It broke my heart.
About two years ago, I was talking to someone on the subway with a Playbill in their hand (as I’m wont to do), and after my first few focus-group-like openers (“What did you see?” “Why did you choose this?”), I got to my big query . . .
“How did you get your tickets?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” my new-found friend said, “Whenever my wife tells me she wants to see a show, I just go to INSERT NAME OF DISCOUNT TICKET WEBSITE because I know they have the best deals. I have it bookmarked in my browser.”
Crack goes my heart in two.
Well, first, the proliferation of discounts that started in the 90s trained this traditional ticket buyer to only seek out a discount . . . even when he knew what show he wanted to see and even when he would probably have paid more. (I met his wife – and believe me, when she wanted to see a show, they were going to see that show, regardless of how much it cost.) But he now knew a trick and was going to save a few bucks if he could. Who wouldn’t? I would . . . and I do . . . who hasn’t Googled “Avis Coupon” or “Staples Coupon?”
Second, and this is the big one, he didn’t trust us.
This buyer didn’t trust the official source of ticket information, the show’s website, which means he didn’t trust the show itself to look out for him and give him the best price.
And is that how we really want our customers to feel? Do we really want them hunting somewhere else for a different price, somewhere they might get distracted by a competing show? Do we really want our ticket buyers to think we’re too greedy to give them the best price on the market?
How do YOU feel about a brand when you find out you could have paid less for that same thing on some “deal” site?
For years, nope, decades, we’ve separated our full price and discount buyers into two groups . . . and we’ve been so afraid to let a full price buyer know we’ve reduced a price, that we’ve trained buyers like my subway buddy to not even consider full price . . . unless it was a show with a lot of heat. And even then . . . go ahead, start to Google “Hamilton dis . . .” and see how quickly Google fills in “Hamilton Discount Code.” Buyers can’t get one, of course, but they are trying. (And when you do Google “Hamilton Discount Tickets,” you’ll end up on a secondary market site, which will charge you even more than face value, which doesn’t even end up in the investors’ and artists’ pockets.)
And I believe it’s time to do something about it. We must gain the trust of our customers back.
How? Well, I’ve decided to do what I do often . . . borrow something that has been working in another industry when they faced a similar problem.
Hotels were in the same spot we are. And they got tired of paying commission to the Expedias and Pricelines (and tired of watching their customers shop their competitors in those same sites!) so they made a simple promise to the people who went to their website.
They started offering a best price guarantee.
So why not us?
Yep, that’s right. Once On This Island is offering Broadway’s first Best Price Guarantee.
What does that mean?
When you purchase your tickets to Once On This Island . . . you can rest assured . . . no, you can guarantee, that at that moment, nowhere else . . . anywhere else . . . is there a ticket being offered for that same performance at a lower price.
When you visit the website and click through to Telecharge to purchase your ticket and you see that final price . . . that’s it. What you see is what you will pay, no matter what other site you visit.
That means . . .
- If we do a direct mail? That same price will be available for anyone visiting the website. (And by the way, we just did a Direct Mail, just like 90% of all new shows in the market, and I just authorized that Best Price to be available now to everyone on the web. Go, check it out.)
- If we do an email blast through a partner website? That same price will be available through our site.
- And yeah, if we are ever at TKTS? You could just go to the box office and get the same rate.
And we guarantee it. Find something out there for less on an official promotional partner’s site (dudes on Craigslist trying to get rid of a ticket because their girlfriend dumped them don’t count) and show it to us . . . and we’ll give you that price PLUS 10%.
It’s not a Best Price Guarantee. It’s a 110% Best Price Guarantee.
Some Producers are probably saying, “But Ken, by not hiding your ‘exclusive promotional prices,’ aren’t you giving some customers who would pay more an opportunity to pay less?”
Well, I guess, but first, as my guy above TOLD ME, many are going to do that anyway.
Second, slowly but surely, by letting them know we’ve got their best interests at heart, we’re going to get them to trust us again (is hiding anything from people you want to like you ever a good thing?). And in today’s customer-centric society, trust is crucial for our show . . . and for Broadway.
And lastly . . . and pay attention here because this is a bit mind-melting . . .
Let’s talk about that direct mail that we’re doing. It’s Standard Operating Procedure for the majority of new shows. Sending those folded pieces of paper to 200,000 people costs me roughly $140k. That’s right, I’m spending $140,000 to get people to purchase at a “promotional price that is less than full price.”
So . . . if I’m spending $140,000 to get people to pay a discounted price . . . why wouldn’t I let people buy that same price for free???
I will end up netting more per ticket on the seats that I JUST put up under the Best Price Guarantee at the Direct Mail rate than the tickets purchased by people who buy off the “secret code” that went along with our mailer.
And, in theory, selling off those tickets first and faster will allow me a greater chance at increasing prices when we get closer to performance time (that’s right, folks, don’t wait . . get the best price now, just like airlines, there is a much greater chance they will go up closer to curtain than down using this strategy).
With a Best Price Guarantee, everybody is happy . . .
The customer wins because they know that when they buy a ticket through us, there is nowhere else to get a better rate.
The show wins because we will spend less on marketing, fill our seats faster, and be able to price up as a result.
And that’s the best type of marketing there is . . . because both sides benefit.
So let this be the day, that discounting officially died. And pricing was born.
With a Best Price Guarantee.*
And I hope you use it.
*For a full description of the Guarantee including what to do if you think you’ve found a rate better than we’re offering, click here. Or better, just email me because there’s no way we authorized it, and I’m gonna stomp somebody.