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Beginner Read

Discovering the right ticketing & CRM tech for you



Introduction

So, you’re looking to procure a new ticketing or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system for your organisation. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? With countless technology platforms on the market for a variety of sectors, it might not be as easy as you think. And that’s not to mention the issue of limited funds to procure a new system.

It’s never been more important to use technology that can add immediate value but also grow with your organisation. Knowing which companies to approach and how to articulate your requirements is a key step in making the right decision.

This article will guide you through your own organisational requirements, and offer some helpful hints from the technology companies themselves. You’ll also find some handy templates to help you formulate your procurement needs.

Requirements

You already know what your organisation does and why, but translating this to a potential provider could be a stumbling block. Articulating your processes should allow you to identify the key functionalities you need from a provider and allow you to properly evaluate their suitability.

These quick questions will help you gauge what sort of functions you might need from a ticketing or CRM system:

  • What actions, interactions and touch points do you have with your audiences/contacts that need to be recorded?
  • What is the range of ticketed products that you sell? For example; reserved seating, general admission, time-based, packages, subscription.
  • What auxiliary items do you sell? For example; merchandise, donations, memberships, gift vouchers
  • What departments will need to use your ticketing/CRM system? What processes do they perform?
  • How will members of you team need to access the platform and where will they be located?
  • What other platforms do you use and how do they talk to each other, if at all?
  • What of your current processes are time-eaters and could be significantly improved?

Tech Professional Top Tip

“We  advise you go through administrative processes with a fine-tooth comb so that we could identify what things could be done by our system – it can often do much more than the core functions that people originally approach us for” – Steph, GoodCRM

Remember that each potential software may have different ways of achieving the required outcome, and it’s not necessarily about replicating your current processes. You may find that providers can suggest new and efficient ways of working and cut down on any time-wasting processes.

Any research you do for a new system should coincide with and compliment your overall strategy and mission as an organisation. Identifying the kind of relationships you would like to develop with your audiences, in accordance with your goals, should help you determine what sort of experience you would like to provide for them. Understanding which of your requirements are vital in supporting this overall strategy will be important in your search for the right technology platform.

Tech Professional Top Tip

“Keep it simple. Set clear goals and objectives for your organisation and identify areas where technology can help you to achieve and succeed with these goals. If you haven’t already, then make sure you read the Ticketsolve Guide on Objectives and Key Results.”  – Lucy Costelloe, Ticketsolve

Functionality

Now that you’ve discussed and acknowledged your requirements with your team it’s time to translate those requirements into potential platform functionality. Remember that it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get one system that will service everything you need. This means you may need to consider multiple systems, or potentially prioritising the needs that will have the most impact for you now. If you decide you need multiple systems, you will also need to bear in mind how these systems will talk to each other in order for you to track audience behaviours across your different services.

We have put together this handy functionality checker which goes through some of the most common requirements based on our experience. You can download this tool to give you some inspiration on what your organisation’s needs are.

Download our ticketing & CRM system functionality checker 2021 (68Kb)

Tech Professional Top Tip

“Look out for integrations with audience finder for segmentation projects and an e-commerce integration with Google Analytics for purchasing behaviours. Focus on the questions you need answered and how your provider can offer you the answers through informed data.” – Lucy Costelloe, Ticketsolve

Research

A cursory internet search for a new ticketing or CRM system will probably bombard you with a multitude of different systems, each one claiming to meet your requirements. But how do you know which one is right for you? Furthermore, it can be hard to determine which systems are best suited to the arts and culture sector, and which could be affordable and effective for charities and non-profits. With that in mind, the following tips might come in handy:

Tip 1

Be nosy: look to other organisations similar to yours and see if you can spot the systems they are using. Sometimes it’s hard to identify the technology behind the website, but have a look for logos, phrases like ‘Powered by’ or changes in the URL during the purchase path which may provide the answer. You can also use tools like BuiltWith which will give you a detailed technology breakdown for a website.

