Ticketed entertainment is like any other retail business with multiple products, costs, and an evolving supply-and-demand ecosystem. By understanding digital marketing strategy, sports and entertainment organizations can mitigate risk and drive revenue.
Consider a scenario: You are an arena franchise with an 18,000-seat venue, in the upper echelon of your league with 9,000 full-season equivalents. This has you feeling good and ready to attack the season. As time moves on and the team is performing well, you are finding it difficult to achieve your goals. More staff hours, promotions, and advertising are showing positive signs but not closing the gap.
After much thought, something dawns on you. In your current structure, it is impossible to move tickets at the scale needed to grow. You need help moving tickets, but your budget, nor staff, can scale as needed. How should you proceed?
To start, remember your top customers are the key. Make sure they are returning. Dedicate necessary resources, make smart long-term pricing decisions, and develop product-specific marketing. Do not force packaging and amenities but educate and target through segmentation.
Even if that goes well, there is still a scalability need on the remaining tickets. This is where we need to remove negativity and understand retail strategy can help mitigate risk and drive revenue with the secondary market. To understand how to scale your ticketing efforts, look at why it is a must in 2018:
1. Utilization of a Digital Retail Strategy
2. Financial Risk Management
3. Accessing Multiple Distribution Channels
Next, understand how the infrastructure works, beginning with the sale and distribution efforts of your buyer.
How Digital Aids Ticketing in Retail Distribution
The world went digital, and ticketing infrastructure changed. A team or venue could no longer afford marketing efforts that scale. Therefore, just as in the music industry, an outlet emerged that was more efficient and became the scalable marketing arm through digital initiatives.
The “problem” is that it is so in-depth, expensive, and ever-changing that unless you are well-funded with a team of specialists, the task is too tall. Basically, if it’s easy and affordable, you are doing it wrong. While it is unfair to analyze the digital side of retail ticketing in one article, it is important enough to investigate each core element.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
According to Hubspot, SEO is defined as “techniques that help you achieve better rankings for your website in organic search results”. This varies from paid advertising to drive online traffic, or SEM (Search Engine Marketing), better known as PPC (Pay Per Click).
Here are the top techniques that drive SEO:
1. Content: Content is king. While there are many ways to utilize content-driving search, the top ways utilize common sense. Research which terms to use, do not assume, use keywords that describe your product, provide relevant content, and keep it fresh.
2. Indexing Pages: Without going into details, indexing is the process of adding webpages into Google search. Without a strategy, you fall behind instantly.
3. Qualified Internal Links: These are direct links to your site. Your SEO ranking will increase the more qualified and relevant the links are. However, link-buying and unqualified links can damage your ranking or cause a Google penalty. Drive a smart strategy and do not cut corners.
Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC)
Pay Per Click is exactly what is says. You only pay when a visitor clicks on your ad. While this sounds simple, PPC is inherently complex, difficult, and expensive. PPC works as an auction, where you are bidding on key search terms from the web. The complexity develops from strategy to follow-through. The following are some key contributors to determining PPC success.
1. Budgeting: This will be a moving target, but it’s important to establish an initial budget before running any paid search ads. Choose a budget that maximizes your return on ad spend so you gain the most ROI.
2. Audience and Demographic Targeting: As Google’s technology improves, so do your capabilities of reaching ideal customers. Target customers you know are interested in your products and avoid those who are not. Your competitors are taking advantage of the new audience and demographic features in AdWords. You should too.
3. Maximize Your Quality Score (QS): Your QS is made up of multiple factors but comes down to one thing: be relevant! Write ad copy that is compelling and relevant to the keywords you’re targeting. Drop your customers on a landing page that make sense. If you do these things, your quality score will take care of itself, and your cost per click will reap the benefits.
