Everyone wants something unique…

At the heart of capturing opportunities in today’s consumer economy is the concept that everyone wants to feel like they are getting something unique.

This trend of personalisation is at the heart of a lot of sales and marketing processes, many driven by algorithms, but all aimed at giving folks something that no one else has.

It isn’t so much FOMO that has led us here, but the idea that technology has made it easier for people to self-identify in unique ways.

Think about it like this. When TV programming was limited and most viewers had three shows to pick from, it made a lot of sense for people to watch the same things or want similar things because the cost of not being or doing the same things as your neighbors was too high.

As we’ve reached the golden age of TV and it is easier to self-select programming and habits that narrower points of view, the idea that there is some huge mass of people watching one thing or participating in becomes a lot less realistic for a few reasons like we know the numbers of people watching, searching, or viewing something more accurately and because we can signal our unique perspectives more readily, people are showing how unique they are with more regularity.

That was a long-winded way of saying personalisation is a trend that we can use to sell more experiences. Here are a few ways to take advantage of that trend.

Allow customization:

Due to the nature of modern ticketing and Point of Sale systems, customization of a customer’s purchase is simpler than ever.

Most of the things that we can offer our guests can be added right at the point of purchase through a simple API integration.

The more challenging thing to figure out is how much or how little to offer our potential guests because as much as guests say they love choice, we also have consumer data that shows that offering too much choice often leads to consumers choosing not to purchase anything.

You may decide to offer a few simple customizations like the ability to buy parking in advance, pre-purchase an intermission drink, or offer refund protection.

But each organization is going to have to look at their experience and figure out what makes the most sense for their guests and their experiences.

Experiential upgrades:

On top of customization, you might allow people to upgrade their experiences.

This can happen in many forms like things people can purchase or things that are gifted to customers that do certain things.

You might allow your customers to buy a meet and greet with an artist or you might upgrade your guests from coach to first class depending on something unique or something that they do.

There are countless ways to take advantage of this, but the most important is that you want to give the air of allowing your guest to feel like this isn’t something that happens to many people, only a few.

Smaller events:

I remember seeing The Black Keys at a Super Bowl Party at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City the year the Super Bowl was in New Jersey.

The venue holds maybe 1,000 folks. This was a special party for CitiBank cardholders and it was cool because at the time the band was one of the biggest bands in the world, playing arenas.

It may not be feasible for you to get one of the biggest bands in the world to play a small intimate show, but a really great way to signal personalisation to your customers is by creating smaller events that limit the number of people and enhance the way that people engage with the event.

This might be a performance that is members’ only. You may do a special performance in a special location like Taylor Swift recently played in Central Park to just a few thousand fans.

You might curate a special tasting or session for a select group of folks.

All of these options and more are in play and can be created in a way that makes individual guest feel special and like an event has been created just for them.

Personalisation!

That’s a winner in today’s experience market and one we all need to take action on or, at least, offer in some small way because our guests are looking for it.

Sense of place is important

As the experience economy continues to grow in importance to consumers, an important aspect of the experience that can’t be neglected is the fact that during an experience guests want a sense of place.

This sense of place is important because it allows people to recognize that they are taking part in something that is one-of-a-kind, something that required a deal of thought, and something that isn’t likely to be repeated.

All of these can lead to wins for us and our events because they all capitalize on the idea of FOMO that seems to be on many marketers’ tongues currently.

Whether or not you believe in FOMO, there are some really great ways that you can take advantage of the trend of offering your guests a sense of place that will create a buying mood in your potential guests.

Here are three of my favorites:

Use location to your advantage:

Living in Washington, DC, you can take for granted the US Capitol, the White House, and all of the other monuments. But Nationals Park has found a way to incorporate them into the view when you are sitting on the second and third levels where the Capitol Dome peaks out and stares at you from the base of the Mall.

In Sydney, the Sydney Opera House’s Forecourt is one of the most spectacular event spaces in the world. Taking advantage of being on the Sydney Harbor and sitting in front of the Sydney Opera House provides visitors an experience that is breathtaking and unique.

If you want to see what this looks like in practice, search “The National Sydney Opera House” in YouTube and watch the full-length concert they broadcast from the Forecourt a few years back.

On and on these opportunities can go from concerts that take place underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, Burning Man in the desert, or a football match at Wembley, all of these are iconic locations that can be used to amplify your event and give it a sense of place.

Bring in local touches:

Every time I am in Paris, I visit Notre Dame because I love the bakery that is next door to the cathedral. Since I was about 20 years old, I’ve been going there to get a Parisian hot dog.

Over the years, I have had the chance to visit many of Paris’s iconic restaurants and places, but the most Parisian thing in the world to me is the hot dog at the bakery next door to Notre Dame.

I bring this up because part of the sense of place is having something that you connect with a location.

Ask a New Yorker which deli they love the most and you’ll get any number of answers and all of them tell a story.

Same thing when you go to Miami and ask about the best Cuban food or craft beer, the answers will be varied and none of them are likely wrong.

