patron loyalty
Dec04

Smart investments drive high returns. Stephen Skrypec outlines three points to consider during the budget planning process for 2019. 


Posted December 4, 2018



Oct31

In Episode 6, Good Profits and Bad Profits, Fred and Jill discuss how a focus on short-term revenue, based in exploitive tactics, can backfire by decreasing patron loyalty and diminishing repeat attendance or overall investment.

Posted October 31, 2018



Oct31


Posted October 31, 2018



Oct24


In Episode 5, Courageous Leadership, Fred and Jill discuss how important it is to align the values of an organization with the way people who carry out the mission of the work. Seeking out feedback is central to this. And, creating a culture where everyone, starting with senior leadership, is accountable for receiving feedback to understand whether they are enriching the lives of the people that their work touches. Courageous leaders help their organizations thrive by engaging in feedback conversations with their staff and patrons and then acting on it.

Posted October 24, 2018



Oct17


In episode 4 of TRG’s Loyalty as a Linchpin series, Fred and Jill break open the employee side of loyalty. They discuss what it takes to build a company culture where you get the most out of everyone on your team. Fred and Jill poke at the challenges of measuring how your people contribute by looking only at financial outcomes and twice-annual performance management reviews. And, what it takes to make the shift to an organization where People Do.

Posted October 17, 2018



Oct09

In the third episode of this series, Fred and Jill discuss how to test hypotheses and use real-time feedback to help prioritize the best ideas to ensure valuable time and resources remain focused on the right initiatives.


Posted October 9, 2018



Sep27

Loyalty as a Linchpin: A conversation with Fred Reichheld is a new six-part series TRG Arts is sharing with the field focused on loyalty and sustainability. This series features TRG’s President & CEO Jill Robinson with Fred Reichheld, the author, researcher, and management consultant The New York Times refers to as the person who “put loyalty economics on the map.” Reichheld is often known from the Net Promoter System and Score he created, and his more than 40-year history of studying the economics of loyalty at the management consulting firm, Bain and Company. TRG Arts believes Reichheld is uniquely positioned to help arts and cultural leaders understand what impact loyalty can have on the sustainability and growth of the arts and cultural industry.

Posted September 27, 2018



Mar16

If we believe our patrons want and deserve the best, then why are we offering them the least. In this new blog post by Senior Consultants, Lory Bowman and Kate Hagen, contemplate how smaller packages represent a missed opportunity with full subscription.

In an effort to provide choice for potential package buyers, we can undermine our ability to acquire full season subscribers with the right strategic messaging. This is problematic for loyalty, as TRG Arts research shows that flex buyers have double the attrition rate of subscribers.


Posted March 16, 2018



Jan22

Jill Robinson
President & CEO

At the close of 2017, the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) published a report The Burden of Rising Expenses: The Bottom Line in the Arts. 

The report looked at financial data of over 4,800 US arts organizations between 2013 and 2016, and raised the question "Are organizations bringing in enough revenue to cover their expenses?"

Jill's latest essay examines the findings alongside what we see in our work at TRG Arts: sustainability continues to be hard work for arts and cultural organizations. 


Posted January 22, 2018



Dec22

This blog post was originally posted on the PatronManager Blog on December 19.2017. Many thanks to Gene Carr, CEO PatronManager for the invitation to contribute. 

Few people are talking about the arts industry’s biggest threat. The problem barely shows up in conference sessions, industry publications or workshops. It is not cuts to arts funding. It’s not greying audiences or Millennials. It’s not a lack of data. Though these issues deserve attention, the problem is patron retention—and its extent is staggering.


Posted December 22, 2017



Nov15


Have arts leaders increased the loyalty of their patron in recent years? TRG Arts is the longest-standing aggregator of loyalty metrics in the arts industry and has recently refreshed its aggregated Patron Loyalty Index. In this presentation, we'll describe the ways patrons are behaving in terms of their recency, frequency, monetary investment and growth over time, across transactions in single tickets, membership, subscription, and donation.

Posted November 15, 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



May23

Delaware Theatre Company's Revenue Rebound


Delaware Theatre Company Revenue Rebound

Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) has been on an upswing since Executive Director Bud Martin arrived in 2012. Before his arrival, their patron base had been slowly eroding, due in part to the recession and in part to an audience that was driven by programming. To build on their artistic and financial momentum, DTC hired TRG in the summer of 2015 to teach them how to use their data to continue to recover lost patrons and grow patron loyalty.

In a single season, DTC has seen a 41% increase in revenue from tickets and subscribers and a 31% increase in subscriber admissions.


Posted May 23, 2017



Apr13

Arts Club Theatre Company puts data to work


Thanks to advances in CRM technology, arts organizations now live in a world awash with data. Getting data points is not usually the hard part. What’s difficult is taking action on what the data tells us and making changes to strategy to cause metrics to move up or down. That’s what makes Arts Club Theatre Company’s most recent success story so impressive.

This Vancouver-based theatre company has been a TRG client since 2008. In the first two years, Arts Club saw $3 million in earned revenue growth. Since then, Arts Club’s focus on building patron loyalty resulted in a further 30% increase in single ticket and subscription revenue. 


