All Across the Sands: Changing an event into an experience

13 Jun 2016

by Rachel Suddart

I went to see one of my favourite bands this week. I was lucky enough to be stood right on the front row, centre stage, up against the barrier from beginning to end and I still have the bruises to prove it. The atmosphere was electric, everyone had a brilliant time and it will be a night that a lot of people remember for a very long time.

Obviously it does help that in music stakes, the band are considered to be legendary. And yes, I had a great spot (did I mention that?!). But for the purposes of this blog, what really added to the night was the way that the band’s management and the venue handled the event and the marketing around it.

So how did they change it from an ‘event’ to an ‘experience?’

The band was a completely unexpected addition to the venue’s programme. The announcement was made on the Saturday morning, only days before the gig was due to take place. The venue announced it in an e-newsletter to subscribers and everyone was given the same info. Tickets went on sale at 12pm that day. If you wanted to go you had to queue up in person and take along some merchandise. No online sales. No telephone sales. No crazy booking fees. And a reasonable ticket price. You handed over your cash and you were rewarded with your ticket in your hand – instant gratification. The venue didn’t make a meal of it on social media. A flashback to times gone by and ‘old school’ gig-going. A definite tick in the box for the band’s key demographic.

Only 4 days later (no long lead-in time where you forget what you actually bought tickets for in the first place) and it was gig day. The venue had plenty of security staff on duty as fans queued up to meet the band and get autographs. Everyone was friendly. Everyone was in a great mood. The band was even giving free tickets out to fans who hadn’t been able to get them on sale day. Queuing for the venue was seamless. Bag checking was quick, you got your ticket scanned (and returned) and you got a wristband so you could get in and out. Even the security team at the front seemed happy to be there, constantly checking that everyone was OK, handing out water and helping people out of the crush when it got too much. And because it was a big name, the local media were out in full force. What started out as a simple event was transformed into an experience, just because of the way everything was executed.

So why am I telling you all this? I’m not just reminiscing, there is a reason (I promise!). You may not have a celeb to showcase or a ‘big name’ band to promote but whatever it is you are selling, the same principles still apply. If you can take a simple mechanical transaction and change it into a customer experience you are more likely to build brand loyalty, retain custom and create a buzz from word of mouth recommendations. Think carefully about how you can make connections with your audience. Focus on the small things and get organised. Think of ways to connect with them and predict how they might respond. Catch them off guard. Make them feel special. Maybe even create a time gone by when things seemed somehow, more simple. Accept that sometimes it’s OK to shake things up a little. It doesn’t have to be every time – sometimes a simple, short term win is what you are looking for - but if you are aiming for long term engagement, it’s definitely something to think about.

By taking a new approach you might just connect with people in a different way and transform that simple, automatic and mundane transaction into a magical, customer experience.

And that’s what people remember.


Thanks to the Sands Centre at Carlisle and The Stone Roses.