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Digital marketing & online ticketing

This learning journey has been curated by AmbITion lead consultant, Hannah Rudman.

Digital marketing (or e-marketing) and online ticketing are still core subjects for the arts, cultural and heritage sectors. Despite CRM and social media changing the landscape, our websites, e-newsletters and online ticket sales are still hugely important. This learning journey focusses on these topics, reminding us why they’re still important areas to develop, with ideas on how and what to do.

There is a separate learning journey on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and another on using social media!

1 Getting started!

This video introduces the idea that your basic digital tools – your websites and e-newsletter email lists – are essential platforms to help you market your organisation or practice’s work and a channel for selling. Not only that, but they’re trackable, so investment  in them can be measured!

Successful Digital Marketing for the Arts

All arts organisations, whether large or small, will have some kind of marketing strategy, whether through a leaflet drop, a brochure or local press advertising. Yet, as the arts audience begins to move online, the importance of a digital marketing strategy becomes ever more important – and it’s not just about your website and your email, important though these are.

When we were looking to put together a “one day” Digital marketing event for the Arts for AmbITion arts organisations our main challenge was to decide what to include and how to pitch it.

We wanted to put on a day that would appeal across art forms, for venue and non-venue based artforms alike, and which would cover all of the main aspects of digital marketing for the arts; we also had to encompass both the beginner and the expert.

So, quite a challenge – since you can at least a day learning about any one of the topics that we were hoping to cover.

In order to ensure that the day was relevant and up-to-date, we brought in eConsultancy, the leading eMarketing training consultancy, who developed a bespoke training day for us.

The day was built around developing a digital marketing strategy for an arts organisation – so that we could cover, in quickfire format, eMail Marketing, web analytics, Search Engine Optimisation and online PR, within a packed day.

3 Case study: The Lowry

The Lowry was one of the first arts and cultural organisations to move away from traditional paper-based marketing. Their story, even in 2007, was a powerful witness to the benefits of digital marketing via websites and e-mail. They saw online ticket sales rise exponentially.

5 Service design: an essential methodology

This fabulous service design toolkit (and the launch video explaining its constituent parts) should be used by anyone rethinking how their digital marketing and online ticketing functions work. There are brilliant fun exercises to go through to ensure that your new systems offer just the service your users were hoping for.

6 Digital marketing - a big umbrella

These infographics remind us that the term digital marketing is an ever broader umbrella term for a wide range of activities that help us sell product, engage audiences and encourage participation. An insightful read!

7 Agile marketing

Digital marketing produces excellent data and statistics that can be tracked and analysed to form information and intelligence about what works (and doesn’t!). This article introduces the ideas of agile marketing – rapidly testing and then tweaking and changing what you’re doing, according to the feedback you’re receiving, to best effect.

8 Case study: Ludus Dance

Ludus Dance redesigned their website to include lots of audience comment and rich media content showing the experience of communities and young people engaging with dance. This is their story: the end result of doing the digital marketing better? Exponentially more online ticket sales!

9 Online Ticketing: getting started

This article links to a Ticketing and Technology overview written for Arts Professional by AmbITion consultant Roger Tomlinson of The Ticketing Institute. Great for understanding the current landscape, and the opportunities offered by it.

Ticketing and Technology – the developments of 2011

Arts Professional published their 2011 Ticketing & Technology Supplement, featuring an overview of the landscape from AmbITion consultant Roger Tomlinson and a guide to working with web developers by Beth Aplin. Worth checking out if you’re involved with your cultural organisation’s sales and box office functions for the details. If you’re a director or CEO, the guide is also essential reading to understanding where your culture business could improve audience development and business model practices.

10 Online Ticketing: questions to be asked of your system

AmbITion consultant Beth Aplin wrote this article for Arts Professional. It encourages box office managers, marketing managers or event the senior management team of any arts, cultural or heritage organisation running an online ticketing system to ask some difficult questions to ensure that the ticketing system you have is running optimised and fully integrated. A brilliant checklist!

Box Office Blues? (Arts Professional article by Beth Aplin, AmbITion consultant)

Beth Aplin reveals eight things every chief executive should know about their ticketing system

Are you getting the very best out of your ticketing system? With such an expensive and business critical piece of software it is obviously worthwhile putting some effort into maximising your return on investment. Ask yourself the following questions, and you may find some untapped potential for improving organisational performance.

