What Do Gyms and Arts Organizations
Have in Common?

Today’s guest blog post is written by Samantha Colbert, Senior Client Administrator, PatronManager. 

Around this time of year, you’ll start to see gyms and fitness centers offer huge discounts for new members joining in January; a result of New Year’s resolutions that they’re “really going to stick to this time!” A lot of people will join gyms this month, and some of them will stick with it, but most won’t. However, many gyms, while happy to make the quick New Year’s resolution buck, are more invested in getting patrons who will continue to come back, make progress, and be someone who says “look at what I was able to do at this gym!” The long-term patron is far more profitable to them than the New Years Resolution-er.

There are many ways that gyms work to get long-term patrons in their doors. What’s to say that some of those tactics couldn’t work for an arts organization as well? Help your patrons meet their resolution of attending several arts events this year by trying out a few of these strategies that gyms and fitness centers are already doing. Your organization might already be doing some of these, but others may be entirely new concepts:

  • Meet and Greet — Arts organizations likely use this idea a lot, but really put some thought into what it means. Meet your patrons at the door, give ‘em a handshake and a hello! Let them know that you’re really glad that they are here. Ask them if they know much about that day’s performance or that month’s featured exhibit. Assure them that they’ll love it! Engage right from the get-go, and patrons will be more likely to stay engaged.
  • “Off-Peak” — There’s that one day when everything is a little bit slower, and crowds are a little bit lighter. On those days consider reducing prices for a time, or allowing kids to enter free of charge. If things are slow, give people a reason to come out!
  • Free Events — Studies show that patrons are more interested in “free” over “discounted” by a wide margin. And, no, it doesn’t matter if they only have to pay a penny, free is still better and can make a huge difference. Consider hosting a free event that anyone can come to (and maybe put out a jar for donations). After seeing what you’re all about, patrons are much more likely to come back and pay money the next time. There is a time and a place for a discount but giving a discount to first-time patrons can actually be damaging to sales because the next time they attend they have to pay full price. Free is better!
  • Co-Marketing — Speaking of free events, see if there are other small businesses or organizations in the area that want to be involved! Consider joining in local celebrations, setting up a booth a local carnival, or maybe even spearheading the project and starting an event or a fair all your own! Getting like-minded individuals together to support one another tends to benefit everyone. You can even find other arts organizations like yours and share patrons. The person who attended your partner organization’s play last month might be interested in your museum when their family comes to visit.
  • Market to Corporations — This is especially useful around a holiday. Tell a corporation that you will put on a special performance of 1 show this season, or open up the museum for a period of time just for them and their employees and families if they donate a certain amount of money. Set up other perks for corporations as well, such as advertising at different donation levels, or a gift.
  • Group Rates — Most organizations already employ group rates, but maybe it’s time to lower the bar. For example, consider setting your group rate minimum to 8 people. This encourages higher attendance while motivating regulars to bring along friends in the effort to save a few dollars.
  • Group Tiers — Speaking of group rates, perhaps it’s worth it to have different tiers of discounts! For example, if the group is 8-14 then patrons save $2 per ticket. But, if they bring 15-25 people they now save $4 per ticket. And it goes up from there. This encourages people to bring more folks, but if they can’t get all the way up to the next tier, they still receive some sort of discount! (FYI With PatronManager’s group sale setup, you can always exchange a smaller group up or down to a different tier, and every patron can pay separately with their own cards, cash, or check whenever they’re able!)
  • Spread the Word — Consider setting up a referral program. Tell patrons that for every three people who attend and say “I heard about it from them!” the source patron gets something in return. Maybe a free popcorn, or 25% off their next admission. It will incentivize your more loyal patrons to bring others with them, and, allows you to capture the data of a whole new group of patrons!
  • Bring Friends — Group rates or incentives not really your thing? How about allowing your members or subscribers to bring one guest for free. It gets another person in the door; someone you can collect information from, and someone who may not have considered coming to your organization before.
  • Reviews — Look around online and see where your organization is listed. The biggest sites for reviews right now are Yelp, Google, and Facebook. Encourage people to review your organization, whether it’s your volunteers, employees, or attendees! You can incentivize this as well by posting signs saying something like “if you show a positive review that was written by you in the last month you will receive a free small drink or 5% off at the gift shop.” Be creative!
  • Promote Everything — I don’t mean just events. Tell everyone about your volunteer usher program. Inform patrons that if they donate as little as $10, their name will be in your playbill as a thank you. Advertise your concession stand and/or gift shop on your website before people even walk in the door. Special events coming up, or discounts that are expiring? Remind folks that they exist, and do it more than once or twice. People tend to forget if they aren’t reminded regularly.

Doing some of these things can not only help bring patrons in the door but can also help you reach some of your New Year’s Resolutions too! Set goals for your organization like: “Have 100 new ticket buyers this year!” or “50 new members before September.” It’s time to get things whipped into shape, and there’s no better time than now. Good luck and Happy New Year!


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