data-driven marketing
Aug14

On August 29, Data Center 2.0 will launch. Based on feedback from superusers during beta testing, here are our top three favorite new features: 

  1. A New Interactive Dashboard: snapshots of your patron data that allows you to quickly manage your campaigns and organizational health.
  2. New Campaigns Module: a better organizational structure to easily monitor all your marketing and fundraising campaigns in one place, with statistics about each list.
  3. New Interface: a modern design with improved navigation and an intuitive user experience, that is now mobile-friendly!    
Over the years, Data Center has helped organizations like New York City Ballet, Delaware Theatre Company, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra attain their marketing and fundraising goals. 

Posted August 14, 2018



Aug13


In 2017, Matt Graber and San Diego Rep decided that it was the right time for them to move forward with revamping their strategy around subscription. Following an intensive one-day planning session with TRG, Matt took home the collaboratively created strategy with newly-infused ideas on how to grow more and spend less. 


The net result: San Diego Rep spent 35% less on marketing while exceeding their prior year subscription revenue by 21%. All with 5 months left in their season. 


Posted August 13, 2018



Jun20

 

In autumn 2015 Sheffield Theatres was in a good place, seeing increasing revenue returns and having won UK Regional Theatre of the Year twice in consecutive years at The Stage Awards. However, with decreasing public funding, the organisation knew it needed to make dramatic changes to ensure a sustainable future.

“Public funding accounted for 24% of our income when I arrived at the organisation in 2009,” said Chief Executive Dan Bates. “By 2015 that had fallen to 13% – about a £500,000 difference – and we were aware that our Local Authority funding could disappear. We didn’t want to become too reliant on increasing ticket prices and were experimenting a lot with different pricing plans, but with so many pressures on our time, it felt like we were just tinkering rather than having a strategic approach.”



Posted June 20, 2018



Mar27

Facing stalled audience growth and revenue, reductions is subsidy and a  significantly lower yield than other comparable organisations in the UK, Chief Executive of Nottingham Playhouse Stephanie Sirr, newly appointed Head of Marketing and Communications Joanna Sigsworth, and their team were ready to dramatically change the way they approached selling tickets. 

Their new approach to sales and marketing operations  led to: 

  • More than 14k increase in combined single ticket admissions and tickets sold to members
  • 34% growth in new membership 
  • 15% yield increase for full price single tickets and 26% yield increase for tickets sold to members

Learn how Nottingham Playhouse achieved these stellar results in this new case study. 


Posted March 27, 2018



Jan22

Jill Robinson
President & CEO

At the close of 2017, the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) published a report The Burden of Rising Expenses: The Bottom Line in the Arts. 

The report looked at financial data of over 4,800 US arts organizations between 2013 and 2016, and raised the question "Are organizations bringing in enough revenue to cover their expenses?"

Jill's latest essay examines the findings alongside what we see in our work at TRG Arts: sustainability continues to be hard work for arts and cultural organizations. 


Posted January 22, 2018



Nov30

 

Lindsay Anderson
Vice President of Client Development

Why do we in arts organizations care so much about the Christmas holiday season? Yes, we program amazing events—shows that get us into the holiday spirit, concerts that have us humming well-known tunes, and ballets that can elicit memories taking us back to our childhood. But we also care because the events and exhibitions we run at this time can make or break our financial year.

Chances are you’ve been thinking about your 2017 Christmas or holiday offering since before last year’s events even opened.  Some of you put your 2017 Pantomime tickets on sale right before Panto began last year.  Or maybe you gave your loyal subscribers or members access to this year’s A Christmas Carol tickets when they attended in 2016.  It’s safe to say we in the arts field spend a lot of time planning and executing campaigns in preparation for this time of year.



Posted November 30, 2017



Nov15


Have arts leaders increased the loyalty of their patron in recent years? TRG Arts is the longest-standing aggregator of loyalty metrics in the arts industry and has recently refreshed its aggregated Patron Loyalty Index. In this presentation, we'll describe the ways patrons are behaving in terms of their recency, frequency, monetary investment and growth over time, across transactions in single tickets, membership, subscription, and donation.

Posted November 15, 2017



Jul20

Long Wharf Theatre: 80% increase in new subscriptions in one year

In August 2015, Long Wharf Theatre (LWT) was worried about their subscriptions. Over the last four seasons, they’d seen a 23% decrease in subscription renewals and 8% decrease in new subscriptions. 


Posted July 20, 2017



Jun28

David Seals
How does the country’s largest theatre company, who sells 450,000 tickets a year, get to know each individual patron so well that they write thank you notes of joy? How does a large organization speak so relevantly that its patrons describe themselves as “flabbergasted” and “blown away?” The answer is nerdier than you’d expect: data segmentation.

Posted June 28, 2017



Jun20

Why do we present art?

It’s crucial that every staff member at an arts organization understand this question. In 2016, we’d undertaken a project to diversify our audiences called “Democratizing Our Stages.” As part of that and in preparation for artistic planning for the 2017-18 season, I did an exercise with our staff that was designed to connect myself and my staff with The Cultch’s “why.” 


Posted June 20, 2017



Jun16

You’ve got a CRM system. You’ve got reports galore. But how can you use data to affect change at your theatre? DataArts has partnered with field experts to create a new series of free online courses teaching essential data skills for arts leaders. In this session, TRG Arts will present a brief preview from Connecting the Dots: Audience Data Essentials, a course they co-created with DataArts. Attendees will leave the session with 4 basic metrics to track at their own theatre, plus ideas about how these courses can serve as a valuable resource for their own learning, or as a professional development tool for their staff. 

Posted June 16, 2017



Jun16

One of the biggest challenges for theatre leaders lies in perfecting the balance between commercially popular and artistically ambitious plays. In 2014, Kansas City Repertory Theatre was at a crossroads with programming choices, finding it difficult to grow new audiences and cultivate their current loyal supporters. The artistic and executive director decided to do something quite radical: quantify the impact of programming on audience development. Some of the questions they asked were: Which genres grow new audiences? Which deepen current loyalty? Which plays encourage and discourage repeat attendance? Does venue impact audience behavior? How are factors like per-ticket spend impacted?  Learn what the data said about different artistic genres and the types of audiences it attracted, how KC Rep used the data as inspiration for their new Creative Future Fund, and the results they’ve seen in the following three years in audience and revenue numbers.


Posted June 16, 2017



Jun09

Have you ever looked at your ROI numbers and thought that your money just doesn’t go as far as it used to? If so, you’re not alone.

Our partners at the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) put out a report recently on metrics by sector for arts organizations. Among the metrics they analyzed was response to marketing efforts.

 


Posted June 9, 2017



May31

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 east-to-use groups. 

This is the second video in our Ugly Data series where we are bringing you the best practices in data stewardship. 

Posted May 31, 2017



May17

Walk through identifying marketing, attendance, virtual participation, expenses, and earned revenue strategies and challenges, as well as examples of data-guided, sustainable change. You will discover how performance metrics impact everyday decision-making, assess which areas may require new cross-departmental strategic thinking, and determine data-guided, sustainable ideas for attracting funding and audiences.

In this session, presented in 2017 at The American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting, Jill Robinson and Zannie Voss (National Center for Arts Research) discuss ways to measure and improve organizational health.


Posted May 17, 2017



Mar09

Audience Data Essentials


Announcing a new online course from DataArts and The Results Group for the Arts (TRG Arts)! Would you like to better engage audiences? This course is designed to help arts leaders use data to build loyalty and increase revenue. 

You'll learn about:

  • Types of audience data and data capture techniques 
  • Setting goals and measuring progress with key audience metrics 
  • Segmenting your audience to more effectively engage constituents

 Who should take this course? 

  •  Anyone looking for an introduction to audience data capture and analysis, and audience segmentation. 
  • Arts leaders seeking to increase their comfort with key metrics related to marketing, patron loyalty, and patron revenue generation.

Posted March 9, 2017



Dec05

Photo by Corey Balazowich (CC BY-ND 2.0)

In 2015, the consulting firm Oliver Wyman released a research study in partnership with the League of American Orchestras that grabbed my attention and hasn’t let go. The central question of their work: is the existing subscription model for symphony orchestras still viable? In the age of Netflix, Amazon, and Uber, does it need a small tweak, a substantial jump start, or a complete-and-total-tear-down-and-rebuild to remain a worthwhile offering?

The study illuminated a few key findings for the orchestra sector:

  • Subscription audiences are declining, not due to dissatisfaction with their experience, or to competitive forces in entertainment. Instead, they’re losing interest in programming (both how seasons are structured, and with classical music overall), and most of all patrons are dissatisfied with subscription products as they currently exist.

Posted December 5, 2016



Oct17

Annual operating budget up 32% in 5 seasons



Photo: Joseph Mills

After a poor year for earned revenue in 2012*, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (LTO) had rebounded and was experiencing a growth spurt. In 2013, Director of Marketing Danyel Siler had turned her attention to single tickets. Her hard work had paid off, but season tickets were still a challenge.

“Season tickets were steadily declining,” she said. “The season ticket campaign had been done the same way for years, maybe even decades. And we blamed the fall on the trend that subs were declining everywhere. Our executive director, artistic director, and I all knew something needed to change, but we didn’t know what.”

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma hired TRG in March of 2014 for a best practices consultancy which began with an analysis of income trends, data stewardship, and current marketing practices.


Posted October 17, 2016



Sep13

This post is cross-posted on the National Center for Arts Research blog.

 Jill Robinson, 
President & CEO, TRG Arts

 “How do we stack up?”

Everyone is curious about how their arts organization compares with others like them. There’s really not been a good place to find that information, though.

Until now.

Recently, our partners at the National Center for Arts Research launched the NCAR Dashboard. It uses data from DataArts (formerly the Cultural Data Project) to explore how organizations from a variety of sizes and artistic disciplines perform on a variety of standardized financial and operational indicators, called KIPI’s. Even better, it allows you to compare your organization to others in its own size category and artistic genre.


Posted September 13, 2016



Sep06

Ask any married couple, and they will say that a lasting relationship takes work. The same is true when courting potential members of your organization! Find out what moves you should make to attract potential members, and hear about some innovative methods your peers have used to build their membership base. You'll leave this 15-minute on-demand webinar with actionable tips to attract and retain more members than you thought possible!

TRG Arts is collaborating with Blackbaud Arts and Cultural Group to bring you valuable tips and strategies with our new on-demand webinar series: Ignite. Watch the first video by clicking through.


Posted September 6, 2016



Jul14

This is the second in a series of two blog posts by TRG and Spektrix, where we examine the role that the box office plays in retaining patrons and providing great service. This series goes beyond discussing ticket sales and focuses on the four key elements of any successful modern box offices; proper data capture, enhancing the customer experience, playing an active role in retaining existing customers, and upgrading customer purchases to increase basket size or organizational investment.

In the last post, we covered the basic actions that will help you lay the foundation for your organization’s new strategies. In this post we’ll cover some more advanced tactics.


