arts marketing
Aug14

On August 29, Data Center 2.0 will launch. Based on feedback from superusers during beta testing, here are our top three favorite new features: 

  1. A New Interactive Dashboard: snapshots of your patron data that allows you to quickly manage your campaigns and organizational health.
  2. New Campaigns Module: a better organizational structure to easily monitor all your marketing and fundraising campaigns in one place, with statistics about each list.
  3. New Interface: a modern design with improved navigation and an intuitive user experience, that is now mobile-friendly!    
Over the years, Data Center has helped organizations like New York City Ballet, Delaware Theatre Company, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra attain their marketing and fundraising goals. 

Posted August 14, 2018



May23

 
 Jill Robinson
President & CEO, TRG Arts

This past April, CEO Jill Robinson attended the Canadian Arts Summit at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity for a weekend of arts leadership conversation and cultivation across Canada.  As an invited guest speaker and panellist, Jill shares her insight and perspective on the experience.

The Canadian Arts Summit is one of the most high-impact professional experiences I’ve had the pleasure of being included in.  Wonderful speakers, creative locations, and great dialogue that is operationalized in a way to help cultivate a set of intense experiences for arts leadership in Canada.  “How do you do it?” I asked Nichole Anderson Bergeron, President & CEO of Toronto-based Business for the Arts, the host and creator of the event.


Posted May 23, 2018



Dec14


It is the end of another year and time to celebrate the time that has passed and accomplishments that have been made. 2017 has been whirlwind of a yearwith so many highlights that we at TRG Arts will remember for years to come. Check out the highlights and most popular content of 2017 

The top content from our blog reflects the topics which we see getting the most attention in our industry today. Some topline observations:

  • Subscriptions and case studies featuring the success our clients are seeing with this tried-and-true loyalty model continues to inspire conversation.
  • The importance of data hygiene and the notion that “Data doesn’t do. People do,” when making decisions and activating on data analysis is a basic point that still needs our industries attention.
  • The evolution of pricing best practices that move beyond dynamic pricing and moving organizations to think more about demand management.

 

 


Posted December 14, 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



Jun28

David Seals
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.

Posted June 28, 2017



Jun20

Why do we present art?

It’s crucial that every staff member at an arts organization understand this question. In 2016, we’d undertaken a project to diversify our audiences called “Democratizing Our Stages.” As part of that and in preparation for artistic planning for the 2017-18 season, I did an exercise with our staff that was designed to connect myself and my staff with The Cultch’s “why.” 


Posted June 20, 2017



Jun09

Have you ever looked at your ROI numbers and thought that your money just doesn’t go as far as it used to? If so, you’re not alone.

Our partners at the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) put out a report recently on metrics by sector for arts organizations. Among the metrics they analyzed was response to marketing efforts.

 


Posted June 9, 2017



Mar09

Audience Data Essentials


Announcing a new online course from DataArts and The Results Group for the Arts (TRG Arts)! Would you like to better engage audiences? This course is designed to help arts leaders use data to build loyalty and increase revenue. 

You'll learn about:

  • Types of audience data and data capture techniques 
  • Setting goals and measuring progress with key audience metrics 
  • Segmenting your audience to more effectively engage constituents

 Who should take this course? 

  •  Anyone looking for an introduction to audience data capture and analysis, and audience segmentation. 
  • Arts leaders seeking to increase their comfort with key metrics related to marketing, patron loyalty, and patron revenue generation.

Posted March 9, 2017



Jan24

A new model for audience development


It started with a simple question: “If we’re working so hard to get new audiences, why haven’t audiences grown?”

New Wolsey Theatre was curious. Looking at their data, they found that they attract many new ticket bookers each year, but many of them were not returning to the theatre after their first visit, 75% of first-timers in 2014-15.

Because so many new audiences were not returning each year, New Wolsey Theatre still wasn’t seeing a net gain in total audience numbers.


Posted January 24, 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



Dec05

Photo by Corey Balazowich (CC BY-ND 2.0)

In 2015, the consulting firm Oliver Wyman released a research study in partnership with the League of American Orchestras that grabbed my attention and hasn’t let go. The central question of their work: is the existing subscription model for symphony orchestras still viable? In the age of Netflix, Amazon, and Uber, does it need a small tweak, a substantial jump start, or a complete-and-total-tear-down-and-rebuild to remain a worthwhile offering?

The study illuminated a few key findings for the orchestra sector:

  • Subscription audiences are declining, not due to dissatisfaction with their experience, or to competitive forces in entertainment. Instead, they’re losing interest in programming (both how seasons are structured, and with classical music overall), and most of all patrons are dissatisfied with subscription products as they currently exist.

Posted December 5, 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



Oct17

Annual operating budget up 32% in 5 seasons



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.”

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma hired TRG in March of 2014 for a best practices consultancy which began with an analysis of income trends, data stewardship, and current marketing practices.


Posted October 17, 2016



Oct17

David Seals

A few weeks ago, Ben Cameron led an online workshop with TRG Arts for arts executives from around the world. In it, he dropped this truth bomb: "Positive financial results give you artistic freedom... Manage with excellence so you can program with courage."

His statement unearths a profound disconnect about fueling change in the arts industry—we want to see change without paying for it. If we’re not careful, the car will stall out, pointed in the right direction, out of gas.


Posted October 17, 2016



Oct04

At TRG Arts, we talk a lot about patron loyalty – and for good reason. Data tells us that the more loyal a patron is to our organization, the more revenue they provide and the less it costs to keep them.

Over the last year, I’ve watched Performing Arts Fort Worth (PAFW), the organization that owns and operates Bass Hall and presents Fort Worth’s Broadway series, grow subscription revenue by $1.2 million—a 53% increase. Part of the revenue increase was because they added a show, but they also grew their subscriber base by 1,289 subscribers, a 26% increase.

Impressive results, but the truly cool story is the retention effort that happened afterwards.

Patron loyalty was viewed by many in the organization as marketing’s responsibility. Other people understood it was important, but weren’t actively involved. We wanted – we needed – to tap into the experience of front-of-house and box office staff to actively support patron loyalty efforts. The patron experience starts long before the performance begins. It starts at the time a patron buys a ticket, and continues through travel to the venue, parking their car, getting to their seat, seeing the show, enjoying intermission, and as they leave and travel home. (And, then it extends beyond the venue again when the organization follows up.)


Posted October 4, 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



Jul25

 Keri Mesropov, 
VP of Client Services, TRG Arts

ALERT: Arts administrators in your area have been overtaken by a new obsession. Believed to be a relative of the mania induced by Pokémon Go, symptoms include an insatiable desire to find brand new patrons for your organization.

If you’re not obsessed with new audiences, you are really behind the trend. You’re missing out on spending hours and big bucks curating and searching for those you don’t have and yet, want with delirious desire. Some might judge you in quiet. To you, I say:

Good. Bravo. Standing O. You may be on to something.

Yes, we will always need new people to buy tickets to our art in order to ask them back and ask them to commit more through a membership, a subscription and one day, a philanthropic donation. It’s the evolution of an arts patron.

But, before we go spending beyond our means to find new fish for our pond, let’s explore a few facts.


Posted July 25, 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



Jun21

Jill Robinson at the 2016 League of American Orchestras conferenceA patron’s loyalty is built step-by-step with each interaction with your organization. Each purchase and each donation is an indicator of the affinity that patrons feel for the organization. The problem in the evolution of patrons often occurs in the hand-off between marketing and development.

In this session, presented in 2016 at the League of American Orchestras Conference, Jill Robinson and Lindsay Anderson discussed patron segmentation strategies and proven practices for closing the gap between subscribers and donors.


Posted June 21, 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



Apr07

 Keri Mesropov,
VP of Client Services
 Jim DeGood, 
Director of Client Services

Think audience development is marketing’s job? Think again. All departments play a critical role in retaining and cultivating loyal patron relationships.

Marketing gets people in the door and cultivates them to membership or subscribership. However, a patron’s loyalty builds with each interaction they have with youfrom the first time they consider buying a single ticket, to renewing their annual fund gift—and in absolutely every interaction in between. Patron services, artistic staff, development, and executive leaders all must align their objectives with that of patron loyalty in order to make a patron-centered business model work.

Join Keri Mesropov and Jim DeGood from TRG’s expert consulting team to learn today’s best practices for creating lasting patron relationships, across departmental silos.  


Posted April 7, 2016



Mar31

 Trisha Kirk
Director of Marketing,
Guthrie Theater
Danielle St.Germain-Gordon
Director of Development,
Guthrie Theater

Creative placemaking. Community engagement. Mobile beaconing. Customer relationship management.

If there’s one thing the arts industry has no shortage of, it’s buzzwords. What makes buzzwords so enticing? Behind each is the promise of the next best practices for the arts, the next strategy or tactic that could help organizations succeed sustainably.

We submit, for your consideration, this one: “integrated loyalty development.”

Like most buzzwords, the words somewhat obscure the meaning. Put simply, it’s aligning all departments in an organization around the cultivation of loyal patron relationships. It describes the magic that happens when organizations move beyond transactions and “just trying to make goal” for event after event. Instead, integration means investing in and being accountable to fostering their patrons’ passion for the arts, in all areas of their business.


Posted March 31, 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



Feb02


Anita Hansen
Senior Consultant

From Service to Entrepreneurialism


With online transactions now accounting for the majority of ticket purchases, what’s the role of the traditional box office? The people who interact with patrons at your organization still have an enormous role to play in providing customer service, generating revenue, and increasing loyalty. Are you setting them up for success? This short presentation discussed making an upgrade plan, incentivizing staff to implement it, and measuring your success. In this session, learn strategies to turn your box office into an entrepreneurial, revenue-generating operation within your organization. This presentation was given by Senior Consultant Anita Hansen at the 2016 InTix Conference in Anaheim, California.

