Business Is Personal

Today’s blog post is written by Aaron Schwartzbord, Director of Marketing, PatronManager.

Over the years, we’ve talked a lot on our blog about the importance of building personal relationships with patrons in an authentic way, and subsequently the do’s and don’ts of email marketing. (In fact, Michelle Paul recently touched on this exact topic in her recent blog post, “Staying on Target.”) A few months ago I had two contrasting experiences that really emphasized for me just how important these things are for the survival and growth of a business.

The first experience occurred during an amazing vacation I took with my husband over the holidays to Prague. We had never been before, so in the spirit of embracing an unknown foreign city, we decided to book a tour with a young local food tour company called Taste of Prague. This company had over 2,400 excellent reviews on Tripadvisor, we love food and food culture, and (based on the reviews) we were confident it would be worthy of our time and money.  

Spoiler Alert: It surpassed every expectation we had. In just over four hours we were taken to 5 different establishments spanning from fine dining restaurants to a small butcher shop. Our tour guide was a young, local woman who gave us not just an overview of the food we were eating, but also went into the history of Prague and the Czech Republic.  

Needless to say, the tour was amazing, but what really blew me away was what happened after. The next day my husband and I received a personalized email from our guide thanking us for coming on the tour. The email included a list of all the food establishments we visited, a recipe for one of the dishes we sampled, a photo of the whole group at one of the restaurants, and a list of restaurant recommendations for Berlin (the next stop on our trip, which we had casually mentioned to our guide in passing). The email concluded letting us know that if we needed anything else while we were in town, that we could reach out and she’d be happy to assist. If you’re curious, you can read the entire email here.  

I was blown away. This communication was personal, kind, extended a heartfelt thanks for our patronage, and reminded us what a wonderful, unique experience we had.

A few days after I received the Taste of Prague email, I received an end-of-year email from a large performing arts organization in the U.S. Another spoiler alert: It was really cringe-worthy.

As a marketer, the above scenario of sending an email to “FullName” is my worst nightmare. I now understand firsthand how insulting and jarring it is to receive a communication like this. It did exactly the opposite of what it was meant to do. It made me feel like this organization had absolutely no idea who I was or what my relationship to them was (and that’s besides just not having my name right). Compare this to the email from Taste of Prague, where they reflected on our shared experience and made me feel like we were friends!

So how do you replicate my first experience while steering clear of the second at your arts organization? While Taste of Prague is a small company and doesn’t have hundreds or thousands of people to interact with every week, larger institutions can still focus their messaging and make patrons feel known and appreciated. Here are some ideas I’ve come up with of ways that you can personalize the communication experience with your patrons:

  1. Instead of just writing a generic email after a performance that says “thanks for coming,” find ways to remind people what they saw and how much they enjoyed it. Share photos, a video, or even a quote from the event to elicit a positive feeling. Maybe even ask your patrons to share what their favorite part was!
  2. Aside from post-performance emails, make sure you follow up after other community events you host. Again, collect each and every attendee’s email address and send out post-event emails. As with performances and shows, remind them how valuable the event was, and maybe even send along some additional resources or suggestions for ways to learn more about the topic(s) that were covered at the event!  
  3. If you or one of your staff members has a personal conversation with a patron during a performance or event, make sure to get their name, make a note of what you talked about, and send a personalized email thanking them for attending. Just an added sentence or two can make an otherwise templated email seem truly personal.
  4. Make sure, no matter who an email is going to (whether a single ticket buyer or a major donor), that the recipient knows you’re available to talk or help them further. Everyone wants to feel like they have an in and should know that your organization is accessible. Mention in emails that you and your colleagues are available to answer questions, or even discuss other similar events around town. Though you (most likely) are not a concierge, offering to be available will make patrons feel like your organization is available for them.

All of these ideas are things that you can easily implement with a good CRM system. Additionally, with some systems (PatronManager included) you can make notes directly on a patron’s contact record from your smartphone after conversations, so you can remember what you spoke about when it’s time to write an email.

Taking this personal approach might seem like a lot of work, but if you come up with a plan for each event, and you keep your strategy in the forefront of your mind, it will pay off. I mean, just look at my experience with Taste of Prague. I’m publicly writing about them, completely unsolicited. And on a final note, email marketing aside, if you decide to take a trip anytime soon to Prague…MAKE SURE you book a tour with them. You won’t regret it!

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