Posted July 14, 2016



Jul11

Annual fund success: more donors, bigger gifts, more often

41% increase in annual fund upgrades

 

Photo by Taylor Ford
When Kansas City Repertory Theatre began its Capacity Building Consulting partnership with TRG Arts in January 2014, increasing patron revenue, both earned and contributed, was the top priority.

TRG conducted an initial Baseline Assessment, which analyzed patron, pricing, and revenue data to identify key issues at KC Rep. Among them were aligning resources with revenue opportunities and focusing on building loyalty in addition to prospecting. The assessment identified the annual fund as an opportunity for growth. After a large influx of new lower-level donors in the 2011-12 season due to a one-time experiment with telefunding, donors and revenue had dropped off and stayed flat.


Posted July 11, 2016



Jun08

In the National Center for Arts Research’s Edition 3 report on the health of the U.S. arts and cultural sector, we include insights on trends as well as updates on seven performance indices key to assessing organizational health, all related to earned revenue, marketing and participation. If we look across two of these indices – Response to Marketing and People per Offering – together they tell a story about supply, demand, and the tension between marketing and engagement. 

Response to Marketing

Overall, marketing expenses per attendee trended upward over time but the rate of increase fell just shy of the rate of inflation.  This means that the average organization spent nearly the same on marketing to attract each attendee in 2013 as in 2010 in inflation-adjusted figures. A closer examination, however, reveals different realities for different arts and cultural sectors.


Posted June 8, 2016



Jun02

This is a co-authored piece by Spektrix and TRG Arts.

Does your organization need a box office anymore?

Well, yes. But the question is understandable.

Certainly the roles and responsibilities of box office staff have changed. As more patrons elect to buy online, the box office has evolved. Staff are no longer just order takers, but frontline for fundraising, marketing, sales and customer experience.

This shift has come at a time when there’s more data than ever about customers and their activities. Organizations are using data about customers to provide personalized service and more patrons hold this as an expectation. Some organizations (Seattle Repertory Theatre and Phoenix Theatre, for example) have even embraced patron services office models, where staff manage portfolios of customers, giving everyone a personal concierge experience.


Posted June 2, 2016



Mar31

 Trisha Kirk
Director of Marketing,
Guthrie Theater
Danielle St.Germain-Gordon
Director of Development,
Guthrie Theater

Creative placemaking. Community engagement. Mobile beaconing. Customer relationship management.

If there’s one thing the arts industry has no shortage of, it’s buzzwords. What makes buzzwords so enticing? Behind each is the promise of the next best practices for the arts, the next strategy or tactic that could help organizations succeed sustainably.

We submit, for your consideration, this one: “integrated loyalty development.”

Like most buzzwords, the words somewhat obscure the meaning. Put simply, it’s aligning all departments in an organization around the cultivation of loyal patron relationships. It describes the magic that happens when organizations move beyond transactions and “just trying to make goal” for event after event. Instead, integration means investing in and being accountable to fostering their patrons’ passion for the arts, in all areas of their business.


Posted March 31, 2016



Mar07

Photo: Marlon Malabanan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If your work involves promoting the next performance or production, you already know there’s never a shortage of things you can do or places to advertise. However, no matter how hard we work, we’re limited by staff time and our own budget. So how we spend that time and budget matters.

When you’re facing a long list of tasks or advertising opportunities, your first instinct might be to prioritize the list in order of urgency and importance. However, this approach assumes that everything on your list is worth doing. I recommend dividing your list into two: a to-do list and a “stop doing” list.


Posted March 7, 2016



Feb23

“I came expecting math class and I got philosophy class.”

A few weeks ago we hosted an Executive Summit, where 12 leaders from different genres and geographical locations gathered at the TRG Arts Center for Results in Colorado Springs. We began hosting these gatherings several years ago, and each one provides a snapshot of how leadership issues are changing over time.

Executive Summit at the TRG Arts Center for Results
The January 2016 Executive Summit

TRG’s reputation as data geeks preceded us, as you might guess from the first line of this post which is a direct quote from one of the participants. The executives came ready to talk about donation and ticket income, attendance numbers, and per capita revenue. But, instead of solely discussing data-guided revenue strategies, participants in the two-day session found themselves moving out of the day-to-day. Instead, we asked them to think broadly about leadership and its impact.


Posted February 23, 2016



Jan06

Single tickets up 59%, gifts up 125%

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Royal MTC) was stable throughout the recession. However, the company saw a dip in patron-generated revenue in the 2011–12 season, attributed to changes in their entertainment landscape, including the return of the beloved Winnipeg Jets. With flat annual fund donations and declining single tickets and subscriptions, Royal MTC prioritized reversing patron decline and revenue losses.

Royal MTC relied heavily on their subscriber base, which was one of the largest among Canadian regional theatres. Even with strong renewal rates, subscriber decline is inevitable without strong campaigns to attract new subscribers. In Royal MTC’s case, the subscriber audience far outweighed the single ticket audience, which meant they often did not have the sheer number of leads necessary to fuel successful subscriber acquisition campaigns. That, coupled with a low volume of individual donors, created a patron loyalty challenge at Royal MTC.


Posted January 6, 2016



Dec16

Like most people who work at TRG, I love data. One of my favorite activities near the end of the year is to open up Google Analytics and see which blog posts, case studies, and other content were most popular with our readers.

The top content from our blog reflects the topics which we see getting the most attention in our industry today. Some topline observations:

  • The topic of subscription and the evolution of the arts business model continues to inspire research and dialogue.
  • We see more interest every day in data and how arts professionals can use it to make decisions.
  • We’re hearing and thinking more about the relationship between marketing and other departments and how organizations can build patron loyalty collaboratively.
  • The topic of pricing and its impact on patrons seemed to be more often discussed this year as organizations balance revenue and accessibility.

Find below the eight most-read insights from TRG this year. We thank you, our readers, for continuing to read, share and respond to our content this year!


Posted December 16, 2015



Nov18

Photo: opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I recently delivered a keynote at the Conferencia Anual de Marketing de las Artes (Annual Conference on Marketing the Arts) in Madrid and Barcelona, hosted by Spanish consulting firm Asimetrica. The focus of this year’s convening was “Cambio de Mentalidad,” about changing mentalities about marketing, and audiences, in the arts. Speakers were from many countries, and had many different perspectives. But one that arose consistently was a fixation that arts managers from all over the world shared.

They were obsessed with new audiences.


Posted November 18, 2015



Nov09

Maximizing Relevancy in the Age of Personalization

Today’s patrons expect arts organizations to take their personal context into account when we communicate with them.  Whether we’re engaging new audiences, stimulating revenue growth, or deepening relationships with existing patrons – context is key.  Contextual marketing requires us to understand more than who a patron is but where they are, what they’re doing, and what are they likely to do next.  Contextual marketing is something arts marketers have always done, but recent shifts in technology and marketing practices allow our efforts to be more personalized, more relevant, and more effective than ever before. 

In this workshop, David Dombrosky of InstantEncore, Ronia Holmes of Hubbard Street, and Amelia Northrup-Simpson of TRG Arts explored the elements of contextual marketing through a series of exercises focused on leveraging patrons’ context to maximize relevance and effectiveness.


Posted November 9, 2015



Nov03

Photo by James Jordan (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A year and a half ago I was invited to join TRG’s bi-annual Executive Summit in Colorado Springs. Taking the time away is always difficult but I decided to take two days to make the journey. I was grateful to reconnect with and be re-introduced to many things I already knew and some I didn’t. The session was a good reminder of what I should be focusing on. The distractions of running an organization tend to take you down distant trails into the wilderness.

There was one thing that really grabbed my attention. TRG’s President & CEO Jill Robinson reported on work that they had done with the Guthrie Theater, examining loyalty as it related to genres of programming. The genre breakdowns were pretty typical, i.e. blockbuster musicals, dramas, new works, Shakespeare, etc. There were also no surprises that blockbuster programs generated the most revenue, had the highest price point, and, of course, the highest attrition rate. Like pouring water into a funnel, most of the blockbuster patrons had flushed through and right back out again.


Posted November 3, 2015



Oct30

Desarrollar audiencias a partir de los datos

As public subsidies for the arts change, organizations must rely on people—their audiences and patrons—to provide the revenue to sustain them long-term. How can organizations build a new business model that both serves audiences and relies on them for revenue? The first step is to see what the data says about building these patron relationships.

In this keynote, presented at the 2015 Conferencia de Marketing de las Artes in Madrid and Barcelona, Jill Robinson of the arts consulting firm TRG Arts offered data-inspired lessons on how organizations can monetize patron relationships. These relationships drive the revenue that allows the entire organization to thrive, instead of merely surviving. Jill also discussed data collection and privacy concerns, and how to create incentives for genuine connection between patrons and organization.


Posted October 30, 2015



Oct21


Amelia Northrup-Simpson

Are you a contextual marketer? Probably.

Chances are, you’re doing some form of contextual marketing already. If you’re a marketer, you’ve made some effort to understand your patrons and match their needs to what you’re offering.

That’s all contextual marketing is: matching the customer’s circumstance to the business’s circumstance.

To determine a customer’s circumstance, you first want to look at their past behavior. Then you can determine how that might align with what your organization is offering.


Posted October 21, 2015



Oct13

This is the fifth video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing.

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #5: % of subscriber-donors

Is renewal rate the best measurement of loyalty? While it shows how many subscribers or members arts organizations are retaining, it doesn’t indicate if patrons are growing in their loyalty. In this video, Keri Mesropov of TRG Arts explains why renewal rate can be deceptive and the metric arts organizations should consider tracking alongside it.


Posted October 13, 2015



Oct08

This guest post by Zannie Voss of the National Center for Arts Research is cross-posted to the NCAR blog.

There is a conversation growing nationally around data-informed decision-making in arts and cultural organizations. The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) stands firmly in the belief that using data to inform managerial decisions is a critical factor in the sustainability and transformation of the arts and cultural field as a whole. It isn’t about data for the sake of data, it’s about the end-goal of healthier organizations that have stable and expanded resources to dedicate to pursuit of mission. TRG, one of NCAR’s partners, has been a leading advocate for this type of analysis for many years and the organizations TRG serves have benefitted as a result.

There is no “one size fits all” performance measure. Instead, metrics for organizational health are as varied as the field itself. So this begs the question: What are the metrics that matter?


Posted October 8, 2015



Oct06

This is the fourth video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing.

By “them,” we mean your patrons. When we consider how arts organizations lose patrons, it’s not the long-time, committed patrons that are most likely to leave. Your most at-risk patrons are those new audience members and visitors that you worked so hard to attract in the first place. TRG’s Director of Consulting Jim DeGood explains how to measure your risk:

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #4: New audience churn rate

Churn. Attrition. Turnover. Call it what you will; the fact is, you’re losing new patrons. With few exceptions, arts organization over-prospect for new audiences and under-retain them. In this video, Jim DeGood of TRG Arts explains why retention matters, how to measure your risk, and a simple 4-step process for retention that you can implement at your own organization.