This is at play all around the world too. No matter where you are holding your event, try and create some sort of association with the local community by bringing in some of those things that are unique and give your event that extra touch of place.

It doesn’t have to be food and drink either. You can also bring in designers, artists, and vendors from around the area to do something unique.

Expand your footprint:

I’ve run the NYC marathon 4 times. I lived in NYC so running the marathon was a natural thing.

The reason I bring this up is because the NYC marathon makes a point of having the race touch all five boroughs.

While your event might not have the footprint of the NYC marathon you can still use the concept of expanding your footprint as a tool to drive opportunities to create a unique experience.

Look at it like this, if you are hosting a road race, maybe you can create a guided tour or suggested sites to see. You might even be able to create partnerships with these venues and sites to give your guests a special perk.

You can also bundle packages with other events like if you are hosting a music festival and the local sports teams are playing at the same time or in the days that are around your event.

This can play out in any number of ways to partnering together with another event in town, restaurants, museums, or something unique.

The key is to be creative and give your guests a hook that signals to them that they aren’t just visiting a small event; they are visiting a destination event.

With a little thought, all of these ideas can come into play and create the opportunity for you to take advantage of the idea that people love to feel like they are doing something unique in a specific place.

FOMO may or may not be real, but doing the work to take advantage of it can be fun and profitable no matter what.

Read more about our 10 trends impacting the live entertainment industry here.

VIP & Exclusive experiences are more popular than ever

I can remember pretty vividly the first time I hear Tom Leykis talk about the lighting in a particular restroom at a luxury hotel in California making you look better than you ever looked before.

I’ve also seen the way that being whisked behind the heavy doors of a really exclusive resort like the Surf Club in Miami can make you feel like you’ve been let in on a secret.

This feeling plays out in nightclubs, at car dealerships, and in other places all over the world, all day long.

What this does is highlights the trend that people love and desire more exclusive and VIP experiences and that this trend shows no signs of letting up.

How can we take advantage of this? Let’s take a look.

Begin by defining what you want to create:

In working on projects with VIP brands and partners around the world, I recognize one important thing: you have to begin with the end in mind.

This is important no matter what you are creating because this is an important concept that everyone should use.

I use the simple question: “What will success look like?”

When you are thinking about maximizing the impact of a VIP or exclusive offering, you have to begin with that idea in mind.

Maybe you want to create something that only a dozen or a hundred people can experience like the global tours that the Four Seasons has created for their guests.

You might want something a little more open, but still exclusive like the way that American Express offers the Centurion Card to guests that fit a certain profile.

Taking this one step further, you might go the route of the Bonvoy Program from Marriott where you earn your way to more exclusive perks.

The key here is that when you are thinking about what to offer folks, you start by defining success.

Make your offering unique:

One of the challenges that many events and organizations face is that people want a VIP experience and something exclusive, but because everyone is doing something focused on exclusivity and the VIP experience, finding a way to stand out can come with a lot of difficulties.

This doesn’t mean you should give up on doing something unique or exclusive, but it does mean that you are going to have to work even harder to stand out in the world.

How do you achieve this?

Creativity is the first part of the mix.

Use your location by putting your event somewhere special like the Running of the Bulls.

Or, you can use the assets you have available to you like a venue like the Sydney Opera House has done with its props and materials gained from many years of events.

A second piece of the puzzle means you need to limit what you call exclusive or VIP.

One of the challenges that modern buildings may find themselves facing in years to come is that over the years the amounts of exclusive or VIP areas has expanded and without differentiation, they can feel less than exclusive.

This means that it is going to be imperative that everyone involved in the premium and VIP experience work even harder than ever to create something that feels special and exclusive.

This might mean restructuring some areas as is being done at venues around the US. It may be adding value in some way. Or, it could be something entirely different.

The key is to create exclusivity and limitations so that people feel like they are getting something that not everyone can experience.

A third key idea here is to make certain that people can’t get what you are offering everywhere.

This is the challenge that a lot of venues and events deal with all the time because they have to lay out their events, buildings, and stages in a similar fashion or do so because of best practices to the point that everything feels the same. This is where the idea of creativity comes into play and you need to use it effectively.

Constantly innovating the value proposition:

In ways big and small technology has changed our view of the culture we exist in and the way that we interpret premium quality or VIP experiences.

This change in perception requires a constant attention to reinvention and innovation in our offerings.

When I say innovation I don’t want to scare anyone off because innovations don’t have to be huge differences in the way that a business is run or the offer you make to your guests.

Innovation can be much simpler like renewing the space that you use, the food and beverage you serve, the level of service you provide, or the way someone experiences an event.

The challenge here is that you must constantly be on the lookout for ways to renew your experience. As an example, look at the Wynwood Walls in Miami, a great space dedicated to elevating street art. They are often bringing in new artists to refresh the space and create new installations so that the space is always fresh and people get a new experience.

