campaign planning
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







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







Jan10


Dive into building a subscription campaign to increase "predictable recurring revenue" while boosting patron retention and creating a community. Despite popular beliefs, subscriptions aren't dead and continue to provide consistent revenue streams. Learn how to optimize your subscription packages to increase renewals and upgrades. See how other arts & cultural organizations are achieving great results from changes that are easy to implement and then start thinking about how you are going to increase: Renewal, Reactivating and Recruiting.

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.

Posted January 10, 2017







Dec13

The story of 3 arts organizations


Subscriptions succeed in 2016

Despite widespread reports of the subscription’s decline, these loyalty programs continue to generate a large amount of revenue for performing arts organizations. Knowing what we know about audiences in 2016, what strategies are proven to help the subscription succeed? TRG Arts is proud to bring you the stories of three arts organizations that have defied conventional wisdom by growing subscriptions:

  • The performing arts center with an already-strong subscription base…whose focused campaign has grown new subscription revenue by 36% over the last two years.
  • The theater that was selling more and more small packages each season…which upgraded 20% of their small package subscribers to full packages.
  • The orchestra whose subscriptions had been in decline for years…whose upgrade and renewal rates are now the best they’ve been in recent memory.

Their secret? A simple, radical idea: when you commit to selling subscriptions, arts lovers will subscribe.


Posted December 13, 2016







Oct18


Your annual fund campaign doesn't have to be business as usual. Get the secrets your peers use to reach results that go beyond expectations, and find out how to easily implement them now! You'll walk away inspired and equipped to raise funds in new, exciting, and engaging ways that will leave your supporters asking what else they can do to help.

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. Click through to watch the next video in the series.

Posted October 18, 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







Jun27

Record-breaking Nutcracker: $1.3 million increase in two years, breaking $8 million for the first time

 

Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

“What’s the big deal about a ballet company having a successful Nutcracker?” you may be asking yourself. “We all know that holiday programming practically sells itself.”

It’s true that holiday programming attracts a large audience and has huge revenue potential. It also means that the stakes are high. Holiday events often make or break an organization’s revenue budget. In many cases, holiday programming can account for over 50% of annual earned income so even a one percent achievement over goalor an equally “small” misscan add up to big dollars.


Posted June 27, 2016







Jun14

Turn up the heat on the holidays


Forget about Independence Day. Start thinking about Black Friday.

If not, you could be missing out on your biggest opportunity of next season.

The holiday season starts NOW for arts managers. Don’t let the heat of summer lull you into thinking holiday shows sell themselves—there’s a lot to do. It’s time to dust off and refresh your marketing plan for The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, your holiday concert, or whatever hot ticket event you have this December.

In this free one-hour webinar you’ll hear from arts marketers like you who have maximized their holiday programming and gone on to break revenue records. Just when these arts administrators thought their perennial programming couldn’t garner any more, new highs were reached. These experts as well as the consultants from TRG will share the newest best practices for turning up the heat on the holidays.


Posted June 14, 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







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







Dec03

$45,800 in additional revenue from upgrade campaign


The 2015-16 season marked CSO’s 125th anniversary.
CSO saw the occasion as an opportunity to invite
patrons to upgrade their subscriptions
.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) was preparing for their 125th anniversary season. Subscription sales had been strong in previous seasons, but staff wanted to increase the number of subscription units sold. (At CSO, a “unit” is defined as one ticket to a concert.)

While working with TRG on their annual subscription campaign plan, CSO identified their 125th season as a cause for celebration—and an opportunity to ask patrons to invest more in their subscriptions. Jennifer Colgan, CSO’s Marketing Manager, Patron Retention, made a plan to ask renewing patrons to upgrade. An “upgrade” is the right next step for a patron, whether it’s adding on a series, moving into a larger package, or moving to a more premium seating section.

“We shouldn’t—and don’t—underestimate the loyalty of our CSO Main subscribers,” Jennifer said. “If given the opportunity to go to more concerts, they’ll go. If we communicate the opportunity to go to more concerts and the benefits price-wise, then they will buy more. The 125th anniversary was a major opportunity.”


Posted December 3, 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







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







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







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







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







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







Mar12

Donation successes at Ordway Center, Des Moines Performing Arts and Arena Stage


Why Box Office Asks Work

Collaborating cross-departmentally to grow loyalty is essential to long-term revenue growth. However, in many organizations, the box office isn’t integrated into development campaigns. TRG Arts sees development, marketing and the box office as deeply intertwined. A healthy development department depends on marketing to deliver donor-ready patrons. The box office regularly interacts directly with patrons and so can make asks that are both appropriate in the moment and that do a great deal to deepen loyalty. For example, a telefunding follow-up call to a first-time single ticket buyer may push the new patron relationship too far, while an invitation to add on a donation during a purchase may seem more natural.

