to make sure that where we can, we take action. 

Last week, I added a section for job seekers or job offerings in the Talking Tickets Slack Channel. Check out what NIVA is doing, hook up with INTIX and their efforts, and look at what UK Theatre is doing. If you know of something going on and you think I need to know about it, send it along. I’ll try and continue to highlight the best efforts and collect things so we can take a consistent action around getting support for folks in the arts and entertainment

This is a short one, but take action by writing, calling, giving, or doing what little thing you can to support the entertainment business now. 

4. New Jersey considers a ticket buyer’s bill of rights: 

I had a chance to speak during the NATB’s virtual conference this week and it was great to see two days of really big crowds gather to talk tickets from the primary side, the secondary side, and all points in between. 

A key theme from me, Patrick Ryan, Corey Gibbs, Maureen Andersen, and almost everyone that shared ideas on Tuesday and Wednesday was the idea of putting the customer first. 

I’ll only speak for myself when I say this, but customer first has often only been lip service. 

The reality is that before the pandemic, consumers had more choices than ever before. We were seeing folks voting with their wallets to do other things because real attendance was pretty bad for a lot of teams, sports, and events. 

I chatted with Nicki Purcell from Lifeblue this week and we talked about being customer-focused…and the reality is that there are tons of businesses that are bending over backward to give customers everything they want and then some to win their business. 

Here is the point, put yourself in your customer’s and your prospect’s shoes right now and think about how you would want to be treated. 

This means that we need to be conscious of the competitive landscape our venues, teams, and shows exist in.

We have to recognize the other things fighting for our customer’s attention.

And, we have to act in a way that allows us to earn their business, not just expect them to come. 

5. Sports are better with fans, aren’t they? 

I’ve mentioned the lack of energy in a lot of the Premier League matches and other leagues…not that it is anyone’s fault, it is what the situation requires. (I still think the injection of the FIFA crowd noise for Premier League matches has been the best…but I am biased.) 

We’ve seen people all over the world work hard to try and take a little of the sting out of the lack of fans by using cutouts, pumping in crowd noise, and even putting robots into the stands. 

That’s all well and good.

Find as many creative ideas as you can. I put out a list of 101 ways to monetize your events last year and maybe I’ll update it to reflect the pandemic. 

But lately, I feel like each week has presented a theme to me and if I had to put my finger on it, I’d say that this week’s theme is definitely the need to cultivate your fan bases with better marketing and selling because like Richard Scudamore says in the great book, The Club: “An empty stadium is a terrible soundstage for a TV production.” 

Once we can welcome fans back, we don’t want to have our reopening met with a thud or the echo of a ball bouncing in an empty stadium. 

I’d point you back to the points at the top, but three things to leave you with this week:

First, what are you doing today to rethink your value proposition to your customers? 

This doesn’t just apply to the primary sellers or secondary market sellers, it applies to everyone…how are you going to add value today, tomorrow, and going forward? 

You need help thinking that through, let me know. 

Second, any business has two jobs: marketing and innovation. 

Thank you, Peter Drucker! 

But knowing that the experience of attending a concert, game, or event is likely to be different for the near future, what are you doing to think through your marketing efforts to reach your core audience or your new audiences?

How are you going to innovate the experience so that folks feel safe coming back? Are excited to come back? Or, to give them something new when they do come back? 

Finally, how are you changing your thinking around how you sell tickets? 

I’ve pointed to Australia and the sports clubs in Australia as having really great and innovative ways of working to capture ticket sales with their membership programs, their digital efforts, and their sales teams that take a different and more focused prospecting approach. 

The thing is that we should ask ourselves what is working, was working, and be brutally honest about what wasn’t working. Then come up with a plan for dealing with it. 

Want to talk about this? Reply to this email. 

I partnered with a corporate entertainment client last year and we rethought their sales processes and grew their business in less than 90 days. 


What am I up to this week? 

Well, you can join me and Ken Troupe for a drink this afternoon at our weekly Happy Hour

Check out my podcast, ‘The Business of Fun‘. Lots of new episodes coming down the pike! I’m working on getting two special guests: one to talk about reimagining your career in light of the current crisis and positioning yourself to have the role or the impact you want. And, the man that I think is the smartest sales thought leader in the country! So you’ll want to subscribe! 

I’ve been sure to update my blog a lot more consistently! So go there. I’m starting to feel like my old, grumpy self again! 

I’m in DC this week! So if you want to chat, I’m here. 

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