Posted October 6, 2015



Sep29

This is the third video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #3: Data capture rate

If we want to cultivate an arts patron, we’ve got to know their history with our organization first. That starts by collecting their contact information. In this video, David Seals of TRG Arts explains why capturing contact information can mean serious revenue gain—or lost opportunity. He’ll also review what contact information you should collect and tips for collecting it at the point of sale.


Posted September 29, 2015



Sep24

 Jill Robinson, 
President & CEO, TRG Arts

The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at Southern Methodist University recently released their latest report, which focuses specifically on marketing related metrics. This is the third report NCAR has released examining the health of arts and cultural organizations in the U.S. from a wide range of data sources.

Recently, I’ve seen researchers beginning to measure the impact of developing patron relationships and focus on the data that will quantify relationships. This is a great sign of things to come for the arts industry. In our own research at TRG, we’ve seen that measuring relationships in an integrated and holistic way can help organizations better understand patrons and impact revenue. Transactions that may seem unrelated when measured by different departments can actually indicate loyal relationships. The whole picture matters in each individual patron record, as it does when measuring the impact of patron-generated revenue across an organization.


Posted September 24, 2015



Sep22

This is the second video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing.

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #2: Active patron participation

Active patrons are the patrons an arts organization serves today. But will they still be there tomorrow? It depends on how YOU cultivate them.

In this video, Jill Robinson of TRG Arts discusses how and why to measure active patron participation at performing arts organizations and museums. She also explains the concept of an “upgrade”—the next step for every patron to grow their loyalty.


Posted September 22, 2015



Sep15

This is the first video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #1: Patron-generated revenue

Forget earned and contributed revenue. Thinking about revenue generated by patrons vs. other sources may help your arts organization far more. In this video, Amelia Northrup-Simpson of TRG Arts explains why categorizing revenue only as earned or contributed can create siloes within organizations and how to calculate the amount and percentage of patron-generated revenue.


Posted September 15, 2015



Sep11


 Photo by Gavin Brogan (CC BY 2.0)

There are a lot of metrics that an arts organization could track in an effort to be successful and sustainable. With today’s robust CRM systems, there’s no shortage of data on arts patrons and their buying and donating behavior.

The truth is, what gets measured gets managed.

When you decide to track a metric and make changes in your work to move that number up or down, you’re giving that metric power. That means your organization sets its priorities as an institution by what you collectively decide  to measure.


Posted September 11, 2015



Jul29

This post is part in a series by TRG and Piper Foundation Fellow Vincent VanVleet where he’ll report on his discoveries as he travels the country to research the impact of patron loyalty. Read more of his posts here.

Photo by Erik Schepers (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Are you investing in your audience?

You might read that question and think, “What a silly question—of course we’re investing in our audience.” But, really and truly—lip service about the value of your audience is not enough.

Put another way: Are you spending money on keeping your audience happy and serving them well?


Posted July 29, 2015



Jul28



 Stephen Skrypec
Head of Sales and Marketing
New Wolsey Theatre
Lindsay Anderson
VP of Client Development
TRG Arts

“Our patrons won’t pay that…”

“Everyone wants to sit in this section…”

Our assumptions about what our audiences will and won’t want or do can stop us from pricing to optimize revenue for our organizations. But we don’t really know until we look at the data. Ignoring what patron data tells us about pricing can lead arts organizations to leave money on the table—money that could be sustaining their mission.

At The New Wolsey Theatre in the U.K., small changes to pricing strategy resulted in big revenue increases. In just nine months, the company reported a 31% increase in box office gross—without selling more tickets. In this free webinar, New Wolsey’s Head of Sales and Marketing Stephen Skrypec and TRG’s VP of Client Development Lindsay Anderson shared how the theatre updated daily practices and challenged prior assumptions about audiences, leading to their success. Learn how arts organizations, whether in the U.S., U.K., or elsewhere, can use pricing to drive patron behavior and revenue.

Click through to read more and view the video.


Posted July 28, 2015



Jul06

31% one-season increase in box office gross

Photo by Mike Kwasniak.

In 2014, the New Wolsey Theatre was re-examining its financial picture, focusing on its earned vs. contributed income streams. Like many theatres in the United Kingdom, government funding still accounted for a significant proportion of their revenue. Over the three years prior, they had received moderate funding cuts totaling approximately £50,000 (around $79,000 U.S.).

 

Located in Ipswich, Great Britain, the midsized regional theatre produces a spring and autumn season, as well as a Christmas show, with a mixture of both home produced and touring product. Many of the productions were selling well, which left Head of Sales and Marketing Stephen Skrypec wondering what the theatre could do to grow earned income.

 

Stephen: We’d become as efficient as we could in the rest of the business; the only place to reduce spending was in artistic and we really didn’t want to do that. For earned revenue, I had done standard things I felt I could do—making sure there were more tickets available at the top price and making sure every single seat was sold when it could be sold. I’d gotten to the point where I’d done all I thought I could do to maximize revenue. What do I do now?


Posted July 6, 2015



Jun30

Image by opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I recently sat in on a presentation at the League of American Orchestras conference entitled “The Future of the Orchestra Subscription Model.” The League is working in partnership with Oliver Wyman to study declines in subscription sales by analyzing transactional, survey, and buying simulation data.

I’m so pleased to see the attention that the topic of loyalty programs has been getting recently. Some of the best investments that arts organizations can make are in repeat attendance and cultivating patron relationships. At TRG, we’ve long been an advocate for loyalty programs, particularly subscription. It’s not just because we’re stubborn. We follow the data and we see organizations who invest in loyalty succeeding.


Posted June 30, 2015



Jun18

Humana Festival audienceMany organizations track data on pricing, audience retention, and audience response to different types of artistic programming. But what happens when an organization looks at these categories together, holistically? That’s what Actors Theatre of Louisville did. What they found led them to begin to manage demand, cultivate audiences, and approach the strategic planning process in a completely new ways.

This is a story about how data can re-focus an organization around audiences, and how Actors Theatre of Louisville is acting on that data. Managing Director Jennifer Bielstein and ‎Jim DeGood of TRG Arts gave this presentation at the 2015 Theatre Communications Group, detailing how Actors Theatre of Louisville has translated data findings into a plan, how leadership is re-aligning around data and audience loyalty, and some initial results from their efforts.


Posted June 18, 2015



Jun17

This is the first in a series of posts by TRG and Piper Foundation Fellow Vincent VanVleet where he’ll report on his discoveries as he travels the country to research the impact of artistic programming on patron loyalty.

Image by Tnarik Innael (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you had three months off from your job to research anything about the arts management field, what topic would you choose? It’s a fun question to think about, and I am fortunate enough to have this opportunity.   

I am privileged to have been chosen as a Virginia G. Piper Fellow just a few short months ago and subsequently as a concurrent fellow with TRG Arts, with a focus on researching the link between artistic programming and patron loyalty.  The Virginia G. Piper Trust “acknowledges the never-ceasing demands of nonprofit leadership and offers opportunities to retool, refresh, and renew to senior leaders who have been in their roles for 10 or more years.” The fellowship allows non-profit executives, who spend much of their career invested in training staff, time away on sabbatical to invest in their own learning and development, in the hopes that they can bring that knowledge back to the organizations they lead.  TRG has been similarly dedicated for years to training leaders of non-profit arts organizations with emphasis on advancing the field, and has started a fellowship program to spotlight the research I’ll be doing. 

I have been in non-profit management for 17 years, having left the production side of the business because I wanted to be part of something much larger than myself.  It has been a humbling and exciting experience to work with such talented artists and administrators alike.  After a long tenure as general manager of Phoenix Theatre, I was thrust into my post as managing director in 2011 at the height of the economic crisis. I had to find a path forward for our organization.  Like many, we were swimming in a sea of red ink while at the height of a multi-million dollar capital campaign to build a new theatre. The project had started before the recession hit, but was too far along to back out without setting the organization back two decades.  I knew cutting our way to financial success was never going to work.  Previous leadership had already tried that approach and, as we figured out, you can only cut so far.  My gut instinct told me to “lean in” during the “bad” years, so I evaluated our situation and what needed to happen to swim upstream of the crisis and get ahead. 


Posted June 17, 2015



Jun10

 Gene Carr,
CEO, Patron Technology
@genecarr
 Jill Robinson, 
President & CEO,TRG Arts
@jrobinsontrg

There's not one definition or path for loyalty. And, a good CRM system acts as a catalyst, helping identify every patron's right next step.

This was one of the major takeaways from the latest installment of PatronTalk, Patron Technology's ongoing webcast series. Gene Carr, CEO of Patron Technology, interviewed Jill Robinson, President & CEO of TRG Arts, during the live webcast on June 9, 2015.

Click through to view the video.


Posted June 10, 2015



May13

Loyalty, Collaboration, and Community in Philadelphia

Wednesday, May 13 at 2 EDT/11 PDT


You may know the buying and donating patterns of your own audience. But do you know how they engage with the other arts organizations in your community? And does that mean you’re in competition with them or have opportunities to collaborate?

Seventeen arts and cultural institutions in the Philadelphia area set out to find the answers to those very questions. The study they commissioned investigated the buying and donating behavior of nearly 1 million arts audience and visitor households over seven years, with interesting findings about community engagement and audience loyalty. Researchers profiled how loyal patrons were to each individual organization and tracked patterns of loyalty across the community.

Click through to read more and view the video.


Posted May 13, 2015



May08

"Loyalty takes time." That was the key point that Jill Robinson, President & CEO of TRG Arts, put forth in a discussion of young donors at the 2015 Opera America Conference in Washington, DC. The panel's premise was that, with opera audiences growing older, companies must focus their attention on new generations of support. While development departments may have mastered the appeal to traditionalists and baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials are looking for something else. Attendees at this standing-room only session learned what the data says about these patrons, what matters to next gen donors, and how opera companies can engage them. 


Posted May 8, 2015



May05

Photo by opensource.com (CC BY 2.0)

At the beginning of this year, the NEA came out with a report on why people attend the arts. This study struck a chord with me, because it momentarily put aside the question of whether arts attendance is growing or shrinking and instead focuses on why people actually come to the arts in the first place. The study found that 83% of arts participants value “being devoted and loyal.” This aligns with TRG’s own research, which suggests that it’s no longer enough to know whether you're hitting attendance goals. The question has evolved from "Are audiences growing?" to "Are audiences growing more loyal?"

The NEA report suggests some ways to overcome barriers to arts participation, among them community engagement. Decision makers and funders in our field seem to be thinking more in recent years about what makes an arts community healthy, and how to measure engagement across communities.

We recently did a study with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance which studied how audiences interact with different arts organizations across a community. (Full study here.) Spanning 7 years and studying nearly 1 million arts audience households from 17 arts and cultural institutions, this study looked in-depth at loyalty within organizations and engagement across the community.