This method plays out regularly with long running hit plays on Broadway and in the West End. Think about how often the lead changes in Chicago. Where a new star comes on board the cast regularly to keep the production fresh, to renew the experience, and to encourage people to come back and see the show again and again.

A final example here comes from the world of luxury and discretion, the Four Seasons has a airline and plans global vacation packages for their guests that they work on for years in advance with unique itineraries and experiences that are limited to a small group of VIP guests, with the exact locations and itinerary never to be repeated.

All of these examples are innovations and they can be replicated by you and your organization within the limits and the market you exist with a little creativity, focus, and thoughtfulness to how you want to create and deliver VIP events and exclusive experiences for your guests.

The only limit is your imagination.

While this may seem risky, the truth is not thinking about ways to offer your guests elevated, exclusive, or VIP experiences is something most organizations and events can’t take a risk on not doing.

Consumers buying power is changing

I was recently part of a Twitter interview and one of the things that came up was a question about pricing and market segmentation. This was interesting to me because I often feel like pricing is a big challenge for organizations because the pricing decisions can often feel less than scientific.

More important than a debate about the pricing dynamics is the trend that pricing and empty seats or full seats highlights which is that purchasing power for most income levels has changed a great deal over the past decade or more. This is impacting a lot of our ability to market and sell events effectively.

In 2019, the United Kingdom is set to see the lowest growth in consumer spending in six years due to a number of factors. In the United States, the 2020 presidential campaign seems to be setting itself up as a referendum of decades of growing income inequality. Globally, 58% of consumers feel like they are better off than they were five years ago.

All of this should signal for us that we have to take a different and varied approach to our consumers and how they are making their purchasing decisions.

What does this mean to all of us in the live event industry? Many different things, but here are three ways this trend is impacting us and how we can handle it.

The bell curve has flipped: It used to be considered a given that the bell curve had a huge hump in the middle where most of the market lived and purchased.

Now, the bell curve has flipped and the middle is a lot of times a wasteland for marketing and selling to consumers.

Where the margins are and the opportunities are in many cases are to the two extremes: with the commodity purchase or the premium purchase.

Some of the fastest growing areas in business are on those fringes where you see companies like Wal-Mart or Amazon working to deliver cheaper stuff faster to their customers.

Then you look to the other extreme and you see the market for premium cars growing, premium hotels becoming destinations more than ever, and VIP experiences being the centerpieces of many events and offerings.

How do we deal with this?

Well, we begin by understanding that the middle may not be the best place to try and position our experiences any more.

We can’t do average stuff for average people any more because the Internet has taught us all to expect more or less.

So design your experience with that in mind.

Offer a get-in price that everyone can participate in and that offers the experience at a base level, but also consider ways to take the experience to the other extreme with VIP areas, add-ons, party decks, or exclusive experiences.

Consumer’s discretionary income is challenged in many places: A dollar doesn’t buy what it used to is something we can say at almost any time in history and all nod our heads in unison. Because, inflation and purchasing power seem to always be changing.

Currently, in nations around the world, we are seeing consumer’s spending power slip due to increased costs associated with housing, food, health care, and other essentials.

What does this mean to all of us?

Well, it means we need to be considerate of the world that our customers live in.

This may mean offering up more lower or entry-level offerings to ensure that you have an event that has enough people to create the atmosphere or experience you want.

It can also make the idea of having multiple distinct offerings more important than ever before because we are likely appealing to two different edges of the bell curve now.

And, we likely need to think through how we can make our experience feel like a once in a lifetime opportunity for people to splurge on.

The key for all of us is to recognize that our consumers are making a choice that reflects their circumstances and those circumstances are changing in a lot of ways that we may not be considering right now.

Customers have more options: If there is a theme within a theme, this is it.

The most relevant idea to keep in mind is that as consumers are putting more value on experiences, we are finding that more people are creating experiences that they can offer to consumers to win their business than at any time in memory.

What can we do about this trend?

We have to begin by making certain that we are thinking about what we want our guests to experience when they visit us and work with us.

This likely means we need to be more thoughtful about everything we are doing and deliberate in creating an experience that is exceptional and speaks to our specific market.

Second, we have to recognize that because consumers have more options, it is going to be much more difficult to break through to these consumers and get their attention.

This means on top of being more thoughtful in the creation of an event, we have to get more creative in the way we market and sell our events so that we can break through the clutter of experiences that are trying to demand our market’s attention.

This may mean going to the extreme of using PR tactics like the way that the Warrington Wolves sent their mascot with binoculars to a rival’s match to “spy” on them as a way to draw attention to the Wolves. It could be creating an extremely diverse festival line-up like the Miami Beach Pop Festival. Or, it could be by wrapping yourself in discretion, mystique, and luxury like the Four Seasons.

The key is that as our market is getting more options and attention, we have to spend more time thinking about how we are going to make ourselves different.

The same goes for changes in spending power. As our customers see their financial lives change, we have to recognize that this is going to impact their buying decisions and we have to act accordingly to ensure we can still be competitive.

