Arts Addicts Anonymous

This week’s guest blogger is Lily Traub, Sales Manager at Patron Technology.

So far, I have made two visits to the NYC Production of Sleep No More, and I want to see it a third time.  My name is Lily, and I am a theater addict.

Most productions are not like Sleep No More, which is an immersive theatrical experience that takes place in three large, multi-floor warehouses, so this feeling I have — “I still haven’t seen everything!” — is not applicable to most of my experiences attending live arts events.  Nonetheless, I can’t remember an organization ever actively suggesting that I come back to see a play I saw before, though on a number of occasions I’ve done so of my own volition.  It’s got me thinking about repeat attendance to the same show/concert/exhibition and how encouraging multiple visits is a marketing strategy that is often overlooked.

There are a couple of key factors to consider:

1) We know word-of-mouth continues to be one of the most powerful drivers of ticket sales.

2) Usually, when a patron comes back to see a play a second time, she brings with her someone who will be seeing it for the first time (and it may even be that person’s first time attending anything presented by your organization at all).

Based on these two behavioral trends alone, it seems to me that it’s worth an organization’s effort to try to motivate a second visit from patrons who have already attended, and, in this spirit, there are small incentives that could have a big impact.  You can offer a free glass of wine at the concession stand, an entry in a raffle drawing for some sort of prize package, or an invitation to a talk-back with the cast or curator, open only to patrons who have attended the event more than once.  These kinds of exclusive opportunities can help get your patrons re-energized about a show or exhibit they’ve already seen and motivate them not only to come back but also to bring a friend.

When you turn your patrons into ambassadors and give them a reason to return, you’re reducing the need to constantly find new patrons to fill the empty seats, because you’ve got a pre-filtered group of people who have already demonstrated their interest in seeing the event and who are going to do the marketing on your behalf when they invite their friends to accompany them.

Taking it one step further, I imagine that organizations could easily motivate a satisfied patron to bring back an entire group of friends.  What if a theater offered, “Bring five people who haven’t seen the show and your ticket, Beloved Repeat Attendee, is free”?  This is a different approach to group sales, with a lower minimum for qualifying as a group  (for scheduling reasons alone, the idea of getting ten friends together is a bit daunting) but would it not be worth the one comp ticket to sell five more at full price?  Alternatively, what if a patron could earn credit for the friends she refers, each buying tickets individually, and gradually work her way towards her free ticket?  Plenty of patrons already tell their friends and family when they’ve seen a great exhibit or show without any sort of incentive.  If an organization were to add a reward to the mix, I can only imagine that patrons would be receptive to the opportunity to make a repeat visit to an arts event they already know they enjoyed.

Rather than taking the attitude, “this person has already been here to see this show — we’ve done our job,” I encourage organizations to think about targeted marketing to those patrons and giving them reasons to come back again.  Your patrons will feel appreciated and special, they’ll bring new audience members with them, and you’ll improve your relationships with both the repeat attendees and the first-timers.

Learn More about PatronManager, the powerful CRM platform that helps you sell more tickets, raise more money, and cultivate stronger bonds with your audience, all in one database.