Posted February 2, 2016



Jan11


Lindsay Anderson
VP of Client Development
Think audience development is marketing’s job? Think again. All departments play a critical role in retaining and cultivating patron relationships. In order to make a patron-centered business model work, all departments—including ticketing and patron services, artistic staff, development, and executive leaders—must align their objectives with that of patron loyalty. 

In this session, presented at the 2016 Chamber Music America conference in New York City, both executives and staff members will reexamine how they lead and collaborate on initiatives that create lasting patron relationships. TRG's VP of Client Development Lindsay Anderson looked at how cross-departmental campaigns build loyalty, how a sales orientation in the patron services department can bolster marketing-development collaboration, and how artistic programming can also factor into loyalty-building.

Posted January 11, 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



Dec16

Like most people who work at TRG, I love data. One of my favorite activities near the end of the year is to open up Google Analytics and see which blog posts, case studies, and other content were most popular with our readers.

The top content from our blog reflects the topics which we see getting the most attention in our industry today. Some topline observations:

  • The topic of subscription and the evolution of the arts business model continues to inspire research and dialogue.
  • We see more interest every day in data and how arts professionals can use it to make decisions.
  • We’re hearing and thinking more about the relationship between marketing and other departments and how organizations can build patron loyalty collaboratively.
  • The topic of pricing and its impact on patrons seemed to be more often discussed this year as organizations balance revenue and accessibility.

Find below the eight most-read insights from TRG this year. We thank you, our readers, for continuing to read, share and respond to our content this year!


Posted December 16, 2015



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



Nov18

Photo: opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I recently delivered a keynote at the Conferencia Anual de Marketing de las Artes (Annual Conference on Marketing the Arts) in Madrid and Barcelona, hosted by Spanish consulting firm Asimetrica. The focus of this year’s convening was “Cambio de Mentalidad,” about changing mentalities about marketing, and audiences, in the arts. Speakers were from many countries, and had many different perspectives. But one that arose consistently was a fixation that arts managers from all over the world shared.

They were obsessed with new audiences.


Posted November 18, 2015



Nov11

This post by Doug Borwick is part of a series of collaborations and is cross-posted to his blog Engaging Matters on Arts Journal.

Photo: Some rights reserved by J B Foster

Can’t wait to see where I’m going with this, can you?

As I understand it, fracking is a technique to get at hydrocarbon reserves that have been untapped by traditional extraction methods. My concern in this post is not with any environmental hazards of fracking but with the potential to get more out of something by using new methods. The old approaches left a lot of oil (etc.) in the ground, apparently.

Over the last few years I’ve come to understand that traditional, self-focused arts marketing efforts are only successful in reaching those who know they want to be reached. (“Getting the word out” is only effective in reaching those waiting to hear it.) My principal woodshed tutor has been Trevor O’Donnell (Marketing the Arts to Death), but he is not alone. What I have learned is that more consumer-centered marketing can reach people who are not waiting for the word. There are more out there who might buy tickets if it were demonstrated to them that doing so might be uplifting, enjoyable, even–dare we say it?–entertaining.


Posted November 11, 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



Nov04

This post is part of a series of collaborations with Doug Borwick and is cross-posted to his Engaging Matters blog on Arts Journal.

Photo: Dean Hochman (CC BY 2.0)

A year or two ago a mentor introduced me to the concept of “polarity management.” It sounds like just another business buzzword, but—stick with me—it gave a name to something that I and many of us have experienced and struggled with.

The concept is this: every challenge you encounter, in business and in life, is either:

- a problem you need to solve, or

- an ongoing “polarity” you need to manage well

A polarity is made up of two interdependent factors that are at odds with each other. While a problem has a correct solution or a set of independent solutions, a polarity is an ongoing challenge where you will need to continuously address and manage both solutions.


Posted November 4, 2015



Nov03

Putting your patrons at the center grows your revenues beyond what marketing or development could do alone. In this session presented at the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation's Art of Change Workshop, participants learned the tangible benefits of casting off a siloed business model in favor of one that treats your patrons holistically, from their ticket-buying to their philanthropy. TRG's Vice President of Client Service Keri Mesropov examined how leading toward an integrated organization requires strong change management skills, but the payoff can be big loyalty gains. How can executives (and aspiring executives) break down the traditional silos between artistic, marketing and development to put your patrons at the center of revenue growth?


Posted November 3, 2015



Nov03

Photo by James Jordan (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A year and a half ago I was invited to join TRG’s bi-annual Executive Summit in Colorado Springs. Taking the time away is always difficult but I decided to take two days to make the journey. I was grateful to reconnect with and be re-introduced to many things I already knew and some I didn’t. The session was a good reminder of what I should be focusing on. The distractions of running an organization tend to take you down distant trails into the wilderness.

There was one thing that really grabbed my attention. TRG’s President & CEO Jill Robinson reported on work that they had done with the Guthrie Theater, examining loyalty as it related to genres of programming. The genre breakdowns were pretty typical, i.e. blockbuster musicals, dramas, new works, Shakespeare, etc. There were also no surprises that blockbuster programs generated the most revenue, had the highest price point, and, of course, the highest attrition rate. Like pouring water into a funnel, most of the blockbuster patrons had flushed through and right back out again.


Posted November 3, 2015



Oct30

Desarrollar audiencias a partir de los datos

As public subsidies for the arts change, organizations must rely on people—their audiences and patrons—to provide the revenue to sustain them long-term. How can organizations build a new business model that both serves audiences and relies on them for revenue? The first step is to see what the data says about building these patron relationships.

In this keynote, presented at the 2015 Conferencia de Marketing de las Artes in Madrid and Barcelona, Jill Robinson of the arts consulting firm TRG Arts offered data-inspired lessons on how organizations can monetize patron relationships. These relationships drive the revenue that allows the entire organization to thrive, instead of merely surviving. Jill also discussed data collection and privacy concerns, and how to create incentives for genuine connection between patrons and organization.


Posted October 30, 2015



Oct28

This post by Doug Borwick is part of a series of collaborations and is cross-posted to his blog Engaging Matters on Arts Journal.

Photo: Some rights reserved by nikoretro

Nearly four years ago, shortly after I started Engaging Matters, I published a post (What Is Arts Marketing?) in which I outlined a conceptual framework for nonprofit marketing in the arts. While I stand by much of it, it implies a dismissiveness about sales for which I repent. I was too concerned about the potential for a focus on sales to trump nonprofit missions. That’s not the fault of sales; it’s the fault of execution. For many arts organizations, ticket sales–even though they do not cover costs–are vital to sustainability. As part of my atonement, let me reset and attempt a more nuanced definition and placement of sales in the nonprofit arts context.

A sale is (or should be!) an uncoerced exchange of value between two parties. In the for-profit world, this is some product or service for money. In the nonprofit world, where products or services are often provided without cost, there is no money exchanged at the “point of sale.” Third party payers provide the required funds. However, in all cases, another resource is exchanged: time. The consumer exchanges her or his time in order to gain access to and receive the service. This awareness is somewhat more relevant in the nonprofit world beyond the arts but does apply to free performances and exhibitions. The “sales” message needs to convey the value in exchanging that time for what is offered. It must also make a compelling case for paying the opportunity cost: what else might the person be doing with that time instead? For pay or not, one sales metric in the arts is “butts in seats”/”eyes on walls.” When tickets are being sold, the other is, yes, sales revenue.


Posted October 28, 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



Oct21

This post is part of a series of collaborations with Doug Borwick and is cross-posted to his Engaging Matters blog on Arts Journal.

Photo by Neo Wang (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Arts Journal blogger Doug Borwick recently wrote a post on the role of marketing and development departments that captured my attention. In the following quote he summarizes an issue that I’ve been thinking about for a long time:

In the nonprofit world, marketing and development have been viewed as two different disciplines. Marketing has focused on messages to external publics and sales. Development has focused on messages to external publics and contributed income–grants and donations…

Do you see what I just did? It’s an old professor thing to set up a question in the listener’s mind. “So, if they both begin with ‘messages to external publics,’ aren’t they pretty closely related?” Bingo.

Marketing and development are closely related. But there are differences. In strict transactional terms, marketing departments largely manage Business (arts organization) to Consumer (patron) relationships. On the other hand, development department work is both “B-to-C” (where the consumer is in the form of donors/members) and “B-to-B” (Business to Business, where the organization is managing relationships and income from foundations, sponsors and other funding agencies). Talk to any marketing or development professional and they’ll tell you: the work is different in managing these different kinds of relationships and revenue streams.


Posted October 21, 2015



Oct15

92% jump in subscription packages


One marketing person. A box office director. An executive director. These positions made up the core of the administrative staff dedicated to Newman Center Presents, the performing arts presenting program of the University of Denver. Yet, this three-person team was nimble and efficient. They made small changes and, even with limited budget, saw big results.

Newman Center Presents hired TRG for a full suite assessment, focusing on pricing practices, inventory management, and season ticket campaign design.


Posted October 15, 2015



Oct14

This post by Doug Borwick is part of a series of collaborations and is cross-posted to his blog Engaging Matters on Arts Journal.

Photo: Some rights reserved by greeblie

This is part of a series of blog posts in conjunction with TRG Arts on the interrelationships among marketing, development, fundraising, and community engagement. The point of the series is that they are all rooted in relationship building and maintenance.

Today we’re talking about definitions. Oh great! But if all of these things are related, we’ve got to be able to understand how they are similar and how they differ. That’s what definitions are for. Plus, what can you expect from someone who spent three decades as a college professor? And that is actually a critical point.

I am not nor have I ever been an on-the-ground professional in marketing or fundraising. Being aware of that, my level of humility in talking about these subjects is very high. What I do have experience in is analyzing words, differentiating among related concepts, and crafting definitions that clarify them. That requires theoretical thinking time–a luxury not available to the people doing the “real work” in the trenches.


