The Internet Benefit Your Facility?
By John Platillero
|In this article,
we will first look at what 207 venue managers said about the Internet in
a recent e-mail survey, then we will offer some suggestions for ways the
Internet can benefit your facility.
The Survey at a glance
Based on the survey, this industry has
definitely embraced the Internet. Of the 207 respondents, 98.9 percent have
a web site and 87.4 percent have high-speed Internet access.
Overall, venues spent an average of $21,000
developing their web sites, and spend roughly $3,800 per year on Internet
services. There was quite a range within these numbers (some venues spend as
little as $500, some as much as $100,000), but the fact is, people are
spending money in this medium.
When asked what value they received from the Internet for their venue, the
overwhelming responses were positive. An interesting trend showed that those
venues that spent more money on the Internet, and whose web sites had more
features, marked a higher value.
We will now take a look at four ways the
Internet can benefit your facility.
1 – Keeping your patrons
The most common use of the Internet is
letting people know what is going on at the venue. Most venue web sites not
only have a calendar of upcoming events, but also directions to the venue,
where to buy tickets and pictures of seating charts. Why is this so useful?
One of the survey respondents said it best: “We average 20 percent ticket
sales on the Internet. Our web site answers many questions which used to tie
up our operators.”
■ Keep your web site calendar updated
First, check with your booking calendar software provider to see if they
offer a web plug-in that can automatically update your web site’s calendar.
Many of the more popular programs such as FASTbook, ConCentRICs and
Scheduler Plus offer this plug-in. If you are not using a program that
offers the plug-in, there are several web based software programs that offer
online calendars, such as www.webevent.com and
below shows the three primary ways you can
choose to develop and maintain your web site.
trained in HTML must manually make changes, and copy to host server.
staff can log in to a special page and make changes.
your staff must send any changes to the company, which then updates
your web site.
||- Low cost to
- Products such as FrontPage and Dreamweaver make it easier to build
and maintain pages.
happen immediately. No need to copy files to server.
-Changes can be made from virtually anywhere one has access to the
single-source for updating your web site.
||- If staff
leaves, would need to train new employees.
- Information is static. For example, past events are not
automatically removed from the home page.
|- Costly to
implement, unless you use an ASP company with a pre-existing
-Time consuming to develop. Database-driven web sites can involve
months of time (unless you use an ASP company).
responsiveness varies. Could be hours or days before information is
_ Maintenance fees for changes can be high, and in some cases they
charge by the hour.
■ Collect addresses and send promotional
Bill Owen, president of the Lexington Center Corporation, said that, “The
net provides the biggest benefit when used to initiate contact with the
customer, rather than to just let the customer visit you.” No other medium
of event promotion is as inexpensive or targeted as e-mail. If you are
manually collecting e-mail addresses and putting them in Excel or Outlook,
you are probably working too hard. There are a number of companies that
offer integrated solutions for collecting, sorting, and sending e-mails.
Some of them are: www.ebfanclub.com,
■ Research how people use your site
Your web hosting company should be able to provide you with statistics such
as which pages are the most popular. This knowledge can help you judge the
value of each page as you plan for enhancements and additions to your site.
2 – Marketing your
Phone tag is out; Internet efficiency is in.
Almost 20 percent of the venues responding say they offer online booking
tools on their web site. Based on the survey, many convention centers are
already doing this and are very pleased with the feedback they are receiving
from their event planners. Other industry sites can give your venue more
“face time” as well.
■ List your venue in online directories
PollstarOnline, PlanSoft and StarCite are a few of the more popular web
sites that list venues. Make sure your web site address (URL) is part of the
listing and up-to-date. Also, look for web sites that offer added-value
services. For example, in PollstarOnline, industry professionals can check
the real-time availability of many venues.
■ Make it easy to book your facility
Have a section on your web site that is relevant to promoters, event
planners and other potential clients.
The new CAJUNDOME Convention Center web site
(www.cajundome.com) allows an event
planner to create a room layout online, including table types, number of
people, and seating layouts.
Once a room is chosen, the event planner can
then check the availability of that room and send a booking request.
3 – In-house
The Internet can also be very beneficial as a
tool for saving your staff time and money in running the venue. As the
Internet continues to become faster, more reliable and more accessible,
these productivity tools will become even more popular.
■ Try a database-driven web site
Although web sites based on databases can be costly to implement, they often
save time and money in the long run. Using an “Application Service Provider
(ASP)” can help defray the high up-front costs. These companies offer
pre-existing database packages, which can be obtained much cheaper than the
cost of developing one from the ground up. They also have tech support
departments to help with any problems.
■ Use the Internet for research
When asked which three industry web sites they visited most often, the top
three responses were www.iaam.org,
www.ticketmaster.com. Other web
sites mentioned often were
www.stadianet.com and a number of association web sites.
■ ASP booking software solutions
If you are using Excel, Calendar Creator, or a paper book, it might be time
to move up to a more sophisticated method for managing your event calendar.
ASP (Application Service Provider) solutions are the most painless way. In a
matter of a few hours you can have your entire staff up and running with
million-dollar software. For general details about ASPs, go to
www.asp.com. Here are some benefits for
using an ASP:
■ The ASP will be responsible for
upkeep of the service provided. Therefore, you save the money spent on
administration, support, maintenance, upgrades and deployment without
forfeiting functionality and business return.
■ The service is web-based, so you and
your employees will have access to the software at all times.
■ The risk of a bad technology
investment will be reduced as ASP solutions do not require large cash
4 - Generate Revenue
35 percent of the respondents said they generate revenues from their web
site. The vast majority of those revenues were from ticket sales, though
banner ads and sponsorships were also listed.
■ Sell tickets online
Almost everyone who said they generate revenues from their web site does so
via the sale of tickets. Most ticketing systems offer some way to sell
tickets online. If yours does not, you should consider some of the new
web-based solutions that can have you selling tickets online in a matter of
days, such as www.ticketweb.com,
■ Sell merchandise
There are a number of web-based solutions that make selling merchandise
online very simple. To find a listing of such companies, go to:
■ Sell banner advertising
Many venues already have sponsors involved in their facility. A number of
venues have extended the value they offer those sponsors by giving them
visibility and links from the venue’s web site. Additionally, venues can
create and sell banner ads in rotation on their site. There are some
agencies that offer this solution as a turnkey service, such as
When you have directors of marketing such as
Lex Poppen of the Ruth Eckerd Hall saying they have doubled Internet
revenues for the past three years; and executives like Richard Krezwick of
the Fleet Center saying that it is their venue’s top priority, it is safe to
assume that the Internet is much more than just e-mail. Dig in. Explore.
Discover new benefits for your venue.
John Platillero is president/CEO of
EventBooking, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based ASP that offers custom web-site
development, e-mail marketing tools, calendar scheduling software, community
calendars, and more. For more information, visit