Ticket Buyers : easy communication

We have a lot to manage with shows and we’ve gotta communicate with a lot of people to make it happen. I found a shortcut to communicating with customers. It’s what lead to selling out every week for a show that nobody wanted in the most difficult place to sell tickets on the worst night of the week… while Meranda and I were wearing all the hats producing the #1 show in LA. 

I invented the sentinel technique. The gist is, I pick my favorite customer. A real person who has bought from me, who gets what I’m doing and who has high value. I talk to them. This serves them well and attracts other people like them. The sentinel guards our treasure for us.

Sales become higher value when they’re specific to a customer. When a customer says “fuck yes! This is made just for me!” They are going to be willing to bring more to the table and expect less.

Start with the impossible, then figure out if it’s realistic.

Our customer had a real name. We called him “Shary” ( because he shared the show so much ) so he wouldn’t be creeped out if he caught wind.  Shary was our sentinel.

He believes good live entertainment could happen in LA and he wants his friends to know about it. He loves being in the know about underground entertainment. He also…

  • Likes obscure music
  • Is a member at the magic castle
  • Wears expensive shoes
  • Is single
  • Lives in an apartment
  • Works at a big production company

I knew a lot about him, so I could get very specific in communicating with him. I could go extremely specific with any aspect of who he is and it would still be okay with people who don’t fit his profile.  I was surprised when I started serving him, how people started coming in that were insanely the same as him. 

I would write an email to him… completely to this one real guy… then I would take his name off the top of it and send it out to our 4000 person email list.

It is so much easier to write an email to one person instead of trying to figure out what’s going to hurt someone’s feelings, or is going to be unappealing to a low value ticket buyer. 

If I thought something I was doing was too specific to Shary, I could always pull back and be “realistic” at that point. I started with the impossible idea that I could have and attract only dream customers, and I tried to see how far I could go with that. It always worked and it got us to sell out every week quickly.

The sentinel helps with everything

Since I see all this marketing, sales, value stuff holistically; I started booking the show to still have a good singer songwriter, but now I wanted one that Shary has never heard of. I wanted to book great magicians that he has heard of so that he could tell his friends “this is the week to go!” I made TV appearances not caring how many general ticket buyers would see it. I wanted a clip that Shary could share with his friends. I wanted to help him have more credibility with his friends.

Here are the ways marketing people define their audiences in ascending order of efficacy…

  1. “Everybody” – we think every single person in the world is a potential ticket buyer
  2. Demo / Psychographics – try to make a profile of ranges of attributes for customers (eg: age 30 to 45, female, $100k-$500k salary)
  3. Avatar – a fictional profile of a customer who represents a slightly narrower demo/ psychographic
  4. Sentinel – just some weirdo

We have limited bandwidth. We need every move to be surgical and powerful. We don’t need everybody. Whether we’re in an arena or a black box, we have a limited number of tickets to sell, so we want to reach the minimum viable audience with really high value.

The next step is to think of who our sentinel is, then write down everything we can think about them. Go crazy on the details. 

It takes bravery to be focussed. Being scattershot takes less responsibility because it’s unclear whether we’re succeeding or not.

“For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.” – James Joyce

Get a sentinel and serve them. They will bring a horde that will serve you. Hope this helps to cut through your workload.

Written for folks who want to attract and energize groups

Scot Nery is an emcee who has helped some of the biggest companies in the world achieve entertainment success. He's on an infinite misson to figure out what draws people in and engages them with powerful moments.

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