What can one man build by learning how to combine an emotion driven irrational market with increasingly sophisticated digital marketing? Adam Young brought his experience in accounting, manufacturing, and software implementation into this world in creating Event Tickets Center. They sell tickets to most events across the country, and they sell those tickets by making sure that when you enter “Garth Brooks” into a search engine that one of the first results you see is theirs.
In a world dominated by technology it is always interesting to find the niches which develop. It is no secret that Google, the revenue generating colossus of Alphabet dominates advertising by combining its status as the internet’s leading search engine with an auction-based advertising sales model that allows advertisers to reach consumers based on the words they search. Meta’s Facebook works on the same principals. When they combine data points related to the activity of their users it allows them to offer the ability to get an ad for wedding dresses in front of the woman who just got engaged. Somebody’s got to sell her that dress, and likely it’s going to be the vendor with the smartest digital marketing plan.
On balance, people understand this is how the internet works. It’s “free” but it’s not free. The search and community resources that are provided by Google, Microsoft, Facebook and the like are paid for by the warehousing and monetization of the very detailed and specific data about their users they accumulate. The advertising platforms offered by these tech companies then use this data to sell ad space to advertisers.
What is less understood is just how powerful the access to these platforms can be. The buyers of the key words and other digital leads are not just the giant consumer products like Budweiser and Ford. They are also the Shark Tank startups who scale by selling random products or clothing items through a campaign which ties social media alongside targeted advertising space.
Understanding how to navigate the competition to leverage this access, and to best deploy capital takes a special combination of experience, the ability to balance risk and the confidence to create and abandon campaigns by analyzing which combinations of words, colors, images, and user characteristics generate the best sell through.
Adam’s insight is that digital marketing sounds futuristic, but it is just another version of running a manufacturing company. Event Tickets Center is in the manufacturing business. They manufacture very specific web pages for the thousands of ticketed events which take place every night across the country with the intention of attracting the business of those who are trying to get those tickets. Their specialty is in understanding the buyer who is typically either a fan seeking to see their team or favorite musician, or someone buying that ticket to give to the fan as a gift or reward. Either way, the purchase of this ticket is not subject to the usual research over which hotel room in Phoenix is offered at the best price. For these emotional purchases, there is a strange phenomenon in which the buyers find the seats they like, and they become competitive seeking to complete the purchase before someone else can get “their” seats. In a market where the fear is not that of overpaying, instead it’s “protecting” the seats they’ve chosen by rushing to complete the purchase, price is not always the significant decision driver. Instead, it’s speed. And there is where the opportunity lies in all digital marketing campaigns. Once your advertisement on Facebook, Google or Microsoft gets the buyer to your page, how do you motivate them to complete their purchase?
Adam’s insight into the marketplace came when he watched a friend who is a big fan of Dave Matthews band purchase tickets for a show at Red Rocks, the iconic open-air amphitheater in the hills outside Denver, CO. The friend kept finding better seats available for the show so he would sell what he had and purchase what he found to upgrade his experience. Because demand runs high among the Dave Matthews fan base, this played out over several purchases, sales, and new purchases. Ultimately, the friend was able to make enough money from the multiple resales of tickets to that show at Red Rocks that he wound up with premium seats and enough money left over to buy a bottle of wine.
That’s what drove Adam to look at his own core competencies in search, digital marketing and driving organic traffic to websites. Why not figure out how to tailor advertising using the digital tools available to the greater community who would like seats and would often pay more for better seats to events which were sold out. The insight was solid, the process of building the company took years. Event tickets have a complication that selling socks or power tools do not. Tickets have no value after the show takes place. This means that prices can be dynamic, moving up or down in real time and often quickly.
I found Adam to be articulate as he explained the ways in which he applies technology in a marketplace which existed since people first gathered in stone colosseums to hear sonnets or watch Gladiators battle. Below are links to our conversation in both video and audio podcast format.
The ticket world is an incredibly complex intertwined marketplace in which artists, promoters, teams, leagues, and venues use different technologies to sell millions of seats to hundreds of millions of consumers globally. Every seat is unique, and each event has factors which increase or decrease demand. Among these are the day of the week, as weekends are more attractive, the proximity of the seat to the stage or field, the bundled perks which come with the ticket and the relative demand in the marketplace for access to the show. Events for which demand outstrips supply have essentially endless upward pressure on price, while events for which demand is less than the capacity of the venue see prices collapse. Trying to sell tickets once demand is satiated is like pushing on a string. You can wear yourself out and still accomplish nothing.
The brilliance of Adam’s strategy is to shift risk from the classic model of acquiring tickets with the expectation of selling them later for more to a model in which the risk upfront is the cost of advertising which may or may not lead to a sale, but it usually drives data aggregation, and that data can be used again in the future to help boost demand.
The goal of all online commerce is to find a frictionless balance so that the machines do the work, and the owners deploy capital and marketing strategies in hopes of finding the best yield. What Adam does is as old as time, just set to a new futuristic beat: he gets up and does the work, day in and day out to make sure that the links his company builds between the consumers they source by advertising line up with the tickets which remain available in the ether of the marketplace. There is money to be made when you collect a fee or profit by connecting consumers in search of an item with sellers who have it. The real magic is in learning how to contain your customer acquisitions costs or how to utilize the consumer data you have accumulated over the past years to drive old customers to new events.
There is one final takeaway from the time I spent talking tickets with Adam. Nothing is easy. This is not a perpetual money machine. It’s a salt mine where every day the machines must be cleaned, tuned, and modified in ways which may not have been predictable even the day before. This is a game for the nimble. Event Tickets Center has built a data center around the work its team puts in every day, and that data center is their core feature. The insights which can be gleaned from their past successes provide insight to where their next success may lie. In these scenarios, always bet on the better jockey. You may never see Adam racing a horse, but he’s usually easy to spot in the winner’s circle.