Posts Tagged ‘live business’

Market The Experience

November 17, 2008

Driving down one of our wonderfully congested streets in LA, I was struck by the billboard pasted below.  It reminded me that in the live business we never market the experience, just the show itself.  If we changed this, we would sell more tickets.

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The above ad from Pom Wonderful does not tout the great taste of the beverage, its calorie count, unique color, or any of its other characteristics that could set it apart from its competitors.  Instead, Pom grabs you with a headline, Cheat death… and a noose.  Pretty easy message to understand.

On your next tour, show, event, whatever, try marketing the experience rather than the show.  If you are a concert promoter and have the band moe. coming through, try monitoring fan sites and chat rooms to see how they describe the act’s shows…and then market that.  If you produce family entertainment or sports, push the bond parents can make with their children rather than the opportunity to see “so and so Live”.

Over the years, I’ve written many times about my concert experiences growing up at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY.  It would start with meeting up at a friend’s house.  This way we could caravan up and park next to each other for tailgating.  Driving I-87 North or South (depending on where you live in that part of upstate NY) you would see all the other cars, vans and pickups headed to the same place you were.  Sometimes it would be as obvious as a carload of people and a sign in their window that said “ ____ or bust”.  Other times it would be something simple like a beat-up Trans-Am (hey I did say upstate NY) driving next to you  blaring the latest album from the artist you are going to see, on a  stereo worth more than their whole car.

Once at the show, walking around and people watching was the thing to do.  That and marshmallow fights.  At dusk, the opening act would usually hit the stage.  Most of the audience were trickling into the venue by now, but not always paying attention to the band.  Finally at 9:30 pm; house lights would dim, stage work lights would go out, and with much anticipation in the air the artist that everyone had come to see would light-up the crowd.  You sang every word to every song and didn’t leave until the house music came up and the blinding light of reality signaled the march back to your car.

Describe that when marketing your next live event.  How is the show going to make your audience feel?  What will the experience be like?  Why should they pay money to go?  It has been said a million times… “Sell the sizzle not the steak.”  Most purchases are based on an emotional response.  What could be better than hanging with your best friends, watching your favorite live attraction with people who are sharing in your excitement!  Market that to fans and watch the tickets start selling.

Talk to you soon…

Jim

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Drop Your Price Already…

November 8, 2008

Well I must start with another disclaimer.  You see my brother writes a blog very similar to the LiveWorks Newsletter and today, he talked about what’s covered below…and we post on the same site.  So here is a link to Joe’s stuff so you know there is no plagiarism on either of our parts. http://joelewi.wordpress.com/

For weeks we have been talking about embracing the recession and finding ways to use our Live Entertainment to pull consumers out of their funk.  We’ve covered customer service, partnerships versus sponsorships, using examples from political marketing to move an audience, and all the positive psychological and financial attributes of selling-out shows.  What our business needs to fix immediately is ticket prices.

Burlington, VT concert promoter Alex Crothers pointed to gas prices as having a much more noticeable effect on ticket sales than the stock market or bad news about the economy.  There has been story after story reported in the media about retailers perceived as bargain or discount merchants sales going up, while those catering to design and style sales are declining.  Case in point, Wal-Mart and Target.  Target is down, Wal-Mart is up.

Of course there is always the consumer that had the perception that if things cost a lot, they have to be worth it.  There is case after case study of events attendance actually going down as ticket prices fell year-to-year and the opposite happening if ticket prices rose.  That was not in a 2008 economy.  Now even luxury brands normally immune to market fluctuations are feeling the hurt.  In Forbes annual “Richest People in America” issue, even the boys from Google took it hard seeing  their “stock down 40%  since all-time heights last November.”  Why are we in the live business ignoring this trend?

It is time for all of us in live entertainment to knock-off the “pomp and circumstance” around what we do and see it as any other business would.  Yes our talents need to eat.  So do managers, agents, promoters, techs, stagehands, venue people, and everyone else associated.  But everyone needs to eat a little less to get a lot more.  The live and music businesses are special.  But I’m sick of hearing that what we sell is so different from what everyone else sells.  Selling is about emotional connections.  So the fact is, we have a leg-up on all the other entertainment distractions out there.

In the November 3rd Issue of Advertising Age there is a story about ranking brands based on “best bang for buck”.  Interesting stuff.  Consumers were asked to rate best ans worst by category based on “providing the best value for the dollar”.  For Domestic Airline, Southwest was best, United worst.  Carbonated beverages, Coke best, Red Bull worst.  Credit Cards, Visa good, Discover bad.  And no surprise here, in Financial services, Fidelity was ranked best while Goldman Sachs got a negative rating.  Another great group of stats from the article where the “Bottom 10 Brands”…brands with the lowest scores.  10) Starbucks, 9) BET, 8) Neiman Marcus, 7) 7-Eleven, 6) Perrier, 5) Abercrombie & Fitch, 4) AIG, 3) Red Bull, 2) Hummer, and # 1) MTV!!!! No live brands in the study.  Btw, Craftsman was the #1 brand for value.

Why is this all important to you?  Because if you are Live Nation, AEG, MSG, Feld, Momentum, GMR, or Chrysler, you are creating live brands of some kind.  Building value into everything you do defines your brand.  Ticketmater Entertainment will have a hard time getting over its old “TICKETMASTER” reputation.  Hiding the fees is not going to change anything.  The artists and shows will always have their names.  What we need to do is drop our prices and explain to consumers what they are getting for their money.

We do a bad job of marketing the experience of live.  Let’s take a look at that.  Volume will do more for our business than raising prices.  Lower your prices $2 on everything (tickets, merch, food, beverages, parking, venue charges need to go away all together, etc) and tell the consumer all the amazing things they will see, hear, feel, and do at your event, show, or attraction.

