TRG blog: Capture data, captivate patrons [VIDEO]
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TRG Blog: Analysis from TRG Arts

Capture data, captivate patrons [VIDEO]

Amelia Northrup-Simpson | September 29, 2015 12:00 AM

This is the third video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing. View all the videos in this series here>>

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.

Why measure data capture rate?

Photo by Todd Huffman (CC BY 2.0)

Every record in your database tells a story. Each visitor, member, and donor has a different and unique relationship with your organization. Do you have the full story of patronage at your organization? That depends on how well you’ve been collecting patron data. It starts with capturing the contact information for your patrons. From there, you can link purchases made by the same patron. Eventually, you know the history of and context for the patrons who engage with you.

Your data capture rate tells you not only how complete your patron history is, but also indicates your potential for re-engaging audiences. If a new patron comes to your venue, you have the ability to invite back them again only if you have their contact information.

How to measure data capture rate:

You’ll need the following numbers from your database or CRM system: 
  • Find how many of your patrons were new this year or season. You can usually find this in your database by searching for how many records were created this year.   
  • Then, find out how many of those new patrons have complete contact information in your database. You can find this by analyzing blank fields. (If you use TRG Data Center, there’s a report that will tell you how many patrons you are able to contact by mail, email, and phone.)   

Then divide the complete records by the total records, like so: 

For example, if I work for a museum which sees 10,000 new visitors this year, and I capture the names and contact information for 1,700 of them, my data capture rate is only 17%. 

A note: When we say full contact information, we mean street address, phone number, and email address. You might ask: “why do I need to collect ALL of that information? Isn’t email address enough?” We have heard this question many times. TRG has found that the organizations which run multi-channel campaigns get the best results. Running a multi-channel campaign that involves direct mail, email, online re-targeting, and telemarketing keeps you from leaving money on the table.

We also hear arts professionals say that direct mail is increasingly ineffective, and that mailing addresses are harder to collect. We’ve read those articles, too. But, the evidence is mixed. In general, the volume of direct mail is decreasing significantly year after year. This means that you have less competition at the mail box than ever before. A recent study from Temple University found that direct mail is better at eliciting an emotional reaction from recipients, holds their attention longer and plays a more direct role in their decision-making. This might be especially important in the arts, where the shows and exhibitions we market have an intrinsic, emotional value.

What data capture rate tells you:

This number can be a warning sign. Any patron for whom you don’t collect contact information is a patron that you can’t contact again. That means you may be missing out on revenue for any patron with blank contact information fields.

In the video above, David illustrates why collecting contact information isn’t a “just-for-the-heck-of-it” type initiative through the example of a museum. We typically see museums collect less than 15% of their visitors’ contact information. When you take into account the typical response rate and average revenue gained from campaigns to new visitors, you can actually calculate the revenue you’ve lost. In our hypothetical example, it was over $100,000. To see the calculation, watch the video, or read this blog post.  

What can you do if your data capture rate is low? Find creative ways to collect data, ways that your audience will find fun, useful, and convenient. Here are three ways you might approach this:

  • Your greatest opportunity is likely by incentivizing patrons to purchase online in advance. It’s much easier to get contact information online than by phone or at the ticket kiosk. With any ticket purchase, let the patron save money if they buy online. A discount of a few dollars is often much less that the money you’d lose by not being able to contact the patron again.
  • If that’s not an option for your organization, check out this list of ideas for data capture at your venue.
  • And, consider creating incentives for your box office staff to collect contact information. Create a quarterly or annual goal for data capture rate and reward staff with a pizza party, gift cards, or fun prizes if they meet the goal.

Featured in this video:
David Seals

David Seals, Director of Client Development, works to match future TRG clients with the solutions that will help them best build sustainable revenue and patron loyalty. Whether it’s a re-scale of venue ticket prices, a re-boot of a subscription or membership campaign, or a study of audience behavior and patron loyalty trends, David helps arts professionals find what they need to succeedfrom data analysis to a daylong consulting intensive to a multi-year engagement. He also oversees the development of TRG’s community database networks, now in more than 20 markets around the United States.

Before joining TRG in 2013, David served at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council for seven years. As Director of Communications, he managed the organization’s website and marketing campaigns, and lead the creation of its first comprehensive communications plan. In his role as a grantmaker, David administered funds on behalf of Alcoa Foundation, BNY Mellon, The Heinz Endowments, The PA Council on the Arts, and The Pittsburgh Foundation. As a Program Manager, he expanded two consulting programs, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and Business Volunteers for the Arts, which connect attorneys and business professionals with arts clients who need pro bono consulting. 

Other videos in this series:

Metric #1: Patron-generated revenue

Forget earned vs. contributed. It's all about how much revenue your patrons generate. In this video, learn why the earned vs. contributed classification can create siloes and why you should also track patron-generated revenue. More>>

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, learn how and why to measure active patron participation. More>>

Metric #4: New audience churn rate

Churn. Attrition. Turnover. Call it what you will; the fact is, you’re losing new patrons. In this video, learn why retention matters, how to measure your risk, and a 4-step process  to reverse churn at your organization. More>>


Metric #5: % of subscriber-donors

Is renewal rate the best measurement of loyalty? In this video, learn why renewal rate can be deceptive—and the metric arts organizations should consider tracking alongside it. More>>


Metric #6: Per capita revenue

Is your arts organization generating the most revenue it can for each patron? There’s a way to measure that! In this video, learn how to figure out if your pricing strategy is causing you to lose money. More>>


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Case Study: Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma

Annual operating budget up 32% in 5 seasons

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma 
 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.”

Read More>>


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Adam Scurto
Amelia Northrup-
J.L.Nave Vincent VanVleet Keri Mesropov

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