TRG blog: 3 Principles for Increasing Patron Loyalty

3 Principles for Increasing Patron Loyalty

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.

But how does that translate into your day-to-day tasks? We all know that marketing and fundraising are about patron relationships, but that reality gets lost when managers are trying make revenue goals week after week. We forget that a loyalty strategy works like a booster shot for marketing and development efforts. It means less work to promote a production or exhibit, or garner donors for development campaigns.

Here are 3 simple principles to help arts managers integrate loyalty into everyday tasks:

1. Loyalty is everyone’s job.  Leadership must be engaged and lead the kind of transformational change required to really orient around the patron.  Marketing and development departments each have major responsibility for loyalty. And so does everyone else in the organization – from the folks who plan the campaigns to the person who sells the ticket.  

One organization that has integrated all efforts around patron loyalty is Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre. We’ve highlighted one small part of their story already in the Super Subscribers case study. It’s one of our favorite stories about marketing and development working together. 5th Avenue’s Director of Marketing and Communications Sean Kelly and TRG Senior Managing Consultant Laura Willumsen are talking about the larger story at the National Alliance of Musical Theatres Conference in Seattle this weekend.  They’ll also do a webinar on April 18 at 2:00 EDT on the subject. (If you are interested, please e-mail

2. Loyalty and its benefits can be clearly shown in patron data. As demonstrated in last week’s post, most arts and entertainment organizations have 90% “Tryers” in their patron database—those patrons who are least loyal, most expensive to acquire, and most difficult to retain. Because the majority of patrons fall into this category, successful cultivation requires knowing your data and your database. You will find measures of engagement and loyalty there. Effective marketing and fundraising campaigns require strategic use of good data.

At the recent Spring 2012 ArtsReach conference, TRG President Jill Robinson presented patron loyalty data--and strategies around that data--that we routinely use in our counsel.
What the presentation demonstrates is, though a large portion of your database may be Tryers, there are simple ways to deepen their loyalty—and increase their value to your organization.

3.  Loyalty is about people and relationships.  It’s the patron’s profile and history of involvement with an organization that matters in loyalty development.  Profiles vary by patron age, available resources (time and money), and other attributes of demography and consumerism.  A common thread according to research is passion – there is love for the art.  That’s what makes the people-focus in patron loyalty so important.

We’ve gotten some great comments to this point on the #LoyaltyWeek Twitter discussion this week when we asked how arts managers were deepening loyalty in their organizations. Here are a few of them:

It’s difficult to distill best practices for patron-centric management down into 140 characters, but our followers are right on. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the discussion on Twitter and at conferences this week.

Want to learn more about patron loyalty? Pre-register for a free webinar with 5th Avenue Theatre on April 18th at 2:00 EDT/11:00 PDT by emailing

Posted March 23, 2012

Related Articles
A “major donor” has many faces
Case Study: 5th Avenue Theatre, Part 1
Case Study: 5th Avenue Theatre, Part 2
Too Many Tryers to Sustain the Arts

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