Turning Wanting into Doing

by Keith Diggle


The underlying principle of Sales is to identify and try to reduce the obstacles that come between a person motivated to buy and the physical act of purchase, the principal barriers being Geography, Procrastination and Cost, each a negative factor in its own right and working its own malign effect upon the others. The worst customers in the world (even if they like and want what you have to sell) are people who live a long way from your venue, who don’t have a telephone, who don’t keep stamps in the house, who leave things like ordering tickets to the weekend and are natural procrastinators and whose washing machine has just gone irreparably wrong.

The Sales function tries to minimise those obstacles. Sales Promotion tries to make the customer willingly jump over what is left of them – eagerly to pick up the ’phone, to fill in a form, to pay money to you in the face of other demands and to do it now. It also tries to capitalise on the fact that while you have a customer’s attention, while they are in the right frame of mind, it is the best time to sell them more.

Sales Promotion makes people buy, makes them buy more, makes them buy more frequently, makes them buy more frequently now. It remains the most little known and misunderstood marketing technique in arts marketing. Paradoxically almost every arts marketer uses the technique in one form or another at some time – but may not always know the ground rules for its use and may, therefore, quite easily come a cropper with it.

Sales Promotion works by changing the would be customer’s perception of the value of what is being offered. At its most basic level the discount offer which says: ‘The usual price for this is £20 but you can have it for £15 if you buy before next Friday’ is a form of Sales Promotion. The voucher which says ‘Buy a ticket for a Monday performance and this will reduce the price by £5’ is another. The notion is essentially simple. You offer the customer a better deal if he does what you want him to do.

You want your customer to buy sooner rather than later because you know that a sale delayed is probably a sale lost – so a Sales Promotion method is used to encourage faster response. You want him to buy tickets for several performances rather than just one (as in a Subscription campaign); the price to be paid will be higher so some form of special offer involving a price reduction, in whatever form, will assist here. You may want to encourage the purchase of tickets for more expensive seats – again a Sales Promotion method may well be the answer.

If you want to persuade customers to bring more people than the national average of 2.3 tickets bought per box office purchase then Sales Promotion will be the best technique for pushing that figure up to, say, 4 tickets per purchase. Some form of price reduction may be the best approach but it could just as easily be free car parking, a free bottle of wine at the interval or access to better seats ahead of the rush.

Seat preference is probably the most effective form of Sales Promotion. Customers have their own views as to where they want to sit. Usually they want the ‘best’ seats. Within each price range of seats there is room for choice. Giving the customer the choice as the quid pro quo for booking early, bringing two friends or buying a subscription ticket will tend to encourage the purchase. The ultimate form of Sales Promotion through seat preference is where all seats have the same price and the customer you have targeted has first choice of them. The statement to make is The Best Seat in the House is the Seat You Want – and you may have it if you Book Now.

Whatever the offers you make be sure exactly what obstacle you are trying to persuade the customer to overcome and, whenever possible, aim the offer at a sector where improvement in Sales is desirable and most likely. If most of your customers attend in pairs then a ‘two tickets for the price of one’ offer may appear to be highly effective but you could just be giving away money where there is no need to. One way or another, most Sales Promotions cost money and you should only spend money when there is every chance of getting more back than you have spent.