Welcome to the first installment of innOVATIONS! This will be a monthly (or maybe more frequent) series on exciting stuff in the world of group sales.

Be sure to let me know if you have something you’d like to be featured on the blog!

by Jennifer Batoon, Group Sales Manager

Group leaders are busy people. In group sales, we strive to make it easy for them to bring their group to us. San Francisco Opera devised the “Flexible Sales Plan” for groups that can’t or won’t resell tickets on their own. Instead of buying a block of tickets and collecting group members’ payments as required by most “traditional” group sales plans, we offer group leaders the option of setting up a custom “flexible” webpage where members buy their own tickets directly from the Opera.

The Flexible Sales Plan process is outlined in the attached Group Coordinator Checklist:

1. Select an opera and performance date.
2. Estimate how many people will attend to determine the discount. (We base the discount off their best estimate since, at this point, we’re not sure what the total number of tickets sold will be in the end.)
3. Decide whether the group wants any additional activities, e.g. private lecture or cocktail reception.
4. Group sales department drafts the webpage text to include the group’s name and schedule of events, then our IS department creates the custom webpage.
5. Group leader promotes the event through e-mail blasts, mailers, etc. They simply include the URL to the webpage (i.e., enter offer code XXX), and members buy their own tickets online.
6. Once the webpage expires (7 days before each performance date), I send the group leader a list of names and e-mails of everyone who ordered through the webpage. They can use the list to send a reminder before the event or even create nametags if there’s a reception.

*An invaluable marketing advantage of the flexible webpages is that we collect the contact information of every group member who orders through the webpage (as opposed to having contact information for only the group leader).
*Groups like how the webpage can be customized to include multiple performance dates, the group’s logo, special messaging, etc.
*Some groups, especially membership groups like alumni associations and social clubs, who find it difficult to collect everyone’s payment on their own appreciate this time- and effort-saving alternative.
*Groups like how there’s no financial obligation with the Flexible Sales Plan (if no one buys tickets through the webpage, they didn’t lose any money, nor do they have to place an advance deposit).

*Since there’s no financial obligation with the Flexible Sales Plan, sometimes our Marketing and IS departments put in a lot of time and effort that goes unrewarded if no one buys tickets through the webpage.
*Sometimes performances sell out, and group members who order late are out of luck. With traditional group sales, seats are reserved in advance. With flexible group sales, this is not the case, and orders coming through the webpage are treated like single ticket orders. This can be upsetting when a group has promoted an event to its members, so we always emphasize that people should “order early as performances often sell out.”
*Since people are ordering through the webpage at all different times, we do not guarantee contiguous seating. If this is important to a group, we refer them to our traditional group sales plan.

To see a sample flexible webpage: go to, and enter offer code FAF7B. This accesses our Friends & Family special offer for Summer 2007. We use the same setup for our online special offers where patrons must enter a code to access the offer.

San Francisco Opera uses Tessitura, and the functionality to create these webpages involved custom work by POP. Feel free to ask me any questions, or let me know if you’d to get in touch with our IS department.


Multi-Level Marketing

I’ve always thought that “Group Sales” was a bit of a mis-nomer. I prefer to think about it as “Group Marketing.” Why? Essentially, Group Sales Managers aren’t really hard-selling or cold-calling but, in fact, carefully crafting plans to get information out to the right people and enticing them to purchase tickets.

On another level, the Group Leader that the Group Sales Manager is “selling” to is at the same time “selling” it to their group members. This possibly is the most important phase. If that Group Leader can’t get enough people on their end to buy tickets, the group ceases to exist.

What can we do? Provide the Group Leader with all the information and collateral possible to then pass along to their group members. It is great if your company already prints show-specific posters or postcards that can be submitted. Also, preparing materials that might give background information about the performance is great. Something with a synopsis, “behind-the-scenes” information, cast information, and anything else that would be pertinent. If that same document could be reproducible on a common copy machine and still look good, you’ve hit the jackpot. Send only one copy to the Group Leader and they can copy as many as they need.

The more information that a potential ticket-buyer has, the more likely that they will actually purchase tickets.