Posted October 14, 2015



Oct13

This is the fifth video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing.

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #5: % of subscriber-donors

Is renewal rate the best measurement of loyalty? While it shows how many subscribers or members arts organizations are retaining, it doesn’t indicate if patrons are growing in their loyalty. In this video, Keri Mesropov of TRG Arts explains why renewal rate can be deceptive and the metric arts organizations should consider tracking alongside it.


Posted October 13, 2015



Oct08

This guest post by Zannie Voss of the National Center for Arts Research is cross-posted to the NCAR blog.

There is a conversation growing nationally around data-informed decision-making in arts and cultural organizations. The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) stands firmly in the belief that using data to inform managerial decisions is a critical factor in the sustainability and transformation of the arts and cultural field as a whole. It isn’t about data for the sake of data, it’s about the end-goal of healthier organizations that have stable and expanded resources to dedicate to pursuit of mission. TRG, one of NCAR’s partners, has been a leading advocate for this type of analysis for many years and the organizations TRG serves have benefitted as a result.

There is no “one size fits all” performance measure. Instead, metrics for organizational health are as varied as the field itself. So this begs the question: What are the metrics that matter?


Posted October 8, 2015



Oct07

This post is part of a series of collaborations with Doug Borwick and is cross-posted to his Engaging Matters blog on Arts Journal.

Photo by Pam Corey (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

There are two schools of thought when it comes to eating a cinnamon roll.

There are those who eat the cinnamon by unrolling it, eating along the edge, slowly making their way to the gooey, sugary middle.

Then there are those want to get to the middle as soon as they can. Flaky crust is all well and good, but the cache of frosting and sticky cinnamon goodness is too good to resist.

Neither approach is right or wrong, but they are different.


Posted October 7, 2015



Oct06

This is the fourth video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing.

By “them,” we mean your patrons. When we consider how arts organizations lose patrons, it’s not the long-time, committed patrons that are most likely to leave. Your most at-risk patrons are those new audience members and visitors that you worked so hard to attract in the first place. TRG’s Director of Consulting Jim DeGood explains how to measure your risk:

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #4: New audience churn rate

Churn. Attrition. Turnover. Call it what you will; the fact is, you’re losing new patrons. With few exceptions, arts organization over-prospect for new audiences and under-retain them. In this video, Jim DeGood of TRG Arts explains why retention matters, how to measure your risk, and a simple 4-step process for retention that you can implement at your own organization.


Posted October 6, 2015



Sep30

This post by Doug Borwick is part of a series of collaborations and is cross-posted to his blog Engaging Matters on Arts Journal.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Mark Cartwright

Three years ago I published a post titled The Farmer and the Cowman in which I acknowledged an epiphany about the relationship between arts marketing and community engagement. In the past six months I have, on several occasions, been re-confronted with the truth of their close relationship (when both are being done well). This was really driven home to me in the highly flattering (and most embarrassing) post written by Trevor O’Donnell Taking a Cheap Shot at Community Engagement.

In April I met with Amelia Northrup-Simpson of TRG Arts and we began hatching a plot. Beginning with some cross-posting on our blogs we would explore the relationships between our respective areas of expertise. This post is my introduction to that effort.


Posted September 30, 2015



Sep29

This is the third video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing

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.


Posted September 29, 2015



Sep24

 Jill Robinson, 
President & CEO, TRG Arts

The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at Southern Methodist University recently released their latest report, which focuses specifically on marketing related metrics. This is the third report NCAR has released examining the health of arts and cultural organizations in the U.S. from a wide range of data sources.

Recently, I’ve seen researchers beginning to measure the impact of developing patron relationships and focus on the data that will quantify relationships. This is a great sign of things to come for the arts industry. In our own research at TRG, we’ve seen that measuring relationships in an integrated and holistic way can help organizations better understand patrons and impact revenue. Transactions that may seem unrelated when measured by different departments can actually indicate loyal relationships. The whole picture matters in each individual patron record, as it does when measuring the impact of patron-generated revenue across an organization.


Posted September 24, 2015



Sep22

This is the second video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing.

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

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, Jill Robinson of TRG Arts discusses how and why to measure active patron participation at performing arts organizations and museums. She also explains the concept of an “upgrade”—the next step for every patron to grow their loyalty.


Posted September 22, 2015



Sep17

This post is part of a series by TRG and Piper Foundation Fellow Vincent VanVleet where he’ll report on his discoveries as he travels the country to research the impact of patron loyalty. Read more of his posts here.

Image by opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I've now visited with executive, marketing, and development leaders from over 11 different organizations in eight cities. I have learned many amazing and remarkable things my colleagues are implementing across North America, but my attention keeps returning to one thing. Every organization has the same structure: unanimously in our institutions, marketing and sales are one team.

Here's the dilemma:  Marketing is actually a resource for the entire organization, not just for generating ticket sales.


Posted September 17, 2015



Sep11


 Photo by Gavin Brogan (CC BY 2.0)

There are a lot of metrics that an arts organization could track in an effort to be successful and sustainable. With today’s robust CRM systems, there’s no shortage of data on arts patrons and their buying and donating behavior.

The truth is, what gets measured gets managed.

When you decide to track a metric and make changes in your work to move that number up or down, you’re giving that metric power. That means your organization sets its priorities as an institution by what you collectively decide  to measure.


Posted September 11, 2015



Sep10


The biggest takeaway from this webinar? Don't panic.
Photo: Tom Page (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Is that discount you're offering helping or hurting your organization? In this webinar, Anita Hansen of TRG Arts and Laura Beussman of Blackbaud discussed when, why, and how to discount effectively. A good discounting and package pricing strategy can drive patron behavior and help you maximize revenue for your organization. 

Watch the recording to learn how to offer discounts without devaluing your product, how to use pricing to develop patron loyalty, and how to empower your teams to recognize the right time for the right offers.

Click through to access the recording.


Posted September 10, 2015



Aug20

 Jill Robinson, 
President & CEO, TRG Arts

The world is changing. Whether your theatre operates in the U.K., U.S., Australia, or on the moon, the last decade has demanded that we transform the way we do business.

Public policy, economic and demographic changes are causing the entire sector to recognize the importance of our relationships with patrons and how we manage them.

Today, your patrons can be doing more. They can be cultivated to support your organization in ways that they currently aren’t. As you contemplate your organization’s future sustainability and how patrons can be a part of it, consider making their loyalty a priority.


Posted August 20, 2015



Jun30

Image by opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I recently sat in on a presentation at the League of American Orchestras conference entitled “The Future of the Orchestra Subscription Model.” The League is working in partnership with Oliver Wyman to study declines in subscription sales by analyzing transactional, survey, and buying simulation data.

I’m so pleased to see the attention that the topic of loyalty programs has been getting recently. Some of the best investments that arts organizations can make are in repeat attendance and cultivating patron relationships. At TRG, we’ve long been an advocate for loyalty programs, particularly subscription. It’s not just because we’re stubborn. We follow the data and we see organizations who invest in loyalty succeeding.


Posted June 30, 2015



Jun18

Humana Festival audienceMany organizations track data on pricing, audience retention, and audience response to different types of artistic programming. But what happens when an organization looks at these categories together, holistically? That’s what Actors Theatre of Louisville did. What they found led them to begin to manage demand, cultivate audiences, and approach the strategic planning process in a completely new ways.

This is a story about how data can re-focus an organization around audiences, and how Actors Theatre of Louisville is acting on that data. Managing Director Jennifer Bielstein and ‎Jim DeGood of TRG Arts gave this presentation at the 2015 Theatre Communications Group, detailing how Actors Theatre of Louisville has translated data findings into a plan, how leadership is re-aligning around data and audience loyalty, and some initial results from their efforts.


Posted June 18, 2015



Jun10

 Gene Carr,
CEO, Patron Technology
@genecarr
 Jill Robinson, 
President & CEO,TRG Arts
@jrobinsontrg

There's not one definition or path for loyalty. And, a good CRM system acts as a catalyst, helping identify every patron's right next step.

This was one of the major takeaways from the latest installment of PatronTalk, Patron Technology's ongoing webcast series. Gene Carr, CEO of Patron Technology, interviewed Jill Robinson, President & CEO of TRG Arts, during the live webcast on June 9, 2015.

Click through to view the video.


Posted June 10, 2015



Jun05

19% increase in average subscription revenue


The Situation:

The cast of DTC’s production of
Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Photo by Karen Almond.

Dallas Theater Center (DTC) hired TRG for capacity building consulting in November of 2013. DTC faced challenges with pricing, in particular reinforcing loyalty through pricing. Founded in 1959, DTC became a resident company of the new state-of-the-art AT&T Performing Arts Center in 2009. The new venue’s flexible mainstage, the Potter Rose Performing Studio at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, enables DTC to configure seating differently for each production, from 1 to 573 seats. DTC also produces in a traditional 99 seat “black box” space at the Wyly and at its original home, the 491 seat Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only freestanding theater designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright.


Posted June 5, 2015



May13

Loyalty, Collaboration, and Community in Philadelphia

Wednesday, May 13 at 2 EDT/11 PDT


You may know the buying and donating patterns of your own audience. But do you know how they engage with the other arts organizations in your community? And does that mean you’re in competition with them or have opportunities to collaborate?

Seventeen arts and cultural institutions in the Philadelphia area set out to find the answers to those very questions. The study they commissioned investigated the buying and donating behavior of nearly 1 million arts audience and visitor households over seven years, with interesting findings about community engagement and audience loyalty. Researchers profiled how loyal patrons were to each individual organization and tracked patterns of loyalty across the community.

Click through to read more and view the video.


