Who Is Your Customer?

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

For more years than I can remember, I have spent Labor Day weekend in a small town called Auburn, Indiana. Each year, roughly 100,000 classic car collectors and fans from all over the world gather to buy and sell vintage and collectible automobiles and parts. During the auction, you can see everything from an original 1929 Auburn 120 Eight Speedster to a 2006 Ford GT with only four miles on the odometer.

There was a time when vintage era automobiles (like the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg from the 1920’s and 30’s) would command hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars from collectors. This year, however, I noticed a shift in what cars were drawing the most interest, and who was buying them.

I found that the emphasis had evolved from vintage automobiles to the collector and muscle cars of the 1950’s and 60’s. For example, a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster (pictured above) brought in $852,500, far more than any vintage automobile. In looking at the crowd, I noticed that the average buyer was a white male, in his mid-50s or 60s. For these buyers, there was little to no connection to the cars of the vintage era as they never saw them on the street. Their parents didn’t own them and they never rode in them. Their childhood was the era of the Ford Mustang, the Chevy Corvette, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Austin Healey.

Fortunately, in a collector car auction, the auction house can carefully match their inventory, (think your organization’s programming) to customer desire. They have a clear understanding of who their customer is and what it is they value. While purchasing a vintage automobile is not exactly the same as buying a subscription to a theatre or museum, there is an overarching lesson to be learned from the buyer behavior I’ve observed over the years at this auction. The audience of today is not the audience of ten or fifteen years ago. It is a fallacy to assume that just because your audience is made up of people 55+ that they will have the same likes and dislikes of all people 55+ across different periods of time.

So with that in mind, I pose the following question. Does your organization know exactly who your customer is today? If your answer is anything less than a resounding “yes,” it’s time to dig in and find out. After all, if you don’t know exactly who your patrons are, how can you expect to program a season that they’re excited about? There are several things you can do to gather information about your audience. Let’s take a look at two avenues:

If You Ask They Will Tell You

First and foremost, you must survey your audience on a consistent basis. This is by far the easiest and fastest way to get the data you need to make important decisions about your programming (among other things). While I could write a whole separate blog post solely on this topic, I’m going to whittle this down to two main questions you should be asking yourself every time you build a survey:

  1. What specific information do I want my audience to tell me?
  2. What decision am I going to make with this information that I wouldn’t be able to make without it?

Surveys should be brief, to the point, and entice your audience to want to help you. Stay focused on the topic at hand and don’t try to cram every possible question you want to ask your patrons into one survey. Additionally, think about offering incentives or small rewards to your patrons for taking the time to participate. People really do want to tell you about themselves, you just have to ask!

The Internet is Your Oyster

The Internet (of course) contains a massive trove of information about your audience, albeit in more general terms. If your organization is new to a community or you’d like to get a refreshed view of your existing community, the internet is a great resource for acquiring a more comprehensive look at the demographic and psychographic trends of a specific area over time. There are several websites that are valuable in providing you with this key information:

  1. Claritas – My Best Segment — This is a partially free resource that breaks down data by zip code using defined segments and psychographics (which can be really helpful in understanding your customer’s persona).
  2. US Census Bureau Quick Facts — This is a great resource for giving you access to statistical data about the demographics of a particular city, town, or zip code.

Your organization must be collectively focused on who you are serving. By understanding this key aspect of your business and positioning yourself to better address your audience’s ever-changing interests, you will be in an ideal place to engage your patrons. After all, engagement is the first and most important step in turning your audience into loyal brand ambassadors for your organization. Take that step today!

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