5 ways to encourage more full price sales for your show.

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?

 

(Got a comment? I love ’em, so comment below! Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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Comments
  • SweetP says:

    As an out-of-towner, one issue is that seats can be held back even from full-price or premium buyers. I’m the one who called about this, but no center orchestra seats closer than row P were available at full or premium prices via telecharge. After checking for a few weeks, I got discount seats in the mezzanine. I decided to check today and there are front row aisle seats available at full price. Had they been available to me two weeks ago, I would have gladly paid full price.

  • Becca says:

    I think these are all great ideas. Part of my problem with the price of full price tickets is the question of whether the ticket will be worth what I pay for it (this is why I don’t tend pay full price for tickets and the few times I do, it’s because I feel that there is a good probability that it will be worth it–and with two exceptions that’s worked well for me). I like the idea of a backstage tour or meeting the actors as a perk. I think the popularity of the lotto drawing for the backstage tour at Godspell somewhat proves that point. What about free drinks? At most Broadway theatres nowadays, for a soda in a sippy cup, it’s $5-$10 (I can’t imagine what the alcoholic drinks cost).

  • Becca says:

    And to clarify, that’s the free drinks with a full price ticket.

  • Jim says:

    These sound like great ideas – however, what about DIFFERENT full price tickets – these days almost ALL the seats in the house now cost the same! What would happen if the best seats (center orchestra) were a bit more than side orchestra? Does the person paying the same $145 for Book of Mormon in seat R26 get the same experience as the person who paid $145 for seat R109??
    Also, whatever happened to lower priced PREVIEW seats getting the house fuller before you open and spreading the word – and by doing so perhaps not making those tickets available at TKTS or other discounters making the consumer HAVING to go to the BOX OFFICE to get tickets!!!

  • Could not agree more.

  • Chris says:

    I would pay more for an aisle orch seat and an easier, more honest online ordering system where all the good seats really show up.

  • like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is great blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.

  • Evelyn says:

    I love the idea of gettting something you can’t buy, especially a “celebrity” encounter like a talkback only for full price ticket holders–I think I would pay more for that ticket. The exchange privilege is really good for the audience member and the “middle” show, but I’m not convinced someone would pay 40% more for that privilege.

  • Lonnie Cooper says:

    I especially like your suggestion about exchanges. My organization buys fully refundable airline tickets for just that reason. We are happy to pay the extra for the flexibility.

  • Don Jordan says:

    all good ideas, Ken as always. You are a highly creative thinker and I always appreciate your writing.
    I do think there is an unspoken 800 pound gorilla in the middle of the discussion and that is that if we could lower the price of all tickets, more people would come. I think one of the challenges facing the American professional theater is that we are pricing ourselves into a golden ghetto where only a certain economic class of patron can afford the theater. Rather a than a habit that many can enjoy like a trip to the museum or the movies it becomes a very expensive “event”…as an example, couples go out several times a year, but only go to “events” for an Anniversary or Birthday. Let’s work at making more seats more affrdable to more people and we can grow our audience base, which will benefit all theater.

  • tkelly470@gmail.com says:

    What about exclusive bars and FOH areas for full price buyers – would make some busy intervals far less fo a stress for customers. i think they’d like that.

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