Posted May 13, 2015



May08

"Loyalty takes time." That was the key point that Jill Robinson, President & CEO of TRG Arts, put forth in a discussion of young donors at the 2015 Opera America Conference in Washington, DC. The panel's premise was that, with opera audiences growing older, companies must focus their attention on new generations of support. While development departments may have mastered the appeal to traditionalists and baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials are looking for something else. Attendees at this standing-room only session learned what the data says about these patrons, what matters to next gen donors, and how opera companies can engage them. 


Posted May 8, 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



Apr16


Photo by Ryan Dickey (CC BY 2.0)

Let’s face it: sometimes it seems like marketing and development couldn’t be more different. Their communication styles are different, their immediate goals are different, and they use different short-term metrics for success. They might work in the same building, but all too often it feels like they come from two different planets.

At many organizations, single ticket buyers and subscribers “belong” to marketing and donors “belong” to development. It’s true that one department or the other may advance a patron relationship at each stage of its evolution. However, both departments aim to deepen patron relationships, despite the difference in their approaches.

Without an upgrade strategy that involves both departments, marketing and development can miss their best opportunities to deepen patron relationships with the organization. Marketing and development may come from two different planets, but they should be empowered to put their unique styles and approaches to work developing patrons from first-time attendees to major donors.


Posted April 16, 2015



Mar30


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

TRG's President & CEO Jill Robinson presented during TCG's Audience (R)Evolution in Kansas City on why research indicates that subscriptions still sustain arts organizations.

Watch it here. (Fourth video on the page.)

Audience (R)Evolution is a multi-year program designed by Theatre Communications Group and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to study, promote and support successful audience engagement and community development models across the country. This initiative, now moving into its second round of activity, encompasses four phases: research and assessment; convenings; grantmaking; and widespread dissemination of audience engagement models that work.


Posted March 30, 2015



Mar18

11% per capita revenue increase



The Allen Elizabethan Theatre. Featured is the set of
OSF’s 2013 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
In 2011, Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) faced a crisis. During a performance of Measure for Measure in the Angus Bowmer Theatre, staff members heard an odd noise. They discovered a large crack one of the main ceiling beams in the theatre. As a result, the Angus Bowmer Theatre, one of OSF’s three venues, had to close for repair just as summer (the most in-demand time at the festival) was beginning. The marketing team decided to refund tickets if patrons did not want to attend shows in the other venues, as a part of OSF’s ongoing commitment to excellent customer service. The refunds contributed to a 27% drop in single ticket units and an 8% drop in overall admission revenue.

“Throughout the crisis, customer experience was our main concern. We based virtually every decision we made on how it would affect our patrons’ long-term relationship with OSF,” Mallory Pierce, OSF’s Director of Marketing and Communications, said.

Historically, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was financially and organizationally strong. Sound budgeting and fiscal management procedures combined with generally strong attendance enabled the organization to grow even during the Great Recession with performances regularly sold at greater than 80% capacity.

Posted March 18, 2015



Feb13

Why subscriptions still sustain the arts and ways to rescue your subscription program 



President & CEO
Jill Robinson

Thanks to everyone who attended this webinar. Click through to view slides and the recording.

Let’s face it; the subscription has been uncool for years. While disruptive technologies and changing arts consumer behavior have transformed the way arts managers see their business model, the subscription has declined and stagnated. “Subscriptions are dead” is now conventional wisdom in our industry. 

But, if subscriptions were truly dead, wouldn’t they have just disappeared by now? Inconveniently, subscriptions incentivize loyalty and provide sustainable revenue that's difficult to find elsewhere in any audience-centered business model. Many organizations that have tried to innovate in this area have found themselves in a state of subscription emergency. 


Posted February 13, 2015



Feb13

 Evolution of patron loyalty“Art cannot meaningfully exist without an audience. Loyal audiences build sustainable organizations.” That was one of the main takeaways in a blog post Jill wrote last month about the somewhat puzzling fact that subscriptions still exist in the arts. Jill contended that subscriptions still sustain the arts because they encourage patrons to attend and invest more, deepening audience loyalty.

Loyalty and its role in strengthening arts organizations is an idea we talk about often at TRG. Why? Sustainable organizations require sustained engagement and investment from patrons. That engagement and investment begins with the audiences who already—right now—support your art. Unless your organization is just launching, you already have a variety of patrons who lie somewhere on the spectrum of audience development.


Posted February 13, 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



Jan26


If the subscription was really dead, wouldn’t it
have just quietly slipped away into that good
night by now and disappeared altogether? 

Photo by Tom Hall via flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Recently, staff from the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis attended TCG’s 2014 Fall Forum on Governance. At it, they heard remarks indicating that the subscription is dead. Guthrie leadership stood up and said “NOT AT THE GUTHRIE!”

As a result of renewed focus and investment in marketing subscriptions, the Guthrie saw a 6% increase in subscriptions last season over the previous season. This season they are currently 12% ahead of the same time last year and still selling!

At TRG, we’ve seen this type of investment in subscriptions pay off in markets large and small. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, presenter Washington Pavilion has experienced 46% subscription growth over 2 years, and has successfully retained new subscribers. The Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles has sold nearly 22,000 season packages for its 2014-15 season, following years of consistent increases. And Houston Ballet has grown subscription packages by 25% over the past decade, with the number of actual tickets sold to their subscribers up 27% in the same period. 

So, folks, if most of us accepted that subscription is dead 15 years ago, why are we still talking about it? If the subscription was really dead, wouldn’t it have just quietly slipped away into that good night by now and disappeared altogether? 


Posted January 26, 2015



Jan22

New research reveals key data for developing museum and performing arts audiences

Produced by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance with support from TRG Arts

 

2014 Patron Loyalty Study: Loyalty By the NumbersThe 2014 Patron Loyalty Study: Loyalty By the Numbers examines the financial transactions (including ticket sales, memberships and donations) of almost a million Greater Philadelphia households, using seven years of data from 17 major cultural attractions in the region. One of the key findings of the report is that, despite the sector’s focus on developing new audiences, the erosion of current audience loyalty represents one of the most significant financial risks for cultural groups. 

The study found that less than 3% of patrons generated over 62% of total patron revenue. However, spending by this small but powerful group of patrons declined 12% throughout the study, driven by a decline in primarily donor activity/revenue.

“While expanding audiences remains critical for the long term,” said Cultural Alliance Vice President John McInerney, “Retention and engagement of current audiences may be the most important strategy for an organization’s bottom line.”


Posted January 22, 2015



Jan20


VP of Client Services
Keri Mesropov

Renewals edition

Tuesday, January 20 at 2 EDT/11 PDT

Edit: Thanks to everyone who attended this chat! Click through to read the transcript. 

Are you making the most of renewals? Each year, your most loyal patrons re-commit themselves to your organization and re-invest in the value your organization provides. In this hour-long Twitter chat with VP of Client Services Keri Mesropov and moderator Amelia Northrup-Simpson, learn what others in the field are doing and tune up your own practices around renewals.

Consult the loyalty experts and share your own experiences about:

  • when to start renewal and acquisition campaigns
  • donation add-ons and other loyalty upgrades
  • talking to first-time and long-term subscribers differently

Posted January 20, 2015



Nov20

Tuesday, November 18 at 2 EDT/11 PDT

Edit: Thanks to everyone who attended this chat! Click through to read the transcript.


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

Let’s talk turkey! Does your audience development strategy promote loyalty? The best loyalty programs go beyond just offering subscriptions or memberships. They consider each patron’s right next step to further their relationship to the organization.

Learn how industry colleagues are developing loyalty at their organizations and get re-inspired about your own loyalty strategy. In this hour-long Twitter chat with President & CEO Jill Robinson (@jrobinsontrg) and moderator Amelia Northrup-Simpson (@TRGArts), we'll discuss topics like subscriptions and memberships, the loyalty business model, and how to cultivate patrons from newcomer to advocate. Bring your own favorite audience development ideas and burning questions to share!


Posted November 20, 2014



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



Nov04

Two months ago, I watched this TED talk by Dan Pallotta and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong

The back story is this: Pallotta's AIDS and breast cancer walks raised $581 million dollars for those causes quickly, in large part because he used a sizable portion (40%) of their income to advertise for and invest in the event to make it an amazing experience for participants. Because of the percentage of the income he spent on these administrative costs, he was virtually crucified in the media. At the same time, investing in those things is what allowed him to raise so much money for those causes in the first place. In his TED talk and two books (here and here) on nonprofit administration, Pallotta questions the way we think about administration and overhead costs for nonprofits.

Pallotta’s experience was with health and human services organizations, but it parallels and exposes the way we in the arts think about spending and income. The attitudes we have about mission vs. administrative expenses are pervasive… among donors, nonprofit industry teachers and experts—even among the artists themselves.

And, Pallotta argues, those attitudes can undermine the causes these organizations stand for.


Posted November 4, 2014



Oct24


Senior Consultant
Anita Hansen
Today's database, ticketing, and CRM systems can tell administrators nearly everything they could possibly want to know about patrons. More data isn't necessarily helpful, though. Studying everything can distract administrators from the metrics on which they need to focus to grow audiences and revenue. 


In this 90-minute intensive presented at the 2014 Arts Reach National Arts Marketing, Development & Ticketing Conference, Anita Hansen explained how organizations can stop studying every metric and focus on the most critical indicators of growth and sustainability. You’ll learn how to find TRG's five most actionable Thrive Metrics in your own data, what they say about your organization’s health, and how to act on the data to engage and cultivate patrons.


Posted October 24, 2014



Oct21

Membership for love or moneyVisitors become members for two reasons—because they love the organization and because they are driven by the value of the transaction.

Research of arts consumer behavior shows that those with a true passion for your museum’s mission can be cultivated beyond membership to long-term, high-value patronage. Visitors who view membership as a transaction may be harder to attract and retain, but some could deepen their relationship with the right visitor development strategy.

