Launching Loyalty from a ‘Second Date’ with Patrons:


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When the going got tough at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Director of External Affairs Katie Jackman and her team got going on a program for retaining first-time single ticket buyers – and stuck with it in the face of budget cuts, staff furloughs, and their own occasional doubts. Acting on TRG counsel Jackman and the SRT team launched their effort by getting new buyers to come again during their first season – achieving a “second date” with first-time patrons. When that led to triple the retention rate among new single ticket buyers, SRT kept going. They rolled out a disciplined, purposeful cultivation effort over the next three seasons, a program TRG lauds as a model for the industry.

In this free webinar, Jackman and the SRT team join TRG’s VP of Strategic Communications Joanne Steller to trace the four-year history and results of SRT’s new buyer retention program and to answer your questions about its applicability to your organization. You’ll learn:

• How SRT conducted and continued “second date” retention efforts among new-to-file single ticket buyers.
• What SRT did, what they stopped doing, and what they’ll do next to achieve growth in new patron engagement and revenue.
• Examples of strategic practices you may want to adopt.

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  • Let’s start with introductions.I’m Joanne Steller and it’s been my pleasure to be part of TRG Arts for 13 years… as a senior consultant and for the past three years as Vice President of Strategic Communications. For those of you who don’t know TRG…
  • Joanne:Katie Jackman is Director of External Affairs who came to Seattle Rep in 2009. Katie is a veteran arts manager with experience in both non-profit and commercial theatre.With Katie today is Ashley Coates, Marketing ManagerAnd Jeremy Scott, who is SRT’s Patron Relations ManagerThanks for being with us and welcome….SRT: (Respond with your hellos)
  • Now I’d like to say hello to our audience. You are arts managers – some 200 strong -- from a wide range of performing arts organizations, museums, universities and service organizations. And, with all your differences, you have one thing in common… Too much to do. In fact, when we asked What could you stop doing to make time and money for the kinds of retention programs we’re talking about today, you had lots of different answers. But in the end 80% of you said you didn’t know what you could stop doing.Let’s make this the first take-away of the day….
  • Stop. Doing. Everything. The urge to stay late and work hard and DO ….DO …DO is epidemic in the arts world.Epidemic and not possible and notproductiveSo don’t try.Part of Seattle Rep’s success story is that they consciously decided to stop doing specific things so they could make time to more purposefully develop relationships with their new patrons.Let’s begin our Seattle Rep story by setting the stage
  • Joanne:Seattle Repertory Theatre began 50 years ago in 1963 when a group of theatre lovers created the Company as a foundation for a thriving ….arts-rich community. Today, Seattle Rep creates productions and programs that surprise, entertain, challenge and uplift their community through a shared act of imagination. I love this statement on Seattle Rep’s web site: “As we reach new audiences and deepen relationships with our long-time patrons, we welcome and take care of all who come through our doors—there is room for everyone.” Katie, you came into this audience-loving theatre company in 2008. What was the scenario at that time? What were you facing?
  • Joanne: That’s about the time I became your TRG consultant and we began to talk about romancing the audience, especially your newbies or as we called them, your new-to-file patrons. There were several factors that led to your decision to undertake some aggressive patron retention efforts. What were they?
  • Katie & team:Budget cutsRetention became affordable optionThere was opportunity – lots of new single ticket buyers that you didn’t want to lose.Made the decision to get second attendance same season.
  • Joanne:In our consulting sessions we really did hone in on getting that “second date” because your new-to-file data was sending off alarm bells. In TRG’s loyalty studies we have seen that too many patrons never come back after their first attendance….their a first date. And the number #1 reason they don’t come back? They weren’t asked. But ask you did….that was your fiscal 2010 – the and the first year of your new patron retention program.Tell us how you went about getting that second date.
  • Katie &SRT team: cover in your own words:Used mail to contact new ticket buyers….these were your new-to-fileAfter first “date”, ask to come back soonAchieve 2nd date in 60-90 days and kept askingRepeated after every runOffer good on 1st 8 performancesThen: Here’s our audience the type of mailer we used….
  • Used same format each time – change the copy on the shows Offer was calendar-driven – whatever came next….Followed K I S S principle – Keep it Splendidly Simple – realized EFFICIENCIES using the same format. We didn’t test different offers, we didn’t have time. We stayed focused on getting them done each time the run ended.Joanne: There were some things you DIDN’t DO, as well. What were they? ( )