Posted May 5, 2015



May05


Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in
One Thousand Pieces by
 Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo.
Photo by Todd Rosenberg.
Categorizing arts patrons simply as ticket buyers, subscribers, or donors can hide the total value of the investments they make with an arts organization. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago tracked patterns of patron investment holistically, across those categories. What they found led them to cultivate audiences in a completely new ways.

Chief Marketing and Development Officer Bill Melamed of Hubbard Street and ‎Amelia Northrup-Simpson of TRG Arts presented this session at the 2015 Do Good Data Conference, detailing how audiences are engaging differently with Hubbard Street nearly two years later. This is a story about the important role data plays in centering an organization around patron loyalty, and how Hubbard Street acted on that data. 

Posted May 5, 2015



Apr16


Photo by Ryan Dickey (CC BY 2.0)

Let’s face it: sometimes it seems like marketing and development couldn’t be more different. Their communication styles are different, their immediate goals are different, and they use different short-term metrics for success. They might work in the same building, but all too often it feels like they come from two different planets.

At many organizations, single ticket buyers and subscribers “belong” to marketing and donors “belong” to development. It’s true that one department or the other may advance a patron relationship at each stage of its evolution. However, both departments aim to deepen patron relationships, despite the difference in their approaches.

Without an upgrade strategy that involves both departments, marketing and development can miss their best opportunities to deepen patron relationships with the organization. Marketing and development may come from two different planets, but they should be empowered to put their unique styles and approaches to work developing patrons from first-time attendees to major donors.


Posted April 16, 2015



Apr01


Photo by Hsing Wei (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Data isn’t about numbers. It’s about people. When analyzed, data tells stories about people and their actions. Right now, in your database, a story exists about the decisions that people in your organization make. And, a story exists for every patron, which chronicles their relationship with your organization.

Having all those stories recorded in your database means that you don’t have to guess at what patrons are doing, or the impact that your decisions have made. TRG started as a consulting firm committed to building sustainable patron revenue for arts and cultural institutions. In order to get results for our clients, we found that we had to stop guessing at the right strategies and start using data to drive our counsel, which was a novel concept back in the ‘90’s.

In order to tell an accurate and truthful story, the data that you have must be complete and clean. At the organizational level, you may find it challenging to collect, manage, and effectively apply transactional data. Within the past twelve months we’ve found ourselves in conversations with the Cultural Data Project, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Center for Arts Research, and a host of other research and CRM vendors who perform data analytics services. In our conversations all parties acknowledged that, while challenges exist, effective data management is both achievable and is rising in organizational value. 


Posted April 1, 2015



Mar30


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

TRG's President & CEO Jill Robinson presented during TCG's Audience (R)Evolution in Kansas City on why research indicates that subscriptions still sustain arts organizations.

Watch it here. (Fourth video on the page.)

Audience (R)Evolution is a multi-year program designed by Theatre Communications Group and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to study, promote and support successful audience engagement and community development models across the country. This initiative, now moving into its second round of activity, encompasses four phases: research and assessment; convenings; grantmaking; and widespread dissemination of audience engagement models that work.


Posted March 30, 2015



Mar06


Photo by bixentro (CC BY 2.0)

This season at Dallas Theater Center (DTC), a great love story unfolded; however, it was not presented on the stage. During a recent TRG Executive Summit, Managing Director Heather Kitchen shared a tale of romance which both inspired and invoked a bit of envy from the other participants. It was the story of her data manager and the two departments that loved her.

How was this data manager able to make such an impact on DTC? She is part of a larger organizational culture that believes in data and its power as an enabler. Once everyone in the organization is aligned around the need for quality patron data the real work can begin. The next question is: what can leaders DO to enable successful data-driven Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and precision targeted marketing in their organizations? In the Summit, we usually talk through an assortment of enablers, but consistently the topic of having a dedicated data manager leads to the liveliest discussions.

When we got to that point in this past Summit, Heather raised her hand. With a big smile on her face.


Posted March 6, 2015



Feb23

Number of annual fund gifts up 51%, revenue up 28%


Addison (LeRoy McClain, left) clashes with his brother
Frank (Shane Taylor) over their family’s future as their
aunt Dorcas (Stephanie Berry) intervenes in the
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s world premiere
production of Safe House by playwright and
Cincinnati native Keith Josef Adkins. 
Photo by Sandy Underwood.
By the end of the 2011-2012 season, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park had been slowly losing audiences for the last seven years. Although revenue had grown by 12%, admissions were down 18%.  

Believing patrons preferred more flexibility than a fixed seat subscription package offers, the Playhouse had expanded their focus on selling more Build Your Own (BYO) subscriptions and prospecting for new single ticket buyers. The BYO subscriptions were popular, but subscribers renewed at much lower rates. Total subscription units had dropped 30% since the 2008-09 season.

In turn, subscription declines had diminished the number of patrons likely to give to the annual fund. Declines in loyalty contributed to a 21% decline in donors who gave under $2,500 over the last five years. Although overall annual fund revenue was only down 1.7%, overall donor households had declined by 19%.

Posted February 23, 2015



Feb06

This blog post is cross-posted to the Patron Technology blog.


Is the subscription dying? And if so, what’s killing it?
Photo by ASJ8 via flickr.

Is the subscription dying? And if so, what’s killing it? Whether your own subscription program is healthy (some are!) or on life support, its future depends in part on your audience and in part on how your organization acts. With subscription renewal time on the horizon, let’s look at some of the ways that arts organizations can kill their subscription programs:

1. Delay announcing your season.

Give patrons the least amount of time possible to subscribe or renew their subscription. If your season starts in the fall, announcing in late spring or early summer should work. Patrons buy late anyway, so why does it matter? Don’t try to negotiate or advocate with your artistic leadership about your deadlines. 

Do this instead: The more time you have to sell, the more you sell. Starting late is a sure-fire way to lose revenue. Early may not be the right time for every patron to buy, but it is right for some. If the artistic director is not ready to announce all the events in your season, compromise by sending your announcement with TBAs. Many longtime subscribers will renew even if they don’t have details on specific events or dates, because they trust your organization.


Posted February 6, 2015



Jan22

New research reveals key data for developing museum and performing arts audiences

Produced by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance with support from TRG Arts

 

2014 Patron Loyalty Study: Loyalty By the NumbersThe 2014 Patron Loyalty Study: Loyalty By the Numbers examines the financial transactions (including ticket sales, memberships and donations) of almost a million Greater Philadelphia households, using seven years of data from 17 major cultural attractions in the region. One of the key findings of the report is that, despite the sector’s focus on developing new audiences, the erosion of current audience loyalty represents one of the most significant financial risks for cultural groups. 

The study found that less than 3% of patrons generated over 62% of total patron revenue. However, spending by this small but powerful group of patrons declined 12% throughout the study, driven by a decline in primarily donor activity/revenue.

“While expanding audiences remains critical for the long term,” said Cultural Alliance Vice President John McInerney, “Retention and engagement of current audiences may be the most important strategy for an organization’s bottom line.”


Posted January 22, 2015



Jan14


An illustration of Seattle Repertory Theatre's "One Patron"
strategy, where SRT streamlined patron messaging and built
long term relationships across all points of interaction.

The Art of the Upgrade

For cultural institutions, the box office is not just the place where ticket orders are passively taken. It plays an active role in growing revenue by developing loyalty. Every time a patron logs in, calls, or visits to buy a ticket, the opportunity exists for them to upgrade and deepen their relationship with the organization. With the right training, the box office can become experts on how to cultivate patron relationships and keep audiences coming back for more. 

TRG President & CEO Jill Robinson presented this session at the 2015 InTix conference in Denver with Jeremy Scott of Seattle Repertory Theatre and Molly Riddle Wink of Denver Art Museum. In this session, they discussed:
- How making loyalty a priority can grow revenues
- How to build a loyalty strategy for every group within your existing audience
- How organizations can train box office staff to take on loyalty responsibilities


Posted January 14, 2015



Dec10


Image by r2hox via flickr
under CC BY-SA 2.0

A recent post by Createquity has raised great questions in response to the report published last year by the Cultural Data Project. Chief among them: “What would consistently effective use of data for decision-making at the organizational and system-wide level look like in practice?” Picked up by You’ve Cott Mail, the question became, “Are we ready to declare a crisis around data collection and use in the arts?”

As one of the largest collectors of arts patron data in the U.S., we’re seeing more clients wrestle with just these sorts of questions. The answers are complex, nuanced, and often unique to the organization or agency asking them.

The CDP’s President and CEO Beth Tuttle has begun exploring the idea of “decision-driven data collection.” This concept serves as a necessary counterpoint to a big data world where we’re encouraged to collect every data point and see what story emerges.


Posted December 10, 2014



Nov11

Creating Holistic Campaigns in a Brave New World 


With the rise of Google Analytics, conversion pixels, and referral codes, there are more tools than ever for tracking the results of your organization’s marketing campaigns. Yet even with hard evidence that digital efforts produce results, is it really time to shut the door on established methods such as direct mail, print/display advertising, and grassroots marketing? Can leaning too far in either direction impair one’s ability to capture a “middle ground”? 

This session, presented at the 2014 National Arts Marketing Project Conference, examined case studies of campaigns that successfully integrated old and new school marketing and campaign measurement via an integrated, “holistic” approach. The panelists tackled questions such as: how do specific demographics and audiences respond to different types of messaging? What is the value of “eyes-only” impressions vs. conversions that result in hard-and fast (and trackable) revenue? 

Presenters: Eric Winick of JCC Manhattan, Amelia Northrup-Simpson of TRG Arts, Molly Riddle Wink of Denver Art Museum, Khady Kamara of Arena Stage

Posted November 11, 2014



Oct24


Senior Consultant
Anita Hansen
Today's database, ticketing, and CRM systems can tell administrators nearly everything they could possibly want to know about patrons. More data isn't necessarily helpful, though. Studying everything can distract administrators from the metrics on which they need to focus to grow audiences and revenue. 


In this 90-minute intensive presented at the 2014 Arts Reach National Arts Marketing, Development & Ticketing Conference, Anita Hansen explained how organizations can stop studying every metric and focus on the most critical indicators of growth and sustainability. You’ll learn how to find TRG's five most actionable Thrive Metrics in your own data, what they say about your organization’s health, and how to act on the data to engage and cultivate patrons.


Posted October 24, 2014



Jul15

Data drives increased audience engagement and loyalty



Hubbard Street Dancers Jessica Tong, left, and Jesse Bechard
in One Thousand Pieces by Resident Choreographer
Alejandro Cerrudo. Photo by Todd Rosenberg. 

At the end of its Landmark 35th Anniversary season, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was at a high point. Ticket sales and fundraising were stronger than ever, and buzz in the Chicago community and in the dance world was growing.

