SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2001/This Weeks Issue

Take these 3 steps to turn World Wide Web into local ticket outlet

One of the greatest advantages of conducting business through the Internet is the unlimited global possibilities of the medium. But for many teams trying to sell tickets online, this strength is also a major weakness.

The worldwide accessibility of the Web makes it challenging for even the most Web-savvy ticket sales executive to market a local product on a global medium to a regional audience. Unlike the Internet, tickets have geographic boundaries. And when you want to reach a group in a given city, county or state, not being able to target by location can become a problem.

The key to succeeding at marketing tickets online in a specific city is to stop thinking like a ticket sales executives and start acting like an anthropologist. Just as anthropology is the study of beings in their natural environment, the secret to success in marketing locally online is in the fieldwork.

According to a report by The Zeff Group, a Virginia-based Internet advertising and marketing training firm, there are three steps in applying the lessons of anthropology to locally focused online sales.

 Research (the initial and most important step). Teams need to learn as much as possible about a region's online community. This is as simple as finding the Web sites that people use and the traditional media from which they collect information. Inside these sites there is likely a thriving community.

There are online organizations that will allow teams to identify potential ticket buyers who are already savvy online. These nerve centers are the destinations of the local online communities to whom so many teams are trying to sell tickets through their sites.

Next, look for local e-mail newsletters or membership groups that target a specific geographic region or demographic. For example, on the Chicago Tribune's Web site is a link to the Chicago District Golf Association Web site. The CDGA's 300-plus area member clubs use the association's Web site as a vehicle to communicate with one another.

Organizations like this one are a logical tie-in for a team to launch a permission-based marketing campaign online to active area residents. Some teams have discussed pursuing relationships with local Chamber of Commerce groups and high-tech councils. But in the online world, niche and grassroots groups like the CDGA that are less structured sometimes present more opportunities.

  Interview and observe the local community online and off-line. Have someone in the ticketing department join area online discussion lists and spend 10 minutes a day to find out what's happening locally in the online community.

Observe how local organizations make announcements to their members. If they have an online newsletter, can an outside organization make a special offer in the newsletter?

Finding, observing and then reaching out to these groups is crucial. They have their finger on the pulse of the local online community and in many cases hold the key to landing incremental group sales opportunities.

  Participate. Once research and observation are complete, only then is a team ready to begin its online ticketing push. It is important at this step that teams do not try to forge a sense of community, because the online crowd will see it coming. And as Zeff points out, "In the online world, you don't have a second chance to make a first impression."

According to Zeff, taking the time to do fieldwork makes all the difference. If an executive from a team's ticket department can become a member of the area's online community, the transition from simply distributing marketing messages to information-sharing among community members will be complete.

And the online ticket sales are likely to follow.

Dan Migala is the author of "Web Sports Marketing."

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