|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 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.
Don’t get me wrong; new audiences are crucial to sustaining the arts. But when ongoing TRG research shows that anywhere from two-thirds to 80% of new audience members don’t come back, the real problem becomes clear. It’s retention. That’s what will get those larger audiences in the end. As the Girl Scout saying goes: Make new friends, but keep the old.
What exactly is Patron Loyalty?
What specifically are we talking about when we say “patron loyalty”? Let’s break it down:
- Patron: anyone who has a transaction with an arts organization
- Loyalty: developing a longer, stronger commitment to your organization
Why is Loyalty so important?
When you look at the numbers, it’s easy to see how valuable loyal patrons are to an arts organization. TRG does just that when we analyze loyalty for an organization. Patrons naturally fall into three different categories:
- Patrons begin as a “Tryers” when they have their first interaction or transaction with the organization. About 90% of the typical arts organization’s database is made up of Tryers.
- Patrons who come back again as a repeat buyer, multi-buyer, subscriber or member-based frequent attendee are what we call “Buyers”.
- When an organization retains Buyers and cultivates them, they can become an ongoing, engaged investor—an “Advocate.”
You can then determine, on average, how much a patron in each category is worth over a set period of time. Below is an analysis that TRG spotlighted during a webinar with 5th Avenue Theatre.
How can arts managers orient their work to promote loyalty? When you examine all the tools in your arts marketing toolbox, some are better than others at promoting loyalty—and some can be tailored to do so.
2. What outcomes do you look at for measuring loyalty? (renewal rate, new donors, number of upgrades, etc)
3. How do you motivate first-timers to come to your organization again?
4. What loyalty programs have you developed to retain or upgrade subscribers, members and/or donors?
5. How do you feel about loyalty programs like the subscription and membership model?
6. How do you motivate subscribers/members to become donors?
7. Which arts organization has a loyalty program you admire and why?
8. What’s the best idea for promoting loyalty that you’ve used or heard about recently?