While Hubbard Street had developed a significant and enthusiastic ticketing and donor base, the marketing and development team wanted a greater depth of knowledge about the company’s most engaged patrons. Bill Melamed, Chief Marketing and Development Officer, and Stacey Recht, Associate Director of Marketing, began asking: How well do we really know our patrons? How do our patrons interact across the organization? What are the trends and entry points? How can we best cultivate them toward long-term loyalty?

Hubbard Street wanted to cultivate this audience more holistically, beyond basic categories like ticket buyer, subscriber, or donor. They became curious about each patron’s total investment across those categories, and engaged TRG to help analyze the data and recommend steps toward increasing loyalty. 



Posted July 15, 2014



Jul08

Data-driven hard work worksLast month, I wrote about the overwhelming amount of data produced by the sophisticated database systems now common in the arts industry. My commentary on the “analysis paralysis” that can result caught the attention of many of our readers. We’re glad, because 20 years of consulting work has taught us this: data-driven hard work works.

Data-driven hard work works

It is hard work to develop a loyal, sustainable audience base. There are few shortcuts. However, a focus on the right audience data can guide your efforts. That’s why I urged you in my last post to “stop studying everything.” Then you can minimize distractions and direct your time, energy, and hard work on efforts that will help you achieve your audience goals.


Posted July 8, 2014



Jun19

Love the ones you're with--opportunity lies with existing patronsWhat happens when data analysis shows that some things you’re doing really well are also impeding future success? If you’re the Guthrie Theater looking at TRG’s loyalty and root cause analysis, you galvanize your whole team around keeping patrons and growing their ongoing support. In this workshop, TRG’s President & CEO Jill Robinson shared the metrics and patron behavior findings that alerted Guthrie and informed change. Trish Kirk, Guthrie’s Director of Marketing & Audience Development, described choices, actions, and new practices Guthrie has undertaken. Learn from Guthrie's experience how putting patron loyalty first can help sustain your theater. 

Posted June 19, 2014



Jun09

Carmen sells out, single ticket revenue 33% above goal


Carmen at Pensacola Opera: Audrey Babcock as Carmen, Chad Shelton as Don Jose, Anne Slovin as Frasquita, Eamon Pererya as El Remendado, and the Pensacola Opera Chorus.
Photo by Michael Duncan, featuring Audrey Babcock
as Carmen, Chad Shelton as Don Jose, Anne Slovin
as Frasquita, Eamon Pererya as El Remendado,  
and the Pensacola Opera Chorus.

Pensacola Opera is a $1.3 million organization which stages two productions a year with two performances each. For the past several years, the company had been focused on institutional stabilization—paying off debts, completing a capital campaign for establishing cash reserves, bolstering its endowment, and making capital improvements. In the meantime, the company was having trouble consistently meeting revenue goals for their productions.

To Executive Director Erin Kelley Sammis, it was clear that the company needed to shift its attention to growing sustainable patronage and revenue. In the summer of 2013, Sammis engaged TRG for a consultancy that would begin by focusing on increasing single ticket revenue and volume. 


Posted June 9, 2014



Jun05


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

Every organization has critical and very accessible database information that provides indicators of growth and sustainability. Jill Robinson, President and CEO of TRG Arts, presented TRG's most actionable Thrive Metrics at ArtsPride New Jersey's Thrive Conference at Princeton University. This presentation will tell you how to find these data points and what the research says about using data to stimulate engagement and nurture relationships with patrons. 

Want more information about the most important metrics you can study? Read Jill's recent blog post, Data that Matters: 3 Metrics to Grow Audience Relationships.


Posted June 5, 2014



Jun04

Stop studying everythingWith the arts and cultural annual conference season in full swing, we’re thrilled to see the priority that integrated patron loyalty now has in field dialogue. Prioritizing patronage can have a real impact—on year-over-year revenues, the volume of people attending and visiting arts and cultural organizations, organizational relevance, and more.

Developing patron loyalty specifically means thinking about each patron’s right next step with an organization, getting them to increase their activity with and value to the organization over time. For example, if I attend my first concert (or play or exhibit) at your organization, my right next step is attending another event in the coming months.

Many organizations regularly have thousands of patrons come through their doors. That’s a lot of right next steps! Luckily the database, ticketing, and CRM systems on the market today can capture in-depth data on patrons like never before.


Posted June 4, 2014



May31


President & CEO
Jill Robinson
President & CEO Jill Robinson presented this intensive session on patron loyalty on May 31, 2014 at the Canadian Arts Marketing, Development & Ticketing Conference in Toronto. Two decades of arts consumer research is clear: patron relationships have the plot lines of a love story. Take, for instance that first contact with a person that has never before walked into your organization’s life. It could be the beginning of long, loyal engagement or a one night stand, depending on how you behave on this first date. In this 90-minute workshop, Jill showed how to build happily-ever-after relationships that can build patron loyalty and revenue. Hear case studies on today’s best loyalty practices and learn techniques that are timely for you to apply in your own organization now. 

Posted May 31, 2014



May22

This article is cross-posted on the Arts Management and Technology Lab blog.

Photo by Fabio Sola Penna under CC BY 2.0 license.

As summer approaches, many museums and festivals are preparing for their busiest season of the year. Peak visitation and big events often mean an influx of new visitors or ticket buyers. We’re reminded at TRG how critical cultivating those newcomers is.

In the performing arts, TRG research found that about 4 out of 5 newcomers come once and are often never seen again. They follow this pattern of attrition often, we find, because organizations don’t consistently invite them back.

For museums, that attrition rate may be even higher. Museums routinely don’t collect patrons’ contact information—the only way they will be able to directly invite those patrons back. Sometimes admission is free and visitors come and go without having to check in. Even when admission is paid, ticketing staff may not perceive that they have time to ask, especially if there’s a line at the counter.

Collecting first-time ticket buyers’ contact information isn’t a touchy-feely customer service type of initiative. It can mean serious revenue gains—or losses.


Posted May 22, 2014



Apr02

Photo by Martin Deutsch via flickr
Earlier this month I participated in “Where Next BC: Adapting to Changes in the Arts,” a convening at Simon Frasier University in Vancouver, British Columbia. This change-focused convening was hosted by a dozen funders and supporters of the arts and cultural sector in BC, including the Department of Canadian Heritage, and Canada Council for the Arts.
 

I found the convening to be both revealing and encouraging in that the discussions were designed to be framed by, as the program read, “humility and honest self-assessment.” 

Change requires honest self-assessment in a frame of personal and professional humility. Whether it’s “innovative,” “adaptive,” or just plain good, old-fashioned CHANGE—it is hard to do well. In most arts organizations, change is even harder to accept, especially when generations of standard ways of operating are challenged.


Posted April 2, 2014



Mar20

To develop donors and cultivate patron love that lasts, you have to start with a visitor’s first paid admission. In this webinar, learn from two decades of arts patron research what it takes to make donors—and keep them. 

With each ticket sale or donation transaction, you gain important information that can help you develop lasting relationships with your patrons. The patron loyalty experts at TRG Arts, a consulting firm, say the process of meeting patrons is like a love story. 

This one-hour webinar with TRG's VP of Strategic Communications Joanne Steller will cover transactions that are turning points in your patron relationships and specific cultivation tactics that will help your donors fall in love with your organization. 

Grab your marketing, ticket office, and development colleagues to watch this informative webinar – because you all have a role to play in building donor relationships.

Posted March 20, 2014



Feb06

patron loyalty heart
Image via tagxedo
It's February, the month when our hearts naturally turn to romance. Here at TRG, we’re also thinking about romancing arts patrons. We call it “cultivating loyalty,” and it’s a lot like beginning a romantic relationship. It starts with a first “date,” or the first time a patron buys a ticket. What happens next determines whether the date will lead to a long-term, committed relationship or a one-night stand.

Let us suggest a Valentine theme for your important patron activities this month. As you’re planning subscription renewal, fiscal yearend giving, or admissions for summer festivals and during peak visitation season, think: “Be Mine” rather than simply “Buy Now.” Of course you need to focus on revenue. But, to get there, remember each of these efforts is about building relationships with your patrons. Like a romance, patron relationships evolve step-by-step, over time to become lasting and lifelong. With love—and loyalty— in the air, we’ve put together 3 ways to attract and keep the patrons of your dreams, those who will stick with you.


Posted February 6, 2014



Nov20

When the going got tough at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Director of External Affairs Katie Jackman and her team got going on a program for retaining first-time single ticket buyers – and stuck with it in the face of budget cuts, staff furloughs, and their own occasional doubts. Acting on TRG counsel Jackman and the SRT team launched their effort with getting new buyers to come again during their first season – achieving “second date” with first-time patrons. When that led to triple the retention rate among new single ticket buyers, SRT kept going. They rolled out a disciplined, purposeful cultivation effort over the next three seasons, a program TRG lauds as a model for the industry. (Read case study here.)  

Click through to watch the video or browse the slides from the webinar.


Posted November 20, 2013



Nov14

"Large data sets and big revenue goals can be overwhelming," Amelia Northrup-Simpson said at the 2013 National Arts Marketing Project Conference. "We can simplify those by stepping back and viewing marketing efforts through the 'patron lens'. That means thinking about each patron’s right next step with your organization and talking to your audience like you know them to get them to take that next step."

David Dombrosky of InstantEncore and Amanda Edelman of Academy of Vocal Arts joined Northrup-Simpson to present a session entitled "The Patron Lens: Engaging Audiences with Data-driven Targeted Messaging." In the session, the three presenters discussed topics including putting patron data in context and why to segment communications. The presenters also covered three different ways to segment: by generation, by loyalty level, and by technology usage.


Posted November 14, 2013



Oct04

"What makes a patron donor ready?" TRG President Jill Robinson asked this question to open her session at the 2013 Blackbaud Conference in Washington, D.C. The answer was not a "what," but a "who"—you do. Arts managers hold in their hands the power to cultivate a patron relationship from ticket buyer to donor... or not.

In her session entitled "The Making of a Donor-Ready Patron", Jill helped conference participants evaluate their own cultivation efforts alongside the happily-ever-after best practices that are sustaining smart arts organizations. In the slides below and Blackbaud's post summarizing the session, you too can learn about the loyalty steps your patrons are taking toward donor-readiness and the initiatives you can take to keep moving patron relationships to the next level. 


Posted October 4, 2013



Oct01

Tripled retention among specially

cultivated group of new ticket buyers

NOTE: We recently held a webinar based on this case study. "Launching Loyalty from a ‘Second Date’ with Patrons," featuring Seattle Repertory Theatre's Katie Jackman and her team, hosted by TRG's veteran consultant Joanne Steller. Click here to watch>>

When recession hit during the 2008–09 season, sales at Seattle Repertory Theatre (SRT) were already in a state of decline. Revenue losses had prompted across-the-board budget cuts by 30% for the following season. Enter Katie Jackman, who had just been hired and now is SRT’s Director of External Relations. She and new colleagues Jeremy Scott, Patron Development Manager, and Ashley Coates, Marketing Manager, rallied around the challenges ahead.