But how can membership officers put the right strategies in place to attract members and keep them loyal? Learn more in this presentation, which was given at the 2014 American Museum Membership Conference by Molly Wink of Denver Art Museum and Jill Robinson of TRG Arts.


Posted October 21, 2014



Oct10


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

I want to point your attention to the most important patrons in your audience. They’re not necessarily the ones who have given or attended the most over their lifetime. They’re your “right now” patrons—the audiences that are participating and engaging with you for your most current event and could do any number of things in the future.

These currently active patrons allow your organization to operate right now. They’re the ones that your mission serves today.

But don’t assume that they’ll be there tomorrow. Research indicates that first-time attendees—a large portion of many organizations’ patrons—tend to come once and then never return.

That’s why measuring your active patrons matters so much. An “active” patron has a little more longevity than a “right now” patron; they’ve had some transaction in the last two seasons or years. When cultivating a loyal audience, recency rules. The patrons who have attended in the last two years are much more likely to continue attending—if you cultivate them right.


Posted October 10, 2014



Oct09

heart made from two pound notes
Photo by Rob Jewitt via flickr

I recently started teaching a graduate-level arts marketing course. When I was first handed the materials from the last time the course was offered, I immediately began sorting through to determine what would be useful to students learning the basics of arts marketing.

Something was missing, though. The only time the previous class had addressed money was toward the end of the course to discuss budgeting.

While managing a budget is an important skill, the role of revenue is a much larger part of an arts marketer’s job.

The way I see it, an arts marketer has two basic objectives:

Objective #1: Bring the arts and audiences together

Objective #2: Take responsibility for marketing revenue goals


Posted October 9, 2014



Aug21


Image by Bart Everson via flickr
under CC BY 2.0

Earlier this summer, TRG convened a two-day meeting of chief arts executives here in Colorado Springs. In our session we discussed the importance of alignment between artistic leadership, executive leadership, and the board if an organization is to develop sustainable revenues from patrons.

Before the organization makes a strategic plan or begins implementing it, leadership must be on the same page about the current realities their organization faces. There are many factors that can affect the organization’s ease in sustaining itself, including:

  • Art form: Realities in presenting chamber music are different than those in commercial Broadway.
  • Market: Birmingham, AL is a different community than San Francisco or Vail, CO.
  • Current operational practices: Are they the practices required in 2014?
  • Current patron behavior: How loyal are patrons today?  How do they respond to programming initiatives, and WHO responds?
  • Programming and venues: The “what” and the “where” that may pique audience interest—or deter them.

One participant in our session looked at the list and asked a provocative question. “Where’s mission?”

Her question sparked my interest. What exactly is the role of mission when it comes to an organization’s sustainability?


Posted August 21, 2014



Jul15

Data drives increased audience engagement and loyalty



Hubbard Street Dancers Jessica Tong, left, and Jesse Bechard
in One Thousand Pieces by Resident Choreographer
Alejandro Cerrudo. Photo by Todd Rosenberg. 

At the end of its Landmark 35th Anniversary season, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was at a high point. Ticket sales and fundraising were stronger than ever, and buzz in the Chicago community and in the dance world was growing.

While Hubbard Street had developed a significant and enthusiastic ticketing and donor base, the marketing and development team wanted a greater depth of knowledge about the company’s most engaged patrons. Bill Melamed, Chief Marketing and Development Officer, and Stacey Recht, Associate Director of Marketing, began asking: How well do we really know our patrons? How do our patrons interact across the organization? What are the trends and entry points? How can we best cultivate them toward long-term loyalty?

Hubbard Street wanted to cultivate this audience more holistically, beyond basic categories like ticket buyer, subscriber, or donor. They became curious about each patron’s total investment across those categories, and engaged TRG to help analyze the data and recommend steps toward increasing loyalty. 



Posted July 15, 2014



Jul08

Data-driven hard work worksLast month, I wrote about the overwhelming amount of data produced by the sophisticated database systems now common in the arts industry. My commentary on the “analysis paralysis” that can result caught the attention of many of our readers. We’re glad, because 20 years of consulting work has taught us this: data-driven hard work works.

Data-driven hard work works

It is hard work to develop a loyal, sustainable audience base. There are few shortcuts. However, a focus on the right audience data can guide your efforts. That’s why I urged you in my last post to “stop studying everything.” Then you can minimize distractions and direct your time, energy, and hard work on efforts that will help you achieve your audience goals.


Posted July 8, 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



Jun05


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

Every organization has critical and very accessible database information that provides indicators of growth and sustainability. Jill Robinson, President and CEO of TRG Arts, presented TRG's most actionable Thrive Metrics at ArtsPride New Jersey's Thrive Conference at Princeton University. This presentation will tell you how to find these data points and what the research says about using data to stimulate engagement and nurture relationships with patrons. 

Want more information about the most important metrics you can study? Read Jill's recent blog post, Data that Matters: 3 Metrics to Grow Audience Relationships.


Posted June 5, 2014



Jun04

Stop studying everythingWith the arts and cultural annual conference season in full swing, we’re thrilled to see the priority that integrated patron loyalty now has in field dialogue. Prioritizing patronage can have a real impact—on year-over-year revenues, the volume of people attending and visiting arts and cultural organizations, organizational relevance, and more.

Developing patron loyalty specifically means thinking about each patron’s right next step with an organization, getting them to increase their activity with and value to the organization over time. For example, if I attend my first concert (or play or exhibit) at your organization, my right next step is attending another event in the coming months.

Many organizations regularly have thousands of patrons come through their doors. That’s a lot of right next steps! Luckily the database, ticketing, and CRM systems on the market today can capture in-depth data on patrons like never before.


Posted June 4, 2014



May31


President & CEO
Jill Robinson
President & CEO Jill Robinson presented this intensive session on patron loyalty on May 31, 2014 at the Canadian Arts Marketing, Development & Ticketing Conference in Toronto. Two decades of arts consumer research is clear: patron relationships have the plot lines of a love story. Take, for instance that first contact with a person that has never before walked into your organization’s life. It could be the beginning of long, loyal engagement or a one night stand, depending on how you behave on this first date. In this 90-minute workshop, Jill showed how to build happily-ever-after relationships that can build patron loyalty and revenue. Hear case studies on today’s best loyalty practices and learn techniques that are timely for you to apply in your own organization now. 

Posted May 31, 2014



May29

TRG is proud to present this webinar in partnership with Americans for the Arts.


Strategic Communications Specialist
Amelia Northrup-Simpson
There's no question that the capabilities and usage of mobile devices continue to rise as technology advances. Mobile devices are surpassing desktop computers as the primary tool for accessing the web. That means new and existing audiences are using mobile devices to search for your organization, access information about it, and even purchase tickets. If your arts organization has yet to embrace mobile, you'll soon be left behind.

As more arts organizations adopt new forms of technology to engage audiences, you must evaluate your own organization's (and audience's) mobile needs and act on them. In this webinar, you will hear how organizations have used mobile in innovative (and in some cases, free!) ways. Presented by Amelia Northrup-Simpson, Strategic Communications Specialist at TRG Arts.

Americans for the Arts webinars are free to professional members and for a fee of $35.00 for non-members. Please join to attend the webinar and enjoy many other membership benefits.

Register for the webinar here.

Mark your calendar; mind your timezone: 
Wednesday, July 9, 2014 

3:00 PM EDT
2:00 PM CDT
1:00 PM MDT
12:00 noon PDT


Posted May 29, 2014



May22

This article is cross-posted on the Arts Management and Technology Lab blog.

Photo by Fabio Sola Penna under CC BY 2.0 license.

As summer approaches, many museums and festivals are preparing for their busiest season of the year. Peak visitation and big events often mean an influx of new visitors or ticket buyers. We’re reminded at TRG how critical cultivating those newcomers is.

In the performing arts, TRG research found that about 4 out of 5 newcomers come once and are often never seen again. They follow this pattern of attrition often, we find, because organizations don’t consistently invite them back.

For museums, that attrition rate may be even higher. Museums routinely don’t collect patrons’ contact information—the only way they will be able to directly invite those patrons back. Sometimes admission is free and visitors come and go without having to check in. Even when admission is paid, ticketing staff may not perceive that they have time to ask, especially if there’s a line at the counter.

Collecting first-time ticket buyers’ contact information isn’t a touchy-feely customer service type of initiative. It can mean serious revenue gains—or losses.


Posted May 22, 2014



Mar20

To develop donors and cultivate patron love that lasts, you have to start with a visitor’s first paid admission. In this webinar, learn from two decades of arts patron research what it takes to make donors—and keep them. 

With each ticket sale or donation transaction, you gain important information that can help you develop lasting relationships with your patrons. The patron loyalty experts at TRG Arts, a consulting firm, say the process of meeting patrons is like a love story. 

This one-hour webinar with TRG's VP of Strategic Communications Joanne Steller will cover transactions that are turning points in your patron relationships and specific cultivation tactics that will help your donors fall in love with your organization. 

Grab your marketing, ticket office, and development colleagues to watch this informative webinar – because you all have a role to play in building donor relationships.

Posted March 20, 2014



Mar11

94% of subscribers now subscribe to full series


The Situation:

Exterior of the Dofasco Centre for the Arts, the primary performing venue of Theatre Aquarius.
Dofasco Centre for the Arts
With the economic downturn that began in 2008, attendance and revenue at Theatre Aquarius began to decline. As the decline coupled with the financial recession continued into the spring of 2011, General Manager Lorna Zaremba hired TRG Arts to analyze the theatre’s situation and improve revenue.

This analysis revealed that there were entire elements of the Theatre’s business model that were missing, which influenced an atmosphere of waning loyalty, specifically among subscribers.