Consumers want diversity in experience

If you follow along with a lot of commentary, you’ll hear people talking about the “good old days” or “how things used to be” and this is everywhere, not just in live events.

The premise of these talking points is typically that the kids and their cell phones are ruining everything and if they’d just be happy doing things the way that they’d always been done, everything would be cool.

Unfortunately, that’s never really been the case and as technology has expanded to touch more and more of our lives, the likelihood that this idea ever becomes true lessens.

The reality is that people have always been looking for unique experiences or to try things that would be new or different, it is just because of technology that we all have a greater ability to see, try, and enjoy a wider variety of experiences.

Access to this diversity increases our desire for more diversity in the experiences that we can try or participate in.

How do we keep up?

How do we offer our customers experiences that capture this sense of newness, novelty, and diversity?

Here are a couple of ideas:

Change up your experience:

In the States, at the start of a new season or the opening of a new stadium or arena, a lot of attention is paid to the new experiential offerings like Wi-Fi, decks, or interactive sponsor activities.

These are all great opportunities to change up the way that a fan or guest experiences your event.

Another way is you can do what the Sydney Opera House has done where they bring out props and materials from their archives to add to the experience of visiting the Opera House, always adding another detail to their experience to continue to give their guests something new.

 Or, you can change the way your present your performance or change up the running time of a show or event.

Think about acts like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, or The National that play different set lists every night, making each show a unique experience.

Open up the experience:

When I lived in New York City, I loved the Met.

I would spend hours in the museum, walking the galleries, browsing the gift shop, and more.

So, when the Met started putting events on the roof with art instillations and a bar, I was in. Having the ability to interact with art, have a drink, and stare out at Central Park and the New York City skyline was a winning formula for me and a way to expand the experience of visiting the museum that could be refreshed regularly since the exhibits weren’t permanent.

You could also look at the way that the Atlanta Braves have built up the experience of going to a baseball game at The Battery in Atlanta. When you visit their new ballpark, you aren’t just going to a game because the Braves have built up an entire neighborhood around the ballpark with shopping, dining, and more to help grow your Braves Baseball experience in a holistic and experiential way.

To open the experience doesn’t require a new stadium or art instillations either, it could be just using assets that you haven’t used before like balconies, ballrooms, or plazas. The key is to find a way to give your guests something that is different than what they’ve come to expect from the typical experience. In a lot of cases, small changes can have a big impact.

Take your show on the road:

One way that maybe the most challenging to pull off, but guarantees something unique for your guests is to take your show to new or different locations.

Each year, INTIX holds their annual event in a different city to highlight all of the great things that people in the world of tickets are doing.

Next year, INTIX will be in Midtown Manhattan, but the previous two years they have been in Baltimore and Dallas.

This model has been played out by any number of events as well. Think about the Major League All-Star Game, the Super Bowl, or the original Lollapalooza festival.

 All of these took their event and put it on the road so that you might see many All-Star Games but you would never see it in the same place twice.

On a smaller level, you might move your festival or event around town or use different venues for your events each year. The opportunities here are endless.

The reality is that consumers have always liked variety. The difference is that with the accessibility of technology, we see variety more regularly and it makes our desire for variety in our own lives greater. For those of us in the world of live events, this presents a challenge…but it is also a great opportunity to do fun and new things.

The challenge of event discovery

I think we have all been in a situation where we have found out about something we’d really want to do only to find out that it happened a night or two before.

In fact, I bet that it has happened to most of us more than once.

Now think about that for a second, if you are a professional involved in events and you miss a prime experience, game, or show, what do you think the odds are that a guest that isn’t a professional might find this situation popping up even more frequently?

I’d place my money on pretty good.

This is the challenge of event discovery and with an insane number of unsold tickets that I’ve heard reaches over $50 billion worldwide, combined with countless unused hotel rooms, vacations, and other experiences, helping our customers and potential customers know what’s going on is a real area of opportunity.

What can we do to make discovery simpler for our audience?

Let’s discuss some options.

Start by being relevant: I received an email from a colleague on Sunday and he was talking with me about a note I wrote where I discussed attention being at the heart of marketing.

I stand by that statement, but my colleague added a word that I think is important, he added relevant.

To maximize the likelihood that your event is going to be discovered by your target audience, you have to begin by creating and delivering relevant messages.

What does that look like?

It means that you are giving your market something that is meaningful to them, in a manner that they are willing to consume it.

How do you do this?

You do this by understanding the audience you are trying to reach and creating something that will impact them.

Say you are selling a holiday to honeymooners, you might not show the kiddie pool in your brochure or on your website.

Maybe you are selling a heavy metal concert. A bad place to put your add is on a Top 40 station or something pop oriented.

You might catch a few folks, but I wouldn’t think the conversion rate would be that great.

Be timely: Your message needs to reach people so that they have time to act.

I knew a woman that sold hockey tickets and she did really well by keeping a tickle file of emails that she could connect with on game-day if some tickets were released at the last minute or if a game needed an extra push.

