Marketing / 07.09.19
Marketing and Ticketing: Let’s Make it a Love Story
So, three people walk into a bar: a ticketing professional, a sales rep and a marketer …
No, INTIX President and CEO Maureen Andersen did not begin her plenary address to the 2019 Arts Marketing, Development and Ticketing Conference in Toronto with a trite joke. But, during her talk, she did suggest that the ticketing professionals and marketers in her audience should spend time together socially, maybe even buy each other a beer. Her point: that these entertainment professionals have so much in common, it only makes sense to get to know one another better. In other words, make it a love story.
Nobody does a better job than Andersen of reminiscing about the past and then, somehow, making it extremely relevant to the here and now.
In the good old days, she reminds us, we had advertising buyers and put ads in newspapers. We mailed tickets and stuffed the envelopes with fancy flyers for upcoming shows. We had ad reps at all the radio and TV stations, gave away swag to get people to the game, offered rush tickets for slow-selling shows and, don’t forget, the infamous senior matinees, too. These were simpler times when it came to the marketing and selling of a show.
If you wanted to buy a ticket, you’d go to the Ticketmaster or Ticketron outlet, the theater or venue ticket office — but always to the primary source. You could call the telephone charge line and speak to a real human being, but only after you waited, sometimes endlessly. And we lined up overnight.
“We camped out, we stood in line and we waited for tickets,” Andersen says. “In those simplistic olden days, there was also a lot of yelling. Remember when we used to yell at our customers? Yes, we yelled, and we scolded them.”
And then, in an instant, Andersen launched into a Tony-worthy performance, playing the role of a ticket office professional from decades past.
“Ma’am, do you want the ticket or not?”
“If you don’t want it, step aside and the man behind you will take it. Step aside, please!”
“I can’t help you, no.”
“Step aside ma’am, next!”
And perhaps our personal favorite, “NO!” as Andersen reached up her hand and pulled an imaginary shade down over the ticket office window. It was reminiscent of a scene in New Adventures of Old Christine when Julia Louis-Dreyfus tried to buy Rolling Stones seats near the stage on the night of the show.
It also was a time when everyone stayed in their own lanes — customers in their lane, fundraisers in their lane, marketing in their lane and ticketing in their lane.
“Rarely did we have meetings,” Andersen says. “And it was even on rarer occasions that we’d actually talk to each other. Departments were designed to keep us in, to create barriers. ‘I control this, this is mine, this is my circle of influence. This is my hula hoop; you can’t play in here.’ We held information close to the vest and kept it to ourselves. For some reason, to this day — I do not understand — but we were territorial over our battles against the customers. We told war stories. ‘Oh, I told them off last night; you should have seen her!’ Or, ‘She’ll not come up to my window again.’ And the ultimate control that any ticketing person knows: ‘You will never sit in the orchestra again!’ That’s what we did. We punished our customers.”
What was Andersen’s point in bringing up all this ancient ticketing history?
To illustrate just how deeply and profoundly technology, sales processes and marketing have changed while reminding us that we, too, must change to take advantage of all the opportunities this presents.
Andersen asks, “Have the two most powerful groups in any organization — ticketing and marketing — changed how we work together? Are we still fighting with each other like we used to fight with the customers? Are we still stuck in our own lanes with our own agendas, with our own points of view, with blinders on?”
She continues, “Whether you identify as primarily ticketing or marketing, you have the same concerns and are doing the same things. The only thing that separates you is the mechanics of each job.”
And yet, those mechanics seem too often to get in the way in many organizations, with marketing and the ticket office unwilling to come out of their own lanes or silos. Quoting a survey by Demand Gen, Andersen says the three biggest obstacles to sales and marketing alignment are:
- Communication — “How often do we really talk to each other? We certainly don’t pay attention to each other, and we don’t listen. And, when we do, we are generally not really wanting the input from each other. We are stuck in that circle of unwillingness to be open to different voices, different stories and points of view,” she says.
- Broken and/or flawed processes — “Technology has changed, but have we changed the processes to meet the technology? Or, are we still stuck in a ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mentality?” Andersen asks.
- Working toward different metrics — “Often we don’t know the metrics we are working toward because we didn’t take the time to share with each other. The ticket office is usually worried about tonight’s event, the eight shows this week that they’ve got to deal with or the ticket renewal that’s coming up this afternoon. Marketing has their eye on the run of show and the entire season sales ROI. That’s not in alignment.”
All of this, says Andersen, represents a missed opportunity.
“For years, I have heard ticketing folks say, ‘they think anyone can do this job’; ‘they don’t respect us’; ‘they are driving me nuts — those people, they, customers, marketing!’ On the flip side, I’ve heard marketing folks say, ‘what do they do in there?’; ‘why does it take so long?’; ‘can’t they just push the button?; ‘it’s easy, just push the button!’”
Andersen continues, “It’s my job to point out to the entire world, and to anyone who will listen, that ticketing professionals are the magic behind the button. We’re the infrastructure that makes it possible for a customer to hit the buy button … and marketing are the wizards in front of the curtain.”
