Want better data? It starts with stray kittens.

Want better data? It starts with stray kittens.

This is the first video in our Ugly Data series where we are bringing you the fundamentals of data stewardship. View all the videos in this series here>>

Only you can prevent ugly data

Video 1: Capture It. Clean it.


Is your data ugly? Your arts organization may have terrific branding, a high converting website, a top-of the-line CRM system, and beautiful photos of your productions or exhibitions. Unfortunately, if the data you have on your patrons is dirty, incomplete, or poorly segmented, building patron relationships and loyalty is much harder. That’s why data stewardship, the ongoing process of maintaining data for action, is so important.  In this video, Kevin Replinger of TRG Arts explains the beginning steps of data stewardship: capturing data and keeping it clean.

It all starts with Data Capture.

Data Capture is the regular practice of collecting patron contact information with every transaction at the point of sale. To combat ugly data, start here.  You can’t build a relationship with a patron if you don’t know who they are and what they are doing. We call patrons who we don’t know how to contact “orphan records.”

An orphan record is a transaction made without a patron account. Think of them as stray kittens, but way less cute. Some databases are just full of stray kittens.

Why? The most common reasons are:

  • Tickets are sold via “quick sale” and no patron contact information is captured, or
  • Admissions are sold where only a zip code is captured, or
  • Tickets are just sold into a single generic account.

Orphan Records = Lost Revenues 
Orphan records are a tragedy, and not just because stray kittens are sad and cute. It’s about money.

  Every season, 33,089 households walked out the door anonymously.
Every season 33,089 households walked
out the door anonymously.
Take this example from a ballet company on the east coast. Every season, around 16% of households walked out anonymously. For this organization, that accounted for over 33,000 records.

What if we’d been able to contact these orphan records with a subscription offer? Using the average marketing campaign response rates and average revenue per order, we can quickly calculate that these 33,000 orphan records could have generated an additional $173 thousand dollars in sales. And, if we also contacted the orphan records from the previous season, that’s another $83,000 dollars.

If only we had been able to contact these stray kittens and invite them back, we’d have 857 more subscriber households and over a quarter million dollars in revenue!

Data Cleanliness is next to Data Godliness
After you have a strategy in place to address your stray kittens, think about the quality of the data you do have. Commit to data cleanliness. That means regularly reviewing and updating contact information associated with patron accounts. There are many factors in data cleanliness.The biggest problems that TRG regularly sees are these:

  • Consistency: Does your organization have a standard way to enter data into your CRM system?
  • Coordination: Do you have a style guide to be sure that things like abbreviations are consistent no matter who is entering the data?
  • Consolidation: Do you have many duplicate records which contain different information on the same patron?

The best data hygiene tactic: National Change of Address

How often do you run National Change of Address and phone hygiene? And, do you load the results back into your CRM? This is crucial for maintaining data validity and accuracy. The US Postal Service even requires organizations to run NCOA on their data every 90 days to receive presorted and bulk mailing rates.

Beyond the cost savings on postage regularly scheduled data cleanliness efforts are crucial to the success of your campaigns, especially when 10% of US households move annually. If you’re trying to target Millennials and Gen Xers, address verification is even more important as this number balloons to: 20% and 12%, respectively.

How much time should we spend on data?

CRM systems enable results. Even the most sophisticated systems don’t do all the work for you. Every day, we see clients with beautiful ticketing system and data that’s ugly as sin. YOU are the one who makes data a priority. If it’s a priority, that means you actually take the time to do it. And data stewardship is a whole organization thing.

So how much time SHOULD you be spending on data?

 Here are some best practice guidelines.

  • If your database is in order, and you have solid practices in place, you should still expect to be spending 10-15% of your total organizational time on data stewardship efforts.
  • If you’re doing ok, but still have some gaps, plan to use 15-20% of your organizational time on data stewardship.
  • If you’re new or you know your data is in bad shape, take more than 25% of total organizational time to clean your database and start implementing organization-wide best practices. 

Remember, only you can prevent ugly data. Next up: Now that you have clean, complete data, let’s organize and segment it. Next video coming May 31st.

Featured in this video: Kevin Replinger 

Other videos in this series:



Video 2: Organize it. Segment it.

How does a well-planned and consistent segmentation strategy make your job easier? It will help your organization effectively market to patrons, targeting certain segments for certain offers, and help you understand your patrons’ behavior. In this video, Claudia van Poperingen of TRG Arts explains how to organize and segment your data so it’s strategically divided into easiest-to-use groups. 

Video 3: Optimize It. Use it. 

Once you know what your needs are, you’ll want to be to calibrate the size of your segments for a given campaign. In this case, size does matter. In the last video in our Ugly Data Series, Amelia Northrup-Simpson, Director of Strategic Communication, will show you how to use your patron data after it is cleaned and organized.

View all the videos in this series here>>

Posted May 24, 2017

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