“We had declining sales in all categories. At the same time, there weren’t specific strategies around what to do, especially when patrons came in for the first time.”


Posted October 1, 2013



Sep18

TRG direct marketing tools find new prospects, 

track response for blockbuster mail campaign


The situation:

Becoming Van Gogh at Denver Art MuseumIn October 2012, Denver Art Museum (DAM) opened Becoming Van Gogh for a limited run in Denver only. The exhibit brought together for the first time various works by Van Gogh and those artists who influenced him. With such a unique exhibit and popular subject matter, the staff of DAM knew that the exhibit would be a smash hit.

Molly Wink, Director of Membership & Amenities, was especially interested in leveraging the would-be success of this exhibit and the consequent influx of new patrons into lasting patron relationships, especially via her direct mail campaign.


Posted September 18, 2013



Sep06

TRG Arts has been busy teaching this summer on the road and on the web. We’ve rounded up our most recent insights from last month below, in case you missed anything:

The Art of the Upgrade

President Jill Robinson gave a webinar hosted by Blackbaud last week about increasing patrons’ investment in and loyalty to arts organizations through upgrading.

“The best way to increase loyalty is to ask the patron to take the right next step with you. That’s what we call upgrading,” Jill said. “That right next step is different for each patron. And the right next step is informed by information in your database.”

The most recent version of this webinar is now available here.

Slides from the presentation:
 

Posted September 6, 2013



Aug22

Which prospects are you contacting?

 

“Don’t ever increase your marketing budget because you want to be more aggressive. Increase it because the numbers tell you there’s more opportunity there.” 

TRG’s Will Lester prescribed this strategy and other valuable prospecting tactics in this webinar on direct marketing strategy for arts organizations. 

Click through to read the most important points made in the webinar, view a recording of the webinar and more.


Posted August 22, 2013



Jul21

This interview with Will Lester was originally published on Matt Lehrman's blog Audience Wanted on Arts Journal.


Vice President of Network
Programs Will Lester
Will Lester is Vice President of Network Programs at TRG Arts, a data-driven consulting firm specializing in pricing and patron loyalty. TRG also has the distinction of managing 20 community data networks throughout the U.S. While the networks began as a way for arts organizations to share lists of patron contact information to cross-promote events, they’re now growing into a robust arts community resource, allowing for research on audience buying patterns, demographics and more.

Posted July 21, 2013



Jun24

Photo by Todd Huffman via flickr.
Photo by Todd Huffman via flickr.
Stop me if you’ve heard this plot point before in a romantic comedy: Boy meets girl. Sparks fly. Boy and girl have a meaningful, energizing interaction. But, neither can work up the courage to ask for the other’s phone number.

In a rom-com, the writers would find a cute, funny way for the two to bump into one another again. But we all know in real life, that rarely happens. Each goes their separate way thinking the other isn’t interested.

At TRG we often compare arts organizations’ patron relationships to dating. We counsel clients to “Love the ones you’re with” to remind them to prioritize subscribers, members and donors.  We exclaim “Don’t ask them to marry you on the first date!” to illustrate why marketers should offer another performance instead of a subscription to a first-time attendee. 

Posted June 24, 2013



Jun20

Two decades of arts consumer study has led the consulting firm TRG Arts to conclude that 2013 is the year choral organizations must frame their marketing efforts around The Patron. Knowing who buys your tickets and subscribe and contributes, when and how much is the best way to inform how you package, price, and promote your programs.  The best part: it’s a matter of focus. Every organization can use the information and skills they have to market better.  In this three-hour workshop presented at the 2013 Chorus America conference, Joanne Steller and Amelia Northrup-Simpson shared best marketing practices that are patron-based, time-proven and updated for the digital age. You’ll learn strategic ideas on building lasting loyalty and revenue that can sustain your organization.

Posted June 20, 2013



Jun20

Technology moves fast. It's hard to keep up with all the shiny new apps, devices, social networks and overall technology trends--and still do all the things you need to in order to market your chorus. This session, presented by Amelia Northrup-Simpson at the 2013 Chorus America Conference, focuses on the top technology trends and concerns you may need to act on in the coming year, including big data for arts organizations, mobile technology, and where to focus your social media efforts.

Posted June 20, 2013



Jun04

65% one-year increase in new subscription revenue

Exterior of the Loretto-Hilton Center, The Rep’s primary performing venue.
Exterior of the Loretto-Hilton Center,
The Rep’s primary performing venue.

Repertory Theatre of St. Louis had experienced ups and downs in subscription sales. By 2012, overall subscriptions had been decreasing by 3-8% almost every year since 2008, despite a strong renewal rate.

The underlying problem seemed to be attracting new subscribers. Initial analysis by TRG Arts suggested that, long term, The Rep needed to grow the number of prospects for subscription in their database. TRG also discovered that The Rep likely hadn’t been spending enough on subscription acquisitions. Spending on marketing new subscriptions acquisitions had remained flat, despite the declines in subscription acquisitions.


Posted June 4, 2013



May31

The Wall Street Journal didn't tell the whole story


Photo by Daimon Eklund via flickr.
Photo by Daimon Eklund via flickr.
Terry Teachout, the drama critic at The Wall Street Journal, suggested a few weeks ago a correlation between regional theater’s “play-it-safe” programming strategies and the collapse of the American theater subscription.

 He wrote: “(T)here seems little doubt that the [subscription] model itself is going bust.” Citing Theatre Facts 2011, Theatre Communications Group’s (TCG) annual study of industry financial and business trends, he noted, “nationwide revenues from subscribers plunged 18% between 2007 and 2011.”

That’s just one number, but it’s not the whole story.


Posted May 31, 2013



May28

Is your organization’s pricing strategy focused only on the cost of admission? Developed in just one department?  This 90-minute workshop, presented at the Arts Reach Canada Conference in May 2013, was designed to show leadership teams how much more there is to consider and to gain. High-impact pricing generates positive perception, improved patron loyalty, and greater revenue for every admission or seat sold.  


Posted May 28, 2013



May23

This session, presented at the 2013 AAM conference in Baltimore, explored an established enterprise model—loyalty through customer relationship management—and reimagine it for our museums. Designed to provoke thought-leadership for museum CEOs, COOs, department heads, as well as across functional areas, this presentation will spotlight practical steps for increasing museum loyalty and reaping the results. Presenters included: Jill Robinson, Suzette Sherman, and Heather Calvin, Associate Vice President, Visitor Services and Membership at Boston's Museum of Science.

Posted May 23, 2013



May22

"Data has changed everything", Rick Lester, CEO of TRG Arts, said in a recent interview with Southern Methodist University's National Center for Arts Research (NCAR). "Data has allowed us to replace guesswork and the customary wisdom of how arts organizations are supposed to function with knowledgewith fact, instead of opinion." 
 

TRG Arts been a consulting partner with NCAR since its launch earlier this year.  Rick also serves as a distinguished visiting professor at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University.

 Watch the 2-minute video below and read NCAR's full post here.


Posted May 22, 2013



May20

$1.5 million two-year admission growth


EMP Museum EMP Museum (formerly known as Experience Music Project) mounts exhibitions related to music, pop culture and science fiction. In 2011, EMP planned two exciting new exhibits: Avatar: The Exhibition and Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses. EMP leadership saw the exhibits as a way to build a more sustainable business model, funded by the community and less reliant on gifts from a few generous donors. 

Posted May 20, 2013



Apr28

71% New Subscription Net Revenue Increase

Chicago Symphony Orchestra saw a 71% new subscription net revenue increase


Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) had a strong subscription program overall. “The CSO has a very loyal subscriber base—once we bring them into the fold, they stay with us,” Kate Hagen, Marketing Manager, Patron Retention, said. Hagen and her colleagues had created a comprehensive program which had successfully retained both long-term subscribers and those in their first few years at rates well above industry averages.

For example, the CSO created the Surprise and Delight program for first year subscribers, which involved surprising them at their seats with a personal “thank you” from a staff member and a small gift like a CD or drink coupon. In 2011–12, 65% of first time subscribers renewed. (TRG finds that this group typically renews at just 50%.)

Posted April 28, 2013



Apr18

Photo via flickr
Some time ago I had a conversation with a theatre manager who had expressed an interest in TRG’s ticket pricing counsel.  The more we talked, the more agitated she became.  She nervously offered that her artistic director would NEVER allow pricing strategies like this happen at her theater. I, laughing, joked, “Oh my.  Your artistic director is a socialist?”  With great seriousness, she replied, “Absolutely not!  He is a communist!  He believes that every ticket should be FREE!”

The argument surrounding free and deeply discounted tickets has been around forever. The Dallas Museum of Art kicked off another round of conversation when they recently announced their decision to provide everyday free admission to everyone.  Museum memberships will also become free, with visitors actively encouraged to join using a very slick electronic system located at entry points to the museum. 

Posted April 18, 2013



Feb26

Photo by Eamon Curry via flickr
Lack of time, money and proper staff get in the way of arts and cultural organizations achieving their top priority goals, TRG Arts found in its recent survey of the consulting firm’s eNews recipients, Twitter followers, and blog readers. By the numbers:

•    Too many activities, too little time (53%) – Priorities conflict and as one respondent aptly put it, “I can’t do anything right when I’m doing everything at the same time.”
•    Financial constraints (44%) of insufficient funding and not enough revenue are age-old issues that recent economic factors appear to have exacerbated.  Organizations of all sizes and genres say they cannot afford what they need.

Posted February 26, 2013



Feb13

Word cloud created from an open-ended
TRG survey question on the greatest challenge
practitioners face. Created via tagxedo.
Title: Make Time to Make Money
Date: Wednesday, February 27
Time: 2-3 p.m. EST/11 a.m.-noon PST
Cost: Free--register here.

A recent TRG survey suggests that if you’re stressed out by competing critical priorities and dealing with too many challenges to achieve them, you are not alone. The survey shows a snapshot of arts practitioners pulled in many directions – too many to focus on and still meet big objectives around patronage and revenue.

In this one-hour TRG.Rx webinar, TRG’s CEO Rick Lester and President Jill Robinson prescribe must-do actions to get your organization on track to succeed in 2013.

Posted February 13, 2013



Jan22

Photo via flickr
Follow the conversation in the blogosphere, on social media or the year-end collection of intellectual thought on the arts, and you’ll find variations on several themes: Values – economic, artistic, experiential.  The relative merit of technique and technology.  Disappearing public and corporate support. Can innovation remodel the industry model? 

In today’s important dialog, the patron is missing in action. 

Posted January 22, 2013



Jan21

Photo via flickr
This article is cross-posted on artsmarketing.org.
Declarations of 2012 as the year of Big Data bring to 2013 a renewed—and well-deserved--focus on analytics and making data-driven decisions. Your organization’s database is the key to the hearts, minds, and wallets of your most fervent supporters—your patrons.  Patrons, in other words, are your biggest asset.