So drop your prices and watch as the money comes in.

Talk to you soon…

Jim

Customer Service Please…

November 4, 2008

Have you been to one of your events as a consumer, guest, fan, or whatever you call your customers lately?  Or someone else’s event?  No parking pass, no connections, no backstage catering.  If you haven’t, please do it today.  You will see that we can all do a lot better on “Customer Service”. 

With the plethora of entertainment options the “live” business competes with in consumer’s homes alone, we better be doing everything possible to retain the customers we have and build on that.  It starts and ends with the customer experience and now more than ever, every touch point counts.  Here are some suggestions (in no particular order) to help with your customer service. 

1) Look at the whole of your business.  Is customer service built into your culture?  Good place to start.

2) Have a great website to direct your customers and employees.  Update information on your site often.

3) Work with customers you already have and speak directly to them.  Ask for feedback and then act on it.

4) Be “authentic” in everything you do.  Go the extra step…and then another one.

5) Mimic what others do.  Look at those who you believe have stellar customer service and try and follow their best practices (e.g. Disney, Nordstrom, etc).  See if you can get a hold of their Customer Service or Employee manuals.  You can also try outside training.  Here’s one I can recommend.  http://www.disneyinstitute.com/custom.cfm

6) Speaking of manuals, have a manual for doing everything…even answering the phone.  OK maybe not a whole manual on answering the phone, but it should be in a manual somewhere.

7) And speaking of answering the phones, be “Welcoming”.  Look at every place your customer touches your brand and vice-versa and make sure there is a smile attached.  This welcome could be your entrance, website, phone operators, parking lot attendants (talk about front-lines…you really need to go talk to your parking people as they need training), box office, even the ticket to the event itself, which can now be paperless. 

8) Be hands-on.  You can’t learn anything sitting in an office reading reports.  Get out there and talk with your customers.  Any of you in the concert business that were around when Bill Graham was a promoter always saw him wandering around, talking with the audience.  Getting feedback.  Sometimes throwing people out of shows and sometimes sneaking them in without a ticket.  Bill actually built a community and made “Bill Graham Presents” mean something to fans. 

9) Let guests know about any problems or changes right away.  The customer likes to be in control as we all do.  Think about that time you were sitting in that 767 on the tar mac for hours and the pilots weren’t telling you what was going on.  The real stress was not knowing.  Let them know. 

10) CAN WE PLEASE CHANGE OUR MERCHANDISE SELLING EXPERIENCE AT OUR SHOWS AND EVENTS???  Please go to an Apple or Lego store.  Take in the whole experience.  Note the word experience, not t-shirts and colored lights on a board with handwritten prices attached.  All part of customer service. 

11) Security and customer service should go hand-in-hand.  Visit a new airport terminal and see how they are being built.  Take that into consideration when planing your next venue or show environment.  Don’t use the TSA training manual, of course. 

12) Keep it really simple if possible.  Fans of In-N-Out Burger out here in the west go there because it is such a simple menu and promise (burgers, fries, and shakes, all fresh).  You should be able to make your customer service that simple.

13) Pick the right people and train them properly.  You might want to think about picking the right customers too.  For instance, when you tour the amphitheaters and ask the staff what shows they hate working the most, they usually say “Jimmy Buffett, because everybody thinks they are a somebody…and they are really drunk.”  Sometimes you may want that customer, sometimes not.

14) Empower your front-line employees.  Ritz-Carlton gives desk clerks, attendants, bell staff, etc, up to $2000 to fix a customer complaint (not sure where I heard that but need to give credit to someone).  What happens at your venue when a customer isn’t happy with their hot dog?  Have you spoken with the staff at your concession stands lately?

15) Re-think everything.  There is no reason “entrance ques” need to look the same in every venue.  Why not put more shows on-sale on Tuesdays (plane fares are cheaper on Tuesdays and Thursdays which means fewer people are traveling…there has to be something to that)?  Do you have a customer service director at your talent agency (might be a good idea to take care of the “bottom 1/3 of your roster)? 

As always, would love your feedback.

Talk to you soon…

Jim

 

 

 

Make it Easy to Say Yes!

October 22, 2008

Making it easy for consumers to say yes to buying a ticket during down economic times (and good) comes down to always thinking of the audience first in that packaging process!!!  We must address fan’s concerns about ticket price, ticket surcharges, venues, seating (or no), access to good seats, parking, food and beverage choices and price, employee training, security, long lines (a true enemy for all), talent line-up, marketing, communications, transportation (especially for those underage), under 21-shows, and more.   If we do, we will be “recession proof”.  Everyone is looking for an escape right now. 

We have to start somewhere, so if the live business concentrates on ticket prices first instead of guarantees, we would be moving in right direction.  A ticket price in the “right room” will give you your gross potential that leads back to a guarantee.  And please don’t use that gross potential as an excuse to play rooms that are too big for your show.  Better to underplay the market and leave people wanting more than playing to a half empty room.

Bring the whole community into the process with you (talent, fan, venue, promoter, ticketing agency, media, sponsors, etc).  In sports before the start of a new season, many athletes will have “retreats” with their core team of sponsors, agents, managers, etc.  The idea is for everyone to be pulling in the same direction when the season starts. 

The Live Business needs to look at packaging all of our assets together to make it easy for fans to say yes.  We will certainly be having one of the “retreats” I mentioned above at the Aspen Live Conference December 11-13, but encourage all of you to find ways to get together on your own if you can’t make Aspen.

Talk to you soon…

Jim