Patron Journeys: Time to Renew Your Subscribers

Today’s guest blog post is written by Kevin Patterson, Senior Account Executive, PatronManager. 

With each passing year, arts leaders wrestle with the depressing statistics about their subscriber base. Subscriptions are dead we keep hearing. People are too busy to subscribe. Their schedules don’t allow them to think further ahead than the day view on their smartphone calendar. Abandon all hope!

And yet, if all this doom and gloom were true, we wouldn’t have subscription programs. The reality is very different. Many arts organizations still offer subscriptions, and there are still patrons that prefer to purchase some type of subscription package. In fact, some organizations still enjoy a robust subscriber base. However, many organizations are missing out on the opportunity to cultivate these subscribers just like they do their donors.

It takes a lot of marketing dollars to attract a new subscriber. Many first year subscribers don’t renew for year two. And a lot of the ones that DO renew in year two don’t make it to year five. Why is year five so important? Because by looking at your subscriber base most organizations will see that those subscribers who remain with you for five years often remain much longer. 

The patron journey from being a first-time ticket buyer to becoming a subscriber isn’t all that different than the patron journey that organizations employ to cultivate a patron as a donor. In fact, I would argue it is the same journey! Take a look at your subscriber base. While you may know if your subscriber base is growing or shrinking, there are several other factors to consider.

  • How many first-year subscribers renew for year two?
    • You should be converting a minimum of 40%
  • How many fourth-year subscribers renew for year five?
    • You should be converting a minimum of 85%
  • How many five-year or longer subscribers do you have?
    • You should have a minimum of 40%
  • What is your five-year subscriber drop-out rate?
    • You should be less than 50%

You should be able to run all of these reports out of your CRM solution. If you can’t, then you need to get another CRM fast!

If your subscriber base isn’t healthy, ask yourself the following question, “How are we engaging our subscribers on a yearly basis to retain them?” Here is where mapping out a clear process becomes so important. The following graphic is a sample patron journey for an organization:

In this example, an organization with seven events has mapped out a strategy for subscribers for the first five years. Here are the highpoints of their process:

  • The subscriber journey is broken down into different years with the amount and type of engagement changing along the journey.
  • First and fourth-year subscribers are targeted as being the most sensitive and share a common engagement process.
  • Second and third-year subscribers, the tween years, are treated to a similar level of engagement.
  • Fifth-year subscribers are engaged more deeply through public recognition and personal connection.

No two journeys will be the same for every organization. The important point is to have a well thought out process that details:

  • The number of patron touches.
  • The type of engagement.  
  • Who is responsible for engaging the patron.
  • How patron engagement is going to be measured.

Though we are focusing on taking the patron on a journey to learn more about our organizations and become more deeply engaged through subscribership, both marketing and development teams should be working closely together to cultivate those subscribers who show interest in supporting the organization beyond their subscription into becoming donors. Remember, it is the same journey! If both departments work together, you will not only have better collaboration and a better journey for the patron, but the collaboration will ultimately lead to a more unified journey resulting in greater donor participation from the subscriber base.

Don’t wait until renewal time to speak with your subscribers. Waiting will cost your organization both in terms of money and time. By concentrating on the patron journey from the moment the subscription is purchased your organization will benefit, and your patrons will be more deeply connected and happier.

Now go forth and engage your subscribers!

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