Why great marketers should study obstacle courses.

Selling tickets to a show?

Guess what?  There are thousands of people that are interested in buying a ticket.

So why are you having trouble filling your house?

Something gets in their way.

Between interest and purchase lie oodles of obstacles that trip your customers up before they end up at your box office.  Or sometimes those obstacles look so scary that your customers don’t even bother to start the course.

What might some of those obstacles be?  They could be a whole bunch of things, like the price of your tickets, the parking at the theater, and so on.  Every show and every theater may share some, but most likely also have their own.

So many marketers think that their job is solely to create interest in their product.

But that’s only half the job.

Job #1 is to create interest.

Job #2 is to remove (or reduce) obstacles.

And both are equally important.

But don’t assume you know what your customers’ obstacles are.  You’ve got to find out exactly what is in their way before you can remove it.

Want a case study?

During the first few weeks of selling The Awesome 80s Prom, my sales team (which consisted of me and my yellow lab puppy in my apartment) noticed that a bunch of groups were taking forever to purchase, despite call after call of inquiry. And let me tell you, there ain’t nothing more frustrating than hearing people that want to buy, but don’t . . . especially when you’re trying to get a show off the ground.  When I asked a few customers what the hold up was, I kept hearing about the same obstacles.

Obstacle:  “It takes me a long time to explain what the show is and to get everyone to pick a date.”

Removal:  Create custom email invitations that they could forward on to their friends, or offer to send the emails for them.

Or this one.

Obstacle:  “I don’t want to pay for the entire group myself. I don’t even know some of these people!”

Removal:  Create custom codes that could be sent to each group member so they could purchase their seats individually but still be a part of the same group.

Finding out about your customers’ obstacles and then clearing the pathway to purchase will make your customers happier and your grosses healthier.


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  • Jay says:

    Interesting, so Obstacle #2 you describe is sorta like a Groupon deal. X-amount of people sign up and the deal goes through, and the initiator doesn’t have to put down his/her own money.

  • Jeff says:

    My biggest obstacle? Seating. When there’s a show I want to see and that Broadway Box coupon hits my inbox, I usually spend 10 minutes fighting with Telecharge (Ticketmaster used to be worse, but now they let you *gasp* pic your seats!) to find acceptable seats. Row R on the far side? No thanks. Sometimes, I just give up altogether saying “I’ll look later when they stop holding back seats”. Then I forget.
    Not don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just because only “select seats” are available for discount. This has happened to me with full price too.
    Consumers want choice. Unless your show is a must-see smash (ie The Book of Mormon), I’d rather not go than sit in crappy seats or deal with surly box office staff to try and find the seats I want.

  • Louisa B says:

    The other huge obstacles I have noticed are related to the logistics of going to see a show. This can be parking, where to eat, getting a babysitter, etc. I think theatres that offer solutions to those kinds of problems (by providing specific information or packaging) can help get through to people who might be too overwhelmed to make all the decisions. The tricky part is getting that information to people before they have already made the decision that it is going to take too much work.

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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