Why do we in arts organizations care so much about the Christmas holiday season? Yes, we program amazing events—shows that get us into the holiday spirit, concerts that have us humming well-known tunes, and ballets that can elicit memories taking us back to our childhood. But we also care because the events and exhibitions we run at this time can make or break our financial year.
Chances are you’ve been thinking about your 2017 Christmas or holiday offering since before last year’s events even opened. Some of you put your 2017 Pantomime tickets on sale right before Panto began last year. Or maybe you gave your loyal subscribers or members access to this year’s A Christmas Carol tickets when they attended in 2016. It’s safe to say we in the arts field spend a lot of time planning and executing campaigns in preparation for this time of year.
So here we are! As your events are beginning, how are ticket sales and revenues shaping up? If you’re one of the organizations who routinely sells out by this time (meaning 98-99% of capacity sold), then you’re probably already working on your 2018 events, as you should be. However, many marketing directors still find themselves in a position with inventory to sell and income to chase.
If you’re in this situation, it’s not too late to squeeze a bit more out of your event(s). We’re not proposing promotions with your local radio stations or taking the dancers to the biggest shopping center. Time is limited so it should be spent on activities with a higher return-on-investment. Here’s what we’re recommending: Go back to the basics and make sure you and your team have them fully covered to maximize every opportunity and bring in every dollar, pound or Euro that you can.
Below is a short list of high impact actions you can take. Check it twice to ensure you make the very most of this revenue-generating gift.
Get out of your pricing comfort zone. If your organization hasn’t implemented dynamic pricing, now is the time to do it. Maybe you’ve never tried it or you’ve only dipped your toe into the basics of increasing prices by a few dollars or pounds. Holiday shows like The Nutcracker or Pantomime are prime candidates to experiment with price changes up or down. Increase your ticket prices for high demand dates or times by a few dollars or pounds. Reprice some B seats to A seats. If you’re well-experienced in dynamic pricing, push those prices up higher than you thought possible. Don’t let fear or assumptions hold you back.
Add another dollar or two, or a few pounds to that price and see what demand warrants. Monitor sales pacing and per capita revenue to make sure you’re seeing the desired outcome. Per capita revenue is the amount paid per household or transaction, and it’s an important metric to track as you make price changes. You’ll soon find the top price your patrons are willing to pay for your most in-demand events. TRG Arts has yet to see sales stall out from changes like this, but you can always bring prices back down if you’re seeing market resistance. How would you spot that? Sales may slow down on dates or specific seating areas you increased prices on. Watch for any stall in a previously strong sales trend.
Pay attention to unsold inventory. If you have seats left or unsold timed-entries, there is more that can be done. Most likely, availability remains for dates early or late in the run or on less in-demand days of week or times of day. If your event opens soon, focus on the early events with available inventory now otherwise you’ll wish you did when you approach sell-out at the end of the run. Once those dates are gone you can’t recoup lost inventory, so make the most of it now.
If you’re in the seated event business and find yourself with only single seats available on high demand performance dates (i.e. Christmas Eve), you can still sell them. If you have more than one single seat in any given row, invite patrons who already have tickets to shift seats so you can move other seats together—it’s at least worth a look and a phone call. Incent them by offering a discount on their next ticket purchase, or complimentary wine or ice cream when they attend. If these are the only seats you have left for high demand dates, then they’re very valuable. Make sure people know they’re available, and sell them for a high value price.
Get something as opposed to nothing. TRG Arts’ late founder Rick Lester used to say, “It’s better to get something for a seat or admission rather than nothing.” This does not mean last-minute discounts or fire-sales of the masses! Rather TRG recommends offers on select dates and times targeted to a specific group of patrons. You may be thinking, “I already did that earlier in the campaign.” You may have, but you still have seats to move, and email alone may not get them sold at this point.
What segments of your database should you go back to? Take another look at the segments producing the greatest results—the most tickets sales and income—and mail a cheap and cheerful direct mail piece to those who haven’t responded to a previous invitation. These households are your most likely prospects who haven’t bought tickets yet. Extend a tightly timed offer to incent action. It can be a percentage or discount amount off tickets, an added value or a package, but make it compelling! If they’ haven’t bought tickets by now, they’ll need an incentive to attend on the dates and at the times you want them to.
This approach can be deployed via email if you don’t have time or the budget to drop a mail piece. You may also want to look to digital marketing to retarget your best prospects. Do what you can if you have available inventory to sell. Try and find resources to invest as these are the events where you can expect the highest return on that investment.
In summary, don’t underestimate the impact basic tactics like these can have on your revenue target. The point is, it’s not too late and there’s only upside potential to be had by focusing on the simple things. If you do nothing different, expect the same results as last year. TRG Arts clients are checking their “back to basics” list twice, and they continue to get stellar results year after year.
We want to know your holiday results!
Join us for our first Holiday Season Post-mortem, hosted by Keri Mesropov, Vice President of Client Services. In this virtual discussion group, Keri will guide participants in sharing their triumphs and stumbles from the holiday season. Come with your holiday numbers and a story to tell. By the sessions end, you will have few new strategies to try in 2018 and maybe a new friend.
Holiday Season Post-mortem
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
5pm GMT, 12pm ET, 11am CT, 10 MT, and 9am PT
This session is free, but requires registration. Space is limited, so register early to avoid disappointment.