Posted April 13, 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



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



Jul14

This is the second in a series of two blog posts by TRG and Spektrix, where we examine the role that the box office plays in retaining patrons and providing great service. This series goes beyond discussing ticket sales and focuses on the four key elements of any successful modern box offices; proper data capture, enhancing the customer experience, playing an active role in retaining existing customers, and upgrading customer purchases to increase basket size or organizational investment.

In the last post, we covered the basic actions that will help you lay the foundation for your organization’s new strategies. In this post we’ll cover some more advanced tactics.


Posted July 14, 2016



Jul11

Annual fund success: more donors, bigger gifts, more often

41% increase in annual fund upgrades

 

Photo by Taylor Ford
When Kansas City Repertory Theatre began its Capacity Building Consulting partnership with TRG Arts in January 2014, increasing patron revenue, both earned and contributed, was the top priority.

TRG conducted an initial Baseline Assessment, which analyzed patron, pricing, and revenue data to identify key issues at KC Rep. Among them were aligning resources with revenue opportunities and focusing on building loyalty in addition to prospecting. The assessment identified the annual fund as an opportunity for growth. After a large influx of new lower-level donors in the 2011-12 season due to a one-time experiment with telefunding, donors and revenue had dropped off and stayed flat.


Posted July 11, 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



Jun02

This is a co-authored piece by Spektrix and TRG Arts.

Does your organization need a box office anymore?

Well, yes. But the question is understandable.

Certainly the roles and responsibilities of box office staff have changed. As more patrons elect to buy online, the box office has evolved. Staff are no longer just order takers, but frontline for fundraising, marketing, sales and customer experience.

This shift has come at a time when there’s more data than ever about customers and their activities. Organizations are using data about customers to provide personalized service and more patrons hold this as an expectation. Some organizations (Seattle Repertory Theatre and Phoenix Theatre, for example) have even embraced patron services office models, where staff manage portfolios of customers, giving everyone a personal concierge experience.


Posted June 2, 2016



May11

This post is part of the Customer, Client, Collaborator Series in conjunction with Doug Borwick and ArtsEngaged on developing relationships with both new communities and existing stakeholders through artistic programming, marketing and fundraising, community engagement and public policy. (Cross-post can be found at Engaging Matters.) 

As a chief marketing officer, consultant and now managing director, I’ve participated in my fair share of marketing committee meetings. One of the most hotly debated topics is whether to focus resources on developing new audiences or on increasing loyalty to bolster return on investment and per capita revenue. Two camps usually square off – the artistic team and trustees vs. the professional marketing staff.

Can you guess which sides of the argument they typically represent?

Nothing is sexier to most artistic directors and trustees than developing new audiences. On the other hand, marketing directors with limited resources are constantly trying to find ways to do more with less, which means developing ways to increase returns, and naturally, some shy away from audience development because it requires significant upfront capital, both monetary and personnel, with limited short-term gains.


Posted May 11, 2016



May05

This article appears in The Stage and is available to read in its entirety here.

You read that headline right—it’s not an auto-correct error.

Arts researchers and practitioners have long been focused on what audiences want and need from arts and cultural institutions. These are important questions to ask.

But few people are asking the opposite question—what can audiences do for arts organisations?


Posted May 5, 2016



Apr21


Photo by opensource.com via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Quick quiz: Over the last 3-5 years, has your annual operating budget:

·        Grown?

·        Stood still?

·        Declined?

And, if it’s grown, has it exceeded the standard inflation rate of 3%, or merely kept pace?

 

Executive directors likely know the answer.

 

Finance directors always know the answer.

 

And departmental leaders almost never know the answer.

 

Yet, the growth (or lack thereof) of your organization’s annual budget is everybody’s business and is a clear signal not only of how healthy your organization has been, but how innovative you can afford to be in the near future.


Posted April 21, 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



Feb18

This post is the final in a series by TRG and Piper Foundation Fellow Vincent VanVleet where he’ll report on his travels across the U.S. and Canada to research the impact of patron loyalty. Read more of his posts here>>


Image by Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

Those of you who are regular followers of this blog know that I’ve been writing a series on my learnings from a fellowship sabbatical journey last summer. 

I wanted to finish the series by writing about the impact that this time to learn has had on my organization, Phoenix Theatre. I can’t do that without dedicating this post to the foundation that both devised that program and is investing in non-profit leaders with their incredible philanthropy--the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. 

I am told that Virginia G. Piper, while alive, made it a point to meet personally with the leadership of the organizations she funded, which were many. She asked each of those leaders the same question:  “If I give your organization money, will you commit to staying on and stewarding my gift over the next five years?” It’s a fascinating idea upon which to base funding, especially considering the problem of turnover and leadership burnout in nonprofit organizations. She’s asking, “If I invest in you, will you invest it back into your organization and this community?” It is with that philosophy I imagine the fellowship program was born. The Piper Fellowship program “acknowledges the never-ceasing demands of nonprofit leadership and offers opportunities to retool, refresh and renew.”


Posted February 18, 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



Jan08


Lindsay Anderson
VP of Client Development
What motivates someone to attend a concert? And, more, importantly, what drives them to attend again and again? Arts managers (and patrons themselves) often cite price as the main and biggest incentive for arts attendance. Certainly price plays a major role in a customer’s decision-making process. 