TRG research shows that no matter the size of the gift, the effects of donating on loyalty and overall lifetime value can be tremendous, turning short-term revenue into long-term opportunity. Most major donors are cultivated from lower giving levels, rather than entering the organization as brand new high-level donors. Given this fact, campaigns where a front-line sales team like the box office asks for a lower-level gift make sense—and also make money.


Posted March 12, 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







Nov05

Glass half empty or half full?
Photo via flickr

Our live chat last week with the Foundation Center (see transcript) raised an alarming question: In this time of year when patrons are thinking about us, are we thinking about our relationships with them? 

The holidays are just around the corner. Huge numbers of patrons will be seeking tickets for holiday programming and making decisions about yearend giving.

In an ideal world, arts staff teams would already be implementing strategy to forge bonds with the people they’ll interact with during the holiday peak period. One can wish, but there’s too much evidence to suggest that most marketing, development and box office teams aren’t even talking to one another. Everyone’s busy. There’s no time. Two dozen deadlines are looming. The number of reasons for not focusing here is paralyzing.

That’s why the questions we answered in real time during last week’s chat were so provocative. They reiterated the busy state of arts management today and spotlighted a looming loss: 

You’re about to miss what might be your best patron cultivation opportunity all year. 


Posted November 5, 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







Aug28

New subscriptions up 27%


Hartford Stage has long enjoyed a sterling reputation as one of the country’s leading resident theatres. However, after 2008–09, one of the best seasons on record, revenue plunged and continued to trend downward in subsequent seasons.

A major portion of the revenue decline came from the loss of subscribers and subscriber revenue. In 2002, Hartford Stage introduced EZ Tix, a flexible voucher subscription. As EZ Tix became the focus of acquisition efforts, sales for the full 6-play subscription fell steadily. 


Posted August 28, 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







Jul17

Photo via flickr.
Photo via flickr.
Arts practitioners are good at meeting deadlines. We have to be—every time there’s a down beat, the curtain goes up or the doors open to another day’s events. 

But, launching marketing or major campaigns is another story. Too often there’s too little urgency around timing and meeting deadlines for consumer action. 

Many organizations aren’t aware or don’t believe that they are missing revenue opportunities by getting campaigns out too close to an event or action-needed date. The result often is uneven revenue blamed on the economy, the programming or supposed later buying habits of their audiences. 


Posted July 17, 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







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







Mar22

Doubled Subscription Revenue


Music Director David Alan Miller conducts the ASO. Gary David Gold Photography.
Music Director David Alan Miller conducts the ASO.
Photo by Gary David Gold Photography.

By 2010, the Albany Symphony Orchestra (ASO) had experienced a steady decline in subscribers over seven years. During the 2009–10 and 2010–11 seasons, ASO had implemented an idea popular in the orchestra field of growing new subscriptions by offering them at half price. Units increased significantly. However, per-ticket revenue declined and renewal rates were poor. 


Posted March 22, 2013







Dec27

26% jump in subscription revenue after TRG Workshop


Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts saw a 26% increase in subscription revenueThe Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts wanted to increase subscription revenue by improving retention rates among upgraded and lapsed subscribers. In addition, the Center had made changes to the scale-of-hall and pricing, and the biggest package was now an 8-show package instead of a 7-show package. Staff was concerned that patrons would not renew at a rate as high as previous years. The Center also wanted to communicate the changes and sell more through a well-planned campaign

 


Posted December 27, 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







Nov03

Accelerating Results in the Digital Age 

Find out why direct mail is the more trusted and more effective medium for direct communication with prospective patrons, and how using it in addition to other media fuels campaigns. This presentation was given by Will Lester, Vice President of Community Data Networks, during the Lightning Rounds of Research at the 2012 NAMP Conference.


Posted November 3, 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







Jul18

It’s summer—the time of year when an arts manager’s thoughts turn to poolside fun, family vacations and—of course—planning for A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, yuletide concerts and other holiday blockbuster events. Not on your calendar yet? Then you are missing a major opportunity.

In partnership with TRG Arts, New York City Ballet found ways last summer to increase revenue from The Nutcracker in December 2011, and as a result it generated an additional $1.1 million. In this webinar, NYCB’s Director of Marketing Karen Girty joins TRG’s Keri Mesropov and Lindsay Homer to detail how they did it—and how you can get your organization on track for big holiday season success.

Posted July 18, 2012







Jul03

Photo by Gabriel Saldana
For most non-profit arts organizations, a surge of revenue comes reliably twice a year:
  • during subscription campaigns,
  • and again during annual holiday blockbuster events like A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, and yuletide concerts.
Blockbusters boost annual revenue from time to time, but holiday events consistently and reliably provide sustaining revenue for the rest of the year.