So, what does this language of confrontation and misunderstanding say about the working relationship between ticketing and marketing professionals? Well, says Andersen, it really comes down to a choice: competition or partnership, because, at the end of the day the bottom line is the same for everyone.
“The ultimate goals are the same common goals of everyone — sales goals, ROI, customer satisfaction and retention, event experiences and return buyers. We are all working for the same goal: selling tickets, helping the organization thrive and be successful. Imagine if we worked cohesively as a team and viewed each other as actual extensions of each other?”
Just in case there were still any skeptics in the audience, Andersen set out to drive home her message with four vitally important components that she said “dictate cooperation and one voice”: content, data, experience and service.
“The event experience begins long before a customer ever sits in a seat in the venue,” she says. “It begins when the customer goes in search of something and finds you. Your content marketing will drive how they find you, where they find you, and ultimately drives the purchase decision and the event experience. So, marketers, yay and thank you, you create content for engagement! It shouldn't just attract; it should turn your customers into brand ambassadors. You want content that's so brilliant that our customers keep coming back for more.”
That long-term engagement is the true goal of content creation, and the secret sauce underlying success lies in unity.
“Today, if any piece of the event engagement process is broken, then the circle of engagement is broken,” Andersen says. “Inside the event experience, the key element is service. If we do all this brilliant content work, advance and post-event communication, and data mining with our customers but have a lackluster venue experience, then the circle is broken. If your customers can’t park, can’t find the bathroom, have a broken seat, aren’t greeted — basically, if the in-person service value is unattended — then the pre- and post-experience is tainted. The best part of all this is the magic of that one-to-one moment where a customer and a venue come face to face. After all, we do live events, live theater. Live human beings meeting and eyes exchanging. This is top to bottom in a service organization. It should be part of the mantra, policy and key to every organization.”
And so, Andersen suggests we do a bit of self-reflection and ask, “Is our circle internally broken? Do we have a top-to-bottom service mantra among our peers in our organizations? Or are we still in our own lanes just driving along?”
To change the dynamic, Andersen offers some solutions to help foster trust, empathy, respect and unity between marketing and ticketing.
“Even if ticketing is a direct report to marketing or to another department like finance or IT, please honor their skills of managing a separate business unit, with separate skills and separate magic. Wizards create and magic occurs. If they work together, the wizard is the marketer and the magic will come from the ticket office. Create an environment where you meet and collaborate — where ideas and knowledge can be shared openly, freely and mutually, with respect,” Andersen recommends, adding that regular meetings between the ticket office and marketing can discuss campaigns, sales goals, opportunities, risks and solutions.
“Ticketing professionals are on the front line, and they have ideas that can be invaluable because they are derived directly from customer interactions. Both failures and successes can be a learning moment when you take them from the customer,” says Andersen, while acknowledging that while this is a bit of a culture shift, marketers shouldn’t be afraid to implement new ideas or to fail.
Andersen also suggests that including the ticket office in content creation can be helpful for marketing because they can find potential liabilities or holes in promotions. And ticketing, she says, should speak up when they see trends, like customers looking for $70 seats that are sold out, when $45 seats immediately behind those rows are available and could be easily repriced.
In her closing comments, Andersen shares one way that ticketing and marketing have in fact been collaborating for decades. It is, she argues, the second greatest marketing campaign of all time, behind Smokey the Bear’s “only you can prevent forest fires” movement.
Created by all of us in show business, including promoters, marketers and ticketing professionals, it’s the ultimate in control campaign: “No exchanges, no refunds, all sales are final!”
“We stamped it boldly on our receipts in red. We printed it everywhere: on the tickets, not just the back but on the front, the envelopes, on every flyer, in every newspaper ad. We had signs in the ticket windows, electronic and printed. We told customers over and over again. It was the first thing you learned in the business. You did it in your sleep — no, no, final. You buy it, you own it, too bad, you’re out of luck. I suggest that this is the single, strongest reason — especially in North America — that we have such a robust secondary market today. We literally spent all that time and money to bring our customers in to buy a ticket, then we pushed them away, disenfranchised them and took all their choice away. We basically said, in a marketing campaign, ‘no, no, final!’ We wouldn’t help them. We couldn’t help them. They had to find any recompense elsewhere on their own. We were absolutely in tandem as marketing and ticketing when it came to saying no to our customers. As marketers and ticketing professionals, sometimes we find ourselves in polar opposition, yet we agreed. We were aligned; we agreed on this one fundamental rule.”
Then, Andersen paused and issued a challenge: “Let’s just imagine what would be possible if we worked together, in partnership, to say yes!”
It’s certainly something to think about — how to do better, up our game on service, be open, collaborative, transparent and willing. Perhaps even something to talk about over a beer.
It could be the start of a beautiful relationship, then a love story for the ages — between marketing and ticketing.
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Tags: Digital Marketing , Leadership