In an earlier blog entry, I made note of the fact that so many theatres were turning to discount sites such as Groupon and Goldstar to sell tickets and help fill the house in the face of audiences who are cutting back on their entertainment budgets.
In that writing, I commented that perhaps tickets were priced too high to begin with, if selling them at half-price had become such a necessity to get people in the door. In the past week, I personally have received almost half a dozen calls or emails from discount sites wanting to feature my company, so it seems worthwhile to explore these discounts in a little more detail.
One of the biggest downfalls that I’ve read about these discount services is that lack of returning customers. The idea is always pitched as, “if you can just get the people in the door with a discount, they’ll see how much they like it and come back at full price.” Maybe, unless they simply can’t afford it. This might be particularly true of younger audiences, whom we seek to fill the place left by our older patrons, but who may not have the disposable income to become regular patrons.
One suggestion would be to continue to incentivize these customers. They first came because of a great discount, so it stands that they may return for another good deal, though perhaps just 25 percent off instead of 50, as a way to ease them into being full-price patrons over time.
While the lack of returning customers is certainly a con, the biggest pro to these services is the ability to reach a new and wider audience, particularly for smaller arts organizations that have limited marketing budgets. The exposure to your brand through the discount website and the email offers they send out can not only catch the interest of individuals who may never have heard of your company, but also reinforce any existing messaging that is already in place in other channels.
Based on my own experience with these discount vendors, once you run a deal on one, you’ll have all the rest showing up on your door wanting to do something similar, often claiming that they can reach more customers than the other guy. Herein lies another potential downfall: this could create extra work for your staff, and the payoff may not be all that great. Or you start offering so many discounts you lose focus on your regularly priced offerings.
There is also a more abstract quality to these discounts that asks the question, “What affect does this have on the image of your organization?”
It could be viewed as an equalizer, making the arts accessible to more people. Or it may be seen as devaluing the art, turning it into a commodity that can be blasted across the web with no real care. I don’t have an answer to this, but I think it’s something worth considering on some level.
My personal belief is to be judicious with these discount services. If every show you put on is going have a block of tickets sold at half-price through a discount vendor, your audiences will catch on.
If the purpose of such discounts is to attract new people and hopefully convert them to regular patrons, it’s worth limiting the use of the discounts and taking the time to nurture and cultivate that relationship with your new friends.