If a Patron Buys a Ticket but No One Collects Any Contact Info, Was She Really There?

Today’s post is by Lily Traub, Sales Manager here at Patron Technology. 

It’s like the old “if a tree falls in the forest” adage: If you sell a ticket without knowing who bought it, did she really attend? Without any data on that ticket buyer, you lose the ability to report on who came to your performance and who came back again — not to mention the ability to sell her more tickets or solicit a donation.

Recently, I went to a theater where all ticket sales are cash at the door — I couldn’t buy a ticket in advance, even though I wanted to. As a former box office employee, I know firsthand how difficult it is to take contact information at the door: You’ve got a line of people waiting, it’s 10 minutes to curtain, and you just need to get people into their seats as quickly as possible.

  • Suggestion #1: Have a second person at the box office, asking for e-mail addresses.

I would have loved to see a staff member or volunteer right by the box office, asking people for their e-mail addresses after they’ve purchased their tickets but before they’ve entered the theater. The next people in line would already be paying for their tickets, so the line wouldn’t be held up.

  • Suggestion #2: Offer online ticketing and charge a lower ticket price for advance purchases than at-the-door.

They should offer online ticketing! It’s infinitely easier to collect contact information when someone is buying a ticket online. But more than that, I am dying to see arts organizations motivate their patrons to buy tickets in advance of the performance night. Popular music concerts frequently have a higher ticket price at the door than when a ticket buyer pays in advance. Thus, people are given an incentive to make their purchases ahead of time, and since they’re buying in advance, they’re also providing their contact information. This solves two problems simultaneously, and non-profit arts organizations should consider utilizing a similar technique.

  • Suggestion #3: Also pass around a clipboard or use signage to get e-mail/social media sign-ups in the lobby.

We were all waiting in the lobby for a good twenty minutes before they let us into the theater, and it was another missed opportunity.  Pass around a clipboard, inviting me to sign up for your e-mail list! Have signs up suggesting that I follow you on Twitter or Facebook! (This is something, of course, that I could have done right then and there, thanks to my smart-phone.)

I know that it’s extremely difficult to take the extra time to ask for contact information when you’re dealing with a line at the box office during crunch-time, but I encourage organizations to think creatively about other opportunities to collect that info. The moment at which a patron hands over her money is far from the only interaction you’re having with her.

  • Suggestion #4: Add a check-box asking ticket buyers if they’ve been to your organization before.

This particular theater company is frequently performing new material, so it is primed for repeat attendees. In my theoretical world, where a clipboard was passed around the lobby or a volunteer was stationed next to the box office, a simple “Is this your first time at our theater?” would take an extra three seconds and would greatly improve the organization’s ability to know who its patrons are. It means you can solicit donations from your frequent attendees who have already demonstrated a commitment to your company, and know which ones are the first-timers you want to target to come back for a second visit.

To summarize, make sure you have a way to contact your patrons, so you can encourage them to come again and/or make a contribution. Even if you start with just one piece of information — an e-mail address or a Twitter name — that’s going to enable you to reach out to her, invite her to return, and tell her about other ways she can support your organization. Otherwise, without any way of getting in touch, she remains just like the proverbial tree in the forest.

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One response to “If a Patron Buys a Ticket but No One Collects Any Contact Info, Was She Really There?

  1. Excellent information. Equally interesting for pro-college sports or any other event that shows up being sold on the secondary market.
    The Venue doesn’t know who they have in house for about 40% of all tickets sold – ie., the invisible fan.
    Great story that I’d like to post on http://www.ticketingjournal.com

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