Motivate the Motivated

I’m standing in 27-degree weather this morning at a Metro North station two hours north of New York city with my cello. An orange-vested weather-beaten Metro North employee is at the station doing his job and starts chatting with me. Asks me if I play in Broadway shows, because he’s seen at least five of them, which he rattles off in quick order. Says he takes the kids and loves it, and is amazed by what happens on stage.

Being the marketing research kind of person I am, I start asking him how and why he started going to Broadway. “Oh, I didn’t really get into this stuff, but a buddy of mine, he invited me and we go together with my kids.”  

I pressed him: “So whatever he suggests you go see?” “Yeah, he really knows this stuff. Until he started taking me I never went, but now I love it.”  (And… moments later, hearing this conversation, the woman standing on the platform next to me chimes in, “I’m a member of TDF and I go to shows all the time, I love it.”)

My Metro-North employee-dad provides yet another confirmation of research I was involved in years ago: People who become arts-lovers in adult life (attending theatre, music, dance, etc.) get “permission” to enjoy the art because someone they know and trust invites them. If this is so, why isn’t there already a bigger investment in marketing efforts to get people to invite their friends?   

Sure, getting kids to experience the arts when they are young is important in building a foundation of future arts-goers. But given where our country is headed, universal arts education seems a worthy but distant goal right now.

The quicker distance between two points is for arts marketers to realize that the “average” demographic of arts attendees is only one audience to go after. The other is trying to motivate the motivated.

Encouraging existing arts patrons to bring their friends requires creativity and testing, but opportunities abound in the form of social media and specialized technology for online group sales. Knowing that this kind of word-of-mouth happens already, and that it really works, isn’t this an avenue that is worthy of a lot more attention?

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