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Are you penalizing your patrons for making your life easier?

As we work with various clients, coming to us from various other systems, we see numerous former cases of patrons being charged high fees when they buy their tickets online.

Many ticketing systems don’t give you, the customer, the ability to set what fees you want to charge to your patrons.  They often try to make this sound like you get to their system for “free,” since the patron is paying their high fees.  But also it usually means that your organization has no option of how you want to apply fees to patron ticket orders. Thankfully, the Arts People system allows you to set fees in a number of ways; per ticket, per order, box office vs online vs door sales, per subscription package, with a maximum per order, etc.

We also see cases where clients have set up to charge higher fees for online buyers vs box office buyers.  While the industry has taught us that this makes sense, due to the fact that so many systems started out as online only, so the fees your organization had been paying to use the system also linked to online orders.  But now this model is contrary to the goal of online ticket sales, which is to provide convenience to your patrons and to alleviate workload from your staff in your box office.  By shopping online, printing their tickets at home, the patron is making things easier for your organization, so why not give them an incentive to do so?  Orders processed on the phone or in person are where you’re spending the time and money to serve them personally, so it makes more sense that they should pay a small fee to help cover those staff and office expenses.

Box Office

All the above, of course, is provided for your consideration based on your circumstances and only if you wish to offset your costs by charging fees to your patrons.  Many organizations charge no fees on top of ticket purchases.  They embed costs in their ticket prices, or they simple absorb the costs knowing that it’s simply a budget item as part of a performing arts organization’s expenses.  Just as we have seen online shopping go more and more to free shipping, the performing arts industry has also been moving more and more to not adding fees on top of ticket purchases in order to attract more customers, to keep them happy, and to keep them coming back.  Just one of the benefits of the Arts People system is that it gives you the control and options you need, and we’re here to help you set things up as you wish.

Fees are a strategic element in the overall structure of your income budgeting and in the image you are projecting to the public.  These are important choices for you to consider, and therefore it’s important that you have a system that supports you in making them.  CONTACT US if you have any questions.

 

DID YOU KNOW? Subscription sales and the needs of a ticketing system

For many performing arts organizations, subscription package sales are one of the key components of their overall earned income plan, their season ticket sales goals, and they’re audience development and loyalty targets and measures. By bundling together a season of events for a discounted price, your most loyal patrons can purchase the package before the season begins, secure they’re favorite seats for the entire season, and be sure to enjoy all your organization has to offer.

From an administration standpoint, subscriptions can be complex to manage, service and account for through the year, and can be even more tricky when it comes time to sell the next season to existing subscribers, ensuring they have the ability to retain their seats and tracking the income from packages correctly to the proper show income lines.

A subscription package consists of individual shows built into your ticketing system with their individual performances.  Pricing is set up for single tickets and then the discounted for subscription.  Performance series then are configured for the groupings of performances across the shows in each series option, such as opening Friday, first Saturday, first Sunday, etc.  Lastly are the packages themselves, such as a 6 show season package.  From that most standard configuration, the patron then chooses first the package, then the performance series and number of tickets by person type, then the seats they want which will be the same for each performance, then they pay for their package and they are done.  They have all their seats for all performances for the season.

Alternatively, some organizations don’t have matching performance runs, different pricing for each show, different venues for different shows and more.  These add to complexity and many systems ultimately do not handle these well.

Once sold, the system must also account properly for the income, and attribute it correctly to each show, even if the price of the individual shows may differ; what percentage or portion of the package goes to a specific show, for example.

Lastly, subscription sales from last year need to be rolled over into new unpaid orders for the next year to retain the existing subscriber seats, giving them an opportunity to renew their package and make any seating change requests prior to new orders being placed.  Once renewals are completed then new orders can be processed, and when ready, tickets can be printed and sent out, held at will call, or delivered in other ways.

As can be imagined, handling all these elements together, in an efficient and secure way, with outcome reporting you can rely on, can be difficult or impossible for many ticketing systems.

Thankfully the Arts People system is designed to help you configure all these intricacies smoothly, and our staff can help you to make it all happen easily and efficiently.  From seasonal setup to pricing options, order rollover to email notices and/or mail order forms, we make the challenges of season subscription campaigns easy to overcome.  We help you make your subscriptions a success for your organization, and a pleasure for your patrons.

For details about the Arts People system and how it handles subscription package sales in accurate industry-standard methods, contact us.  We’d be happy to consult on your needs to see if you’re a right fit for the system.

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