The hotly anticipated new Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens,” (technically, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens) isn’t scheduled to hit theaters until the end of December, but tickets went on sale this past week. Demand was so high that ticket-selling sites crashed. And—no surprise here—tickets for opening night have been appearing in various places for astronomical sums. Want a Star Wars marathon? Check. 3D? Check. IMAX? Yep.
In this case Disney has used a technique Apple excels at: anticipation marketing, or building up hype about new releases to ensure the fan base is primed and ready to go with payment. Game producers do this as well, and they’re not the only ones.
The generation commonly referred to as Millennials are not going to nightclubs, but they enjoy organized events like music festivals. Maybe spontaneity isn’t their thing, or they’ve never learned to dance.
Restaurants are getting in on the act, too. Diners who want to eat at Chicago restaurant Next must buy tickets in advance for its tasting menu.
One reason the business of anticipation is growing is that the digital economy makes it much easier for consumers to research pre-purchase. That means they know almost everything about the new iPhones before the devices are even stocked in Apple stores. Information about organized events like music festivals is released months prior, and those events tend to be highly formulaic. That research leads to a level of trust. There’s already the beginning of a relationship even before any money changes hands.
Companies can take advantage of this not only by leaking information, building anticipation, and creating launch events; there are also new opportunities to manage reputations and relationships via product reviews or social media. With the kind of back-and-forth that often happens between consumers and companies today, pre-buying doesn’t seem like such a risky idea.
Presales are the key to growth, according to this article from the Harvard Business Review. The authors found that “companies with strong presales capabilities consistently achieve win rates of 40–50% in new business and 80–90% in renewal business—well above average rates.” Getting to these kinds of numbers mean creating a dedicated presales team, but the resources necessary are counter-weighted by the results.
Are we headed to a time when presales dominate? Maybe not—they’re not appropriate for everything. And not everyone can or wants to plan ahead for everything they purchase. But the presale as a marketing technique is a strong tool and expect it to start showing up in new places.
For more expert insight on marketing practices, see 20 Experts Offer Content Marketing Predictions For 2016.