Therefore, an organization’s annual holiday productionand the marketing campaign and box office operations surrounding itis one of the most important things to get right. In TRG’s consulting experience, starting early is a key factor in a successful holiday (or any) blockbuster. For holiday shows, the time to start is NOW.

Posted July 3, 2012







Jun27

Update: Thanks to everyone who signed up for the webinar. If you missed it, you can still view the recording here.  
New York City Ballet's The NutcrackerChristmas in July:
Maximizing Holiday Revenue Starts Now
           
Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Time: 2-3 p.m. EDT/11-noon PDT
Cost: Free--register here.

It’s summer—the time of year when an arts manager’s thoughts turn to poolside fun, family vacations, and—of course—planning for A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, yuletide concerts, and other holiday blockbuster events.

Not on your calendar yet? Then you are missing a major opportunity.

Holiday productions equal big money for arts organizations. But how can you get the most out of this once-a-year opportunity?

New York City Ballet (NYCB) wanted exactly that—to maximize revenue. The company had been selling out most of its performances of The Nutcracker. However, NYCB could not add more performances. Growth had to come from the schedule already in place.

Posted June 27, 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







Apr12

Small Company sees Big Subscription Success


Curious Theatre Company Subscription RevenueCurious Theatre Company (CTC) is a Denver-based theatre company with a budget under $1 million. CTC hired TRG Arts at the end of 2008 for full suite consulting to address revenue problems and to review the scaling and pricing of their theater.

Unpredictable Subscription Sales.

Subscriptions grew in 2006-07 and 2008-09, fueled by strong programming and single ticket sales in previous years. Since the 2006-07 season, renewal revenues were up 43%, but new subscription revenues were down 23%. 

Posted April 12, 2012







Apr01

Matching Fund Campaign Success


Louisiana Philharmonic fundraising appealLouisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), like many organizations on the Gulf coast, faced an uncertain future after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. By May 2011, TRG had helped the orchestra re-establish a home base, grow patronage in outlying parishes, and reconstruct a database that was no longer reliable in post-Katrina New Orleans (see part one). By revamping their marketing practices, LPO’s subscriber base now exceeded pre-Katrina levels. The next priority was turning the new customers into donors.

Potential for growth.

Successful marketing campaigns had grown the prospect pool substantially; from 2006-07 to 2009-10 there had been a 28% increase in subscriber records and 99% increase in single ticket buying households. The Orchestra now had a large pool of prospects to solicit for donations. 

Posted April 1, 2012







Feb24

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. This post is cross-posted on the Technology in the Arts blog.
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We’re not buying the bad rap email marketing is getting these days. You’ve heard it all before. Open rates are downUsers often filter emails by sender and ignore unwanted or low priority communications. Sophisticated spam filters are plucking out and putting in quarantine anything resembling a sales message. And sophisticated users, especially those in the Millennial generation, prefer other media.

The offsetting fact is that access to email is greater than ever. Users of all ages have smartphones and tablets that make on-to-go communication easy, convenient, and ubiquitous. And, those worrisome open rates for email? They actually reached a two-year high in the third quarter of 2011.

Posted February 24, 2012







Jan27

Annual Fund Success: Right Patron,
Right Ask, Right Time


Colorado Children's Chorale's annual fund saw substantial growth in 2008-2009.Colorado Children’s Chorale (CCC) had built an annual fund that played a critical part in sustaining their programs. The fund had hit a three-year high in 2006-2007 in large part because of revenue from a popular program that offered a childcare tax write-off benefit. CCC had also sent two rounds of donor solicitation mail that year instead of the one, as they had done in the past. This success was short-lived, as the Chorale saw a sharp drop-off in donations in the following season, 2007-2008, which concerned them greatly. How could the Chorale maintain fundraising success from year to year in the future?

Posted January 27, 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







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







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







Mar29

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. 

Posted March 29, 2011







Mar15

This is a key question that I suspect managers of performing arts organizations across North America are not asking right now as they watch the results of their subscription renewal campaigns. 

They should be. 

According to TRG’s analysis, the closer renewal rates get to 100%, the less healthy the organization is likely to be. We’ve seen the proof in both direct marketing and patron behavior metrics. 

First, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) estimates that changes of address occur in about 15% of households every year. TRG’s national data set suggests that arts patrons change address even more frequently – about 18% each year; or 1½% every month. Databases of arts patrons trend a bit older than the general population and carry higher levels of health-related relocation as well as mortality rates. Any organization that is renewing more than about 85% of their current subscriber base is bumping up against the theoretical maximum for an addressable pool of patrons.  

Posted March 15, 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







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