Almost 3 years ago now, I published one of my most read blogs which asked the question, "Are discounts eroding sales". You can read that blog, which includes a lot of charts and numbers about the history of Broadway discounts, by clicking here.
There's no question that now, three years later, the effects of the ubiquitous availability of discounts for Broadway shows have made it challenging for what I call "middle-of-the-market" shows (aka non blockbusters) to sell more full price tickets, and therefore achieve profitability.
I recently met a very well-off attorney who told me he kept a Broadway discount site on his list of "favorites" in his browser toolbar. And when his wife told him she wanted to see a show, he went straight to the discount site first.
Unfortunately, there's not much we can do to win that battle.
But is there a way to win the war?
Since we'll never get rid of the discount sites (especially since the modern day consumer wants a discount like a Khardashian wants attention), perhaps we should focus on the reverse . . . increasing the value of the full price ticket.
What can we do to make that well-off attorney make full price a favorite of his, instead of a discount site?
Here are five ways to encourage our buyers to buy more full price tickets off the top o' my noggin:
1. MAKE BETTER SHOWS
I know, this is one of those non-helpful "Duh, Ken" ideas, but I had to say it. If you've got a great show that people want to see, they'll pay full price and beyond. Product is the first P in marketing for a reason.
2. GIVE THEM AN EXCHANGE COURTESY
No exchanges anytime . . . that's what most of our tickets say. What if they said . . . Exchange anytime for full price buyers. Yep, what if paying full price gave you the freedom and flexibility to change your plans at anytime. If you're a middle-of-the-market show, then odds are you're not going to lose revenue by putting them into another show. People pay for convenience, and since we've drilled the idea that Broadway tickets can't be moved into people's minds for decades, this is something that people just might want to pay for.
3. GIVE THEM SOMETHING THEY CAN'T BUY
What if we added an "experience" for the full price buyer that not only the discount buyer couldn't get, but that would make the discount buyer envious when they got to the theater. Backstage tour? Talkback? Early admittance to the theater? What about a separate entrance? Front row access at the stage door if they wanted to wait and get autographs? Add something in to that full price that doesn't cost you anything but adds to the experience and gives them an even better memory will increase sales and give your customers even more to talk about.
4. GIVE THEM SOMETHING THEY CAN BUY
Most people want to take the music with them when they leave a musical. What about giving full price buyers the 'cast recording' on purchase? What about a Souvenir Program? Drinks? T-shirt? These items will cost you some money, but the value is so much greater to the theatergoer, that it might cost you less to give these items away than it would be to lose that customer to a 40% off discount. With this idea and the one above, you have to do the research as to what your customers really want, and then do the math on how much it costs you.
5. NO SERVICE FEES
Poll a group of theater customers about what they hate about buying theater tickets, and no doubt, service fees will be one of the top five. And finding out what people hate about what you do is an easy way to find out how to increase business. Giving full price buyers the feeling that they are saving money (even though it wouldn't be nearly as much as a 40% off discount) might just get them coming back and back to the official site first.
Recoupment of Broadway shows depends heavily on the number of full price buyers in an audience, so it's up to us to encourage more full price buying, even while the customers feel a strong almost gravitational pull towards discounting.
If we don't, all of Broadway could be non-profit in twenty years.
What ideas do you have to encourage full price sales? What, as a ticket buyer, could get you to fork out full price for a show rather than search for a discount?
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