Every arts marketer would love to have a fully subscribed house. After all, this means a guaranteed cash flow, with income up front to invest for future expenses. It means a full house that generates energy and excitement for the performers. And it means a committed audience that has accepted your group’s artistic vision.
The reality, however, is that most small- to mid-size arts organizations don’t have a 100% subscriber base. In fact, most are lucky if they have a 50-60% subscriber base, which leaves a considerable number of seats to be filled with single-ticket purchasers.
How do you reach those one-time purchasers? Your season subscription brochure isn’t the answer – these folks aren’t on your mailing list. Maybe they’ll see the ads you put in the local newspaper? Again, unlikely, based on the declining subscription rates of most newspapers. Maybe their friends will tell them about your group? Perhaps, but you have a lot of seats to fill and hoping for that much word-of-mouth promotion is a little risky.
Since over 50% of all Americans now use the internet to research and/or make purchases (and that percentage is growing), the answer is digital channels – and more specifically, your website.
Why is your website so critical as your basic digital channel? Simply, it gives you three keys ways to convert casual browsers into potential ticket buyers:
Through education: Single-ticket purchasers have plenty of entertainment options to choose from: sports, movies, restaurants, clubs, etc. Even if these potential purchasers are leaning towards an arts-focused option, you still have to complete with all the other arts organizations in your area. One of the best ways to convert a potential user is to educate her. Tell her about your group’s artistic focus. Tell her about the playwright or the composer. Tell her about the play (without giving away the ending, of course). Make it interesting. Make it fun. And mainly, make it non-pretentious. Your audience is deciding between you and a movie; don’t make your offering sound like the performance equivalent of kale – good once you acquire a taste for it.
Through ease of use: While subscribers are willing to lock down performance dates on their calendar far into the future, single-ticket purchasers are more spontaneous in their scheduling – often making their evening entertainment plans on the fly. Eavesdrop on a dinner conversation at the next table on a Friday night and you’ll likely hear the question “What should we do after dinner?” Your website can provide the answer. Show that seats are still available for tonight’s performance (make sure this feature is optimized to display well on smartphones or tablets). Offer quick purchasing and checkout options that can be performed easily on a small device. Provide a map with direction options, so that your purchaser can expediently get from the restaurant to your building. Show where the most convenient parking is located. In short, make it easy to make that spur-of-the-moment decision.
Through multiple promotion tools: Your website can offer so much more than text and pictures. Did you make a video of your last talk-back presentation? Post it on YouTube and link to it on your website, giving your potential buyer a pre-taste of this experience. Did the local newspaper give you a raving review for the current play? Post a teaser of the review and link to the full review. Was this play made into a movie? Post a link to the trailer for the movie. Are other plays by this playwright being performed on Broadway? Or did the playwright win any awards? Again, post links to more information about her work. Remember, this isn’t a brochure. You have the ability to use all kinds of multi-media promotional tools to make your group’s work more interesting, more relevant, and frankly, more active.
Arts marketers are often accustomed to pouring all their promotional energy into their subscription brochures. While these are critical for promoting re-subscriptions, your website is a major tool for talking to those oh-so-important one-time purchasers. After all, they could be your next subscribers!