By Gevin Reynolds, Fellow, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

The Audience Building Roundtable (ABR) workshop on May 17, 2018 was “A Refresher on Audience Building Practices that Work” presented by TRG Arts, a national arts and culture consulting firm that has been presenting workshops to the ABR since the inaugural summit in November 2015. At the close of the workshop, 76 of the 103 attendees from ABR member organizations completed a survey with the following prompt: The workshop by TRG Arts provided me with at least one audience building idea that I can adapt for use in my organization. Of the 76 respondents, 60 (79%) strongly agreed with the statement and another 16 (21%) agreed with the statement. No attendees responded that they “strongly disagree,” “disagree,” or “neither agree nor disagree” with the statement. 

In addition to responding to the above prompt, attendees were asked to list their top three audience-building takeaways from the meeting. Below is a graph summarizing the responses; the graph is followed by a review of the top 10 takeaways from ABR members.


The Top 10

  1. Secure the second date. Within the category of audience retention, respondents mentioned a wide range of tactics. Some mentioned sending follow-up postcards with discounts to new-to-file patrons, while others mentioned having board members call new subscribers to thank them. One particularly memorable response was one that highlighted the need to “ask ticket buyers on a second date.”

  2. Don’t forget baby boomers! Many highlighted the importance of engaging baby boomers in marketing and customer service. One respondent noted that the workshop indicated “baby boomers like trustworthiness, quality (consistency), [and] great customer service,” and another respondent mentioned that organizations should provide “concierge-level services” for those in that generation. Some respondents cited statistics from the workshop: 44% of boomers buy from brands they love; 74% of boomers like feeling that they are “saving” (on tickets/subscriptions) and a high percentage like social recognition. When it comes to marketing, one respondent wrote, “baby boomers are a viable group to which we should tailor our marketing.” In particular, another respondent pointed out that baby boomers respond to marketing via postal mail. During the workshop, TRG Arts conducted an exercise and provided data that illustrated why baby boomers (and genX) are viable (perhaps most viable) target audiences for arts and culture entities.
  3. Build your donor base. Another popular takeaway was that member organizations should focus on building their donor base by implementing new and/or upgrading existing donor loyalty programs, investing in donor relationships, and communicating effectively with donors and potential donors. One respondent mentioned VIP parking spaces as an example of a potential reward for big donors, while another underscored the importance of making sure that donor benefits are connected to donors’ experience with the particular arts organization.
  4. Figure out what you should stop doing. Many responded to the workshop’s suggestion that they track the time spent on organizational activities, including specific marketing and outreach, to determine the value added by those tasks. The purpose of the time tracking is to identify and stop doing the tasks that aren’t generating enough value (return on investment) for the amount of time spent by paid staff and/or volunteers. Many specifically mentioned making and implementing a “Stop Doing” list. 
  5. Put a high priority on data collection and analysis. Respondents specifically mentioned hiring dedicated staff members to oversee data collection and analysis, collecting data at every opportunity, and using data to better segment and target audience members. 
  6. Improve marketing strategy. Specifically, respondents mentioned that they should implement marketing campaigns with more advance/lead time, use better tools to market, target baby boomers in marketing efforts, and allocate more money of their overall expense budget to marketing (and away from other areas that don’t generate as much revenue.)
  7. Perform cost of sale analyses. Similar to tracking time, performing cost of sales analyses allows member organizations to identify the direct costs attributable to supplying a service and then eliminate initiatives that have a cost of sale that exceeds a certain threshold. 
  8. Offer strategic discounts. Respondents suggested that peer organizations strategically offer discounts, specifically as part of postcard mailings to new-to-file patrons or as part of special loyalty packages for donors.
  9. Emphasize stellar customer service. Respondents wrote that it’s imperative to make customer service a priority in all patron interactions, from website to post-event, especially for baby boomers. 
  10. Utilize Board members. Specifically, respondents mentioned that Board members could be recruited to thank new (and renewing) subscribers, members, donors, and ticket buyers.

These takeaways are all important elements of an organization’s marketing strategy. Each member organization must decide which strategies best fit in their overall audience-building work, implement, track the results, and (based on results) adjust the organization’s strategy.

To review the presentation from the May 17, 2018, ABR workshop, visit– Member Resources, then Past Meetings. You’ll find the workshop material under the May 17 date.

Minor Website Changes Produce Big Gains 

By Rhonda Davis, Board Member, Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance (SEFAA)

The Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance (SEFAA) received a scholarship grant from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable to attend the National Arts Marketing Project Conference on November 11-13, 2017. 

The opening keynote was “You, Your World, Your Future.” The speakers spoke about diverse cultures and how organizations need to gain understanding of different cultures in order to effectively market to diverse audiences. The main theme—in the keynote and throughout the remainder of this conference—was diversity and inclusion. 