But pricing doesn’t mean anything unless it’s attached to value. It’s a two-sided equation, with price on one side and demand—how much a patron wants the experience—on the other.

Luckily, you have tools that can sweeten the value proposition for your audiences. Ticketing inventory, historical data, discounting, and the choice and timing of programming can help you incentivize audiences to engage with you again and again.


Posted January 8, 2016



Jan06

Single tickets up 59%, gifts up 125%

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Royal MTC) was stable throughout the recession. However, the company saw a dip in patron-generated revenue in the 2011–12 season, attributed to changes in their entertainment landscape, including the return of the beloved Winnipeg Jets. With flat annual fund donations and declining single tickets and subscriptions, Royal MTC prioritized reversing patron decline and revenue losses.

Royal MTC relied heavily on their subscriber base, which was one of the largest among Canadian regional theatres. Even with strong renewal rates, subscriber decline is inevitable without strong campaigns to attract new subscribers. In Royal MTC’s case, the subscriber audience far outweighed the single ticket audience, which meant they often did not have the sheer number of leads necessary to fuel successful subscriber acquisition campaigns. That, coupled with a low volume of individual donors, created a patron loyalty challenge at Royal MTC.


Posted January 6, 2016



Dec03

$45,800 in additional revenue from upgrade campaign


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

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

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

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


Posted December 3, 2015



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



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



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



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



Sep15

This is the first 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 #1: Patron-generated revenue

Forget earned and contributed revenue. Thinking about revenue generated by patrons vs. other sources may help your arts organization far more. In this video, Amelia Northrup-Simpson of TRG Arts explains why categorizing revenue only as earned or contributed can create siloes within organizations and how to calculate the amount and percentage of patron-generated revenue.


Posted September 15, 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



Aug04

New subscribers triple in one year


Washington Pavilion's production of Elf

Washington Pavilion, located in a beautifully renovated historic building in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is one of only a few facilities in the world to bring together under one roof the performing arts, visual arts, interactive science, and educational opportunities. Washington Pavilion is TRG’s only client with an active patron base from all 50 U.S. states, plus multiple provinces in Canada. This multidisciplinary model strengthens the organization’s audience development potential. Yet the model is a challenge in complexity on both the patron and administrative sides. 


Posted August 4, 2015



Jul29

This post is part in 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.

Photo by Erik Schepers (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Are you investing in your audience?

You might read that question and think, “What a silly question—of course we’re investing in our audience.” But, really and truly—lip service about the value of your audience is not enough.

Put another way: Are you spending money on keeping your audience happy and serving them well?


Posted July 29, 2015



Jul06

31% one-season increase in box office gross

Photo by Mike Kwasniak.

In 2014, the New Wolsey Theatre was re-examining its financial picture, focusing on its earned vs. contributed income streams. Like many theatres in the United Kingdom, government funding still accounted for a significant proportion of their revenue. Over the three years prior, they had received moderate funding cuts totaling approximately £50,000 (around $79,000 U.S.).

 

Located in Ipswich, Great Britain, the midsized regional theatre produces a spring and autumn season, as well as a Christmas show, with a mixture of both home produced and touring product. Many of the productions were selling well, which left Head of Sales and Marketing Stephen Skrypec wondering what the theatre could do to grow earned income.

 

Stephen: We’d become as efficient as we could in the rest of the business; the only place to reduce spending was in artistic and we really didn’t want to do that. For earned revenue, I had done standard things I felt I could do—making sure there were more tickets available at the top price and making sure every single seat was sold when it could be sold. I’d gotten to the point where I’d done all I thought I could do to maximize revenue. What do I do now?


Posted July 6, 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



Jun17

This is the first in a series of posts 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 artistic programming on patron loyalty.

Image by Tnarik Innael (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you had three months off from your job to research anything about the arts management field, what topic would you choose? It’s a fun question to think about, and I am fortunate enough to have this opportunity.   

I am privileged to have been chosen as a Virginia G. Piper Fellow just a few short months ago and subsequently as a concurrent fellow with TRG Arts, with a focus on researching the link between artistic programming and patron loyalty.  The Virginia G. Piper Trust “acknowledges the never-ceasing demands of nonprofit leadership and offers opportunities to retool, refresh, and renew to senior leaders who have been in their roles for 10 or more years.” The fellowship allows non-profit executives, who spend much of their career invested in training staff, time away on sabbatical to invest in their own learning and development, in the hopes that they can bring that knowledge back to the organizations they lead.  TRG has been similarly dedicated for years to training leaders of non-profit arts organizations with emphasis on advancing the field, and has started a fellowship program to spotlight the research I’ll be doing. 

