Jesse Lawrence, Founder and CEO of FanIQ and TicketIQ, believes there’s no better time for a festival to be looking for a ticketing partner.
“There’s more diversity and competition in the festival ticketing world than there is in any other segment of the ticketing world,” he offers. “There's more competition for primary ticketing than in any other segment of the market – you've got See Tickets, you’ve got Tixr, you've got Front Gate. There are new ticketing platforms popping up every day.
“So I think if you're an event promoter in the festival world, it's never been a better time to be out in the market, looking for partners to help launch new events or grow existing events.”
Lawrence speaks from a place of experience. His work with FanIQ (a data-driven marketing platform for ticket sellers looking to reach fans directly) and TicketIQ (a no-fee event ticket search engine, aggregator and mobile app which provides ticket-buying options from many different primary and secondary market ticket sellers) has given him a unique perspective on the intricacies of event marketing and ticketing.
Here he discusses the platforms and content that are working best for selling tickets in 2023, the various marketing techniques that boost ticket sales, and much more…
What are the most impactful ways of building awareness and selling tickets to events in 2023?
In terms of what we do, we see vertical video as the most engaging approach.
If we rewind five years pre-pandemic, you could put up a static image ad with your lineup card and expect if you spent $1, you'd make 10. That was a good assumption five years ago, it's no longer a good assumption.
The assumption today is you have to really engage the user, get their attention first and foremost. And then cultivate [and] convert.
"We see Snapchat as a really good replacement proxy for TikTok."
And which platforms work best in that regard?
We see TikTok as successful in spots.
The challenge is, TikTok does not work with every primary ticketing platform. So if you're at a Ticketmaster or Front Gate festival, you can't use TikTok. You can run ads on TikTok as a Ticketmaster event, but they don't track sales attribution, which means you can't track performance, so it's hard to assign value to the ads.
We see Snapchat as a really good replacement proxy for TikTok.
From a public equity perspective, they're out of favor, but from an engagement and conversion perspective, we see Snapchat as a really effective platform to reach that 18 to 24-year-old fan that is highly engaged.
So Snapchat is probably our A1, TikTok is our A2, only in that it just doesn't work for every festival that we're working with because of some integration issues.
The other dark horse that is better for the female demo is Pinterest. People don't think as much about Pinterest these days, but it is a pretty effective platform if you want to go after a female audience. It's about 70% female demo.
One of the really important things in terms of success is matching the creative content to the platform. And one of the pieces of content that works really well on Pinterest is outfit stylings. We work with a stable of influencers, a lot of our partners have their own influencers, and what we encourage them to do is get two or three influencers trying on outfits: ‘This is what I'm going to wear to my favorite festival.’ And we use that as a piece of creative in the ad campaign that we run for partners.
One of the key things you mentioned there is the content has to match the platform…
It can be as simple as how quickly the video is moving. The way it's edited has an impact. TikTok likes faster. Meta likes slower, and that ties to the age demographics.
We don't have real hard evidence of this, but our theory is that the more engaging the content is organically, the more impressions it gets and the lower your CPM is on a paid basis. So even if you're thinking, ‘Why do I need to optimize content, I'm just running ads against it, people are gonna see it regardless’, we don't see that to be quite the case.
It is really important to make sure that you're editing the video in the style that fits the format. Because even if you're putting dollars against it, if the engagement rates aren't there, it's getting kind of de-prioritized by the algorithm, and that can increase your CPMs and it can lower your engagement rate.
So content matching to the platform is critical.
"It is really important to make sure that you're editing the video in the style that fits the format."
As, presumably, is matching the content to the festival you’re marketing?
We have a very different approach to telling the story for a family focused festival than we do an EDM focused festival. And understanding those differences and catering content appropriately is super important.
[For a family festival] it’s as simple as showing kids in a video, showing a dad with his kid on his shoulders – headphones on, of course, you don't want to hurt the kids’ ears – but showing those kinds of visuals is helpful to show the consumers themselves in that event environment.
For an EDM festival, payment plans are big. It's critical to communicate that payment plans are an option. I don't think festivals have done as good a job of advertising payment plans. So we explicitly [say], payment plans available.
Does that correlate with a rise in buy now, pay later?
For big, expensive tours, buy now, pay later is a really popular option. FanIQ is our business to business marketing platform. We have a business to consumer marketplace called Ticket IQ, where we sell a lot of sold out tour tickets, and for that we see buy now, pay later as a percentage of our transaction pool growing meaningfully.