My first session was “A/B Testing Your Way to Success.”

How do I get the most from a Google AdWords Grant? 

By Jessica Boatright & Kathleen Covington, Alliance Theatre

 “How do I get the most from a Google AdWords Grant?” 

This is an actual question I typed into Google (where else?) a couple of years ago. At the Alliance Theatre, we had applied for and received a Google Ad Grant, which meant we had up to $10,000 per month in “credit” toward Google AdWords campaigns that was ours to use. The problem was, we were hardly using it at all.

Variable Pricing - Increase Revenue While Capturing Data

By Stacey Lucas, Children’s Museum of Atlanta

The Challenge

Children’s Museum of Atlanta, like most organizations with the word “Museum” in their moniker, has a very long history of not collecting data from guests. In general, Museums have fostered a “walk-up” culture, sometimes collecting zip codes but rarely collecting full data sets of their guests. Without accurate data, patrons become a “moment in time” as opposed to a potential return guest, member, or donor. 

Marketing at the Speed of Culture

By Cammie Stephens, Michael O’Neal Singers

I was pleased and thankful to attend the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Memphis, Tennessee in November 2017 through a generous grant from Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable (ABR). As Executive Director for The Michael O’Neal Singers(MOS), a 29-year-old choral music performance organization in north Atlanta, I am always seeking new strategies for attracting audiences to our programs.

Pull Audiences like the Duck March…. or “Market like a Cockroach”

By Darlene Hamilton, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications, Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University

The Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University attended the 2017 National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee last November, thanks to the scholarship award we received from The Arthur Blank Family Foundation Audience Building Roundtable.

How to Market the Unknown…and other ways to “Tell our Story”

By Angela Harris, Executive Artistic Director, Dance Canvas

I attended the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in November 2017 on a scholarship provided by The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable initiative. I have attended the NAMP conference several times in the past, and it has always been one of my favorite opportunities to gauge arts marketing trends from across the country.

The National Arts Marketing Project Conference: What Grabbed Our Organization’s Attention (Other than the Marching Ducks)

By Hollie Rivers, Georgia Ensemble Theatre

So much grabbed my attention at the National Arts Marketing Conference in Memphis in November 2017, which I attended on a scholarship provided by The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable initiative.

First of all, MEMPHIS—what a city! This city was buzzing with arts and culture anywhere you looked: from the colorful mural-lined streets, marching Peabody Ducks, Beale Street blues, and barbeque EVERYWHERE.

Soul Food and Social Media Strategy

By Vanya Foote, Executive Director, Atlanta Chamber Players

In November of 2017, I attended the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Memphis, TN, thanks to a grant from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable. Memphis, with its history rich in music and art (and not to mention having some of the best soul food around) provided a beautiful backdrop to bring together colleagues to collaborate and discuss some of the toughest challenges that arts organizations face.

Drafting Your Fantasy Audience

By Kacie Willis, 7 Stages

In October 2017, I was sitting in a coffee shop with Sara Leonard during a consulting session that was provided through a grant from the Audience Building Roundtable of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. I was feeling pretty nervous about conceiving a marketing strategy for the production The Followers; A Retelling of the Bacchae due largely to the ambitious thematic nature of the show and perhaps my own preconceived notions about “the types of shows” that Atlanta audiences wanted to see.

Strategies that Succeed

By Sara R. Leonard, Founder and CEO, Sara Leonard Consulting

As any client of mine and any attendee of the February 2018 Audience Building Roundtable (ABR) meeting will attest, I always remind organizations I’m working with that there is no silver bullet in audience building. If there were, all of the brilliant and diligent nonprofit arts administrators I see would have found it and put it to use. There is no single strategy or tactic that will be successful for all organizations. Each has a different identity: different missions, different values, and – of course – different audiences. But it occurs to me that when we make the time to create really good audience development plans, we’re equipping ourselves about as well as we possibly can.

Aspiration over Desperation

by: Rebecca Danis, The Atlanta Opera

How is a brand significant in the lives of its users? Cynthia Round (former senior vice president of marketing for The Metropolitan Museum of Art) posited this question during her session – “Can We Make Our Cultural Institutions Irresistible?” – at the American Marketing Association Nonprofit Marketing Conference in Washington D.C. in July 2017. Thanks to a scholarship from the Audience Building Roundtable of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, I attended on behalf of The Atlanta Opera.

The National Black Arts Festival: Communicating with our Audience

By Vikki Morrow, President & CEO

In early 2016, faced with a declining audience base, the National Black Arts Festival (NBAF) looked to better understand who our audiences are, why they support us and how we are serving them.

Current Situation: Our 30th Anniversary

One of our challenges is a change in programming that NBAF implemented during the last several years, moving from a festival season to year-round programming...

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