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Losing customers

Beware software systems claiming they are FREE

There are many ticketing and related software systems out there marketing themselves as FREE.  The truth is they are not, and the reality is that their pricing model may drive your customers away.It's NOT free, onthestage.com, On The Stage, tickettailor.com, Ticket Tailor

We all know that nothing is free.  We are also smart enough to know that a claim of being free is merely a tactic to try to entice you in.  This is a hook that unfortunately too often successfully manages to ensnare some people who don’t consider the ramifications of a pricing model where the service is free… to THEMSELVES only.

When a ticketing system claims to be free, it simply means that their fees are not charged to you, as the client organization.  Instead, fees are added on top of the ticket costs to your patrons during their purchase, and all too often these fees are exorbitantly high, provide no options to you for amount charged to the patron, or are some sliding amount that makes it impossible to publish a fixed price.  Try explaining why a $20 published ticket price is actually $21.47 to a patron.  In these cases you typically are without options, and these  fees jeopardize the relationships and loyalty of your patrons that you work so hard to build, all before they ever set foot in your door.

Another ramification of this model is that a) patron disapproval of the added fee costs may drive them and you to try to sell more tickets via your box office where you may not charge fees. This leads to b) having data in multiple places that complicates your marketing communications, patron analysis and more, and c) means you lose the powerful benefit of having more patrons buy online, self serve, taking a load off your staff and providing better customer service. Also, what kind of support is offered by company that is claiming to be free to use?  When you need assistance quickly, help or advice from experts, where will you turn?  Over time, these issues become more and more detrimental and unsustainable.

We love our customersArts People instead not only offers you a variety of fee options to best suit your business model, but also gives you  complete control over how much of the fees you might want to pass to your patrons, how much you pay yourself as a planned business expense, or how much you embed into your ticket prices.  For example, if the fee is $.95, you could simply increase your ticket price by $1 and not show any added fees on your patron’s purchase. Or perhaps you add $.50 per ticket, and the rest you simply absorb.  You can even put a cap on fees to the patron, such as $.50 for the first 4 tickets, after that no additional fees to them.  With our unique pricing controls there are infinite options for you to tailor the pricing application to ensure that your patrons take top priority.  Unhappy patrons, before they ever attend your performance, is NOT a good business model… and we know how patrons really don’t like added fees.

It is important to note that many of our clients report increased ticket sales and donations after they come on board with Arts People. The added revenue may completely cover your costs of using the system. This, along with some simple additional offerings such as selling ad space on your print at home tickets, or sponsorship of your online shopping cart, etc.. and you can more than pay for the system that actually helps you to build your audience and develop lasting relationships with your patrons and donors.

More and more we see clients electing to not charge fees to their patrons at all. Anything that jeopardizes those relationships is not a good idea.  Try looking at other performing arts groups in your area.  Are they adding fees on top?  If so, do you want to do the same? Charge less in fees?  Or would you rather be able to communicate proudly to your patrons that you don’t add any fees?  With Arts People, you get to make all those decisions, and we’re here ready to assist you at any time.

Three words for every performing arts organization – Know Your Niche


I regularly speak to performing arts organizations that try to do all and be all to their community.  The result?

  • They struggle to find their audience.
  • They burn out, barely hang on, and slowly decline.
  • They wonder why the community doesn’t come out en masse to support them.

Ask yourself…

  1. “What would your loyal patrons say draws them to you and keeps them coming back?”
  2. “If you surveyed patrons who have attended only one of your events in the past but have not returned. What would be the reason?”
  3. “Of patrons who attend other arts organizations but have chosen NOT to attend yours, what caused them to make that choice?”
  4. “Of all the people working with your organization, what would they say is your artistic focus, that also makes them want to work with you?  Would they have an immediate and concise answer?”

If you don’t have a clear idea of what the above responses would be, it’s probably time to hone your niche.

It’s a pretty commonly held concept that no single arts organization can be all things to all people. Otherwise said, we can’t please everyone all the time. It’s also can be said that when we think of a region or population area that “has a great arts scene” or “is culturally rich” that one contributing factor is that there’s a great variety of cultural or arts options available; that there is something for everyone. So we obviously value diversity in arts options, which also translates to a variety of arts organizations.  We love choices; different audiences, different tastes, different interests.

 

Now, let’s imagine.  If one organization were to try to be that variety for their community, and if they hope to achieve it with a degree of quality and consistency, some of the challenges might be

  1. How to attract talent interested in doing your work. While an artist might be interested in one project in your season, they might find no interest in the rest. How do you build and cultivate relationships with a core group of artists and technicians when their interests vary one project to the next?
  2. Audiences also may be divided over your work. They might be drawn to buy tickets to one show that peaks their interests. If they enjoy it they may want to come back. But the next show isn’t their taste at all and then they are disappointed, alienated, and often won’t be back.

So what does this mean for developing relationships with both the artists who create the work, and audiences who want to come see it?  Generally will mean that you’re working to gather talent and audience for each of your projects individually, with greater challenges developing a loyal group interested in your work as a whole.  

So is the model of trying to do something for everyone within a single arts organization sustainable? I think if we look historically at these types of organizations, and to the groups trying to please their community with palatable shows that offend no one and try to please everyone, that this just isn’t the case. These groups struggle year after year in their marketing and communications, their ticketing and fundraising, and to sustain without much growth, and often with a gradual decline in their attendance. Without loyalty in your audience, they are also much more at risk of catastrophe if specific projects miss the mark for audience satisfaction.  A single ticket audience is far less forgiving than the audience that enjoys your body of work over time.

 

So, what is the alternative? It is to find and hone your niche and stick to it.

What is it your organization is really about?  What is the type of work that the collective members of your organization agree on as their primary interest?  Do you focus on classical theatre with a fresh approach?  Do you focus on contemporary dance, including a commitment to new work each season?  Is it non-narrative musical performance art, or tried and true standards done remarkably well?  Dig deep. Find what it is that excites you as a group and that you are accomplished at creating.  Make the big decision and agree to stick to it and do it better than anyone else in your area.  Become the experts on that particular form.  You may find that some of your members don’t agree.  If so, it may be time for them to move on as you clarify what your niche is.  

 

Once that is decided, and the quality and passion shows through, you will work to find the audience who loves it as well.  Artists interested in that pursuit will seek you out.  News will spread and reach other organizations that are passionate about that type of work.  You’ll be able to better cultivate relationships and build loyalty in your audience, graduate them to donor support, membership and greater participation.

You must stick to the work you love, so the passion comes through with every project, every performance, every moment.  Communicate this clearly in every message.  Those who love that work will find you, and will be as passionate about it as you are.  They will be your advocates, your army, your cheering section.  

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Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts PeoplePatrick Spike is Marketing Director of Arts People, with the company for over 10 years. He has 30 years in performing arts administration, marketing and creation. www.patrickspike.com