Earn more money

by Jini Stolk

Let’s forget about phrases like “up-sell” and “cross-sell”, although they’re scattered liberally throughout a 7-minute Audience View video I like. Let’s think instead about how we can boost sales and income by putting ourselves in the shoes of our audience members when they’re buying tickets.

Since EVERY performing arts organization is a social enterprise (i.e., we engage in selling tickets and other items not to make a profit but to continue making art that has an impact on human and social well-being) each sale we make advances our mission. Thus we should be devoting a lot of creative energy towards making the most of each online sale in a way that’s sensitive to what our audiences want and need.

The video is filled with I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that ideas that can be as useful, with some imaginative adaptations, for small and mid-size companies as for the large houses the video uses as examples. Here are a few ideas I thought of:

  • instead of making people line up to buy a glass of wine at intermission, or making them line up before the show to order that drink, how about giving ticket-buyers the chance to pre-order a drink that can be picked up quickly and easily during intermission
  • helping people plan their evenings by adding links on your ticket ordering pages to the reservation sites of a few fabulous local restaurants – this could also secure some great new sponsorships
  • giving people the opportunity to purchase your beautiful t-shirts/carry bags when they order tickets – this should be de rigueur during the holiday season, but who knows when an audience member is searching for that perfect gift for someone special
  • letting them know about your plans to upgrade your theatre space, and giving all ticket buyers the opportunity to make a contribution to their own and others’ enjoyment of your lobby, washrooms, etc.

Of course we don’t want to force people through a thicket of hard-sell merchandising when they mostly want to pay for and get their tickets. But “leaving money on the table” is fundraising’s most egregious sin, and I wonder if it’s not just as big a problem in sales. I’m hoping to see a few elegantly or amusingly phrased, customer service-minded new options next time I order tickets.

Here’s another piece that offers useful advice to arts marketers. The National Endowment for the Arts recently posted a three-part blog series by Sara Leonard (part one is here , with links to parts two and three), unpacking their 2015 research on barriers and motivations to arts attendance for marketing staff faced with interpreting these findings in a practical way. It’s one thing for people (like me) to say we should learn from large audience surveys to reach our own audiences in more effective ways . These posts tell us how.

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