By Michael Van Osch, Georgia Ensemble Theatre
Although Georgia Ensemble Theatre (GET) is entering its 25th Anniversary Season in Roswell, we still run into people who have lived here for many years and have never heard of us. We have two major challenges that contribute to this: our home in The Roswell Cultural Arts Center is tucked away in the trees and is not on a main thoroughfare, and because we are in the Roswell Historic District, we are governed by a strict sign ordinance.
Pleased to Meet You, I’m Your Neighbor
We realized we had to do something different to talk to people that lived right in our backyard but had never heard of Georgia Ensemble Theatre. With an Audience Building Grant from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation in October 2016, we set out to develop two outreach campaigns to non-patrons. During the first campaign, we targeted younger adults in the 25-40 range that lived within a 20-mile radius of our building. More specifically, this included those who had attended festivals and/or cultural events in Roswell in the recent past. Our second campaign targeted households with children between 4 and 15 years of age, within that same 20-mile radius.
Working with our direct mail house, we bought targeted lists and then deduped them against current and past patrons within the 20-mile radius. For the younger adults, we mailed 8,000 of our season brochures with a short, personable “Nice to Meet You” letter that encouraged them to try us out with a discounted ticket. For the targeted households with children, we mailed 8,000 of our Family Stage brochures and included a coded coupon for one free ticket to attend a show or to take $10 off a class with our conservatory.
This idea stemmed from a design thinking process with our staff team, which we learned at the Audience Building Roundtable. Our goal in integrating design thinking into our work was to focus on quickly prototyping and testing new and small ideas as we look to expand our audience. The results of our targeted mailings were positive for both groups.
Results of Our Test Campaigns
For the test with the younger adults, we had a 1% response rate to the discounted ticket offer. While not bad, we think the response might have been higher if the production in question had been a more recognizable title to the public. (The production for this mail campaign was On The Verge, Or The Geography of Yearning). The respondents are now on our in-house direct mail list and we’ll continue the dialog with them.
For our second test with households with children, we found that while the free ticket to a show did not move the needle to our new FamilyStage Series, the discount coupon for classes produced a positive impact. Our conservatory class attendance grew from 300 to 400 attendees during the past year– a 33% increase in one year! Although we continued our usual marketing activities for conservatory classes, this was a very big jump for us that we attribute to the targeted campaign mailing: half of the 100 new students came from the campaign. Six of these new students also attended our summer camp in 2017.
The two targeted campaigns made an impact for us. Through the Audience Building Roundtable’s ongoing meetings and workshops, we’ve learned so much since these campaigns were conceived and implemented. We look forward to putting more of that knowledge to use as we continue to expand our patron base and to continuing the build our audience for both our main stage and our education programs.