Now is the time to plan and identify marketing tactics for these times. I have considered a few strategies and appropriated several from other colleagues.
Send Renewals the Week of January 19, 2019
If you must raise ticket prices, it would be best to hold the increase until after the subscription renewal deadline. Then you can present the renewal/priority offer as: “No price increase when you order by March 15!” The price increase can almost look like a benefit.
Comp Unemployed Renewals
Offer free renewals to subscribers who have become unemployed. Following the collapse of Enron and WorldCom, Houston Grand Opera made such an offer publicly to former Enron & WorldCom employees, and received excellent publicity in the press.
Secure an Annual Fund Gift from Non-Giving Subscribers
Subscribers are more likely to renew if they have given even a token Annual Fund gift. Securing that annual fund gift from the non-donating subscriber, particularly at-risk first-year subscribers, is certain to boost subscription renewal rates.
In halls where available capacity exceeds reasonable demand, or for a series with a lower subscriber base, encourage families to bring children 8 to 16 for free. (Traditional discounted student prices can apply for those over age 16.)
Discounts for Under 30
Our most elusive demographic is younger, college graduates up to about age 35. Not surprisingly, their slight disposable income is elsewhere committed. Additionally, this most splintered and fragmented demographic is also the most expensive to reach. The special offer for those under 30 (perhaps the price we are currently offering to seniors) can be made from a third-party sponsor, acknowledging them for underwriting the discount.
The barriers to new subscription acquisitions are time and process. New acquisition campaigns tend to happen between April and September. The window is relatively brief, and once the new season begins, existing series are stripped down into shorter, pro-rated series at lower prices. However, marketing expenses generally do not decrease.
Let us consider a new model - Perpetual Acquisition, a year-round subscription effort. If single tickets are strong in February, capitalize on buyer enthusiasm with the offer for them to return immediately as a March through January subscriber. Three of their concerts would be in the current season, the remainder in the following season. Rather than a pro-rated package, a full season is offered. Each series is an eleven-month cycle, with the subscription renewing automatically during the twelfth month. In this model, the renewal is not requested. If the subscriber no longer wishes to subscribe, she must “opt out” of the season.
How does this new breed of subscriber absorb this discretionary expense into his budget? By spreading the cost across the calendar year in easy-to-digest payments. “Perpetual Acquisition” leads to “Perpetual Renewal,” as subscribers are renewed exactly twelve months later.
Perpetual new subscription campaigns, low monthly payments, “right pricing” to attract new audiences, annual fund efforts targeted to invest at-risk subscribers - all these are tactics for a challenging economy. It will be essential to anticipate the weakness of the market place by meeting the challenge directly by having strong pro-active, pre-emptive responses in place.