Thursday, October 10, 2013
Ticketbud's Plans To Transform Online Event Ticketing, With Lynn Yeldell
Online event ticketing sites have been around for a long time. However, Austin-based Ticketbud (www.ticketbud.com) thinks it has figured out an even better way to provide online event ticketing. To learn more about how the company wants to transform how people use online event ticketing services, we spoke with CEO Lynn Yeldell about the company.
What is Ticketbud?
Lynn Yeldell: We're an online ticketing, event ticketing and registration service. We've been around since 2009, although we've been a little bit of a sleeper. We did our Series A round back in February, when I not only converted from being an attendee and organizer, to become an investor in the company. If you look at the space we play, we're focused on the long tail event organizer, the mom and pop shops running events, on general admissions for small conferences and festivals. We're also helping the entrepreneurs, people who are trying to make a difference, and selling tickets to them. The big news, is in the last year and a half we've taken in some investment dollars, and we're really staffing up, retooled from the ground up, and are reaching global event organizers on the scale of what they need to make their events more successful.
There are lots of ticket services, how are you different?
Lynn Yeldell: In the event space, it's very interesting. You can see how technology has transformed the way that companies do business. But, I'm surprised every day how many charities, concerts, promoters, and venues are still selling admissions tickets the old fashioned way. They're taking cash at the door, or you have to send in a check. What Ticketbud does, is it helps people by allowing them to do that using technology online. Not only do they get an online presence through an event page, we also let them transact business by taking registrations and taking credit cards online, with no programming languages required. Where we really differentiate, is we make it easy to get an event page up and running, with an interactive page editor. Our interactive event page editor is unlike what everyone else provides. We create an event page which is in the exact same format as it is going to display. That may sound really basic, but it took a ton of programming, and tons of hours to strip this away to the very bear essentials. Our philosophy, is it is perfectly designed not when you can't add anything else, but it's perfectly designed when you can't strip anything else away. That's what we've done with our event page, stripped it to the very bare essential that someone needs to create a very vibrant page.
You mention you're an investor in the company. What attracted you to the opportunity?
Lynn Yeldell: I was an attendee, organizer, and investor, and now I'm an employee. What really attracted me was twofold. I have a background hosting events with my previous company, and I'm someone who enjoys attending events. I knew this was the perfect intersection of an old world problem with events, which technology can easily solve. The technology makes it easier to host events, communicate with people, and make it much more social. It's taken an industry I already love, combined that with technology, resources, and the social aspects that I also love, and brought them all together. I felt like a kid in the candy store, with the ability to combine those two facets. I'm a gadget geek, and I'm also a highly social person, on a highly social team. It was great to watch those two come together, and raise the bar for everyone globally. We're this little six person team on Sixth Street, running a global event company. Any one day, there are 1,100 events we're responsible for hosting and registering, and helping people realize their dreams with. How wonderful is that, where we can keep small and scrappy, but still impact such a global audience in such a positive way.
That's a lot of events you're handling. What happened to have so many people using your service?
LynnYeldell: That's a great question. I will tell you, at first we thought we had to do the same formula that every other online business does, which is sink a bunch of money into Google AdWords. We did that, and watched our traffic increase. But, we then took a further step in Google Analytics, and followed the conversion path. We figured out that all that traffic didn't even move the needle. We were spending thousands of dollars to make sure everyone saw Ticketbud's name through Google searches, but we weren't hitting the correct audience. We look at what was helping to drive most of the traffic to our site, and it was our event organizers. We've provided them with a unique revenue stream. Like all of our competitors, free events on major ticketing sites are always free. However, what we all do, is we also want to make a profit as well.
Ticketbud was founded on a greed free philsophy. When the founder was asked to build the program, he wanted to sell this like any other software--for a flat rate. When you go to buy Microsoft Excel, they don't track your usage and every time you create a spreadsheet or workbook, or use a formula, charge you a percentage fee. Why sell event ticketing that way? Until our last release, that was our primary source of revenue. We'd charge an event organizer $99 dollars, and let them sell unlimited tickets for any price. That remains our massive differentiator, and what I attribute to our tremendous amount of growth. Most folks know that if you're holding an event with over 50 people and charging more than $50 a ticket, which is a sizeable amount of the market, you're much better off using Ticketbud, where you can contain your costs, and keep 100% of the proceeds of each ticket, which is deposited immediately to your merchant services account.
As great as that way, we took a deep dive into our analytics, and we found that we were missing so much more of the opportunity. We took a look at our conversion funnel, and people would set up an account, enter all of the event information, but when it came to payment and checkout, we'd lose 65 percent of our customers. That was a massive amount of loss right at the point of conversion, particularly since they'd already spent a good amount of time, ranging from a few minutes to as much as 30 minutes on the event page. We did a samples of customers, trying to figure out why they would leave, what we did to make them leave, and the universal answer was we did nothing. But, we hadn't given them something to purchase at that time.
What I mean by that, is people were already running events through our service, but selling 500 tickets at $50 a piece. However, two weeks later, they'd want to run a thank you luncheon for all their supporters, and were planning to invite 10 people at $10 a head. They'd only make $100 off the event. But, the only way for them to list that event through Ticketbud would cost them $99. So, they'd go to another place to ticket those events. We talked with our board and the team, and asked why we were the best marketing platform for everyone else with the smaller events. So, we wanted to have both ways of ticketing events. As soon as we opened it up, even before telling people, we had seven fee-based events on our site, as well as our regular number of $99 events. We didn't lose any of our traditional, $99 events, and picked up seven events without making any announcements or notices. Our conversion funnel is now a lot better.
What have you learned most about the ticketing industry since joining Ticketbud?
Lynn Yeldell: It feels like just yesterday that I joined. One thing I really have realized, though, is the power of a very clear, approachable pricing plan for our event organizers. I looked at the flow of revenues in a company like ours. Our free events are wonderful, and it's great marketing for other attendees going through the Ticketbud experience. I also realized we were leaving a huge amount of money on the table, making cancer events free, but at the same time realized that was one of the most authentic missions statements in a company--the hundreds of thousands of dollars we have helped with these cancer fundraisers have been truly transformative. It is worth every bit of work and effort to support them completely out of pocket. I also realized that, as much as you think what your business is, your customers always have a say in what that business actually is, and you have to listen to them on what they think your business is.
An example of this is looking at a company like Toyota Motor Company. They really believe in the power of hybrid technology, and believe that's the wave of more efficient transportation. They offer the Prius, and look at transportation differently, just as we do with $99 events. But, Toyota also offers the Tundra. They have a way for people who want to do traditional transportation. We didn't have that. We have what people wanted to buy, and which is disruptive, and we also now have the traditional way of selling tickets. Either way, we'll let them support us.
Another thing we did is we looked at our two big expenses, which is people, and awareness. We've got our people expenses very low and efficient. So, we looked at our marketing expenses. Google AdWords doesn't work for us, and we tried sponts on the local KUT music station, NPR, and that didn't move the needly. We found out that every time someone books an event for $99, it's our most efficient way of marketing. We know that event organizer is incentivized to bring a ton of traffic our way. And, everyone who buys a ticket has to enter an email address, where they live, what events they are interested in, and 70 percent of them also authenticate with Facebook, which gives us access to their complete social graph, and permission to market to them in the future.
Thanks, and good luck!