I have been in non-profit management for 17 years, having left the production side of the business because I wanted to be part of something much larger than myself.  It has been a humbling and exciting experience to work with such talented artists and administrators alike.  After a long tenure as general manager of Phoenix Theatre, I was thrust into my post as managing director in 2011 at the height of the economic crisis. I had to find a path forward for our organization.  Like many, we were swimming in a sea of red ink while at the height of a multi-million dollar capital campaign to build a new theatre. The project had started before the recession hit, but was too far along to back out without setting the organization back two decades.  I knew cutting our way to financial success was never going to work.  Previous leadership had already tried that approach and, as we figured out, you can only cut so far.  My gut instinct told me to “lean in” during the “bad” years, so I evaluated our situation and what needed to happen to swim upstream of the crisis and get ahead. 


Posted June 17, 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



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

Photo by opensource.com (CC BY 2.0)

At the beginning of this year, the NEA came out with a report on why people attend the arts. This study struck a chord with me, because it momentarily put aside the question of whether arts attendance is growing or shrinking and instead focuses on why people actually come to the arts in the first place. The study found that 83% of arts participants value “being devoted and loyal.” This aligns with TRG’s own research, which suggests that it’s no longer enough to know whether you're hitting attendance goals. The question has evolved from "Are audiences growing?" to "Are audiences growing more loyal?"

The NEA report suggests some ways to overcome barriers to arts participation, among them community engagement. Decision makers and funders in our field seem to be thinking more in recent years about what makes an arts community healthy, and how to measure engagement across communities.

We recently did a study with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance which studied how audiences interact with different arts organizations across a community. (Full study here.) Spanning 7 years and studying nearly 1 million arts audience households from 17 arts and cultural institutions, this study looked in-depth at loyalty within organizations and engagement across the community.


Posted May 5, 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



Apr01


Photo by Hsing Wei (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Data isn’t about numbers. It’s about people. When analyzed, data tells stories about people and their actions. Right now, in your database, a story exists about the decisions that people in your organization make. And, a story exists for every patron, which chronicles their relationship with your organization.

Having all those stories recorded in your database means that you don’t have to guess at what patrons are doing, or the impact that your decisions have made. TRG started as a consulting firm committed to building sustainable patron revenue for arts and cultural institutions. In order to get results for our clients, we found that we had to stop guessing at the right strategies and start using data to drive our counsel, which was a novel concept back in the ‘90’s.

In order to tell an accurate and truthful story, the data that you have must be complete and clean. At the organizational level, you may find it challenging to collect, manage, and effectively apply transactional data. Within the past twelve months we’ve found ourselves in conversations with the Cultural Data Project, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Center for Arts Research, and a host of other research and CRM vendors who perform data analytics services. In our conversations all parties acknowledged that, while challenges exist, effective data management is both achievable and is rising in organizational value. 


Posted April 1, 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



Mar06


Photo by bixentro (CC BY 2.0)

This season at Dallas Theater Center (DTC), a great love story unfolded; however, it was not presented on the stage. During a recent TRG Executive Summit, Managing Director Heather Kitchen shared a tale of romance which both inspired and invoked a bit of envy from the other participants. It was the story of her data manager and the two departments that loved her.

How was this data manager able to make such an impact on DTC? She is part of a larger organizational culture that believes in data and its power as an enabler. Once everyone in the organization is aligned around the need for quality patron data the real work can begin. The next question is: what can leaders DO to enable successful data-driven Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and precision targeted marketing in their organizations? In the Summit, we usually talk through an assortment of enablers, but consistently the topic of having a dedicated data manager leads to the liveliest discussions.

When we got to that point in this past Summit, Heather raised her hand. With a big smile on her face.


Posted March 6, 2015



Feb23

Number of annual fund gifts up 51%, revenue up 28%


Addison (LeRoy McClain, left) clashes with his brother
Frank (Shane Taylor) over their family’s future as their
aunt Dorcas (Stephanie Berry) intervenes in the
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s world premiere
production of Safe House by playwright and
Cincinnati native Keith Josef Adkins. 
Photo by Sandy Underwood.
By the end of the 2011-2012 season, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park had been slowly losing audiences for the last seven years. Although revenue had grown by 12%, admissions were down 18%.  

Believing patrons preferred more flexibility than a fixed seat subscription package offers, the Playhouse had expanded their focus on selling more Build Your Own (BYO) subscriptions and prospecting for new single ticket buyers. The BYO subscriptions were popular, but subscribers renewed at much lower rates. Total subscription units had dropped 30% since the 2008-09 season.

In turn, subscription declines had diminished the number of patrons likely to give to the annual fund. Declines in loyalty contributed to a 21% decline in donors who gave under $2,500 over the last five years. Although overall annual fund revenue was only down 1.7%, overall donor households had declined by 19%.

Posted February 23, 2015



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



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



Jan14


An illustration of Seattle Repertory Theatre's "One Patron"
strategy, where SRT streamlined patron messaging and built
long term relationships across all points of interaction.

The Art of the Upgrade

For cultural institutions, the box office is not just the place where ticket orders are passively taken. It plays an active role in growing revenue by developing loyalty. Every time a patron logs in, calls, or visits to buy a ticket, the opportunity exists for them to upgrade and deepen their relationship with the organization. With the right training, the box office can become experts on how to cultivate patron relationships and keep audiences coming back for more. 

