Take my Customers, Please!

Jim McCarthy is the CEO of Goldstar, one of the largest arts & entertainment marketers in North America. As most arts people know, Jim’s company maintains an enormous following of loyal members who use the Goldstar site as a portal to a broad range of value-priced entertainment choices.

Jim wrote a blog post yesterday called Things Most Organizations Simply Won’t Do in which he expressed dismay at the failure of live arts & entertainment companies to do even the simplest things to build new audiences. The first item on the list was this:

“Interact with new patrons from places like, for example, Goldstar to increase the odds that they come back.”

I’ve known Jim for several years and I know he has a genuine desire to expose people to new arts & entertainment opportunities. I also know how amazed he is when we don’t try to steal his customers out from under his nose. Jim actually wants arts & entertainment providers to turn his customers into their customers and he’s surprised at how few actually try to do it.

Here’s what I’d do if I knew Jim’s customers were coming to my event. I’d set up a special will-call table with big welcome signs. I’d staff the table with greeters who’d thank them for coming and make them feel at home – not interns, but full-time staffers who would sincerely represent the institution. I’d have a free gift ready and a special offer on future admissions that I’d make available to any Goldstar buyer who signed up. I’d instruct my staff to treat them like VIPs. I’d give them the best seats or upgraded services that I could, given what I had to offer, and I’d do everything in my power to make sure they were satisfied with their visit. The next morning I’d send them a thank you email and ask them to describe what their experience was like and if they thought they’d come back. And if they said no, I’d make a sincere attempt to learn why. Over time I’d get to know what motivates Goldstar customers to choose my type of event and to become loyal customers so my organization would be really good at bringing more of them into the fold.

You may have read here about the less-than-glamorous places new audiences come from. It’s no mistake that I put value-priced buyers at the top of the list. Goldstar and its competitors are funneling thousands of potential new audience members into our venues every day and, in many cases, all that stands between those new audiences and a lifelong relationship with us is a warm, sincere, personal greeting, an email address and a really good reason to come back.

Full disclosure – I’ve done some work for Goldstar, but I was selling tickets with them, recommending them and trying to steal their customers long before they ever hired me. It’s not about using Goldstar or any other online sales partner. It’s about understanding the value of their customers and knowing how to establish real human connections with them when they show up on our doorstep.

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2 thoughts on “Take my Customers, Please!

  1. Now hold on here – isn’t Jim’s comment slightly disingenuous, since Goldstar refuses to share any contact information on the patrons with the arts organization? That information is already captured, but Goldstar forces arts producers to pester the patron for contact info *that they already gave* when they bought the ticket.

    Either Goldstar wants people to become attached to the individual arts organization, or they don’t, and want them to remain ‘goldstar patrons’, and only buy through goldstar, not direct from the arts organization. Which is it?

    Or is he just saying he welcomes competition for people to *try* to steal his patrons from Goldstar?

    • I appreciate your comment, Doug, and I know that obtaining data from online sales partners is an ongoing discussion. The point I had hoped to make was about engagement. It was about establishing sincere, warm, direct, personal connections with real human beings who are giving us a try no matter how they found us. I’d happily set that table out for any first-timers even if their name is already in my database.

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