She’d make sure that she sent the email out with time enough for people to get her message, decide they’d be interested in going, round up colleagues or friends, and buy the tickets with time to get to the arena.

That’s pretty timely.

Compare that to the person that calls you five minutes before a show starts, asking if you want the extra ticket for that night’s concert and you can see the difference.

For many of us, timely is going to have different meanings.

The key idea here is that you map out when an event is, how long the buying decision is going to take, cost, and a bunch of other factors and you lay out a timely marketing campaign focused on your relevant market.

Which leads me to my final point.

Be consistent: If I could only offer one marketing lesson to the world, it would be this one: pick a value proposition and deliver it to the world consistently.

That’s it.

For many of us that are fighting the battle of event discovery, we lose because we just don’t spend enough time or effort getting our message out consistently.

When I chat with my lady about business, she asks me the key to my success. I always tell her, “I show up.” I’m consistent.

That’s what your marketing needs to do as well.

When you are going to put an event on sale, you can hope that the world is going to hear about it on the launch date or the on-sale date, but you better plan for how you are going to deal with things if that doesn’t happen.

Which likely means that you are going to want to build up a marketing plan that focuses on the three core ideas of relevancy, timeliness, and consistency.

While this doesn’t guarantee that someone won’t miss an event because they didn’t hear about it until the date has passed, it will cut down on the likelihood that this does happen.

Modern consumers demand unique experiences

We hear a lot about “the experience economy” these days. The reality is that an economy built on experiences is an over $100 billion dollar a year industry that is growing at a rate faster than the economy as a whole.

As with any growing sector of the economy, where there is spending and attention, there is opportunity and people hustling to gain a share of this opportunity.

Due to the intense competition for people’s experience spending, events and venues are working even harder than ever to create something new and unique to offer consumers.

All of this attention means that customers are demanding more and more from their experiences, even that each of them provide some level of uniqueness.

How are any of us to keep up?

Place:

One of the many interesting ways that planners, producers, and business leaders have been able to create unique experiences for customers is by the use of place.

Currently, there is a music festival being planned and brought to life on Miami Beach, to showcase Miami Beach and provide festival goers with an experience none of them have likely ever felt, a music festival on the sands of Miami Beach.

For years, bands and concert goers have viewed visiting Red Rocks as a pinnacle event due to the unique nature of the venue and scenery around the venue.

On top of these examples, we’ve seen promoters and event producers take events to Central Park; the desert has become a village for Burning Man; and, across Europe festivals, concerts, and events are put on in villages, cities, and fields all with unique characteristics.

While the challenge of putting on these kinds of unique experiences can be immense, typically the pay off in attention helps drive sales and earning the event a lot of brand equity through earned media, word of mouth, and social media.

Service:

I’m on record saying that customer service is the best form of marketing and many brands have been built on the back of customer service like Disney, Four Seasons, and, even, us, at Booking Protect we look at service as our key differentiator.

For events to compete in the modern economy, it is important that an emphasis on customer service takes center stage. The reasons behind this are many, but I’ll just share 3:

1) Customers have access to social media and bad experiences travel faster than the speed of light now, harming your brand.

2) It really is true that people remember how you make them feel. If you make them feel great, that’s likely to come out in social media, word of mouth, and repeat purchases.

3) Great service will likely add to the experience on-site leading to two positive outcomes: everyone has a better time and the guests spend more money.

Customer service is a key differentiator and the more you promote it as a value of your business, the more likely you become to benefit from it.

Customized and different offerings:

As I’m writing this up, the Washington Nationals are selling a package that includes the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a September Nationals’ game.

I’ve read many reviews of how fans love Alice Cooper’s backstage meet and greets because he works so hard to make every interaction special. I’m no stranger to buying tickets that allow me to customize my purchase to include parking, a drink, or something else all at once.

While you may think this goes hand in hand with wanting unique experiences, it pays to highlight this because allowing customers to customize their experience as part of your regular buying journey can encourage people to purchase and mix and match experiential aspects of your event that you might never have considered valuable or as something to monetize.

As an added bonus, you may find that this exercise enables you to use assets that you never thought to monetize before like when the Red Sox put a bar underneath the stands with a view of the field.

The key in all of these examples is that customers are looking for something that allows them to have a unique experience, and, even better, something that can’t easily be replicated.

This is tough work, but achieving it can pay big dividends.

10 trends impacting the live entertainment industry

The times are always changing and sometimes we feel like they are moving faster than ever before.

That said, more often than we imagine, trends that are already evident are having the most impact on our businesses, live entertainment is no different.

That’s why over the next few weeks, we are going to look at 10 trends that are impacting the live entertainment industry and how you can approach them and deal with them effectively.

The ten trends are:

• Advances in technology.
• Greater demand for experiences over stuff.
• Destination events as a viable option.
• Consumers have higher expectations.
• The challenge of event discovery.
• Demands for more diversity of experience.
• Consumer buying power at different levels of buyer.
• More desire for exclusive or VIP experiences.
• The need to give people a sense of place.
• Consumers demand personalisation.