TRG President & CEO Jill Robinson presented this session at the 2015 InTix conference in Denver with Jeremy Scott of Seattle Repertory Theatre and Molly Riddle Wink of Denver Art Museum. In this session, they discussed:
- How making loyalty a priority can grow revenues
- How to build a loyalty strategy for every group within your existing audience
- How organizations can train box office staff to take on loyalty responsibilities


Posted January 14, 2015



Jan13


The Orpheum Theater at Omaha Performing Arts, 2014.
Photo by Jodi Hauptman Drannen.
Pricing strategies can have great impact on deals and revenue for both agents and presenters. In the middle of this mix is the audience and their behavior that either creates demand for your performances, or leaves you with a lot of empty seats. Jill Robinson of TRG Arts, Jackie Knobbe of APA Agency, Jeremy Ganter of Mondavi Center, UC Davis, and Joan Squires of Omaha Performing Arts discussed the ins and outs of maximizing revenue and developing audiences through pricing and scaling in this session, presented at the 2015 APAP conference in New York City.

Posted January 13, 2015



Dec10


Image by r2hox via flickr
under CC BY-SA 2.0

A recent post by Createquity has raised great questions in response to the report published last year by the Cultural Data Project. Chief among them: “What would consistently effective use of data for decision-making at the organizational and system-wide level look like in practice?” Picked up by You’ve Cott Mail, the question became, “Are we ready to declare a crisis around data collection and use in the arts?”

As one of the largest collectors of arts patron data in the U.S., we’re seeing more clients wrestle with just these sorts of questions. The answers are complex, nuanced, and often unique to the organization or agency asking them.

The CDP’s President and CEO Beth Tuttle has begun exploring the idea of “decision-driven data collection.” This concept serves as a necessary counterpoint to a big data world where we’re encouraged to collect every data point and see what story emerges.


Posted December 10, 2014



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



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



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



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



Mar12

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


Why Box Office Asks Work

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

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


Posted March 12, 2014



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



Oct04

"What makes a patron donor ready?" TRG President Jill Robinson asked this question to open her session at the 2013 Blackbaud Conference in Washington, D.C. The answer was not a "what," but a "who"—you do. Arts managers hold in their hands the power to cultivate a patron relationship from ticket buyer to donor... or not.

In her session entitled "The Making of a Donor-Ready Patron", Jill helped conference participants evaluate their own cultivation efforts alongside the happily-ever-after best practices that are sustaining smart arts organizations. In the slides below and Blackbaud's post summarizing the session, you too can learn about the loyalty steps your patrons are taking toward donor-readiness and the initiatives you can take to keep moving patron relationships to the next level. 


Posted October 4, 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



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



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



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



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



Feb13

Word cloud created from an open-ended
TRG survey question on the greatest challenge
practitioners face. Created via tagxedo.
Title: Make Time to Make Money
Date: Wednesday, February 27
Time: 2-3 p.m. EST/11 a.m.-noon PST
Cost: Free--register here.

A recent TRG survey suggests that if you’re stressed out by competing critical priorities and dealing with too many challenges to achieve them, you are not alone. The survey shows a snapshot of arts practitioners pulled in many directions – too many to focus on and still meet big objectives around patronage and revenue.

In this one-hour TRG.Rx webinar, TRG’s CEO Rick Lester and President Jill Robinson prescribe must-do actions to get your organization on track to succeed in 2013.

Posted February 13, 2013



Jan22

Photo via flickr
Follow the conversation in the blogosphere, on social media or the year-end collection of intellectual thought on the arts, and you’ll find variations on several themes: Values – economic, artistic, experiential.  The relative merit of technique and technology.  Disappearing public and corporate support. Can innovation remodel the industry model? 

In today’s important dialog, the patron is missing in action. 

Posted January 22, 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



Dec27

26% jump in subscription revenue after TRG Workshop


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

 


Posted December 27, 2012



Dec12

Photo by Vards Uzvards via flickr
At TRG we frequently talk about how an arts organization should create the Next Right Offer – that is, a promotional outreach that statistically possesses a high probability of acceptance or response by the prospective buyer.

What determines your Next Right Offer? TRG orthodoxy holds that data analysis is the only path to get it right and to evaluate the offer’s success. Specifically:

Response rates can be predictive for any offer. History is a perfectly valid guide. For example, if a specific data segment typically produces a 2.5% response for a new subscription offer, the odds are high that the same offer made next year to the same data segment will produce about a 2.5% response.

Posted December 12, 2012



Nov01

TRG’s latest work has focused on how ticket pricing and inventory management practices impact patron loyalty.  The conclusion?  Pricing – especially top-end tactics like dynamic pricing – must recognize and reflect the impact of these strategies on the loyalty of subscribers, donors, group and single seat buyers alike.  Why?  The risk of reduced contributed revenues is too great to ignore. 

In this webinar, CEO Rick Lester and President Jill Robinson offer must-know insights about the new tools, processes, and revenue results that come from placing the most loyal patrons in the best seats at the best price.

Posted November 1, 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



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



Jul06

Update: Thanks to everyone who signed up for the webinar. If you missed it, you can still view the recording here.  