4. Prepare for Extreme Seasonality: All retail companies experience seasonality throughout a calendar year. They may see a surge around the holidays and down times throughout the year. This trend typically repeats itself each year. When it comes to ticketing, you can go ahead and toss that out the window because every day is a new experience. Concert tours are announced. More or less desirable teams make playoffs and championships. Annual events change locations or sometimes don’t happen. It is impossible to project your strategy for the entire year so go with the flow, stay on top of your account, and pivot where needed. There is no sleep in PPC.
5. Blend Your SEO and PPC Strategies: These two channels are meant to be best friends, not enemies. Many of the strategies you’re using in SEO, such as relevant content, site speed, and site structure improve your PPC campaigns. Studies have shown if a customer sees a paid ad along with an organic listing, they’re much more likely to click-through and convert on your ad because there’s trust and legitimacy established. A well-structured, content-filled site feeds better dynamic search ads as well.
6. ABO – Always Be Optimizing: Whether your inventory changes, a competitor is out-bidding you, a new feature appears in AdWords, or a specific search term performs better, you need dedicated and experienced folks monitoring your account.
In 2018, it is fair to say that you should not underestimate mobile. In fact, an argument could be made that you should have a mobile-first strategy. This does not simply mean utilization of your own app with tactics such as push notifications. This refers to mobile web browsing growth.
In 2016, mobile web browsing overtook desktop browsing for the first time, and now, 57% of all traffic is mobile. Lastly, your digital strategy must include separate web versus mobile tactics, as 79% of keywords rank differently on mobile and desktops.
The average national conversion rate on a first visit is 2%, so retargeting is a must. Retargeting is cloud-based automation that will digitally advertise to those who leave your site. While it is best utilized as part of a larger strategy, it is effective in and of itself.
While social advertising is prospecting and not PPC, you cannot ignore the benefits of demographics combined with online profiling. On Facebook, you have thousands of data points merged with social activity and browsing history to create extreme targeting. The possibilities are deep if you are engaged, motivated, and have unique strategies for each product. Advertising directly on social is not enough nor is the ability to directly sell tickets. Timing and product-specific engagement are what moves the needle.
Affiliate links are specific URL’s that drive traffic to your website. If a sale is made, commission is paid to the referring site. There are many strategies, but overall, it is a simple way to drive traffic if you manage costs. The key is to make affiliate links part of your overall digital strategy.
Putting It All Together
To illustrate the above tactics, let’s examine numbers from www.spyfu.com, which tracks various SEO and PPC metrics via website visits or search. We ran a query for a large market NHL team, tracking visits, PPC, and various costs. Here’s what we discovered.
- Of the top-ten sites for organic clicks, eights were secondary retail sites.
- Of the top-50 sites, three were primary, 32 were secondary retail, and the rest non-ticketing.
- Of all ticket organic search clicks, 92% were to a secondary retail site.
- The average cost for PPC was just under $1.00 per click.
Developing a Cost-Effective Plan:
Make Your Wins Worth it
Consider these statistics:
- Inbound Marketing Efforts Cost 62% Less Per Lead than Outbound Efforts
- Inbound Marketing Average Lead Cost: $135
- Outbound Marketing Average Lead Cost: $346
- The Average Cost Per Lead Drops 80% After Five Months of Inbound Efforts
- The Average Contact Rate of a Cold Call is 15%
- The Average Cold Call Costs $1.72
- TicketCity’s Average PPC Cost for the Five Major Sports is $1.29.
This does not mean you need to focus all your energy on PPC or dump all of your seats off through secondary retail. What it means is you need to develop a smart, cost-effective, and efficient strategy that scales.
If you have 50 sales reps who are getting an appointment a day, hiring one sales rep adds just one more appointment per day. But if your marketing strategy drives qualified leads, and you can increase appointments by one per day per rep, that is 50 appointments more per day than you would achieve by adding another body.
Drive a strategy and focus on programs that allow skilled reps to be efficient and work. Let the available infrastructure move scalable products such as individual tickets.
Weston Fox (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Search Marketing Specialist at TicketCity.