Updated: Apr 29
Whether you’re putting on a festival, major sports event or big theatre production, there are a number of key considerations that should be part of your strategy for sales, marketing and pricing. Here’s our breakdown on some of the key questions you should ask yourself when selling tickets for a major event.
This article was inspired by a great article in Sportcal about the Cricket World Cup, a lot of recent requests from clients, and a long life in ticketing working alongside great thinkers and experts.
First: Set your goals
“But we’re just trying to sell as many tickets as possible!” I hear you say… Well, yes, that may be the goal, but in order to manage inventory, marketing, and other costs, you need to know how you’re doing in relation to the sales curves that lead to your break-even, target, and sell-out. If you don’t know your goals, how can you plan to get there?
Ideally, you set goals based on a number of metrics (e.g. revenue, number of tickets), and maybe even define sales curves to get there, with lo-med-hi variants. This will enable the team to always know how you are doing relative to your goals, and make decisions accordingly. As an example – if I say “we have sold 1000 tickets”, you have no idea if that is good or bad, but if I say “we have sold 1000 tickets, while we only expected to sell 800 tickets at this point”, you know so much more…
Second: Consider who will buy the tickets you aim to sell
A great way of considering this is by thinking about your audience in ‘affinity circles’ – where those in the center have a very strong affinity for the event, where outer rings have less interest (but can still be made interested).
This is a very effective way of thinking about your potential ticket buyers, as the different circles should probably be addressed in different ways. As a result, by estimating the size of the central audience, you’ll also know if you should focus your aim, or if you need to go wider.
For example, if you’re setting up a Bruce Springsteen concert in a small venue in New York, the number of die-hard fans within a mile radius will probably be enough to fill the venue, but if you’re launching a dart tournament in a large venue in Paris, you’ll probably need to go beyond the core dart fanatics to fill the venue.
This is possible because events have more than one key audience. A football match may have an audience of fans of each team, a family audience just enjoying a social event with their kids, and a VIP audience wanting a networking opportunity.
One of my favorite examples of this is when the biggest handball team in Copenhagen decided to hold the 2011 championship final in the national arena and tried to fill it. At the time, this seemed a crazy ambition, given how few people in the city have ever gone to a handball match, but by addressing different affinity circles with different messages, they managed to get 36,651 people to the match, a world record that stood for 6 years.
If you are setting up a multi-day, multi-performance event (or a festival with individual day tickets), this should be considered for each performance or day.
Now you’ve identified your audience, how should you price the event? Well, after the first two considerations, you’ve now got a lot of information that you can take into this phase. If you know that you have 500 locals that would sacrifice their first-born to go to the event, you might want to set up a special VIP package to give them the best experience (and give you the most money), but if you need to get 20,000 non-handball fans to fill the stadium for a handball match, you probably need some lower-priced tickets and some added offerings.
If your goals are to get a lot of tickets sold early on, you should stimulate this by offering initial discounts, which also gives you the benefit of being able to communicate the price increases, making people go from consideration to purchase.
What if you just don’t know what the demand is? Doing limited presales or ballots (as in the CWC article) can be a great way to get more information before setting final prices.
When you know what you are aiming to sell, to who and at what prices, you can move on to the how! Again, if you know that you are only aiming to sell to the local fanatics, it may be enough to talk to the local fan club, but if you are unsure about your target audience or how to reach them, you probably need a range of campaigns, with different messages and different audiences.
Using your own channels, you can segment the audience by expected purchase motivation and price range, and set messaging accordingly. Further segmentation should increase relevance, so balance it against making the segments too small to be worth the added effort.
Paid media (like Facebook, Instagram and Google Ads) is great for reaching additional audiences, but the better you can target them, the higher return (ROAS). If you don’t know the specific characteristics of the audience, the look-a-like option is a sure winner: As soon as you have a decent amount of ticket buyers, export them and upload them to e.g. Facebook to use for look-a-like targeting.
Going back to your target audiences, if you know their motivations, a Custom Intent campaign may be relevant. This is a Google Adwords campaign defined by behavior. If you are setting up a major darts tournament in Paris, you may set up a campaign that is triggered by any one searching for the terms “darts tournament” or “events in November” in France. It’s potentially a very effective way of finding relevant people when you don’t know their characteristics, but understand the motivation for attending your event.
In summary, this is meant as a general guide. For some people and smaller events, this entire consideration process might take 5 minutes, but if your company survival hinges on the success of a single festival, then it might take a bit longer!
Read the blog post about different audience types for a football team
The article on the Cricket World Cup ticket strategy
Our introduction to segmentation
An introduction to Custom Intent marketing