Stick with Us!: Mapping Strategies to Keep Patrons Loyal
Date: Tuesday, July 31
Time: 2-3 p.m. EDT/11 a.m.-noon PDT
What does a loyal patron look like at your organization? A major donor? A long-time subscriber or member? A group organizer? Every department and staff member seems to have an opinion. But assumptions about who these patrons are and what motivates “stickiness”--their commitment to the art form and your organization--can lead you to neglect your most valuable patrons.

TRG President Jill Robinson
In this webinar, TRG President Jill Robinson reprises her popular presentation “Stick with Us!: The Loyalty Business Model” from the June TCG Conference. You’ll learn how some organizations use loyalty analysis to identify the patrons that they should value most (surprise—it’s not just major donors) and map out strategies to keep them loyal. Learn more about what Loyalty Mapping tells us about the habits of arts patrons and how you can integrate loyalty into your business model.

You’ll learn:
• How loyalists are made (not found) and what you can do to influence loyalty
• A new lexicon, Advocates, Buyers, Tryers™, as well as statistics on investment and retention in each category
• How differently patrons at the top tiers of loyalty invest and engage
• Ways that “mapping” loyalty—by generation, seating section, timing and level of investment –can help you cultivate loyalty.

Posted July 6, 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



Jun16


A great dialogue on patron loyalty took place at the League of American Orchestras conference in Dallas last week. TRG’s Jill Robinson and Keri Mesropov were part of it and reported sensing a slow but encouraging shift from talking about loyalty to doing something about it

Any steps that move our industry from thought to loyalty action leadership are most welcome.  And, come not a moment too soon. The era of nurturing individual patrons is long overdue. 

For more than a decade, our firm’s study and that of other arts researchers has shown the need for integrated patron management. We know that individual patrons follow their passion for an art form to the organizations that produce the art they love. Data shows that patrons invest time and money where it matters to them – in performances and events they want to enjoy, in campaigns they want to support, and at times when they are moved (or encouraged) to act. 

Posted June 16, 2012



May09


Photo: Wooden tops,
Tate Modern by Howard Lake
What are you passionate about? How could we tell?

Those questions kicked off a TRG webinar April 18th that addressed the issue of patron loyalty -- how we as arts managers can drive revenue from audiences’ love of the arts. Sean Kelly, VP of Marketing and Communications at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre led the webinar with Laura Willumsen, TRG’s Senior Consultant and told the story of how patron passion for The 5th is driving the company’s loyalty program.

Clearly, it’s difficult to see an individual’s passion for the arts when you are looking at patrons only through the lens of individual campaigns. Most arts managers see their season as a string of performances with seats to fill, or days of an exhibition with a visitor goal to hit, or an annual fund effort to bring in donations. “Audience engagement” and “donor cultivation”, when viewed as campaigns, are just a large number of indeterminable and unending tasks.

Posted May 9, 2012



Apr30

Upgrading Subscribers, Rewarding Loyalty


5th Avenue Theatre Subscribers by Package TypeBeginning in the 2006-07 season, Executive Producer and Artistic Director David Armstrong implemented a bold vision to expand 5th Avenue Theatre’s season from four to seven productions so theatre lovers in Seattle could enjoy a broad spectrum of American musical theatre. The 5th’s subscription model, however, had not evolved to support that vision. The Theatre continued to reward 4-show subscribers with the same benefits as 7-show subscribers, fearing that changes could negatively impact their core audience.

Posted April 30, 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



Apr18

5th Avenue Theatre in SeattleWhile 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 increasing loyalty among the patrons we have. 

Staff from 5th Avenue Theatre and TRG detailed in this webinar how they are building a wholly new model of audience engagement centered on using passion for the arts to drive retention, engagement and revenue--and, why loyalty is the only sustainable model for revenue growth. 

Posted April 18, 2012



Apr12

Small Company sees Big Subscription Success


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

Unpredictable Subscription Sales.

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

Posted April 12, 2012



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



Mar19

Eight out of ten new customers for the arts never come back after the first visit. How’s an organization supposed to raise donors against those odds? Jill Robinson, President of TRG Arts, applies two decades of arts patron behavior research to illustrate how donors grow with good cultivation and customer service by every member of an organization’s team. Get an expert overview on your organization’s best donor prospects, what you have to do to win them, and how you can keep them moving up (not down) the patronage escalator. Presented here are ideas you can implement whether you are a member of the development, marketing or ticket office team.

Posted March 19, 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



Mar16

Building Stronger Patron Relationships

Arts Reach 2012

Luminaries at top companies discuss the keys to keeping and upgrading patrons. Jill Robinson, President of TRG Arts, moderated this panel discussion at the Spring 2012 ArtsReach Conference in New York City. 

Posted March 16, 2012



Mar14

Today marks the beginning of Patron Loyalty Week at TRG Arts. We’re engaging in dialogue about developing longer, stronger patron relationships on the blog, at industry conferences, and on Twitter at #LoyaltyWeek.
TRG's Advocate Buyer Tryer model of patron loyalty
What, you may ask, is a Tryer?   In our firm’s decade of arts consumer research, Tryers are the most prevalent type of patron behavior.  They are households that have infrequent, one-time, or long-ago transactions with your organization. Right now your database–like those of most arts and entertainment organizationsis likely comprised of 90% Tryers.  And most of them are patrons you’ve allowed to lapse.  