Of all the numbers you can pull from your database, which matter most? Two decades of arts consumer study is clear. The metrics surrounding loyalty—keeping patrons coming back and increasing their investment—are the ones that really count when it comes to building a sustainable audience (and revenue) base.

Whether your organization is large or small, performing or visual, subscription or member-oriented, here’s four resolutions to make regarding your data in the year ahead:

Posted January 21, 2013



Dec19

Yesterday You’ve Cott Mail asked readers for predictions about the arts in 2013. Rick's prediction was published in today's edition.
data
Photo via flickr
In 2013, Big Data will radically change the shape of arts management. The reelection of Barack Obama in November marked a tipping point for the arts, but not because of a change of public policy or a shift of power in Washington.

We reached a milestone because of HOW the President won. He won because of the power of big data to identify individual voters, understand their attitudes and then encourage their behaviors. Big Data tools got the President's supporters to the polls and assured the needed votes on a neighborhood basis in all-important swing states.

Posted December 19, 2012



Dec12

Photo by Vards Uzvards via flickr
At TRG we frequently talk about how an arts organization should create the Next Right Offer – that is, a promotional outreach that statistically possesses a high probability of acceptance or response by the prospective buyer.

What determines your Next Right Offer? TRG orthodoxy holds that data analysis is the only path to get it right and to evaluate the offer’s success. Specifically:

Response rates can be predictive for any offer. History is a perfectly valid guide. For example, if a specific data segment typically produces a 2.5% response for a new subscription offer, the odds are high that the same offer made next year to the same data segment will produce about a 2.5% response.

Posted December 12, 2012



Nov29

This article was originally posted on the Technology in the Arts blog, in conjunction with Rick's guest lecture for Carnegie Mellon University's Master of Arts Management program.
What’s more important, what you say or who you say it to?

Some might argue that a precisely defined target market can trump the creative message or offer. Proponents of the “killer offer” believe the right compelling message will overcome an imperfect effort to define the “who” in the equation.

I’m convinced that data, not guesswork or intuition, must drive sales and contributed revenues. A perfectly crafted message sent to the wrong prospect or patron is not only a waste of money, but damaging to the relationship we are trying to foster with our patrons.

Posted November 29, 2012



Nov14

Photo via flickr
The billion dollar campaign that won the presidency on Election Day was the ultimate direct marketing strategy.  The outcome provides part lesson, part forecast about our future in marketing and raising money for the arts.

Big Data is not the future – it is now.  

In 2004, political consultant Joe Trippi reinvented politics by applying a few crazy ideas learned from a consulting gig in Silicon Valley.  Governor Howard Dean used websites and elementary data tools to collect contact information about voters, volunteers and solicited donations on-line. These guys started a revolution.

In 2008, the Obama campaign built a massive database of some 13 million supporters and their email addresses.  When connected with new social media tools and a barrage of emails, then-Senator Obama raised a half a billion dollars from small donations and went on to win his first term in office.

Posted November 14, 2012



Oct05

This week, the TRG team is contributing to the Arts Marketing Blog Salon on Americans for the Arts' ARTSblog. This article by Will was originally posted as part of the salon, which previews the National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference in November. 
Photo by Brian Mitchell via flickr
In the digital age, many marketers are fond of pronouncing the death of direct mail.  Yet the data is clear--the environment has changed, new techniques have emerged and smarter approaches to direct mail are getting superior results than in days gone by.

Why? It comes down to increased trust, better targeting, and integration with online channels.

Trust

The contents of the typical American mailbox have changed dramatically in the last few years. Online bill pay options, increased digital and social marketing and the spiraling costs of postage (6 price hikes in 6 years, but who’s counting?) are some of the reasons why overall mail volume has dropped by almost 20% since 2006. These changes correspond to exponential increase in the daily volume of our email inboxes. Recent research shows that many consumers prefer and trust mail more.  Epsilon’s 2011 Channel Preference Study showed:

•    75% of consumers say they get more email than they can read
•    50% of consumers prefer direct mail to email
•    26% of all U.S. consumers said they found direct mail to be the most “trustworthy” medium, an increase from prior studies, which even includes the 18-34 year old demographic.

Posted October 5, 2012



Oct02

If so many arts leaders believe that marketing and development departments working together will generate better patronage results, why are so few organizations actually doing it? 

To be sure, there are ample tactical examples of successful cross-departmental collaboration on campaigns. And, a few industry leaders are engaging in organization-wide patron development – Arts Club Theatre Company and 5th Avenue Theatre are two we admire.

But integrated patron management is far from being a mainstream practice. Perhaps it’s because true marketing-development collaboration requires change and new ways of doing things that most organizations find impossibly difficult – especially on top of everything else that’s necessary to keep the art on our stages and in our exhibit halls.

Posted October 2, 2012



Oct01

This week, the TRG team is contributing to the Arts Marketing Blog Salon on Americans for the Arts' ARTSblog. This article by Amelia was originally posted as part of the salon, which previews the National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference in November.

Photo by David Wellbeloved
For decades, the arts industry has chased new audiences, especially younger audiences. Today, that chase is directed at the largest population under 30 years old in human history.  It’s little wonder that Gen Y (born 1981 – 2001) is a hot topic for arts marketers.
 
As a data-informed member of Gen Y, here’s a take on my generation of arts consumers.

We curate our lives.

For as long as we’ve been consumers, we have always had access to Google and Amazon. Search is our way of finding out anything and everything we want to know. We are the generation of the long-tail. This means we have had access to more variety of art, music, performances, and consumer products than any other generation in history.

Posted October 1, 2012



Aug16

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” --Albert Einstein
Data from a registration survey for our Christmas in July webinar recently reminded me how valid and valuable Mr. Einstein’s definition is.

We had asked everyone to compare their marketing budget for last season’s holiday events with the year before. Most (76%) said they had about same amount or less to spend on holiday events – generally a sure revenue producer for arts and entertainment organizations.

We also asked them to compare their revenue expectations for holiday’s breadwinning events. And that’s where it got interesting. The majority (52%) said that they were expected to bring in more revenue.


Posted August 16, 2012



Jul12

Photo: Mario via Flickr
This article is cross-posted on the #artsmgtchat blog. Strategic Communications Specialist Amelia Northrup will guest-host #artsmgtchat on Twitter on July 20, 2012 at 2-3 p.m. EDT.
Audience development. Usually when you hear this arts industry buzzword, it’s all about finding new audiences—everyone wants to develop a larger audience, right? However, audience development is not only about finding new audiences, but also retaining and deepening the commitment of the patrons you already have. Out of the two, the second will nearly always give you a larger return on your investment.

That’s the goal of patron loyalty programs—retaining and deepening the commitment of existing audience members.

Posted July 12, 2012



Jun20

Photo by Howard Lake
Findings coming out of loyalty analyses are beginning to expose a bias in the arts industry. Many arts managers are convinced that patrons are either:
•    philanthropists seeking to sustain the arts
•    or consumers seeking to experience the art form. 
This “either-or” mindset is dead wrong, according to TRG Arts study.

Posted June 20, 2012



May21

56,000 new prospects found for new venue


The Smith Center opened in Las Vegas in 2011. In its first season, the new venue planned a Broadway Series of touring productions, and a presenting series of touring musical and dance attractions.

Since the organization was just opening, they needed to find new patrons—lots of new patrons. They engaged TRG Arts to help find patrons based on behavioral and demographic characteristics, modeled after patrons who attended similar organizations across the country.


Posted May 21, 2012



May09


Photo: Wooden tops,
Tate Modern by Howard Lake
What are you passionate about? How could we tell?

Those questions kicked off a TRG webinar April 18th that addressed the issue of patron loyalty -- how we as arts managers can drive revenue from audiences’ love of the arts. Sean Kelly, VP of Marketing and Communications at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre led the webinar with Laura Willumsen, TRG’s Senior Consultant and told the story of how patron passion for The 5th is driving the company’s loyalty program.

Clearly, it’s difficult to see an individual’s passion for the arts when you are looking at patrons only through the lens of individual campaigns. Most arts managers see their season as a string of performances with seats to fill, or days of an exhibition with a visitor goal to hit, or an annual fund effort to bring in donations. “Audience engagement” and “donor cultivation”, when viewed as campaigns, are just a large number of indeterminable and unending tasks.

Posted May 9, 2012



Apr09

Line to get in to Hirshhorn After Hours.
Photo by Joe Loong via Flickr.
Recently I came across an excellent article entitled “Death by Curation” on how museums have developed an over-reliance on programming special exhibits, as opposed to trusting their permanent collections to make revenue goals. Author Colleen Dilenschneider makes the point that blockbusters can increase annual revenue expectations to often unreasonable levels. The blockbuster-addicted museum then sinks more money into further special exhibits that may not be as successful as the first blockbuster, or even break even.

Over two decades, we’ve seen this pattern play out in performing arts organizations, as well as museums and other membership-based attractions. Of course, the blockbusters themselves are usually not the problem. The way that an arts organization handles a blockbuster can be.

Posted April 9, 2012



Mar23

Patron Loyalty Week continues through March 24th. We’re engaging in dialogue about developing longer, stronger patron relationships on the blog, at industry conferences, and on Twitter at #LoyaltyWeek
Patron Evolution We love loyal patrons. Why? Simply put, they make money for arts organizations, and they make arts managers’ jobs easier. Patron loyalty means developing stronger, longer relationships with your audience. It's all about finding new buyers, converting them into frequent buyers, subscriber/members, donors and, ultimately, lifelong patrons.

Making those conversions has far-reaching implications for arts organizations. TRG research shows that the more loyal a patron is, the greater their lifetime value will be to an arts organization.

Posted March 23, 2012



Mar12

In 2012, TRG bloggers are taking a fresh look at data and trends that inform risks worth taking, best practices worth hanging onto, and assumptions worth challenging – each in time for action to be taken.
The operative word in the title question is: think, as in assume.  The more TRG studies patron behavior, the more we realize how often and how much even the smartest managers make wrong assumptions about the patrons who are visiting their exhibits or sitting in the seats of their theatres, concert halls and arenas.

Take the question: Who in attendance at an arts event has been here before?  A 2011 TRG patron origination study told us: only about half. We say “only” because the prevailing conventional wisdom was that most patrons75% or moreare repeat ticket buyers, subscribers, or members.   In fact there are so many new patrons in America’s audiences that the study’s author, TRG Vice President Will Lester dubbed it, Every Night is Opening Night.  

Posted March 12, 2012



Feb13

In 2012, TRG bloggers are taking a fresh look at data and trends that inform risks worth taking, best practices worth hanging onto, and assumptions worth challenging – each in time for action to be taken.
Competition for patron’s dollars is a subject that’s back in the industry dialog again, sometimes with negative overtones. Can we really still think that sharing a marketplace with other successful arts and entertainment organizations is a bad thing? Even with foundations willing to invest in collaborations? I find that disturbing, especially in view of the opportunities being mined daily by members of community collaborations nationwide.