These aren’t the only trends that are impacting customers and the live entertainment industry, but they are things that have been poking their heads into our businesses for a while now and are likely to continue to impact how we approach everything we do for the next several years or longer.

In each of the pieces to follow, we will lay out the trend, what it means to you and how you can approach it in a way that allows you to be proactive in how you handle the trend.

Everyone has higher expectations

Likely one of the biggest trends going down in live entertainment is elevated expectations.

In many of the pieces of this series, we have touched on some aspect of this trend from the ways that technology is impacting consumer tastes, the way that people love destination experiences as long as they are unique, and the impact of more people spending money on experiences driving more competition for their discretionary spending.

All of these symptoms and more add up to an increase in consumer expectations when they go to a live event. This means that we all have to be sharp as we create experiences, deliver them, and follow up with our customers so that we meet and exceed their expectations.

How do we do that? Here are a few ideas:

Constantly innovate your experience:

I define innovation as consistent progress and when we are laying out our live experiences, we should keep an eye out for ways that we can innovate.

If you define innovation in the way that I do, you’ll be able to constantly look at small things that you can do to increase the value of your experience.

These improvements can range from things like helping people get in and out of your events faster, to the way that you deliver customer service, through to partnerships with local restaurants or breweries, into technology.

The key is that you are always on the lookout for ways to add more value and improve the experience your guests receive.

Give your guests freedom:

Customization is a word thrown around a lot lately, for good reason. People all want something unique to them.

If I’m sharing a deeply held secret, I think that this was always the case, but now we have the tools available to deliver on this promise. Customization doesn’t really have to be that complicated because many of our ticketing systems and point of sales systems allow a great deal of customization already.

In many cases, this makes customization as simple as asking a couple of questions like, “Would you like refund protection on this experience?”

Other ways that you can allow customization is through add-ons like a drink at the event, pre-purchasing merchandise, and offering additional forms of access.

In reality, I think the only limitation to what levels of customization we can give our customers is in our own creativity.

Always deliver a world-class customer experience:

If you have never heard the name, Jesse Cole, Google him. Jesse is the owner of the Savannah Bananas in the Coastal Plain League, a wood bat summer baseball league.

Which if you don’t know is below the minor leagues, but Jesse and the Bananas are doing something amazing because they are on a 78-game sellout streak that has seen them sell out all of their games in 2017 and 2018, and so far they haven’t missed a sell out in 2019.

That’s a great statistic, but the reason it is important is because it shines a light on the experience that the team delivers to their fans each and every game.

From ushers dancing in the aisles, to the man-nana cheerleaders, to the banana mascot, the big idea that hangs over the team’s games is that they are putting on a show, no matter what happens on the field.

You might think that you have absolutely nothing in common with summer league baseball, but the idea of putting on a show is consistent with the experience that customers receive when they visit a 5-star hotel, fly Upper Class on Virgin, or just become a regular at their local restaurant.

Delivering world-class experiences at scale is difficult, but in the modern world where consumers are spending more on experiences, demand more from their expenditures, and can share a good or bad experience in an instance, what other choice do we have but to do our best to deliver just that?

When you pull all three of these ideas together, I actually think the challenge isn’t as difficult as we might think initially. All meeting higher expectations really comes down to is not taking your customers for granted, thinking about how you can make their experience better, and making the effort to deliver.

Destination: Anywhere!

Previously I wrote about how customers demand unique experiences and that could include anything like being able to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game, sitting on a riser in a VIP section of a concert, or gaining special access at a festival.

One big area of the experience economy that is growing and shows no signs of losing steam is consumer demand for destination events. Many of us are familiar with festivals like Pink Pop, Glastonbury, and the like that are destination events, but over the last few years we’ve seen any number of destination events pop up to show that if you build it, promote it, and work really hard, people will come.

Some examples of unique festivals and events in eye-catching and unique places include the upcoming Miami Beach Pop Festival, the first music festival on Miami Beach in decades; the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo; and, the Indian Pacific Outback Christmas train that brings a carnival, music, and more to some of the most remote areas of the Outback.

All of these places have something unique and they highlight the fact that putting events in unique locations offers potential customers a reason to buy, travel, and plan ahead for an event.

All of which create a positive chain reaction in the event economy.
What are some of the ways that we should be approaching destination events? Here are three ideas.

Make sure the location is appealing:

At the end of the last football season, Chelsea and Arsenal met in the Europa Cup Final. The event was a bit of a challenge for many fans for many reasons including the location Baku where flights were limited, Azerbaijan is in the middle of a conflict with Armenia, and visiting the country required a complicated visa process for British visitors.

This is not the kind of environment you want to create for your event.
Compare the Europa Cup Final with other world-class events like this season’s Super Bowl to be played in Miami, or the way that the 2012 Olympics were played in London, or annually when Comic-Con takes residence in San Diego.

The key with those three events is that they have are in safe places, with ease of access, and they provide a variety of experiences for people. With destination events, things like Burning Man are the outliers, because people want to go to cool places that are easy to get-to, have fun things to do, and provide something outside of the event itself.