Tip 2

Ask around: a lot of arts organisations are willing to share their experiences with technology so that mistakes aren’t repeated. When speaking with a tech company, see if they can provide references or people you can speak to from the sector.

Tip 3

Demo: we can’t emphasise this one enough. Approach companies of interest and ask for an introductory demo to get an idea of the look and feel of the product.

Tip 4

Download our handy guide of tech companies to look out for in 2021 (111Kb) to kick your research off.

Tech Professional Top Tip

“Using a specialist consultant will give you access to their knowledge of systems and suppliers, what is available in the market and what functionality each system offers.” – Helen Dunnett, Helen Dunnett Consulting

Shortlisting

After your initial research stage, you should be getting an idea of what technology will be most suitable for you. It’s definitely worth contacting as many of these companies as you possibly can and discussing your specific requirements as their website may not detail all features.

It’s now time to gather together a comprehensive list of potential tech partners. To narrow down your options, think about some of the questions that might help you make that decision:

  • Is the company based in the UK or do they have a UK-based team to assist your development?
  • What is their ongoing support programme and how easy is this to access? Does this cost extra?
  • How well versed is this company in the sector that you work in? Do they understand your organisation’s context?
  • Does the system’s functionality fit well with your processes? Are you having to shoehorn certain things to make it work?
  • How flexible is the system? Will it grow with you as an organisation or is it static within its current confines?
  • What are the set up fees and ongoing costs? Is it financially viable and competitive within the market? Are there any hardware or infrastructure costs?

Refer back to your organisation’s overall strategy as you do this, and identify what technology will assist you in its delivery.

Tech Professional Top Tip

“Sometimes the final deciding factor can be as simple as the decision you took choosing Apple or Android for your phone. You might be a passionate hobbyist photographer and be attracted to the camera, or you might be addicted to new apps (like me!). But the most important consideration for approaching different suppliers is finding a solution that works for all members of your team.”  – Lucy Costelloe, Ticketsolve

The Brief

If the product you require is a standardised platform, something ‘off the shelf’, then you may at this point have already identified the most suitable product. However, if you require technology that will need customisation, you may find writing a formal brief helpful in making your decision.

Briefs can be as simple or complex as you feel is necessary, but details and context will help potential providers understand your needs. Knowing how a platform will integrate with your other tools, such as your website, social media platforms and email marketing software, will be vital in ascertaining its suitability. This may only be achieved by allowing potential suppliers to formally respond to your brief. This exercise will also allow you to benchmark competitors, or establish a scoring system to identify the most viable solution.

Tech Professional Top Tip

“Think about what other systems are in play and how or whether you want your CRM/ticketing system to link and integrate. This would then form a list of requirements for you to submit to potential suppliers. You could also get suppliers to match their functionality to your list and you might devise a scoring system and use it to assess against the responses received from suppliers.” – Helen Dunnett, Helen Dunnett Consulting

Depending on your organisation, you may have internal policies to adhere to so you can provide evidence of due diligence in sourcing a cost-effective and appropriate system. We have put together a basic framework for you to use as the basis of your brief, to be used in conjunction with your organisation’s procedures when sourcing new software.

Download our ticketing & CRM brief template 2021 (44Kb)
Download our CRM brief template 2021 (44Kb)

Tech Professional Top Tip

“If you work for a local authority get to know your procurement process in detail; I’ve worked with venues in the past that did not do this and then were scuppered trying to buy new hardware only to have the project significantly delayed due to having to go back and scope out peripherals as part of the project with procurement.” – Ed Lee, Patronbase

What next?

This article and accompanying downloadable resources should provide you with the necessary tools to identify your tech needs and how to find the most appropriate platform for your organisation. If you’d like to learn more, take a look at the articles linked below.

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all arts and cultural organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up to our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn for the latest updates.

Original article created in February 2021. Author: Nick Kime.

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