How to sell out your event like The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera holds the record of the longest-running show on Broadway. A couple of years ago, the Swedish production company 2Entertain got the opportunity of setting it up at Circus in Stockholm. We met with Sofia Ekskog, Head of Sales- and Marketing for the project, to find out how they succeed to sell out all events.
Could you tell us about the musical and production The Phantom of The Opera?
I think most people are familiar with the story already. But to summarize, it’s about a ghost who lives underneath an opera house and falls deeply in love with a ballet dancer named Christine. But it’s not uncomplicated, The Phantom is obsessive and manipulative in his desire to get Christine’s affection and some events don’t turn out too well.
And how about the production?
It was a mastodont one. It engaged a crew of about 200 people and a lot of resources were needed to handle everything that was going on, both on, and behind stage. 2Entertain was chosen to produce it because of our earlier experience in setting up big and international musicals, which is quite unusual for such a small country as Sweden. Still, we applied for the license for five years before being approved. When we finally did we were very grateful and proud.
What was your role in the project?
I was the Head of Sales- and Marketing, which meant I had to make sure we reached our goal of selling out all shows. Another important task of mine was to assure we followed the guidelines from the production teams in the US and the UK. This meant we had to consider certain regulations, i.e. how much of the marketing spend that should be allocated to online, outdoor, newspaper and so on. We did argue however that the online piece of the pie needed to be bigger.
Who were your event attendees?
The Phantom of the Opera was unique in that way that many first-time musical goers came to see it. This was for sure an effect caused by both media and social circles, convincing it was a must-see show. The result was that we extended our regular customer base with about 60-70 000 guests.
We know from research and our own surveys that the chance of either buying a new ticket or sharing your experience, is the greatest right after a show. Regardless if you had an incredible experience or a very bad one, this is when you have a need to tell others about it.
What was the most fun about the project?
I would say the best part was working internationally together with the steering group we had arranged at 2Entertain. It was almost like going to school, because we learned so much every day. Both about different working techniques and how they do things in England, but also about the qualities we possess ourselves. For example, it was very much appreciated that our producer knew the names of all dancers, which was unique to them. We still discuss learnings from the project even today. It really opened up our eyes to how musical production looks like in Europe.
Why did you decide to try our word-of-mouth solutions to boost ticket sales?
We had noticed ourselves that recommendations from friends and family made a huge impact on people. If someone you know tells you to go and see a show, it is much more likely you will act on that compared to an ad in a magazine. To reach new audiences by enabling our satisfied customers to spread the word, we knew it was a great match with the Phantom case.
Your solutions was also presented to us in an early stage when we were discussing different digital marketing tactics. We thought it was super cool to be able to send attendees a SMS directly after the show asking how likely they were to recommend it, even before they had left the arena.
What importance did your happy customers have for the increase of ticket sales?
Well, we sold 300 000 tickets. Of course, the marketing budget was quite generous, but the tickets wouldn’t have sold themselves. It was all thanks to people liking it and starting to talk about it.
We released the tickets about one year before the show went up. That meant it was an incredibly long sales period and the majority of the marketing budget was spent before the premier. But it also resulted in 70% of the tickets being sold on the day of the very first show. The last 30% of the tickets were sold because of the word-of-mouth effect. As soon as people had started seeing the musical the word was out there.
People said things like “You have to see this musical before you die”.
How was your presence and reach in social media channels affected?
We were really impressed by how many people who recommended the musical to their friends through social media. It was almost a bit hard to understand the huge amount of fans who liked it and told others about it. But by reading all the positive comments in the Dashboard and noticing an increased activity on our channels, we could grasp the great impact.
How has the success with The Phantom of the Opera affected your marketing strategy?
The Phantom case led the way for implementing fan experience-based referrals as a natural part of our marketing strategy. Because of the positive results from this first project we have continued using Referanza’s solutions for almost all our productions since to get more attendees.
The results from the Referanza campaigns are important statistics that we follow-up on a weekly basis, looking at the numbers and analyzing any differences. I also feel like we have played a part in developing Referanza, continuously improving our collaboration and finding a way to maximize the received value.
When I’m mentioning Referanza, it is primarily validation of the written word that I bring up. By that I mean that the recommendation comes from someone you know and trust. It just won’t have the same effect if we try to tell potential attendees that ourselves.
Do you see any challenges with social media today from a marketing perspective?
Customers are more careful about sharing information openly with everyone now. That doesn’t mean it is a negative thing however. There's a trend to engage in smaller communities and online groups, where you interact with people with the same interests, which could be live entertainment or anything really. Our mission ahead at 2Entertain is to really make sure we harness the huge potential that we possess in our customer advocates and continue to focus on delivering customer value.
What are your thoughts about our collaboration?
I have influenced almost everyone of my colleagues to start working with Referanza. For all shows with 20.000 available tickets or more we use the solutions to follow up on customer experience and to sell more tickets. We also like to develop the tools and ways of doing things together with you. We believe a close collaboration will benefit us in learning more and getting more use out of the products.
With the help from Referanza’s solutions we can boost our customers’ excitement to tell others about their visit and experience with us.