Posted March 11, 2014



Feb06

patron loyalty heart
Image via tagxedo
It's February, the month when our hearts naturally turn to romance. Here at TRG, we’re also thinking about romancing arts patrons. We call it “cultivating loyalty,” and it’s a lot like beginning a romantic relationship. It starts with a first “date,” or the first time a patron buys a ticket. What happens next determines whether the date will lead to a long-term, committed relationship or a one-night stand.

Let us suggest a Valentine theme for your important patron activities this month. As you’re planning subscription renewal, fiscal yearend giving, or admissions for summer festivals and during peak visitation season, think: “Be Mine” rather than simply “Buy Now.” Of course you need to focus on revenue. But, to get there, remember each of these efforts is about building relationships with your patrons. Like a romance, patron relationships evolve step-by-step, over time to become lasting and lifelong. With love—and loyalty— in the air, we’ve put together 3 ways to attract and keep the patrons of your dreams, those who will stick with you.


Posted February 6, 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



Oct27

"Monetizing Audience Engagement, A Love Story" was presented at the 2013 Arts Reach National Arts Marketing, Development, and Ticketing Conference in San Francisco, CA, where TRG Arts’ veteran patron loyalty consultant Keri Mesropov and Director of Network Programs David Seals compared standard ways of relationship-building to the happily-ever-after best practices that are sustaining smart arts organizations. 

Session Description:

Isn’t it funny that we use the term “engagement” to describe audience interaction with our organizations? The word can mean ‘get together”—a meeting or visit. It can also mean commitment as in promise to marry. As that range of definition implies, and two decades of arts consumer research shows, engagement has the plot lines of a love story. 


Posted October 27, 2013



Oct09

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. 
Will Lester

Arts marketers are often in the business of predicting the unpredictable:  “If I do (insert tactic), will they come?”  The question applies to every piece: an expensive brochure, a low-cost email campaign, a Tweet or Facebook post—just about anything in the marketing arsenal.

Arts marketers aren’t psychic, but you can predict how your direct marketing campaigns will fare. Analyzing who took you up on your past offers tells you where your base of support for future campaigns lies.  Tracking response gives you predictive power for future campaigns.


Posted October 9, 2013



Oct01

Tripled retention among specially

cultivated group of new ticket buyers

NOTE: We recently held a webinar based on this case study. "Launching Loyalty from a ‘Second Date’ with Patrons," featuring Seattle Repertory Theatre's Katie Jackman and her team, hosted by TRG's veteran consultant Joanne Steller. Click here to watch>>

When recession hit during the 2008–09 season, sales at Seattle Repertory Theatre (SRT) were already in a state of decline. Revenue losses had prompted across-the-board budget cuts by 30% for the following season. Enter Katie Jackman, who had just been hired and now is SRT’s Director of External Relations. She and new colleagues Jeremy Scott, Patron Development Manager, and Ashley Coates, Marketing Manager, rallied around the challenges ahead.


“We had declining sales in all categories. At the same time, there weren’t specific strategies around what to do, especially when patrons came in for the first time.”


Posted October 1, 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



Aug15

This presentation was given by Anita Hansen of TRG Arts and Charlie Wade, consultant and former director of marketing, Atlanta Symphony at the 2013 Association of California Symphony Orchestras Conference.

Description: 

Talk about a changing universe! What does the future hold if subscriptions are truly a thing of the past? Current thinking postulates that a long-term decline in audience commitment is inevitable. A meteoric shower of “one-time” promotions and discounts – crowdsourcing, Goldstar, Fill-A-Seat, Living Social – has captivated the general public and given us options for filling our venues. But is this solution sustainable? Let’s assess the situation and determine if belief in accepted prevailing societal trends will lead to an ever-downward spiral to obscurity. Identify the “hidden” and unique performance assets you already possess to cultivate patron loyalty and grow participation. Perhaps there’s a way to re-create a winning game with new awareness of how to play.


Posted August 15, 2013



Jul21

This interview with Will Lester was originally published on Matt Lehrman's blog Audience Wanted on Arts Journal.


Vice President of Network
Programs Will Lester
Will Lester is Vice President of Network Programs at TRG Arts, a data-driven consulting firm specializing in pricing and patron loyalty. TRG also has the distinction of managing 20 community data networks throughout the U.S. While the networks began as a way for arts organizations to share lists of patron contact information to cross-promote events, they’re now growing into a robust arts community resource, allowing for research on audience buying patterns, demographics and more.

Posted July 21, 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



Jun27

Photo via flickr.
Photo via flickr.
What in the heck do the words "audience engagement” mean?  

I recently attended the Theatre Communication Group (TCG) Annual Conference in Dallas, where a major focus of discussion was that very topic. For three days, I listened to panelists, questioned participants, and considered the discussions. I met many bright managers who passionately explained how they are trying to bridge the perceived gap separating potential audiences from their theater companies. I regret to report that no one could offer a concrete definition of the term “audience engagement”.  

It seems to me that two separate meanings and means of measuring success are intertwined in the use of the term:

    • One meaning addresses an organizational need to sell more tickets, as measured by sales volume and earned revenues.  

    • The other is code for addressing organizational or community dissatisfaction with the composition of the audience already in attendance.  Everyone knows we live in a multicultural world. If our audiences are measured as “highly educated, wealthy older white people,” organizational relevance becomes difficult to manage on any level. 

Posted June 27, 2013



Jun24

Photo by Todd Huffman via flickr.
Photo by Todd Huffman via flickr.
Stop me if you’ve heard this plot point before in a romantic comedy: Boy meets girl. Sparks fly. Boy and girl have a meaningful, energizing interaction. But, neither can work up the courage to ask for the other’s phone number.

In a rom-com, the writers would find a cute, funny way for the two to bump into one another again. But we all know in real life, that rarely happens. Each goes their separate way thinking the other isn’t interested.

At TRG we often compare arts organizations’ patron relationships to dating. We counsel clients to “Love the ones you’re with” to remind them to prioritize subscribers, members and donors.  We exclaim “Don’t ask them to marry you on the first date!” to illustrate why marketers should offer another performance instead of a subscription to a first-time attendee. 

Posted June 24, 2013



Jun20

Two decades of arts consumer study has led the consulting firm TRG Arts to conclude that 2013 is the year choral organizations must frame their marketing efforts around The Patron. Knowing who buys your tickets and subscribe and contributes, when and how much is the best way to inform how you package, price, and promote your programs.  The best part: it’s a matter of focus. Every organization can use the information and skills they have to market better.  In this three-hour workshop presented at the 2013 Chorus America conference, Joanne Steller and Amelia Northrup-Simpson shared best marketing practices that are patron-based, time-proven and updated for the digital age. You’ll learn strategic ideas on building lasting loyalty and revenue that can sustain your organization.

Posted June 20, 2013



Jun20

Technology moves fast. It's hard to keep up with all the shiny new apps, devices, social networks and overall technology trends--and still do all the things you need to in order to market your chorus. This session, presented by Amelia Northrup-Simpson at the 2013 Chorus America Conference, focuses on the top technology trends and concerns you may need to act on in the coming year, including big data for arts organizations, mobile technology, and where to focus your social media efforts.

Posted June 20, 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



May31

The Wall Street Journal didn't tell the whole story


Photo by Daimon Eklund via flickr.
Photo by Daimon Eklund via flickr.
Terry Teachout, the drama critic at The Wall Street Journal, suggested a few weeks ago a correlation between regional theater’s “play-it-safe” programming strategies and the collapse of the American theater subscription.

 He wrote: “(T)here seems little doubt that the [subscription] model itself is going bust.” Citing Theatre Facts 2011, Theatre Communications Group’s (TCG) annual study of industry financial and business trends, he noted, “nationwide revenues from subscribers plunged 18% between 2007 and 2011.”

That’s just one number, but it’s not the whole story.


Posted May 31, 2013



May28

Is your organization’s pricing strategy focused only on the cost of admission? Developed in just one department?  This 90-minute workshop, presented at the Arts Reach Canada Conference in May 2013, was designed to show leadership teams how much more there is to consider and to gain. High-impact pricing generates positive perception, improved patron loyalty, and greater revenue for every admission or seat sold.  


Posted May 28, 2013



May23

This session, presented at the 2013 AAM conference in Baltimore, explored an established enterprise model—loyalty through customer relationship management—and reimagine it for our museums. Designed to provoke thought-leadership for museum CEOs, COOs, department heads, as well as across functional areas, this presentation will spotlight practical steps for increasing museum loyalty and reaping the results. Presenters included: Jill Robinson, Suzette Sherman, and Heather Calvin, Associate Vice President, Visitor Services and Membership at Boston's Museum of Science.

Posted May 23, 2013



May22

"Data has changed everything", Rick Lester, CEO of TRG Arts, said in a recent interview with Southern Methodist University's National Center for Arts Research (NCAR). "Data has allowed us to replace guesswork and the customary wisdom of how arts organizations are supposed to function with knowledgewith fact, instead of opinion." 
 

TRG Arts been a consulting partner with NCAR since its launch earlier this year.  Rick also serves as a distinguished visiting professor at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University.

 Watch the 2-minute video below and read NCAR's full post here.


Posted May 22, 2013



May08

Patron relationships matter more in 2013 because the arts landscape is  “more like shifting sand than fertile soil,” said Jill Robinson,  President, at the TRG Arts May 7 webinar, Plant Loyalty Now.   The higher the portion of patron-centric revenue is, “the more organizations need to focus on, invest in, and partner with patrons to sustain income. The webinar offered strategic tactics around starting campaigns early, building on blockbusters, and patron upgrades at every level engagement.

Did you miss the webinar? Click through and see the slides, or watch the recording.


