By Hailey Colwell 2nd July 2019
Getting new patrons in the door is an arts marketer’s bread and butter. To attract new patrons, marketers have become experts at distilling their organizations’ artistic offerings into appealing communications. They know their target markets and the communities they serve. They know the campaigns, cross-promotion and word-of-mouth they need to get their messages in front of likely patrons and make them feel intrigued and ready to try something new.
Connecting with new patrons is where arts organizations dedicate the bulk of their marketing resources. But that make-them-feel-heard magic is often lost on their existing patrons, and that comes at a cost.
In the quest for new patrons, arts organizations are losing sight of the value of marketing to their existing ones. But taking the same care to know their customers and craft messages to nurture their relationships has a marked impact on retention and revenue growth over time: organizations that reach patron retention rates of five percent can expect a 25 percent to 95 percent increase in profits.
To maximize revenue from patrons, marketers must create opportunities for them to become loyal subscribers, sustaining members, and high-value donors. The tricky part is that they can’t do it alone: This requires alignment and buy-in from the whole organization.
Discover how arts marketers are teaming up with the box office and fundraising department to attract new ticket buyers, cultivate patron loyalty, and drive sustainable revenue growth.
Creating strategies that welcome new patrons while enticing historic patrons to re-attend is key to establishing steady, varied revenue streams. When one source of revenue takes a dip — for instance when a show is not enticing new ticket buyers — organizations can rely on loyal patrons to fill seats and avoid last-minute discounts.
Developing loyalty is a process. Similar to how fundraisers use moves management to nurture donors, arts organizations can benefit from developing a framework to outline the different phases of their patron experience. Marketers should work with their colleagues in the box office and fundraising department to set definitions for groups like single-ticket buyers, frequent attenders, and likely subscribers. These categories will differ between organizations, but alignment between departments is key to building patron loyalty.
These teams should also take stock of all the touchpoints they have with patrons and brainstorm how each of them can contribute to encouraging attendance, retention, upsells and charitable asks depending on where the patron is in their journey. Leveraging those touchpoints could mean making the box office’s relationship with patrons more personal or training box officers to upsell patrons on additional shows when they buy tickets in person or over the phone.
These touchpoints extend to organizations’ websites, which are an essential marketing and engagement tool but are often under-prioritized and underutilized. As a rule of thumb, ticketing websites should make it easy for patrons to find what they’re looking for, provide smooth upsell and add-on opportunities and make the patron feel valued so they’ll book again. They should also be mobile optimized: More than half of American online shoppers make purchases on mobile.1 Users who have a negative experience on a mobile checkout are 62 percent less likely to buy from there again.2
An arts organizations website should have an intuitive navigation, a limited number of checkout steps, and clear calls to action to guide patrons through their transaction. Seeing relevant content on the website, like a pop-up for suggested shows based on the tickets in their basket, primes patrons to engage with and purchase additional offerings. These opportunities empower patrons to enrich their experience, and help organizations transform their websites into significant revenue-building channels.
Patron data can and should inform all of the marketing strategies an organization constructs to drive up attendance and maximize revenue. Understanding when patrons buy tickets, pinpointing variables that lead single ticket buyers to convert to subscribers, and analyzing how patrons respond to concession and merchandise upsells all provide arts organizations with invaluable insights into patron behavior. Cross-departmental collaboration can transform the data gathered from buyer behavior into a targeted, strategic effort that unlocks results.
Further alignment across departments on new and existing patron segmentation criteria allows organizations to discuss how targeting specific cohorts will help them meet their goals. They can use these segments to run targeted customer groups through reports and gain insights into how one group of patrons’ reattendance compares to another’s.
Data also helps marketers understand how their campaigns to retain new ticket buyers performed and adjust their strategies based on patrons’ buying habits. They can also use data to understand what proportion of transactions include cross-sales, add-on donations and whether box officers are recording patron data during walk-up transactions.
Establishing organizational alignment, strategically segmenting customers and mapping out how targeting them will help leaders across the organization meet their goals will equip the entire business to drive up retention rates and share the resulting benefits.
After aligning with their team on data collection, segmentation, and tactics to turn ticket buyers into sustaining members, marketers can focus on growing revenue from their communications channels. Finding ways to tailor their messages and automate them ensures marketers are reaching out to patrons with fitting programming promotions, offers and asks at opportune times. Receiving relevant content when they’re most likely to interact with the organization tells patrons the organization knows them and wants to give them more of what they want, making them far more likely to answer its calls to action.
Marketers can create that content by looking at each of the loyalty categories that they designated with their cross-departmental team. Using data to inform their process, they can map out messaging for each cohort of patrons based on what’s going on in the season, where the patron is in their loyalty journey and how the organization aims to move them up the loyalty ladder. This is where creative offers, tailored email campaigns and thinking of buyer personas come into play — in other words, all of the marketing expertise that organizations tend to use just on attracting new patrons, except now it’s maximizing revenue from their entire patron base.
With more messages tailored to more segments of their audience, marketers likely have a lot more sending to do. Email automation allows marketers to send these customized communications automatically, giving them more time to focus on creating successful campaigns.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company used Spektrix’s tools to create automated emails triggered by patrons attending their first show. The emails thanked patrons for coming and let them know the theater had added a $20 credit to their account for them to use on their next purchase. This resulted in the highest re-attendance trends the theater had seen, with 20% of that season’s 2,500 new households coming back in the same year. Cincy Shakes’ story is an excellent example of how identifying first-time patrons with customer data and developing tailored, automated communications for those new buyers can drive up re-attendance.
As marketers hone their strategies for all patrons on their radars, here’s what they should take away from this roadmap:
Spektrix's platform enables arts organizations to break down silos between ticketing, marketing, and fundraising by consolidating their patron data into one centralized source. With shared patron data, arts marketers can derive insights that empower them to identify upsell opportunities and transform first-time ticket buyers into sustaining patrons.
Discover how arts organizations are creating secondary spend opportunities for patrons to drive sustainable revenue growth in the Guide to Maximizing Revenue for Arts Organizations.