In 2016 we finished our best season in ticket sales in over a decade, finished the year with a positive operating margin for the first time in almost 15 years.
Sean Wright began his tenure as Executive Director of The Grand in January 2015. We spoke to him 18 months later, when the presenting organization was already beginning to see a major turnaround.
Wright attributes much of that success to enhancing their usage of Tessitura, particularly in “digging deeper into the data,” Wright says. “We're just leaps and bounds ahead in terms of understanding our customers: the shows they want to see, when they want to see them, the price that they're willing to pay, how they're hearing about us. And the results have been exemplary.”
“We’ve sold out 17 shows. We’ve added 158 subscribers and 5,600 first-time ticket buyers. Our online sales will hit their second straight year of record totals.”
Between the start of the 2015-16 season and the fall of 2016, Wright reported that The Grand sold out 17 shows, added 158 subscribers and 5,600 first-time ticket buyers, and expanded its geographic range has expanded to 18 counties across North Central Wisconsin. Online sales were on track to hit their second straight year of record totals.
“Fundraising has hit new heights as well, especially on the sponsorship side,” Wright says. “We’ve brought on a number of new sponsors. Again, that’s because we’re able to dig in and find what’s important to them, what their patterns are for sponsorship and giving, and how we can balance those out.”
Photo courtesy of The Grand
Bringing in new patrons in a small community
“One of the things I’m most proud of is in the last year we added about 5,000 brand-new patrons,” Wright says. “Wausau is only about 40,000 people. Knowledge of our patrons is clearly paying off in how they’re coming out, and coming out as repeat buyers and then subscribers. We’ve added 120 subscribers over the last year. We’re back up to pre-recession levels, which is amazing in a community like ours.”
“We've added about 5,000 brand-new patrons. We've added 120 subscribers. Knowledge of our patrons is clearly paying off.”
He notes that business intelligence, such as data from T-Stats, is influencing not only The Grand’s marketing but also how they program shows and as well as their pricing decisions.
“There are two sides to pricing,” he says. “It’s dynamic pricing, so that we generate more revenue. We are using dynamic pricing more than ever before. At the same time, it’s making sure that we have affordable price points to maximize our ability to sell the entire house in what is a small community.”
Photo courtesy of The Grand
Growing online sales with TN Express Web
The Grand launched its TNEW site in April 2016. Only a few months later, Wright reported, “The results have been tremendous. In 2014-2015, we had a total of three subscriptions sold through our website. (Yes, three.) This year, we are already up to 32 web subscribers. And we’re still a traditional market where a web subscription is a little bit outside of the box for folks. To have that much impact in that short a time is incredible.”
Previously, The Grand had sold fewer than 20% of their tickets online. Only a month into their single ticket sales for the 2016-2017 season, they were already up closer to 30-31%, Wright reported — a 50% increase. In addition, “Our online donations have skyrocketed so high because people feel comfortable with the site. They can pull out their phone, go to the mobile site and make a donation. TNEW has been a godsend for us, the most important thing we’ve done, bar none, in my 18 months as Executive Director.”
“TNEW has been a godsend for us, the most important thing we’ve done, bar none, in my 18 months as Executive Director.”
“In my venues through the years, I’ve been on a half dozen ticketing systems. By far, Tessitura is the best one in meeting needs because it’s not just the ticketing piece; it’s the entire CRM model. It’s the ability to integrate TNEW and other things, and more than that, it’s the Network. I had not worked with Tessitura before coming to The Grand and immediately found that there was a network of people who could answer the questions I had, who could help steer me in the right direction, so I could guide my organization and move us forward. It was a selling point when I took over the organization and it remains one today.”