Posted May 8, 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



Apr18

Photo via flickr
Some time ago I had a conversation with a theatre manager who had expressed an interest in TRG’s ticket pricing counsel.  The more we talked, the more agitated she became.  She nervously offered that her artistic director would NEVER allow pricing strategies like this happen at her theater. I, laughing, joked, “Oh my.  Your artistic director is a socialist?”  With great seriousness, she replied, “Absolutely not!  He is a communist!  He believes that every ticket should be FREE!”

The argument surrounding free and deeply discounted tickets has been around forever. The Dallas Museum of Art kicked off another round of conversation when they recently announced their decision to provide everyday free admission to everyone.  Museum memberships will also become free, with visitors actively encouraged to join using a very slick electronic system located at entry points to the museum. 

Posted April 18, 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



Feb26

Photo by Eamon Curry via flickr
Lack of time, money and proper staff get in the way of arts and cultural organizations achieving their top priority goals, TRG Arts found in its recent survey of the consulting firm’s eNews recipients, Twitter followers, and blog readers. By the numbers:

•    Too many activities, too little time (53%) – Priorities conflict and as one respondent aptly put it, “I can’t do anything right when I’m doing everything at the same time.”
•    Financial constraints (44%) of insufficient funding and not enough revenue are age-old issues that recent economic factors appear to have exacerbated.  Organizations of all sizes and genres say they cannot afford what they need.

Posted February 26, 2013



Jan21

Photo via flickr
This article is cross-posted on artsmarketing.org.
Declarations of 2012 as the year of Big Data bring to 2013 a renewed—and well-deserved--focus on analytics and making data-driven decisions. Your organization’s database is the key to the hearts, minds, and wallets of your most fervent supporters—your patrons.  Patrons, in other words, are your biggest asset.

Of all the numbers you can pull from your database, which matter most? Two decades of arts consumer study is clear. The metrics surrounding loyalty—keeping patrons coming back and increasing their investment—are the ones that really count when it comes to building a sustainable audience (and revenue) base.

Whether your organization is large or small, performing or visual, subscription or member-oriented, here’s four resolutions to make regarding your data in the year ahead:

Posted January 21, 2013



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



Nov29

This article was originally posted on the Technology in the Arts blog, in conjunction with Rick's guest lecture for Carnegie Mellon University's Master of Arts Management program.
What’s more important, what you say or who you say it to?

Some might argue that a precisely defined target market can trump the creative message or offer. Proponents of the “killer offer” believe the right compelling message will overcome an imperfect effort to define the “who” in the equation.

I’m convinced that data, not guesswork or intuition, must drive sales and contributed revenues. A perfectly crafted message sent to the wrong prospect or patron is not only a waste of money, but damaging to the relationship we are trying to foster with our patrons.

Posted November 29, 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



Oct02

If so many arts leaders believe that marketing and development departments working together will generate better patronage results, why are so few organizations actually doing it? 

To be sure, there are ample tactical examples of successful cross-departmental collaboration on campaigns. And, a few industry leaders are engaging in organization-wide patron development – Arts Club Theatre Company and 5th Avenue Theatre are two we admire.

But integrated patron management is far from being a mainstream practice. Perhaps it’s because true marketing-development collaboration requires change and new ways of doing things that most organizations find impossibly difficult – especially on top of everything else that’s necessary to keep the art on our stages and in our exhibit halls.

Posted October 2, 2012



Oct01

This week, the TRG team is contributing to the Arts Marketing Blog Salon on Americans for the Arts' ARTSblog. This article by Amelia was originally posted as part of the salon, which previews the National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference in November.

Photo by David Wellbeloved
For decades, the arts industry has chased new audiences, especially younger audiences. Today, that chase is directed at the largest population under 30 years old in human history.  It’s little wonder that Gen Y (born 1981 – 2001) is a hot topic for arts marketers.
 
As a data-informed member of Gen Y, here’s a take on my generation of arts consumers.

We curate our lives.

For as long as we’ve been consumers, we have always had access to Google and Amazon. Search is our way of finding out anything and everything we want to know. We are the generation of the long-tail. This means we have had access to more variety of art, music, performances, and consumer products than any other generation in history.

Posted October 1, 2012



Sep13

Photo by Stanković Vlada
JiWire’s latest quarterly trend report shows mobile devices (tablets and smartphones) outrank laptops in wi-fi use. Around TRG, we’ve been talking about that report as well as circulating a Target Marketing article that predicts mobile search will surpass desktop search by the end of 2013.

Reports like these tend to ramp up the technology angst among time- and budget-stressed arts practitioners.  It’s no wonder that we’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about mobile apps and websites and their ugly stepchild, the QR code.

Posted September 13, 2012



Aug16

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” --Albert Einstein
Data from a registration survey for our Christmas in July webinar recently reminded me how valid and valuable Mr. Einstein’s definition is.

We had asked everyone to compare their marketing budget for last season’s holiday events with the year before. Most (76%) said they had about same amount or less to spend on holiday events – generally a sure revenue producer for arts and entertainment organizations.

We also asked them to compare their revenue expectations for holiday’s breadwinning events. And that’s where it got interesting. The majority (52%) said that they were expected to bring in more revenue.


Posted August 16, 2012



Jul12

Photo: Mario via Flickr
This article is cross-posted on the #artsmgtchat blog. Strategic Communications Specialist Amelia Northrup will guest-host #artsmgtchat on Twitter on July 20, 2012 at 2-3 p.m. EDT.
Audience development. Usually when you hear this arts industry buzzword, it’s all about finding new audiences—everyone wants to develop a larger audience, right? However, audience development is not only about finding new audiences, but also retaining and deepening the commitment of the patrons you already have. Out of the two, the second will nearly always give you a larger return on your investment.

That’s the goal of patron loyalty programs—retaining and deepening the commitment of existing audience members.

Posted July 12, 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



Jun20

Photo by Howard Lake
Findings coming out of loyalty analyses are beginning to expose a bias in the arts industry. Many arts managers are convinced that patrons are either:
•    philanthropists seeking to sustain the arts
•    or consumers seeking to experience the art form. 
This “either-or” mindset is dead wrong, according to TRG Arts study.

Posted June 20, 2012



May08

Picture yourself as a master gardener in the arts and entertainment flower mart. Imagine a place where you can go to do what you do so well – even better.

Our friends at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council this week provided a five-minute realization of this imagery. It comes in a delightful, insightful video by David Seals and Monica Meinert of the Council’s Loud and Clear Productions.

Posted May 8, 2012



Apr27

This post was originally published this week on artsmarketing.org and in the National Arts Marketing Project newsletter.
How many times have you heard that the arts need a new business model, or that subscriptions are dead? There’s not a lot of people out there advocating for subscriptions. In fact most speak of abandoning it, or make conclusions or assumptions based on reports that the number of arts subscribers in America is down.

But, is the subscription model really dead? Really? The fact is, subscriptions are thriving in industries outside of the arts. In the past few months, there have been a slew of articles about entrepreneurs latching on to this model.

Posted April 27, 2012



Apr09

Line to get in to Hirshhorn After Hours.
Photo by Joe Loong via Flickr.
Recently I came across an excellent article entitled “Death by Curation” on how museums have developed an over-reliance on programming special exhibits, as opposed to trusting their permanent collections to make revenue goals. Author Colleen Dilenschneider makes the point that blockbusters can increase annual revenue expectations to often unreasonable levels. The blockbuster-addicted museum then sinks more money into further special exhibits that may not be as successful as the first blockbuster, or even break even.

Over two decades, we’ve seen this pattern play out in performing arts organizations, as well as museums and other membership-based attractions. Of course, the blockbusters themselves are usually not the problem. The way that an arts organization handles a blockbuster can be.

Posted April 9, 2012



Apr04

Update: Thanks to everyone who signed up for the webinar. If you missed it, you can still view the recording here.
Announcing TRG's latest webinar...
5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle

The Loyalty Business Model:
How to use passion for the arts to drive revenue
      

Date: Wednesday, April 18
Time: 2-3:15 p.m. EDT/11-12:15 PDT
Cost: Free--register here.

While some debate the feasibility of the current arts business model and look to new audiences to fill the gap, the fact remains: only 1 out of 5 new patrons come back a second time. Our problem is not new audiences; it’s keeping the patrons we have--and increasing their loyalty to our organizations.

Posted April 4, 2012



Mar23

Patron Loyalty Week continues through March 24th. We’re engaging in dialogue about developing longer, stronger patron relationships on the blog, at industry conferences, and on Twitter at #LoyaltyWeek
Patron Evolution We love loyal patrons. Why? Simply put, they make money for arts organizations, and they make arts managers’ jobs easier. Patron loyalty means developing stronger, longer relationships with your audience. It's all about finding new buyers, converting them into frequent buyers, subscriber/members, donors and, ultimately, lifelong patrons.

Making those conversions has far-reaching implications for arts organizations. TRG research shows that the more loyal a patron is, the greater their lifetime value will be to an arts organization.

Posted March 23, 2012



Mar18

When done right and well, pricing strategies earn revenue and also create and retain lifelong, loyal patrons. This 3-hour intensive at the Spring 2012 ArtsReach Conference in New York City was led by TRG Arts CEO Rick Lester and his consulting firm colleagues who have helped hundreds of organizations earn millions from demand and pricing strategies TRG pioneered. The intensive was designed for marketing, development and ticketing colleagues to attend together and with other teams. Learn how your role in the process of pricing and demand management can make a positive difference in the way loyal patrons are found, cultivated, and developed over time. Identify the set of facts that tell your organization what’s in demand, and what’s not. Challenge your assumptions about price increases, discount policy, comp distribution, and dynamic pricing. Take home ideas that will build revenues and grow loyal patrons.

Posted March 18, 2012



Mar18

2012 National Alliance for Musical Theatre Conference


This presentation was given at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s 2012 Conference in Seattle by Sean Kelly, Director of Marketing and Communications, 5th Avenue Theatre and Laura Willumsen, Senior Managing Consultant, TRG Arts. Learn how The 5th Avenue Theatre, in concert with TRG Arts, is building a wholly new model of patron engagement. Organizations from small to large can benefit from viewing their patrons through the lens of loyalty. Learn techniques to drive retention as well as increase engagement and revenue.

