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Marketing in a Recession

0 March 2, 2019

At the Kansas City Symphony, we’ve been able to expand both our younger Family audience, and our high school and college audience, by creating special price points and by better promoting student pricing already in place. The subscriber base of our four concert Family Series has grown threefold in the past three years, due in large part to our Kids Free offer. For every adult season subscription purchased for our Family Series, the buyer receives a free child subscription. This has also resulted in Family Series subscription revenue growing nearly 250%! Because the series is nearly sold out on subscription, there is great demand for any remaining seats and they sell at full price. If demand is unusually high, we have the option of adding another performance of the same concert, as we recently did with the Peter and the Wolf Oscar-winning short film. This strategy helps us save a great deal on marketing costs while maximizing revenue.

For the high school and college crowd, we’ve been much more forward about advertising our $8 student ticket. Our unique concert experience is cheaper than a movie ticket! We’ve created simple collateral (mini-posters, fliers, even small ads in student newspapers) all at very low cost. We’ve seen the sale of student tickets more than double in the past two years, building a stronger base of future audiences.

Even with the current state of the economy, our core audience is motivated more by the quality of the product on stage, the caliber of guest artists, and strength of the repertoire. It is our audiences on the periphery that seem to be motivated by price. To address price and overall perceptions that a Symphony ticket is expensive, we have a special section of seats at every concert priced at just $10. We’ve also created a First-Time subscriber price, that breaks down to just $14 per concert. Our Tessitura ticketing system gives us the flexibility to schedule automatic payments for customers, so we can easily break down the cost of a subscription purchase into several smaller payments over time. This has been a very effective tool in our renewal campaign.

Regarding our renewal campaign, we are focusing more than ever on subscriber benefits. We’ve negotiated with area parking facilities to offer half-price parking for subscribers, when purchased in advance through our box office. We’ve offered free ticket exchanges for subscribers for many years, but promote this benefit even more prominently. We also have an arrangement with the Naxos online music library, offering free access for subscribers. Pointing out these great benefits to our subscriber base has helped us keep them in the Kansas City Symphony family.

A strategy that’s helped jump-start ticket sales this winter is our Concert Cash offer. A simple postcard was sent to our database, offering a $30 discount on any single ticket purchase of $70 or more. The results showed that, when using this offer, people bought more tickets than usual and also bought more expensive tickets. This concept will be re-packaged for a Spring mailing.

Identifying objections and obstacles to a ticket purchase, and then addressing each one with a sales and messaging strategy, will help increase your ticket sales - even when the Stock Market doesn’t cooperate.

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