Start Early, It's Harder Than You Think

29 Jun 2020 6:01 AM | Anonymous

The danger of waiting to sell group tickets

I was wrong.

That’s why I’m giving you this warning.

I assumed when we set our plans to restart the Macon Bacon season July 2nd, groups would be the product that buyers would flock to. 

After all, the economy had plummeted so how many businesspeople were going to buy season tickets or ticket packages to entertain clients or reward employees?

Single game buyers would come out if they felt safe (we have taken plenty of precautions) but they are too hard to predict and control with weather and who knows what other issues that might come up for them.

My thought was groups were going to be climbing the walls to do things, even in a socially distant manner.  Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • If they aren’t getting together, they aren’t getting together.  For example, a typical staple group type like churches still aren’t having much in the way of services, even in Georgia which has been pretty open.  We heard from a number of returning church groups that they didn’t feel comfortable endorsing and organizing a ‘group outing’ when their church still had limitations on mixing and mingling. 
Same with companies.  If the companies weren’t yet fully back in their offices, many of our returning corporate groups said they couldn’t support company outings for employees to get together if they couldn’t even get together in the office.  Likewise, salespeople weren’t meeting with clients very regularly so having a suite night or Party Deck night was going to be a tough slog to get clients and prospects to come out.
  • We just don’t talk any more.  Many groups weren’t having their typical monthly meetings in person to share activities and events.  Sure, they could still send out emails and post on their group’s Facebook page and other simple tools but the lack of in-person gatherings have really hurt communication.
  • Where are you?  Groups we had booked before the pandemic were fine.  They already had dates picked out and had spread the word.  New groups??  Big challenge.  We’ve had trouble finding them, even with an extensive effort during the lockdown to chase new group leads.  Once we have gotten them on the phone, we hear concerns about quick turnaround and spreading the word. 

WHAT TO DO?  WHATEVER TO DO?

Thankfully, our staff didn’t just rub their hands and moan ‘woe is me’.  Like everyone else, we’ve improvised.

  • Zoom sales calls.  Our outside salesperson last week scheduled nine Zoom sales pitches with companies to talk season tickets and group outings.  The weakness is the ‘show rate’ for Zoom calls or scheduled phone calls isn’t nearly as high as in-person meetings but you do the best you can.  On the bright side, she thinks 3-4 will close for outings this season.
  • Old-school.  I had to admit it but because we have to spread out seating for groups, we’ve had to go a little old school with helping group leaders sort out ticket orders, take group member orders over the phone and send out emails for the groups.
  • Single game push.  Those of you who know me know I hate relying on single game sales.  But, this year is different.  We have to do what we have to do.  We’re focused on capturing names and building our database of emails and social media followers as part of it.
  • Database building.  I was talking with the Director of Group Sales from the NBA last week who said he took to hear some of what I’ve been preaching the last few months on finding new group contacts and has kept his staff’s focus on just that with huge dividends in new leads.  As soon as the NBA has a schedule for 2020-21, he’s expecting a big run up.

Take my warning to heart.  We’ve had tremendous response from smaller ticket packages in our re-start but groups take more time.  If you’re not starting until fall, get ready for a grind.  Start now with database building and be prepared for a lot more work.

The Macon Bacon start at home this Thursday with another game on Saturday night.  We’re ‘sold out’ with our coronavirus capacity at 1200.  In next Monday’s column, I’ll let you know how it went and what we learned so other teams can learn from what we did right and what we did wrong.  Happy 4th of July.

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