Posted March 18, 2012



Mar12

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.
The operative word in the title question is: think, as in assume.  The more TRG studies patron behavior, the more we realize how often and how much even the smartest managers make wrong assumptions about the patrons who are visiting their exhibits or sitting in the seats of their theatres, concert halls and arenas.

Take the question: Who in attendance at an arts event has been here before?  A 2011 TRG patron origination study told us: only about half. We say “only” because the prevailing conventional wisdom was that most patrons75% or moreare repeat ticket buyers, subscribers, or members.   In fact there are so many new patrons in America’s audiences that the study’s author, TRG Vice President Will Lester dubbed it, Every Night is Opening Night.  

Posted March 12, 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



Feb13

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.
Competition for patron’s dollars is a subject that’s back in the industry dialog again, sometimes with negative overtones. Can we really still think that sharing a marketplace with other successful arts and entertainment organizations is a bad thing? Even with foundations willing to invest in collaborations? I find that disturbing, especially in view of the opportunities being mined daily by members of community collaborations nationwide.

Posted February 13, 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



Jan16

New Subscribers Fuel Sustaining Revenue


Theatre Calgary's 2010-2011 production of
The Drowsy Chaperone. Photo by Trudie Lee.
Theatre Calgary had seen growing earned revenue for several years, but in 2009-10 the Theatre experienced a sharp decline in both single tickets and subscription sales, due in part to the economic downturn that occurred in Calgary in early 2009. It became clear to the Company that, beyond outside economic factors, achieving sustainable levels of revenue required changing past practices.

Posted January 16, 2012



Nov16

 By virtue of the way technology has changed our world, people have come to expect an ever more personalized customer experience. Retailers like Amazon and Netflix use sophisticated technology to recommend more products, remembering buying history and order information, and tailoring the experience to each customer’s preferences. Customers now expect products and the customer service surrounding those products to fulfill their specific needs. 

What about the arts? In the arts, the experience is the product. The words we use to describe our product, our art, and the action of coming to the theatre or exhibit hall often include “experience”. It’s a critical part of our vernacular. Smart arts managers know that the arts experience starts from the time a patron picks up the phone or goes online to order a ticket and ends when he/she arrives home after the event. TRG’s decades of client experience and patron behavior research shows that patron loyalty is a process that grows with accumulated experiences with the organization.

Posted November 16, 2011



Oct10

This post was originally published last week on artsmarketing.org and in the National Arts Marketing Project newsletter.
The cardinal rule of communications is “know your audience”.  But on social media, it’s sometimes easier said than done.

Last week in the Arts Marketing Blog Salon I wrote about keeping your social media activity direct, targeted, and focused on return-on-investment. In it, I briefly touched on how difficult that can be, because you often can’t track users outside of social media platforms. One of the lingering questions for arts organizations—really, for all companies which thrive on direct marketing—is how to connect interactions on Facebook and Twitter with your database.

Posted October 10, 2011



Oct07

One of the prompt questions for this blog salon was “What research is affecting your marketing and fundraising strategies?” TRG’s research on arts patrons by generation has really given me perspective on where the arts are today and what we need to plan for long-term. Right now—even amidst the recession, organizational bankruptcies and funding pullbacks, today may be the “good old days” for arts marketing.

There are four generations of arts buyers in the market right now. Each cohort is born roughly between these dates:
  • Traditionalists, born before 1945
  • Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X, born between 1964 and 1981
  • Generation Y, born between 1982 and 1995

Posted October 7, 2011



Oct06

Graphic: Mike Licht via Flickr
Having written about social media and its application in arts marketing for the last few years, I’ve become aware of a disconnect. I’ve written about specific social media tools and tactics, but I realize that I haven’t addressed how it fits in with overall marketing strategy, and within the media mix.

Think about the campaigns that have delivered the most revenue. For many organizations, subscription or membership campaigns are the lifeblood of their revenue each year (a good example of this came from TRG Arts client Arena Stage recently).

Posted October 6, 2011



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



Oct03

Usually when organizations consider their ticket sales, they look mainly at total revenue. After all, revenue is what keeps an organization running, and total revenue is the 50,000-foot view of how well an organization is doing.  However, when considering how to optimize ticket sales, calculating and analyzing per-capita revenue becomes a critical measurement.

Yes, “per-capita revenue” sounds boring, complex and technical, but stick with me—the reality is that it allows you to zoom in and see how tickets are selling on a season-by-season or show-by-show basis and that’s actually pretty useful.

Let’s break it down:

In laymen’s terms, per-capita revenue is the average price paid for a ticket. You can calculate per-capita revenue for an individual performance, a series of performances or an entire season. You can also break per-capita revenue out by group tickets, single tickets or subscription/membership purchases.

Posted October 3, 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



Aug16

TRG Arts recently hosted a webinar detailing the $3 million success story of Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre Company. The Q & A discussion was quite robust, and from it, I caught a glimpse of the wide range of responses and questions arts managers have on pricing and patron loyalty.

One of the most interesting questions was raised on the periphery by two different attendees: Why should subscribers get discounts and more importantly, why should we give discounts on the best seats in the house? Since we didn’t have time in the webinar to address this specific question, I sat down to get Rick’s perspective. This post features the highlights from our conversation.

Subscriptions prices should drive demand and reward loyalty.

Posted August 16, 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



Feb14

As I was reviewing data for this post, two significant contributions to the national dialogue on arts and culture sparked a lot of online discussion. The publication of the National Arts Index by Americans for the Arts and comments made by NEA chairman Rocco Landesman raised compelling questions about the nature of supply of and demand for arts organizations, arts venues, and forms of expression. The consumer trends we see in transaction data offer additional perspective to consider on the demand side of this ongoing conversation, which is provocative and timely. We hope it will continue. 

When I was a new young marketing director, my boss at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra began my orientation with a number of helpful observations about the new job and the field I was about to enter. One key ‘fact’ really pulled me up short. The target market for a symphony orchestra, Managing Director Steve Monder stated, was very different than my prior experiences as a marketer in the theme park industry. Supporters of the typical symphony orchestra accounted for no more than 2% to 3% of the population in any community. To succeed as a new marketing director, I would have to quickly learn an entirely new skill set. I would have to efficiently find a very small target market.  

Posted February 14, 2011



Jan31

Last year I added a new quip to my repertoire of answers for use during the inevitable Q&A sessions during conference season. At virtually every gathering, someone would ask about possible solutions to the increased numbers of single ticket buyers making purchase decisions later and later in the sales cycle. America’s recent economic downturn, it seems, was making this worrisome long term trend even more problematic.

I’ve heard this complaint for more than three decades. It was never supported by data or quantified over time. So, my quip seems equally unhinged from reality: If late-buying keeps increasing then any day now we’ll have patrons buying their tickets a month after the performance takes place.

An opportunity for TRG to explore the issue of late ticket-buying presented itself recently. The source data came from Southern California’s LA STAGE Arts Census. Specifically, we examined single ticket purchase patterns for more than 1.5 million households, about half of the total LA data warehouse. We were specifically looking for changes in the time between purchase date and date of performance. Our study period was 2006 through 2010.

Posted January 31, 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



Jun29

Based on the reports of my TRG colleagues, our recent blog posting on Demand Based Pricing prompted questions and conversations at recent national service organization meetings (Theatre Communications in Chicago, League of American Orchestras and Chorus America in Atlanta, DanceUSA in Washington, DC and Professional Association of Canadian Theatres in Cow Head, Newfoundland). Discussion revolved around how arts managers should reconcile potential revenue growth from Demand Based Pricing against long term goals of enhanced Patron Loyalty. The FAQs? Are these two concepts mutually exclusive? Do techniques designed to squeeze the maximum sales revenues for tonight’s performance come at the expense of the need to develop lasting relationships with our patrons? Do higher prices negatively impact giving levels?

My simple response is that price does impact patron loyalty. Why? Because everything impacts patron loyalty. The quality of the performance, the selection of seat location, the perception of box office success, the level of service offered by venue staff, the convenience of parking, the service and quality of the pre-curtain dinner at the restaurant across town – everything impacts the quality of the patron experience and therefore patron loyalty. Some of these issues are within our control. Others not.

Posted June 29, 2010



Apr30

My last blog generated several interesting responses, which I do appreciate. I looked for and found common threads in them, and prepared this follow-up blog. Special thanks to Thomas Cott and those who took the time to comment and for continuing the discussion.

The point of my original message was about the advantages of facts over opinions and the desirability of eliminating guesswork. The flashpoint , however, centered on a preliminary finding from an incomplete data project -- that only 1% of San Francisco’s half-priced ticket buyers had previous ticket buying history with their theatre of choice.

Posted April 30, 2010



Apr13

I was recently asked by Chad Bauman, the bright young communications director of Arena Stage (Washington, DC), to offer my thoughts about the most significant marketing challenge facing arts organizations in the new decade. He posted a portion of my thoughts on his blog (http://arts-marketing.blogspot.com/) last month. My complete remarks are posted below. 

Today may be the good old days for arts marketing.

Know that I’m not a fearful person. In fact, I’m typically quite optimistic about my future, the future of my family, my business and my country. So why do I hesitate when considering the year 2020 and the future of arts and cultural in America? My problem, I think, is found in the simple arithmetic of life. I fear that some very good organizations may be running against a tide of numbers that may ultimately prove overwhelming.
Three decades of selling tickets, raising money and balancing unbalance-able budgets frame this view. But it’s what we see in TRG’s cumulative data on arts and culture buyers that is alarming for arts managers everywhere.

Posted April 13, 2010



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