Inspiring Futures in the Arts

Inspiring Futures in the Arts

By Jill Robinson, CEO

A crystal ball… in Week 3 of TRG 30 it’s clear we’re all looking for and needing one. The advance questions from our group of more than 800 registrants were almost entirely about the future—when we’ll be able to reschedule, program, open doors. And what to do now that we know, on the main, that this won’t be happening soon.

The COVID-19 Sector Benchmark tells us that it’s our loyalists investing now— households that have engaged at least three times, and once in the last year. The partnership that TRG Arts and UK-based data insights firm, Purple Seven have engaged in will tell us much more in coming days and weeks. 

Our active patrons are investing now. Perhaps as importantly, the Benchmark also says there’s a huge swath of our databases that aren’t engaging, that are holding back.

I’m obsessed about these hold-back households. Why?  First, because there are so many of them relative to Actives. We know this—at TRG we’ve dedicated our work to moving something we call: Tryers, Buyers, Advocates. The viability of our sector depends on our having more Buyers and Advocates and we see that so clearly right now.

But most Advocates and Buyers start their arts and cultural journey as first-time Tryers. And if right now those Tryers are holding back, sitting on the sidelines waiting for us to re-open our doors, whenever we re-open our doors…well, there’s so much risk we take during that waiting period. Risk that our relationship will stagnate, that they’ll make mental decisions about where they’ll go when everything returns to a more normal state and we won’t be in their minds.

We could do this differently; we could spark a revolution in the way we think, act, and do that could help our sector evolve. Like us, I encourage you to be solidly locked on the future and what it will take to bridge the gap between where we are now, and the vibrant, different future we’ll come back to. We want to inspire you to think about that future, too.

So, what do we do? During this third week of TRG 30, we recommend creating a Futures program for those Hold-Back patrons in your database. This program is designed for specific segments, those one-timers, or lapsed, or infrequent bookers who might be inspired to buy into a future art-form or culture scene if we provide an incentive to do so NOW.

Here’s what it could look like: 

 And we recommend:

Launch the program via email
Price your one- or multi-ticket offer based on your patrons’ average recent single ticket yield
Create a short time window for response (3-4 weeks)
Add direct mail if response is strong (you’ll have to define this)
Consider return-on-investment
And if you like your ROI, launch again

Need some inspiration? Check out what the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is doing. Their Open Air Flexpass is a terrific version of Futures.

Before you begin drafting this type of program, though, do this:

Check your posture. Remember, our job now is to inspire our communities to join when we’re back. And a Futures program will enable your patrons to do this NOW, but on their terms, when your organization is open or performing, and when they’re ready to join you.

The deck from this week’s TRG 30 includes examples of organizations whose posture inspires me. The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Arena Stage, Shakespeare’s Globe, and more. You can do this, too.

Gather your teams, remove the obstacles and silos so you can innovate, use data. Believe and be bold.

Each week TRG 30 will address the issues important to you, the arts and cultural field we serve. In the meantime, join me, your international peers, and our TRG team in the LinkedIn TRG 30 Virtual Network for real-time, daily exchange of ideas and information.
We’ll come out of this stronger together. Until then, remember: #artsnowmorethanever.
1) Tryers (first timers and lapsed households that typically represent 95% of databases) to Buyers (Actives) to Advocates (invested loyalists; these are long-time, heavily engaged patrons). 

Posted April 3, 2020

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