Ticket Broker Makes Sales via Prerecorded Messages

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Do consumers want to be marketed to with prerecorded messages? A number of new firms offer voice-based messaging services, including Vontoo's Web-based dialing system for marketers to reach out to customers with prerecorded messages over the telephone.

Though it is a delicate area, it works, according to events ticket broker Circle City Tickets, which uses the service from Vontoo, Indianapolis.

"It is a good way to reach customers who are not reading e-mail every day, like housewives who are running around with the kids all day," said Michael Peduto, partner at Circle City Tickets, Indianapolis. "Also, mailers get a good response, but take time to design and send out. Calling works well when we don't have time to get a mailer out and is also more cost effective."

Circle City buys blocks of tickets to events like concerts and sports in the Indianapolis region. Because the broker buys in blocks, it loses out on any unused ticket, so last-minute sales promotions really help.

Vondoo's software lets Circle City Tickets  upload its 60,000 customer profiles and then create, send and track its voice messages. The phone message is created on a Web-based browser that dials up the appropriate demographic.

For example, Circle City used the platform to sell remaining tickets for a Jimmy Buffet concert. The broker called 800 customers who had attended the last Jimmy Buffet show, selling out its remaining seats that day. Each phone call costs 10 cents. Calls that do not get through are not charged. The firm earned $6,000 on about $80 spent, Mr. Peduto said.

Sure, Call Me

But as to the question of etiquette, Vontoo operates under permission-based calling, meaning that the consumer must opt in to receive phone calls. What exactly is a permission-based call?

Legally, if a consumer participated in a transaction with a firm and gave his phone number for the transaction, then that consumer gave permission to be contacted regarding events. Circle City's Web site also has a feature where consumers can opt in.

Now, a consumer who had attended a previous Jimmy Buffet concert may appreciate a call, which seems to be the case with the sales results. And Mr. Peduto claims that only one customer called to complain.

But how will customers feel when targeted with a more general pitch, like when Circle City called country music concert attendees to push tickets for a new country music artist? It did not work well, Mr. Peduto said, and sales were not increased as a result.

Of course, an opt-out feature is required by law. But do consumers listen through the entire phone call from a recorded telemarketer if they want to opt out? A person might hang up before realizing this was an option.

This may work better for smaller communities where the opt-in rates are higher. Vontoo, for example, hosts telephone calls for a church community.

"There were no opt-out rates for the church, and members were getting a number of calls a week," said Bob Compton, Vontoo's founder and CEO. "The church was moving, and people wanted to hear what was going on."

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