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Part 3 – Pre-season Actions & Systems.

The light beam from the watch tower on a misty October night at Maize Quest.

Part 3 – Pre-season Actions & Systems.

The last two weeks, we covered what we learned, discovered, and uncovered as the weather handed out an old-school rainy season over much of the upper Midwest to the mid-Atlantic and into the Northeast US.

If you missed the other two blogs, take a few minutes to find and read them, as the process is sequential.

We thought first about choices made “Years in Advance” regarding the very structure of our businesses to create a more stable operational platform.

Last week, Strategic Choices included pricing, per-cap spending, multiday vs. must-have dates, and indoor spaces.

This week considers specific systems each business needs to react successfully in the event-immediate time scale. The trick is to set up these systems during the preseason so you are ready when the event is imminent.

#5 Online ticketing. We all had to implement online ticketing during 2020, which was a revelation for many of us. Online ticketing allowed us to

  • Spread crowds over time slots
  • Limit capacity to prevent an overrun at the gate.
  • Speed up entries with fewer cashiers
  • Know how to order supplies and food and schedule staff
  • Get money in advance and “lockdown” the attendance
  • Connect online advertisements directly to ticket sales

It was a forced transition but a positive change. As things opened up, we noticed that online ticket sales decreased as a percentage of total ticket sales.

Here’s why you don’t want to let that happen.

All the features we share here are part of the software we use, TicketSpice. Other ticketing platforms likely have similar features, but we use TicketSpice and know specifically that these features are included.

The Flash Sale. We worked with AMG, a marketing firm familiar with agritourism, and they prompted us to hold a Flash Sale. The sale is ten days to a week before opening and offers a steep discount to anyone willing to purchase further in advance. Only online ticketing allows this, and we brought in significant cash flow on our first try.

Pay when excited. Online ticketing allows a direct connection between excitement and purchase for your guests. They can purchase immediately if they see a great video, post, or ad online and get excited. Life is distracting, and people are bombarded with messages, so we like to catch the purchase the instant they are thinking about our farm, festival, or event.

#6 List building. The most significant unsung benefit of online ticketing is List Building. Reaching people is more challenging than ever, so it is critical to reach them again efficiently. When guests buy online, TicketSpice enables us to gather names, addresses, emails, mobile numbers, and, critically, purchase and ticketing information.

When guests show up to our Square POS at the front gate, we get NOTHING. No names, emails, or mobile numbers, and we don’t get the money if they don’t show up.

If we use time slots, as we do for specific events such as Wine Your Way Out, guests are organized by day & time. We’ll come back to this in the next blog.

The List Building benefit is so vital that starting this past season, we offered an online discount to people standing in line at the Fun Park to enter if they took the time to buy their tickets online before they got to the check-in registers.

Sounds crazy, right?

[Here’s where we put a few concepts together]

Because our pricing was “High Enough,” we could offer a discount through “Online Ticketing” to do the “List Building,” still raising the “Per Cap Spending” while increasing our “Messaging” capabilities.

#7 Messaging. Communication is always the key to potential guests, existing guests, ticket holders, employees, managers, the media, plus public postings. Set up systems for each during the preseason so nothing can hold up your messages in the season.

Employees. When the weather changes plans, reaching employees is the first set of messaging. Use WhentoWork,, Private Facebook groups, and specific work function software. Texting can be a backup but is unwieldy as employee teams grow above 5-8 people. We use’s built-in email and text messaging system because all staff must connect to WhenToWork to get their schedules.

Ticket holders. We use TicketSpice’s built-in email & text messaging platform to reach out to existing, unscanned ticket holders. The reason is the ability to make selections. We can select by event, by scanned or unscanned, and the likelihood of receiving the email is higher because the guest received a transactional email from TicketSpice when they bought their ticket.

Audience. Your audience is the set of people you connect with through social media, emails, mailings, and video services, such as YouTube. We’ve all been working on this growing Facebook page fans, Instagram followers, TikTok subscribers, YouTube subscribers, email lists, and text subscribers.

Social media spoofs. It feels great to watch your social media follower number grow, and you need to focus on growing them. It feels great when your content gets a lot of views, and you need to produce good content.

The trick is there is a terrible social media spoof going on. Most of your posts aren’t seen by more than 5% of your listed “follower audience.” It just doesn’t get into their feeds at all.

To combat the social ‘spoofing,’ you must pay your followers to see the stuff you post. It’s not really your audience. The social platform owns the audience.

#8 Emails still matter. Your email list is different because you own the list; guests have opted into your list. The trick here is that every email platform in the world tries to reduce the number of emails that get to their users. They are filtering YOU.

In addition to making all the opt-in recommendations from MailChimp, Constant Contact, and other email providers, we recommend email service diversity. We send our guests emails through Keap. You just got this one through the Keap service, but we also email guests from MailChimp AND TicketSpice.

Set up an extra email service so you can still reach the guests who want to hear from you if you get filtered from your original service.

Be clickable. Add videos and ticketing offer links to your emails so your guests can click. Clicking signals that guests want to receive your information and hold the filters at bay. Clickable messages are allowed through because they have clicked in the past.

#9 The public & media. No matter how big a deal you are, you must be marketing every year. A vast sector of the public has no idea your business exists! Reach out through traditional media.

Public relations. “You can’t make friends when you need them.” is one of my favorite quotes. In media relations, you can’t befriend reporters when you need a story; it takes dedicated effort over time to become a trusted source for new stories, comments on current events, and exciting features for festivals. You can’t build media relationships in season. It has to happen early and over time.

Preseason is the time to set systems you can instantly access when needed and regularly use to connect with your audience.

Regular connection is the key. Regularly update your employees on upcoming events. Regularly reach out to guests with fun pictures and informative stories that are so interesting you don’t need to be promotional. Cultivate multiple channels, realizing that each channel’s owner limits access.

Next week will be a new year, and we’ll drill down into the “Day Of” items of our “Rain out!” series for items #10-12.

A final note: Year end is a reflective time. We are that family that goes around the table sharing favorite activites, events or thoughts from the year past. It’s a joy to be able to gather together and celebrate each others’ lives, successes, joys and challenges.

My final 2023 encouragement to you is this: Remember to encourage each other to think about the life wins, business and personal, together. Take time to soak up the moments, relive them and share.

Isn’t that why we work so hard?

Have a Happy New Year. Best from PA,


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