TRG blog: What It Takes to Grow: An Update
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TRG Blog: Analysis from TRG Arts

What It Takes to Grow: An Update

Rick Lester | March 29, 2011 11:06 AM
Last fall, TRG began monitoring a study group of organizations to examine factors that are yielding patronage and audience growth this season in tough economic times. This is the second 2010-11 TRG report on What It Takes to Grow.

TRG data analysis continues to show ticket sales improvements through mid-term of the 2010-11 season. Through February, two-thirds of TRG’s 2010-11 study group are now experiencing increased sales compared to year-to-date results last season. This represents a small increase (from 60% to 67%) of organizations making sales gains this season. All of the organizations that reported sales gains in the fall continued to see increases at mid-season.

Remaining companies in the study group were evenly split between those with sales declines and those whose results were mixed or flat year-to-date through February.

The updated review found several success factors:

Programming mattered

This analysis period included the 2010 holiday and December attractions; these programs helped boost sales among most organizations that had sales increases. Having audience favorites onstage such as The Nutcracker, Handel’s The Messiah, A Christmas Carol, and special holiday productions were assets at this time and among this group of companies. Holiday and December ticket sales also helped reverse softer sales earlier this season for a third of the organizations that posted gains in this period.

Campaign execution was key 

TRG analysts paid particular attention to each organization’s operational implementation during this period. In eight out of ten successes during this period, scrupulously implemented marketing efforts played a critical role. Increases came from focused, timely campaigns that launched sales early, strategically leveraged data resources, and kept sales momentum going with continuous multi-channel promotion. Those who skipped a step or two fared less well.

No backing down on investment

Every organization that experienced sales increases did so with marketing investments equal to or greater than last year – notwithstanding what appears to be prevailing pressures for marketers nationwide to do more with less. You cannot save your way to success!

Analysts also observed: It’s still tough out there. None of the successes reported came easily. There were no quick sell-outs or sure hits reported. Analysts did see close monitoring of sales progress and facile course correction when ticket sales did not meet campaign-to-date benchmarks.

Our next report on this topic will include a final season wrap-up once the spring sales results are in hand.

Questions? Post them in comments. We’ll answer.


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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.”

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