Make certain that your event is unique: Place is an important part of the destination experience, but when people do arrive at your event, you want to ensure that they are receiving something unique.

When I lived in New York City, New Yorkers would joke about street fair season.

Why?

Because you’d go to a street fair, you’d see the same vendors, you’d get an Arepas, and you’d go home. It was funny, but mundane.

To achieve success in your destination event marketing, you have to give people something that they can’t get anywhere else to ensure that the trip is worthwhile.

As an example, look at the way the Sydney Opera House works at constantly changing their building and introducing new aspects to their in-house experience.

Or, look to the world of ultra running where the Barkley Marathons has no definite starting time, the course changes frequently, and, for fun, runners have to find a variety of books throughout their race. The key is that you want to give people the incentive to come by offering them something they can’t find anywhere else by being creative with your offer and experience.

Make certain it is fun:

This goes without saying, but sometimes we can get so in the weeds with planning and working towards our goals, we forget that we need to make the event fun for our attendees. Destination events are a great way to show people a sampling of the local cuisine, the local drinks, and local arts and crafts. To name just a few examples of ways to amp up your events.

You can also amp up the fun by working on creating partnerships that will enhance people’s experiences when they return home by offering gifts from partners and brands that will remind your guests of the trip they made and act to add value and prestige to your event.

We could go on and on and on about this to cover the entertainment you offer, the accommodation partners, and other aspects of the event. The key is to never forget your destination experiences should be rewarding for people and they should enjoy themselves.

As consumers continue the trend of looking at destination events, all of these ideas are important for us to consider as we look to reach our market and give them a reason to buy from us.

The fun thing is that this is just the beginning.

Advances in technology means people engage with live experiences differently

Technology has created a lot of great opportunities for us to connect with people in new and different ways including being able to talk with people around the world, send messages no matter where you might be, or shop while you are on your commute.

When it comes to the live entertainment industry, technology has meant that our customers and prospects have changed as well.

Three big changes that we are seeing are folks attention for average has dropped to almost nothing, customers have a greater expectation of what they consider valuable, and change occurs more quickly.

What does this mean for you? Let’s take these one by one:

Tougher to get people’s attention:

Recent studies can’t put an exact number on how difficult it is to break through and gain a consumer’s attention, but the average consumer is hit with thousands of messages a day.

What does this mean to all of us trying to sell something, gain awareness, or get noticed? It means that average doesn’t work anymore, at all. More importantly, this means that you and your team need to think about the messages you are sending out more closely.

You might start out with the question: “Is this what everyone else is doing?”

If the answer is “yes”, maybe you need to think differently about how you are sharing your information with the world. To gain people’s attention today, likely means that you will need to be more creative in your thinking and be more willing to do things that are out of the ordinary.

Here are a few examples to get you started:

1) In 2008, the people at The Guinness Book of World Records used a week long focus on the American daytime show, Live! with Regis and Kelly to gain attention for their book and the crazy stunts that often make up most of the book including having runner Dean Karnazes run for 48 hours on a treadmill set up in the lobby of their studio so all of New York City could see Dean run around the clock.

2) Recently, a professional services firm based in Washington, DC needed to reach a group of partners at a major law firm and were struggling to get through and set an appointment. To combat that, they waited until one of the first nice days of the spring and rolled an ice cream truck up in front of the law firm’s office and the executives at the firm, called all of their contacts to let them know that they were giving away ice cream out front. They got the meeting and a deal.

I could go on and on with ideas that will help you gain attention, but the idea is that you have to be more thoughtful in engaging with your market because technology means that people have seen everything and they are probably bored by it. So your job is to think differently about reaching out.

Everyone seems to have higher expectations:

As far as trends go, this one should seem most obvious to everyone.

I mean, why be bothered by anything new when you have all the entertainment in the world at your fingers and you can access the greatest performances, songs, TV shows, and other forms of entertainment with no trouble at all.

This just means that people’s expectations are higher than ever before. This also means that we have to constantly be one-upping ourselves to keep people’s attention.

A few years back, I learned about how the Sydney Opera House was using props and costumes from throughout the venues history to create new experiences for their guests. Awesome! Right?

Absolutely!

The only downside was that as soon as they’d roll out something cool, people just expected that this was part of the experience at the Sydney Opera House and would ask, “what’s next?”

We are all dealing with that same phenomenon now.

How do we deal with elevated expectations? Well, we can’t rest on our reputation.

For each venue or experience, the answer to this is going to change and be unique, but a few ways you can add value to your experience and give your guests something they can’t have anywhere else include:
• Partner with a local restaurant, brewery, or local business to create something unique just for your guests like a special sandwich or food item, beer, or piece of merchandise.
• Elevate your customer service. One way that you can always change the experience or elevate it is with better customer service. Many of our partners choose Booking Protect due to the way that our customer service exceeds guest expectations.