Posted March 14, 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



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



Jan27

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


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

Posted January 27, 2012



Jan17

Super Subscribers: Saving the Day,
Seeding a Loyalty Initiative


5th Avenue Theatre marquee

The 5th Avenue Theatre faced a significant projected shortfall in the annual fund near the end of the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Previous campaigns relied almost exclusively on telefunding and the cost of sale was high. Subscribers who donated made up a small portion of the 5th’s season ticket holders, so there was clearly room to grow. 5th Avenue Theatre had to increase revenueand fast.

5th Avenue Theatre mounted a campaign targeting 2010-11 subscribers, asking them to become “Super Subscribers” who make a donation to enhance their theatre-going experience.

Posted January 17, 2012



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



Jan07

Post-Katrina Comeback


Louisiana Philharmonic's ResultsLouisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), like many organizations in the Gulf coast, faced an uncertain future after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. By 2009, New Orleans had seen its population start to stabilize.  However, LPO’s patron base had not rebounded as quickly as the city it serves.  Attendance was 26% below pre-Katrina levels. The Orchestra still faced significant challenges:

Performance home destroyed.

Katrina wiped out LPO’s home, the Orpheum Theatre.  By 2009, LPO was still performing in various churches in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes, getting only a few dates in the restored Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts, located in Armstrong Park.

Posted January 7, 2012



Nov17

In this presentation from the 2011 NAMP Conference, Will Lester demonstrates why every night is opening night is for someone. Learn who's coming to your arts events--it's not necessary who you'd think. This was presented at the Lightning Rounds of Research.

Posted November 17, 2011



Nov17

TRG President Jill Robinson
Thanks to everyone who attended this webinar. If you missed it, you can view the recording here.
Admission price increases at some of America’s highest profile museums trigger major media coverage and a “fear factor” in discussions about how museums should determine pricing. However, museums aren’t getting useful direction from the dialog about the pricing, says TRG President Jill Robinson in her recent blog post.

Jill leads TRG’s counsel for museums, and in this free webinar she will explain the demand-based pricing approach that has led TRG clients to sustaining revenues and lasting patron loyalty over the last two decades. Hear how pricing fits into a smart revenue strategy as well as the key success factors for optimizing admission pricing in museums and other membership-based organizations. Jill will make a brief presentation and then take your questions.

Posted November 17, 2011



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



Oct21

59% one-year ticket revenue increase


Phoenix Theatre revenue chartPhoenix Theatre’s ticket revenue and admissions had remained essentially flat for the three years following a big drop-off in 2005. Revenue gains in full subscription and single ticket sales were offset by decreases in group sales and flex subscriptions. The Theatre needed more substantial growth in all areas to increase revenue, which required greater patron investment.

 In October 2007, TRG consultants began their work with the Company, examining a variety of issues. Key findings centered on patron retention and its effect on revenue.

Posted October 21, 2011



Oct20

Subscriptions are Alive and Well!


Mead Center at night.
Photo by Scott Suchman.
Arena Stage is one of America’s leading regional theatres, performing on three stages in the newly renovated Mead Center for American Theater. Before moving back into the Mead Center, Arena Stage had seen declining sales from 2001-2007. In 2008 they sought out TRG to help strategize their move back into DC and address key sales challenges.

Are subscriptions viable?

Subscriptions sales were in a downward slide from 2003-2007, along with the subscriber renewal rate. Arena’s staff actively questioned the validity of the subscription model going forward and was increasingly looking to single tickets as the key source of future earned revenue. 

Posted October 20, 2011



Oct18

$3 million two-year revenue growth


Arts Club Theatre CompanyFor years Arts Club Theatre Company (ACTC) had seen healthy revenue growth. By 2007 subscription numbers had leveled off and the company’s efforts were falling short of revenue goals. Some of the issues included:
  • Pricing.  ACTC had priced all seats the same, varying prices only by the day of the week.   Patrons were not buying the lowest-priced tickets, prompting a high proportion of tickets—one in every three—to be offered at a discount.  Some patrons got double discounts (i.e. corporate seniors got a corporate discount on top of the senior discount).
  • Inventory management. In addition to offering deep discounts on tickets, ACTC filled seats by offering large numbers of complimentary tickets—22,000 in the 07-08 season alone...
  • Timing of marketing campaigns. ACTC had a complaint that is standard among arts organizations—their patrons were buying later and later. To accommodate them, ACTC was also marketing and selling shows later and later.
  • Subscription offerings. ACTC offered a wide variety of subscriptions—several fixed seat subscriptions, and many flexible subscription packages. Many more patrons opted for the lowest-price flex package rather than the full series; flex series renewed at low rates.

Posted October 18, 2011



Oct17

Moving into a New Performing Home


Kauffman Center The Lyric Opera of Kansas City (LOKC), along with Kansas City’s ballet and symphony, was moving into the new $362 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.  As the Company prepared for their first season in the new centerwhich opened in September 2011they hired TRG to help make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Pricing the Hall.

