Case Study: Delaware Theatre Company

Case Study: Delaware Theatre Company

Delaware Theatre Company's Revenue Rebound

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The Situation:

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.

"Subscriptions and single tickets had hit the lowest point in over a decade in 2011-12. The community embraced Bud when he arrived in 2012 with the promise of delivering a new vision for the theatre. In his first year, the theatre more than doubled its single ticket revenue. The next year, subscriptions started to recover, too."

-Grier Flinn, Board Chair

Diner - Ari Brand, Matthew James Thomas, Derek Klena, Ethan, Slater, and Noah Weisberg
Photo: Matt Urban Mobius New Media


Delaware Theatre Company Baseline Opportunities

The Results:
In a single season, DTC has seen a 41% increase in revenue from tickets and subscribers and a 31% increase in subscriber admissions. DTC also hit $1 million in admission revenue for the first time, prompting celebration amongst the staff and attention from the local media.

“The day we hit $1 million in sales was such a celebratory day for the board and staff of the Delaware Theatre Company. I was thrilled to see the community rally around pushing us above our goal, further solidifying the new vision of the theatre. I was confident that our team could do it, and we did!”

-Bud Martin, Executive Director

How they did it:


With the loss of 1,139 subscribers (46%) from 2008-2012, there were lots of opportunities to reactivate past patrons. Of DTC’s entire database, only 14% had been active within the last five years. 

Working with TRG, DTC developed a reactivation campaign plan that offered lapsed subscribers from the past ten years a deal too good to pass up – three plays for $75. This was significant for two reasons: 

  1. The price was appealing. 
  2. This was the first time DTC had a subscription product that gave patrons a choice of plays. 

Up to this point, the only subscription a patron could buy included all five plays in the season.

Left: Diner - The Acting Company; Right: Bud Martin with Audience
Photo: Matt Urban Mobius New Media

How they did it:


DTC had seen that programming drove attendance. They debuted a new musical, Diner, with music written by Sheryl Crow and book by Barry Levinson. This was the largest selling show in DTC’s history and the run was extended to a fifth week to accommodate the demand. 63% of ticket buyers to Diner were new.

How they did it:


Much of DTC’s budget and staff time was devoted to mass media, which supports prospecting more than retention. Yet, just 14% of their database had been active within last five years. DTC starting spending less on mass media like radio and TV, and more time and money on direct channels like direct mail and email, contacting those most likely to buy. What resulted was a 24% decrease in their single ticket cost-of-sale while increasing single ticket revenue by 46%. By redirecting spending where the data indicated there was demand, DTC was able to be more efficient with limited marketing resources.


How they did it:
Repeat & Reinforce

DTC also focused their direct mail campaigns, sending more messages more often to the best qualified prospects. TRG re-examined the way that they were segmenting their campaigns, and the communications matrix for each segment. “Prior to our engagement with TRG Arts, the theatre company would send a postcard or eblast with no specific segmentation or messaging. The theatre would go public with a single ticket campaign for each production about two weeks from first preview. Since our engagement, with increased segmentation and custom messaging and a lengthier on-sale period, the response to our campaigns has been impressive,” Andy Truscott, Director of Marketing and Development, said. “Our cost-of-sale has decreased dramatically and has allowed the staff to experiment with new tactics.”




The Explorers Club - Dave Johnson, Daniel Frederick, Karen PeakesPhoto: Matt Urban Mobius New Media

Looking Ahead

DTC is still seeing success in the 2016-17 season, where they have debuted their new scale-of-house plan, introduced a cross-and-upsell program in the box office, and launched the Off-Broadway transfer of White Guy on the Bus.

DTC has already seen a 19% increase in subscription revenue over the 2015-16 season and 13% increase in subscription units.

“The 2015-2016 season was the best season the theatre has ever experienced. We look forward to refining our practices in marketing and patron loyalty over the next year. The revenue that we’ve generated has allowed us to continue to develop new ventures (productions with a commercial eye for Broadway or Off- Broadway runs,)” Executive Director Bud Martin said. “Being able to capitalize on the momentum, as it relates to new ventures, such as Because of Winn-Dixie, Diner, and The War of the Roses has put Delaware Theatre Company back on the map – and helped raise our visibility, as well as the visibility of Wilmington, Delaware.”

About Delaware Theatre Company

Founded in 1979, Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) is the state’s only LORT professional theatre. Recognized as a cornerstone in the Brandywine Valley’s rich cultural landscape, DTC has produced 191 productions for over 1 million people. The theatre also has an array of award-winning education and community engagement programs. DTC’s artistic programming has been awarded 12 Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre by Theatre Philadelphia, and is home to nationally recognized education programs which reach out to all sectors of the community, including youth at risk and individuals with developmental disabilities.


Delaware Theatre Company is exploring how to have a more patron-centered approach to their marketing operations with TRG’s Best Practices Consulting.

Interested in how to shift your organization's marketing operations toward a patron-centered approach?

To explore a consulting partnership for your organization, email  .


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The Situation:
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Posted May 23, 2017

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