The key here is that we have to all always think about how to make our experience unique and relevant. Sometimes those changes will be big and sometimes they will be small.

Change is constant:

After looking at customer’s expectation and all of our diminishing attention spans, it seems almost logical to end with a look at change.
But change is constant for all of us today and due to the nature of technology, change can feel like it is coming even faster than ever.

You can see how this plays out by watching the news, stories that used to be at the top of the broadcast for days might now vanish in an hour or two.

Or, look to the world of movies. A movie’s lifecycle used to be months, but now a run at the cinemas may be winding down after only 4 weeks for a lot of movies.

Everywhere you look, the metabolism of change seems to be quickening.

How do we handle that? For one, we need to be ready to move quickly. Slow moving organizations are likely to see themselves beaten to a customer’s spend by more nimble startups.

In practice, this means being more nimble in the way that you test ideas. Think A/B testing like a startup.

Second, knowing that change is constant, we have to work especially hard at giving ourselves some sort of differentiation that will withstand the acceleration of change. In sports, think about the nature of the live experience. There is nothing that will replicate the feeling and the excitement of a big Premier League matchup or a big-time college football game.

Or, on a holiday, the scenic beauty of certain experiences actually is a great counterbalance to an ever changing world.

Finally, knowing that change is constant means that you have to plan for how you are going to always keep growing your experience and your offering to appeal to an audience that maybe changing in ways that you can’t always envision.

Overall, we have to recognize the role of technology in our lives and be prepared to deal with it on the terms set by technology and the ways our lives depend on it.

An interview with Jo Michel

Ahead of a trip to Australia in November for the Ticketing Professionals Australia conference with our MD Simon, our friend, Dave Wakeman is taking some time out to catch up with a founder of the conference, Jo Michel.

Read on to see what they said:

“Simon and I are off to Sydney, Australia for the Ticketing Professionals Australia Conference on 14 and 15 November at Bankwest Stadium.

In anticipation of our visit to Sydney, we have been talking with people around Australia about some of the opportunities and challenges that people are dealing with.

In the lead-in to the conference, we are going to be sharing a lot of opinions and ideas from leaders in the industry.

The first person we chatted with is Jo Michel, one of the co-founders of the conference, and a great leader and mentor in the ticketing world.

Here’s our conversation with Jo: (Our questions are in bold and some light editing was made for clarity.)

What made you and Angela decide to put on a conference like this?

I’ve wanted to curate a conference for Ticketing Professionals in Australia since I started going to Europe Talks Tickets back in the early 2000’s.

We did have a conference for a few years, which was lead by a great colleague and friend Tim Roberts in conjunction with Stage Queensland.

The Ticketing Professionals Australia Conference ran from 2004 for about 7 years, until Tim died unexpectedly.

Both Angela and I were contributors and speakers at the conference during that time.

Then in 2017 at the INTIX Conference in New Orleans, Angela & I were the only Australian delegates and late one night surrounded by fantastic colleagues from all over the world we decided that we needed to band together to bring a conference back to the Australian Industry.

So on our return we worked on establishing our company Mission Tickets and buying the IP from the previous conference and began a plan to bring it back to life. W are really excited to have achieved a successful trial last year and can’t wait to welcome everyone to Bankwest Stadium in November.

What are you most excited about seeing happening?

I love ticketing. Most of all I love sharing experiences with my colleagues and peers.

So I am excited to see the networking and sharing of ideas that has been missing from our local industry.

I also can’t wait to have our colleagues from the arts sharing their stories with the sports guys and girls.

That’s what makes us work better and smarter, sharing our stories, challenges and ideas with each other.

Are there themes that you are highlighting or hoping come to the forefront?

We want to be reasonably broad in our approach.

But this is an education led conference, so the topics that are relevant to the industry today will be a focus.

Change, which is the topic of Dave’s keynote, is always a big challenge for us and we need to remember that change is positive.

Of course, social responsibility, new technologies, digital trends and customer experience are all areas we will be exploring and have invited local and international experts to guide the sessions.

How do you hope attendees will approach coming to the conference?

The hope is that attendees will come with an open mind and a willingness to learn and share.

I know that the best conferences I have been to are the ones where I have gone not knowing what to expect and just having conversations and learning as much from the delegates as I did from the sessions.

I hope they engage with each other, the speakers and with Angela and I.

We want to involve the industry so we’re open to people coming to us with ideas or wanting to give opinions, join a panel or moderate a session.

Why is having an international presence so important?

We’ve been lucky to attend quite a few international conferences.

Getting ideas and influences from outside the local environment allow us to see ourselves differently.

It also allows us to benchmark and identify areas in the industry that are working well or exceeding as well as areas where we have things to learn.

Having an international presence invites delegates to expand their contacts, have different conversations and maybe even take back a new idea to try.”

Make sure you connect with Simon and Dave at the Ticketing Professionals Australia Conference. If you are going to be there, send them a note and let them know.

You can reach Simon at Simon.Mabb@BookingProtect.com and you can reach Dave at Dave@DaveWakeman.com