Posted February 13, 2012



Jan25

As a new year begins, TRG bloggers are taking a fresh look at data and trends that inform risks worth taking, best practices worth hanging onto, and assumptions worth challenging – each in time for action to be taken. This post is also published on the Americans for the Arts ARTSblog.
Image by the League of Women
Voters of California via Flickr
When I worked as an arts manager, the election season – particularly presidential years like 2012 – was a time of fear and loathing.  Why?  First and foremost, ticket sales and admissions soften or die immediately before and on Election Day.  At TRG, we’ve watched this trend play out across the U.S. over the past two decades in client sales results from markets of all sizes.  An inescapable consequence of major election cycles is campaign advertising – a driver of America’s economic engine that is bad for arts and entertainment. 

Posted January 25, 2012



Jan17

Super Subscribers: Saving the Day,
Seeding a Loyalty Initiative


5th Avenue Theatre marquee

The 5th Avenue Theatre faced a significant projected shortfall in the annual fund near the end of the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Previous campaigns relied almost exclusively on telefunding and the cost of sale was high. Subscribers who donated made up a small portion of the 5th’s season ticket holders, so there was clearly room to grow. 5th Avenue Theatre had to increase revenueand fast.

5th Avenue Theatre mounted a campaign targeting 2010-11 subscribers, asking them to become “Super Subscribers” who make a donation to enhance their theatre-going experience.

Posted January 17, 2012



Nov17

In this presentation from the 2011 NAMP Conference, Will Lester demonstrates why every night is opening night is for someone. Learn who's coming to your arts events--it's not necessary who you'd think. This was presented at the Lightning Rounds of Research.

Posted November 17, 2011



Oct24

Photo by Glen Scott via Flickr
Museums aren’t getting useful direction from the recent public dialog about the prices they are charging or want to charge for admission.

Admission price increases at some of America’s highest profile museums have made news in major media and online, and that coverage has touched off discussion that appears more emotional than productive. It seems like the further away from free or low-cost admission a museum gets, the more the institution is vulnerable to criticism on grounds of not making their collections accessible or affordable. It’s as if admission price is the only way to express accessibility and that accessibility is the only reason for a museum’s being.

Posted October 24, 2011



Oct10

This post was originally published last week on artsmarketing.org and in the National Arts Marketing Project newsletter.
The cardinal rule of communications is “know your audience”.  But on social media, it’s sometimes easier said than done.

Last week in the Arts Marketing Blog Salon I wrote about keeping your social media activity direct, targeted, and focused on return-on-investment. In it, I briefly touched on how difficult that can be, because you often can’t track users outside of social media platforms. One of the lingering questions for arts organizations—really, for all companies which thrive on direct marketing—is how to connect interactions on Facebook and Twitter with your database.

Posted October 10, 2011



Oct04

theatre
Photo: Fernando de Sousa via Flickr
How well do you know your audiences…really? Before the curtain goes up you can undoubtedly pick out that valued donor or long-time subscriber in your audience. Or, at every exhibition opening, you probably know the faces and names of the most important and dedicated members attending. But who are all the rest of the people coming through your doors? Are the majority of people who have been to your organization before, or are they new? And are they new to the arts or just new to you?

The team at TRG Arts was curious about this too. What we found is that, in a given season, about 50% of the people coming to your arts events are people you have seen before. The other 50% are new to the organization, although maybe not to the arts. Subscribers, members and other regular attendees actually only comprise about 37% of the typical database. Another 14% are “reactivated” patrons—patrons who have some sort of buying history, but haven’t bought in the last two years.

Posted October 4, 2011



Oct03

Usually when organizations consider their ticket sales, they look mainly at total revenue. After all, revenue is what keeps an organization running, and total revenue is the 50,000-foot view of how well an organization is doing.  However, when considering how to optimize ticket sales, calculating and analyzing per-capita revenue becomes a critical measurement.

Yes, “per-capita revenue” sounds boring, complex and technical, but stick with me—the reality is that it allows you to zoom in and see how tickets are selling on a season-by-season or show-by-show basis and that’s actually pretty useful.

Let’s break it down:

In laymen’s terms, per-capita revenue is the average price paid for a ticket. You can calculate per-capita revenue for an individual performance, a series of performances or an entire season. You can also break per-capita revenue out by group tickets, single tickets or subscription/membership purchases.

Posted October 3, 2011



Sep01

Ken Davenport’s insightful August 30th post spotlights the reason why advance ticket buying seems like a thing of the past.  Too many presenters, producers and arts organizations are providing incentives to buy late in the sales cycle.

As readers of this blog know, our patron behavior studies challenge the accepted conventional wisdom in the field that patrons are buying later and later.  Conventional wisdom is no substitute for fact. In a study of late-buying trends of 1.5 million arts patrons in Los Angeles, we found that buying later it is not an inevitable fact of consumer behavior. We summarized these findings earlier in the year on this blog.

In our consulting practice we do see late-buying trends, but more often than not, we’ve found that late-buying is a direct result of late-selling—not making the offer to the market early enough.  This is typically a strategy based on the assumption that all patrons want to buy late. An empty house a week out then spurs a slew of panicked late-minute discounting, or worse yet: comping. When this happens often enough, as Ken Davenport also pointed out, patrons are trained to wait for this “management panic” fire sale. The bottom line is that giving up on advance ticketing only perpetuates the cycle of late buying—and leads to less per-ticket revenue (as well as total revenue!) on an ongoing basis.

Posted September 1, 2011



Feb14

As I was reviewing data for this post, two significant contributions to the national dialogue on arts and culture sparked a lot of online discussion. The publication of the National Arts Index by Americans for the Arts and comments made by NEA chairman Rocco Landesman raised compelling questions about the nature of supply of and demand for arts organizations, arts venues, and forms of expression. The consumer trends we see in transaction data offer additional perspective to consider on the demand side of this ongoing conversation, which is provocative and timely. We hope it will continue. 

When I was a new young marketing director, my boss at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra began my orientation with a number of helpful observations about the new job and the field I was about to enter. One key ‘fact’ really pulled me up short. The target market for a symphony orchestra, Managing Director Steve Monder stated, was very different than my prior experiences as a marketer in the theme park industry. Supporters of the typical symphony orchestra accounted for no more than 2% to 3% of the population in any community. To succeed as a new marketing director, I would have to quickly learn an entirely new skill set. I would have to efficiently find a very small target market.  

Posted February 14, 2011



Jan10

Blogger’s Note: It’s been a long time, several thousand travel miles, two conferences, a first draft of a new book, and two new grandchildren since my last blog entry. During that time, I’ve seen case and study results that I’ll share via this and future posts. Here’s to a happy, more prosperous, more communicative New Year.
Recently, a very smart entrepreneur in the commercial entertainment industry made a surprising observation. He admitted that he carefully follows the business and marketing practices of not-for-profit arts and culture organizations. Nonprofits, he said, tend to “work smarter -- they have to.” Strategies born of necessity frequently breed cutting-edge ideas that can be applied elsewhere. 

I would agree. In these tough times, the margin for error is so small and the stakes so high that survival for many nonprofit performing arts organizations depends upon the ability to do everything exactly right. 

So when client organizations began posting higher ticket sales in late 2010, we took notice. We also took a closer look to understand what was happening. What were the forces that appeared to drive sales up – or down? Were there organizational or market factors at work? If so, what lessons might we learn? 

Posted January 10, 2011



Jun15

A couple of weeks ago, TRG Arts unveiled the latest addition to our Data Lab arsenal of analytics tools.Designed to be a quick aid for arts administrators (both marketers and development officers), TRG’s new “Key Metrics” report provides a powerful summary of several data points that our consultants observe are good indicators of organizational health, namely new-to-file patronage, patronage loss (attrition), and multi-buying patronage. By leveraging our national data source in an automated analytical process, Key Metrics provides individual organizations with a low-cost snapshot of their situation alongside a baseline of national data from which to compare “what is normal” among arts organizations.

To provide the industry baseline, Data Lab selected 113 clients for what we called the “analysis group”. These are organizations from each major performing arts discipline: dance, orchestra, opera and theatre. They each have patron data that is extensive, deep in history, and unusually clean. Together, 113 organizations provided 5.3 million patron households for the study’s analysis group. To execute the analysis, we compiled all household transactions into a single aggregated database that was normalized for individual organization data collection, storage and segmentation quirks. We then looked for patterns of patron behavior that can be measured by purchases or donor transactions.

Posted June 15, 2010



Jun03

The national conference season is officially in full swing. Right now, I am in Washington, DC participating in the annual meeting of the Association of Arts Administration Educators while my partner, Jill Robinson, heads to San Diego for the California Arts Presenters annual Artist Information Exchange conference. By the end of this month, my colleagues and I will have participated in ten conferences so far this year.

At almost every arts industry conference, Demand Based Pricing has been a ubiquitous topic – nearly as popular as the sessions about the importance of social media. If you know TRG well, you are aware that we’ve been preaching the message of fundament change in ticket pricing for more than a decade. It’s strange to suddenly find oneself at the center of a debate about a topic that for years was too geeky for most arts industry conversations.

There are many organizations using the techniques TRG pioneered back in the early days of the last decade. TRG’s demand-based pricing strategies date back to a project with our brave friends at Pacific Northwest Ballet, whose first effort grossed a whopping $1,500 in incremental revenues. (Subsequently, PNB has annually generated six-figure income improvements from demand pricing tools.)

Posted June 3, 2010



Apr30

My last blog generated several interesting responses, which I do appreciate. I looked for and found common threads in them, and prepared this follow-up blog. Special thanks to Thomas Cott and those who took the time to comment and for continuing the discussion.

The point of my original message was about the advantages of facts over opinions and the desirability of eliminating guesswork. The flashpoint , however, centered on a preliminary finding from an incomplete data project -- that only 1% of San Francisco’s half-priced ticket buyers had previous ticket buying history with their theatre of choice.

Posted April 30, 2010



Apr28

I am often asked about the most frequent question I get. To me, the more relevant question is, “What’s my most frequent answer?” This one is much easier.

Much of my work as a consultant has been based upon a simple premise: help sell or raise more money while reducing risk. That was the reason for TRG’s entry into the world of database management a dozen years ago. Simply put, we grew tired of guessing. Should the client do this? Should the client do that? Who knew? If pressed personally, I would express an opinion. It would be an educated or experienced guess, but still just a guess. One of TRG’s primary goals is to eliminate such guesswork – even the type that comes from years of experience.

I often joke that many of us veteran arts marketers kept our jobs because we guessed right more often than we guessed wrong. A long time colleague recently reminded me that we kept our jobs because “no one really knew what the heck we did for a living and the survivors knew how to fix their messes before the boss noticed.” Today, everyone – boss, board, colleagues-- notices. In this information-focused era, guesswork is for suckers and perhaps the soon-to-be unemployed.

Posted April 28, 2010



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Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Phone
US: 719.686.0165
UK: 020 7438 2040
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