Pre-pandemic it was zero. Now about 30% of our concert tickets are buy now, pay later. We sell a lot of expensive concert tickets so it's skewed a little bit, but certainly when you're looking at a Taylor Swift ticket that's $1,000 in some market and Beyoncé that’s $500 in some market, the ability to pay over time is critical, whether that's a payment plan or buy now, pay later.
"One of the things that we've really leaned into is trying to manage our spend around price tier increases."
Circling back quickly to social media, are there optimal times to be posting, and does it differ between platform?
Well, I think it always ties to the buying cycle. So onsales are a big buying window – you want to be active and aggressive at your onsale. Lineup announcements are critically important. Two weeks leading in. These are the obvious times when you want to be in market.
Talk to any event marketer, they're going to identify those as the windows where you're probably going to sell 50% of your tickets. The big question is, how do you sell the other 50%?
One of the things that we've really leaned into is trying to manage our spend around price tier increases. So price tier increases in this market are probably the most important tool available in our opinion to an event marketer, a festival marketer in particular, because it creates a sense of urgency in a market where there often isn't a sense of urgency.
"We encourage our partners to have as many price tiers as they can within reason."
And what's interesting is there's not just a lift in the week or two leading up to it. There's also a lift in the week or two after the price tier because people who didn't get that price tier recognize there's going to be another increase, they might as well lock it in before that happens and maybe they can't keep track of when that's going to happen.
So we encourage our partners to have as many price tiers as they can within reason.
And then any other kind of scarcity opportunities – flash sales, no-fee Tuesdays – creating opportunities where the consumer feels like they're getting something of value.
One of the things that we encourage partners to do is advertise scarcity of Premium. Almost always your VIP is going to sell out first, depending on how much quantity you have. And we're seeing in this market, the talk of recession aside, there's no let-up in demand for Premium.
So Premium is a really big lever to use. Any time there's an opportunity to communicate scarcity, we really encourage partners to do that.
What are you seeing the smart ticketing platforms do to stand out above their competition?
I think the smart ticketing platforms are partnering with ecosystem vendors to make things like CRM and data management as seamless as possible. I think the more partners that are integrated with CRMs that are very vertically focused, like Audience Republic, advertising platforms, like FanIQ, that are focused on going out and acquiring customers, I think that's super important.
The other thing that moves the needle is good user experience. I think Tixr has done a really nice job of creating a mobile first buying experience, and we see that making a difference in terms of driving conversion. If you're not providing a modern mobile first purchase flow, people bounce.
How important is segmenting your audience data so you can target your messaging?
I think it's critically important.
SMS has really turned into a marketing tool for better or worse, and having your segmentation for that direct hand-to-hand selling is critical. So knowing your 2022 buyers versus your 2021 buyers, Premium versus GA. I think it's really important to understand all that stuff so when you're pushing out content through email or SMS, you're putting the right message in front of that user.
Blasting out a generic, ‘tickets are on sale’, is much less effective than a more curated, ‘Hey, Premium buyer, [there’s a] limited amount of Premium tickets available for 2023. We want you to know first.’
From an ad standpoint, we get pretty granular on what cohorts we're going after. When it gets to us it's anonymized. We don't know that it's John Doe who bought a ticket. But we do know that it's a cohort of 30,000 people that are single-day buyers versus 10,000 people that are multi-day buyers, and being thoughtful and intentional about what message you're putting in front of each of those users is critical.
So from an efficiency on the advertising standpoint, having those cohorts defined [is important], and that starts with a good CRM. Capturing, aggregating, classifying, and then ultimately activating against it is critical.
"SMS has really turned into a marketing tool for better or worse, and having your segmentation for that direct hand-to-hand selling is critical."
You mentioned influencers before – what are you finding to be the best practices for using influencers to market festivals?
Influencers are great as a one-to-one street team kind of good old fashioned get the word out.
We also are big on using influencers to create content. We do our best to make sure that when we're running creative we've got two or three influencers that are camera facing. Our most popular template is a lineup reveal where we get an influencer to basically lose their mind over the lineup. So they show the lineup and they talk about it or they don't talk about it. But they convey the excitement of that.
Making sure you're putting dollars behind that because I think a lot of festivals do the influencer activations and they sort of put it on the shelf. You're not getting the most value out of that content if you're not actually amplifying with paid dollars.