Line graph

Figure 1: Peak times – venues without Internet ticketing

Line graph

Figure 2: Peak times – venues with Internet ticketing

1. Do the services you are paying for include regular (annual is typical) upgrades? They almost certainly do, and your ticketing system supplier will really want you to install these – it makes supporting you much easier for them – and it’s in your interests as they always come with new features and bug fixes too. It is all too easy to ignore these and carry on using the system in the same way your team were taught during the initial installation.

2. Are some of your team regularly going to your system supplier conferences and user group meetings? For the inconvenience of a staff member out of the office for a day, and the cost of the train fare, your staff will hear about industry best practice and find out what other venues are doing. But I think one of the most important things is for your staff to build a good relationship with your supplier support team. You many not call support very often, but when you do (and this may be a really important call) being able to put a face to a name – and remember having met them – really helps.

3. Have you actually implemented all the great plans you had when you chose and installed your ticketing system? It is very easy to lose momentum after ‘go live’ – anything not resolved then tends to go onto the back burner. The important-but-not-urgent can be overlooked. Sometimes just a little effort and very small budget can transform some really time consuming processes, like group and schools booking confirmation letters for example.

4. Have you re-evaluated your opening hours and staffing levels since achieving a high level of Internet ticketing sales? If you’ve reached a tipping point of 40% internet sales, it is worthwhile reviewing the impact this has had on your box office. Research we carried out in Australia in 2010 among 52 venues showed an important difference in peak activity times between venues with no Internet ticket sales, and those with a medium to high level. Has your organisation seen a similar change and have you refined your staffing levels to match new customer requirements?

5. Is your box office making ongoing de-duplication a high enough priority? Internet ticketing is allowing customers direct access into your database, and there seems to be a strong universal reluctance by these customers to remember their previous passwords. So they simply create new entries. This leads to a permanent and significant increase in duplicate customer records. At the moment not many organisations have come up with compelling tactics to reverse this trend. As your customer database drives so much of your marketing activity, it is clearly critical to keep it to the highest level of quality and accuracy.

6. How much does your box office team know about your website and are they able to provide the support that your customers expect? As the sophistication of websites increases some customers need guidance to find their way around and learn how to do the things they want to. It is important for the team to feel confident and competent handling some regularly occurring technical issues (versions of web browsers used for example) as well as thoroughly understanding all the features of your website.

7. Are you listening to your box office staff? They spend most of every day talking and listening to your customers, and have a unique insight into their attitudes, behaviour and requirements. Some small nagging customer care issues seem to run in an organisation as long as anyone can remember and everyone is sick of them… incorrect parking notices maybe, or not getting prompt refunds perhaps. The reason why box office teams keep going on about them is because day after day they are facing customers who raise these issues.

8. Last but not least, are you using the expertise of box office staff to inform how you refine and improve your website, brochure, sales targets and methods of communication? The box office team has the most understanding of customer attendance patterns in the whole organisation. I know of box offices that run sweep-stakes about the sales that will be achieved for each show in a forthcoming season – they are amazingly accurate. The extent to which they are consulted about special offers, website design and show targets is directly related to how ‘valued’ they feel.

(Reproduced with kind permission from the author and our content partner Arts Professional, Issue 239)

11 Online ticketing: price and demand

This case study by Baker Richards discusses the value of harmonising price and demand – something online ticketing systems can do in real time. Their case study organisation is Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

Baker Richards Case Study: Harmonising Price and Demand at Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Case Study: Harmonising Price and Demand at Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Download this document (PDF, 130KB)


12 Case Study: integrating digital marketing and online ticket sales

New Wolsey Theatre Box Office Manager David Leek discusses the benefits of ensuring an online ticketing function is truly integrated with a website to ensure powerful digital marketing.

Video: New Wolsey Theatre – Case Study in Digital Development

New Wolsey Theatre is a 400-seat theatre with a varied programme of drama, music, comedy, poetry, dance and children’s shows.

David Leek, Box Office Manager shares how digital development has streamlined processes and freed up times to use new creative tools.