By Stephen Skrypec, Consulting Analyst
In recent weeks, there has been passionate online discussion around whether rising average ticket prices were having an impact on attendance. Frequently, in our work with clients we find that when it comes to pricing, people have opinions or viewpoints that come from personal experience. As always, we recommend taking a hard look at the data to see what’s happening in your organisation. Don’t be distracted by ticket prices alone - there are other key metrics that might be hiding the real story.
1) Disproportionate focus on new audiences vs. retention
NEWSFLASH—As an industry we’re doing exceptionally well at developing new audiences. Across a study of TRG’s client base over a 5-year period, we saw up to 66% of audiences made up entirely of new patrons to the database. Great news, but of that 66%, how many came back again? Just 25%. An attrition rate of 75%! We’re prospecting well but under-retaining. “Churn” has been much talked about for years but are we focused on reducing it? Check this metric in your organisation now. Take steps to reduce attrition and you’ll see growth…fast.
Case Study: New Wolsey Theatre
2) Misalignment of marketing expenses where you have demand
We all love a hit. We can breathe a sigh of relief when we reach our revenue target for a production and take focus on the next show. Right? Wrong! When you’ve got lightning in a bottle and the benefit of demand, it’s time to INVEST to sell more tickets. ‘Blockbuster’ programming can attract new audiences, command a higher ticket price, and incentivise membership purchase. Selling to 90%? What would it take to reach 100%? Pour more fuel on the fire and grow your database even further by selling more.
Case Study: Nottingham Playhouse
3) Placement of accessibly-priced seats in furthest reaches of the house
TRG believes passionately in access to affordable seats for everyone. We know the impact you have on your communities and providing access to all is key. But how are your accessibly-priced seats selling, and where are they in the house? Are they helping you fill hard-to-sell areas of the house? Your scale of house and pricing should offer accessibility for all performances, AND higher per capita revenue as demand grows. If not, it’s time to rethink how your scale plan is working for you.
Case Study: Sheffield Theatres
4) Data permissions rate that doesn’t enable you to have multi-channel direct response campaigns
We’re growing audiences…but can we invite them back? Of all the new patrons added to your database in the last week, for what proportion did you gain permission to send mail AND email? You should be measuring this week in and week out, and incentivise your ticket sales team to increase your opt-in rates. If we don’t have permission to contact, we can’t ask them to come again. That 75% attrition rate just got even tougher to reverse…
Case Study: Grant Park Music Festival
5)Training your audience to wait for a ‘fire sale’
What do you do when you’re not selling? When do you take action if you see a show in your season isn’t selling tickets the way you expected? Did you get your revenue target right? Is that the only success metric you’re measuring? If you find yourself sending out last-minute offers, instead of hitting the panic button, incentivise your database to be loyal. Encourage early booking to secure the best price, drive membership and subscription schemes by promoting early access to seats, and be strategic with your use of deals and offers to ensure you’re not devaluing your loyalty schemes. Above all… no more fire sales!
Case Study: Boston Ballet
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