Segmentation for Surprise & Delight?
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TRG Blog: Analysis from TRG Arts

Segmentation for Surprise & Delight?

David Seals | June 28, 2017 10:50 AM
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. 

Earlier this year, Center Theatre Group (CTG) presented the Tony Award®-Winning musical Fun Home, a powerful adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel of the same. The story concerns Bechdel’s discovery of her own sexuality, her relationship with her gay father, and her attempts to unlock the mysteries surrounding his life. Given the richness of the subject matter, CTG wanted to understand those patrons with whom the show was resonating deeply and do something special for them—both to honor the impact of the art and to invite those patrons back.

Adding their own innovative twist to TRG’s retention counsel, CTG analyzed their data with one key segment in mind: those single ticket buyers who returned multiple times to see Fun Home. When those same-show multi-buyers arrived at their seats, they were greeted with a personalized letter from Artistic Director Michael Richie thanking them for their patronage and with a free copy of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, which served as the basis for the musical

The results were profound.

While it’s too early to know the hard data around the boost in retention rates (and one could argue that the initiative was really about something deeper anyway,) the soft data around patron response is incredibly positive. Here are three notes that CTG received:

Dear Mr. Ritchie,
I’d like to share a remarkable experience we had last weekend at the Ahmanson. I grew up in the theater, and have both 
a bachelors and masters in acting. My husband made it all the way to Broadway. Although no longer performing, we continue to be involved in the entertainment industry and attend as much theater as we can in both LA and NYC.

Attending Fun Home at Saturday’s matinee with friends (our 2nd viewing), I was greeted by the most extraordinary gift! A copy of the graphic novel and a card from you were in our box when we arrived! In all my years attending the theater, I have never experienced such a thoughtful, personalized thank you from anyone or any institution. We 
were blown away.

We attend most shows at your 
theatre, and your kindness and thoughtfulness only solidifies our loyalty to the Ahmanson.

Thank you so very much.
Patrons Michael W. and Thomas S 

Below is a response from Wendy H., a new single ticket buyer for whom Fun Home was her first experience at CTG. The day after her second experience, receiving the letter and graphic novel, she bought single tickets to Into the Woods and Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Still another example reads: 

…There's something else that I want to thank you for: when my son and I arrived at our seats (Row A, Seats 2 and 3), I was completely flabbergasted to discover that you--Michael Ritchie--on behalf of the Center Theatre Group, had left a personal note for me, wrapped around a copy of the original graphic novel, "Fun Home," by Alison Bechdel, on the armrest of my seat. The note thanked me for continued support of "Fun Home," and the Ahmanson in general. I am still pinching myself, feeling completely surprised and grateful for your kind gesture. I absolutely LOVE IT, and thank you from the bottom of my heart. I also want to thank you for continuing to make available the $25 seats, which enable my family and me to see numerous theater productions with CTG, rather than picking and choosing just a few each year. Many years ago, when we had some serious financial difficulties, it was "Hot Tix" that saved our sanity, by continuing to attend theater productions. Today, while they're no longer called "Hot Tix," we still appreciate that we have access to those tickets. You have no idea how important it is to us, and other theater lovers, to be able to attend so many plays. That, with the combination of receiving the beautiful book last night, was a true bonus. Thank you so very much!

Lisa B.  

What is the key take-away? If we think about data segmentation only as a cumbersome process by which we generate maximum revenue, we’re missing out on what makes the arts relevant to humans. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the heart of it, good data segmentation is about knowing people and how to speak to them in profound, relevant ways that invite them closer to the art as they engage more deeply. 

About Fun Home

The winner of five 2015 Tony Awards including Best Musical, FUN HOME is based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir. This groundbreaking musical introduces us to Alison at three different ages, revealing memories of her uniquely dysfunctional family that connect with her in surprising new ways.


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Do group sales contribute less than 10% of your single ticket revenues? Does your organization only sell tickets to groups reactively? Are you setting group sales goals only to fall short every year?

After subscriptions, group sales is the most important ticket-buying group for an arts and culture organization to cultivate. In this one-day session, learn how to leverage your group sales program to create a renewal base of loyal customers, while also driving new patrons to attend, all by tapping into the social networks that already exist within your marketplace. 

You’ll leave with your own, unique group sales campaign plan for next season, front-line sales strategies, and projections of what is possible for growth.


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