There had been a lot of local and national press about the Kauffman Center, and LOKC knew they had an opportunity to capitalize on what would undoubtedly be a high-demand season. Pricing needed to be right for the Company as well as its communitylow enough to welcome everyone in to the new hall and high enough to convert robust demand into increased, sustaining revenue for LOKC.

Posted October 17, 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



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



Aug03

Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre CompanyDynamic pricing, the tactic of raising prices after tickets go on sale, has often been in industry headlines these days. However, when it comes to growing revenue and increasing patron loyalty, it’s not the whole story. While it’s true that Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre Company (ACTC) generated six-figure revenue from dynamic pricing, the real news is how ACTC increased the number of its most loyal subscribers. In this webinar, presented in August 2011, TRG consultants and ACTC staff retell ACTC’s $3 million client success story, including how:
  • Loyalty strategies -- not pricing tactics -- led to sustaining revenue.
  • Unified, company-wide change in focus brought about increased revenue and subscribers.
  • Dynamic pricing made subscribing more valuable.

Posted August 3, 2011



Jul25

Update: Thanks to everyone who signed up for the webinar. If you missed it, you can still view the recording here.
Regular readers of this blog know that we've talked about dynamic pricing quite a bit in past weeks, including the case study of Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre Company (ACTC), who found success with dynamic pricing as part of an integrated patron loyalty strategy. Our latest webinar, led by TRG consultants and ACTC staff, goes in-depth on this case study.

Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre CompanyTitle: Dynamic Pricing is NOT the Story
Date: Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Time: 11 a.m. to 12 Noon, Mountain Daylight Time
(See below for your time zone)

Dynamic pricing, the tactic of raising prices after tickets go on sale, has often been in industry headlines these days. However, when it comes to growing revenue and increasing patron loyalty, it’s not the whole story. While it’s true that Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre Company (ACTC) generated six-figure revenue from dynamic pricing, the real news is how ACTC increased the number of its most loyal subscribers. Read more about ACTC's success on TRG's blog, and register for the webinar to hear TRG consultants and ACTC staff retell ACTC’s $3 million client success story.

Posted July 25, 2011



Jul14

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Mike Boehm of the Los Angeles Times about dynamic pricing.  The resulting article highlights the success that L.A. organizations have had using the tactic to increase revenue, while maintaining the accessibility that is a part of most non-profits’ mission. You can read the article here.  That post, Thomas Cott’s briefing the same day, and the subsequent flurry of online discourse tells me that we, as an industry, are looking at dynamic pricing as something greater than it is.

The tactic – repeat, tactic – of dynamic pricing is but one means to an end – greater ticket revenue. It is not an end itself – sustainable patronage and revenue.  Since 2002, when my colleagues and I first worked with clients to implement the practice of raising ticket prices after sales were underway, dynamic pricing has been part of an integrated revenue management strategy. That strategy began with consideration of subscribers and the demand for seats subscribers create.

Posted July 14, 2011



Apr26

To hear some of my fellow Boomers talk, getting young adults engaged in arts and culture is an urgent problem that requires a big solution. 

We beg to differ. 

Consumer research and our own studies on generational differences in patron behavior point to huge opportunities, not problems. What we are finding are some eye-opening considerations that reiterate an age-old best practice. Assume nothing

Without the facts about who is in your audience or among your donors, it’s easy to guess wrong – especially when it comes to developing young patrons. As an age cohort, the under-30 population we’re calling Gen Y is replacing the Boomers as the largest generation in American consumer history. The spending habits of this young adult group are causing many industries to sit up and take notice.  

Posted April 26, 2011



Apr12

Opening nights are fun. They also are hard work. Months of planning result in huge organizational resources being focused on the celebrations that mark the beginning of a new season or production. These are important rituals of organizational renewal. 

The latest research from TRG puts a patron-oriented spin on this subject. It’s telling us that opening night is happening all year long for big numbers of patrons in the audience. How so? Our just-completed internal pilot research on patron origination found: 

Half of the study group’s ticket buyers had a first-time ticket-buying experience – their own personal opening night – during the season.  

Posted April 12, 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



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



Jun15

A couple of weeks ago, TRG Arts unveiled the latest addition to our Data Lab arsenal of analytics tools.Designed to be a quick aid for arts administrators (both marketers and development officers), TRG’s new “Key Metrics” report provides a powerful summary of several data points that our consultants observe are good indicators of organizational health, namely new-to-file patronage, patronage loss (attrition), and multi-buying patronage. By leveraging our national data source in an automated analytical process, Key Metrics provides individual organizations with a low-cost snapshot of their situation alongside a baseline of national data from which to compare “what is normal” among arts organizations.

To provide the industry baseline, Data Lab selected 113 clients for what we called the “analysis group”. These are organizations from each major performing arts discipline: dance, orchestra, opera and theatre. They each have patron data that is extensive, deep in history, and unusually clean. Together, 113 organizations provided 5.3 million patron households for the study’s analysis group. To execute the analysis, we compiled all household transactions into a single aggregated database that was normalized for individual organization data collection, storage and segmentation quirks. We then looked for patterns of patron behavior that can be measured by purchases or donor transactions.

Posted June 15, 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



Sep21

A patron behavior study for the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, published as part of the Engage 2020 Research Into Action Report in September 2009.

Posted September 21, 2009



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