We spoke with five of our most creative customers, who were kind enough to give us their best advice. Here’s what they had to say:
▪ Respect your event goers. That’s what Kate O’Neill, Director of Operations at Chestnut Hill Business District, told us was one of her most valuable lessons. Kate organizes the Chestnut Hill Harry Potter Festival, a massive annual event that brings the magic of Hogwarts to the muggles of Chestnut Hill. Kate knows that her ticket buyers are dedicated fans, and she mirrors that dedication when it comes to planning. “The fans are very wholehearted about their feelings about Harry Potter, and they want to meet that feeling in the event organizers,” she says.
▪ Make every event your best event. This is what we learned from Michael Brush, cofounder of Charm City Fringe, Baltimore’s largest independent theater and performing arts festival. “It doesn’t matter if you have a thousand attendees or five. Your goal should be to give them the best experience possible,” he told us.
A great event = higher ticket sales in the future. People will remember what a good time they had. They’ll tell their friends (new customers!) and attend your future events (repeat customers!). Giving event goers your best is a win for everyone.
▪ “How can we think outside the box?” This is what Nathan Smith, VP of Philanthropy at RAIN, asks himself when he has an event to promote. For RAIN’s AIDS Walk, they got a suped-up Jeep with monster tires and wrapped it in AIDS Walk branding. It would be impossible not to notice that.
▪ Stand out from similar organizations. Blake Minor is the Head Theater Director of Viking Theater Company, which doesn’t sound like a high school theater group, does it? That’s because Blake rebranded the theater group at Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas. This automatically sets them apart from other high school theater groups, which is probably why they’re so successful.
Don’t be afraid to stand out. If your advertising turns heads, it’ll also make people pull out their phones and do your social media marketing for you. Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel genuine—people can tell—but being unique makes you memorable.
▪ Prepare, don’t panic. “Something will go wrong. If you know and accept this, it won’t be such a big deal,” says Nathan Smith. He told us about the binder he brings to all of his events. Inside the binder, he keeps all the documentation he could possibly need: permits, applications, attendee lists, and more. If an issue arises, he has the answer in a sheet protector.
▪ Always have backup. Michelle Connors, Public Programs Events Coordinator at Morris Arboretum, organizes Friday Night Lights, a holiday garden railway. While Michelle is organized, she knows that some things are out of her hands—like the weather. “Have backup plans for variables you can’t control,” she told us. “And then just have fun!” We like that second tip, too.
Grace under pressure can go a long way. No one will blame you for a sudden downpour at your outdoor event, but they will appreciate it if you hand out free ponchos. A bit of planning can prevent refunds and increase future ticket sales.
▪ Know who’s buying your tickets. Blake Minor creates different ticket types to gather demographic information from his buyers. Even when he sells onsite, Blake uses unique names for his tickets so he knows whether they were sold to a student in the cafeteria or to someone who has earned a senior citizen discount.
▪ Know who isn’t buying your tickets. Charm City Fringe reviews reports from previous events to figure out what demographics they’re missing in their audiences. Then, when they sell tickets online again, they know who to market to.
Hard work pays off, but there’s no reason to work harder than you need to. Using reports from previous events (or creatively-gathered demographic information) saves you from marketing to people who are already knocking down your door, and helps you reach audiences you’ve missed in the past. Use the time you saved and the extra earnings from ticket sales to treat yourself to a celebratory cocktail.
▪ Local partnerships can be incredibly valuable. Harry Potter Festival paired with SEPTA to transform a train station into Platform 9 ¾, and turned the local train to Chestnut Hill into the Hogwarts Express. The cross-promotion was a success: the concourse was packed with hundreds of people lining up to buy tickets.
▪ Reach out to organizations with similar goals. Charm City Fringe seeks out organizations that share their vision, but which have access to a different audience or demographic. With this strategy, there’s a natural incentive for cross-promotion, without competition.
Look, we don’t want to get too deep here. But ultimately, the key to selling more tickets looks a lot like the key to living a pretty good life: have empathy, be prepared (so you don’t have to panic), be efficient, consider your community, and don’t forget to be your own unique self.