  • Katie & SRT – Note here Talk about No PouncingSome newbies gave a donation – Round-ups, respond to signs in theatreStuck with the strategy Joanne: This kind of discipline is not easy….what helped you stick to it?SRT: Briefly, answer together and in own wordsJoanne: Let’s take a look at this first year results
  • SRT:11% had a second date. We called this group New-to-Season. For the case study: Cultivation Group Joanne: The other first-timers that year didn’t take you up on the second date offer, right?SRT: That’s right…..All first timers got the same offers and no pouncing this first year. This was a commercially and critically successful season so we had over 7,500 new single ticket buyers. Of them, 799 or 11% came back and the rest ---89% didn’t.Joanne: So, you invested in all first timers one amount – it took time, what was the expense? 2. Overall cost-of-sale for this effort was 8%......(say something about how that compares with overall single ticket investment)….Joanne: Reasonable cost, and other results really got us all excited…the second-date folks bought more tickets. SRT:Yes, an average of 5 compared to an average of 3 for other first timers that same year and… They spent more – on average $122 per household that year, compared to about $73 for other first timers…They were more likely to donate. (Explain how low-key this was….)Joanne: At this point, we’re on to something and more importantly, Katie, you and your team decide to keep going with the strategy. SRT: Explain: now standard operating every season for first timers.Joanne: Here’s where Seattle Rep broke the operational mold. They kept romancing the cultivation group. And that’s where our story goes next.
  • Joanne: Going into the next season – your fiscal 2011 –we wanted to buck the attrition trend with first-timers….so you continued dating the Cultivation Group:SRT, in your own words….Held it out as a special segment…..explain how no pouncing continuedGoal was simply to keep them coming back….explain how you knew attrition had been a factor in earlier decline, didn’t want to lose what had been a great number of new single ticket buyersCame up with special offer just for them, designed to get them back with incentive to come multiple times – 3 for $99Joanne: Still using price as an incentive?SRT: Reiterate how coming back, multi-buying was the goal and you were willing to forego some revenue to provide incentiveJoanne: Let’s take a look at the offer….
  • Joanne: You used direct mail again…..SRT: Yes, and point out the main features of the pieceThe trifold’s front coverFirst panel and the back panelThe rest of the piece is on the next slide
  • Inside, the trifold reiterates the offer and choice of all 8 plays of the seasons…[ ] We called it a special introductory offer: 3 plays for $99And they got all of our subscriber benefitsFlexible exchange was an important benefitDID NOT offer same seat? ExplainJoanne: So the cultivation group got this offer by mail, and what else did you do to promote it?SRT: ExplainJoanne: We were pretty excited about the result!
  • Joanne: The big news is: 30% of the Cultivation Group returned, actively with Seattle Rep the next year. These returning patrons came back in a variety of ways. Katie, lead us through the findings:SRT:– The majority 77% bought single tickets in year 2. The response to our 3 Plays for $99 was really interesting… Jeremy – take us through the response. 6% of the returning households took us up on the 3 for $99 offer 17% chose some other, larger subscription package.Joanne: So, those 2nd year patrons looked at what you offered and decided to take your relationship further faster? What did you see and hear from them that brought those larger series about?Jeremy: Answer in own words.Joanne: Let’s look at the other results.SRT: : For the second year in a row, these new patrons bought on average 5 tickets per household. We didn’t lose them AND they remained activeAlso, 16% of this group also gave pretty much voluntarily –relatively small amount, average gift size of $42Total annual spending per household – $126 on average – Our expenses were higher on a cost-of-sale basis – 30% and that compares very favorably with the usual cost of acquiring new subscribers or multi-buyers.Joanne: I have to mention here that Seattle Rep does a great job of cultivating patrons, period. For this study we also looked at those 2010 first timers that did not have a second date. Those who did come back the next year – mostly as single ticket buyers – represented significant revenue to Seattle Rep. BUT, most were lost.
  • Joanne: Only 10% of the other first timers came back in the second year – a 90% attrition rate. The second date strategy tripled retention rates at Seattle Rep. : SRT’s ongoing retention efforts helped keep the cultivation group folks coming back in subsequent years.At the time, you didn’t know this longer term payoff was coming. Going into Year 3: you’ve got this budding romance with your 2010 cultivation group….you decided to take relationship to the next level? SRT: It was scary…decided to bring direct our focus – and theirs – on bringing them into the fold Here’s what we did
  • SRT: In your own wordsCultivation group is still a special segment, no pouncing, selected and tailored asksGoal was bring them into the fold – from 3 plays for $99 to 3 plays in subscription seats and at subscription pricesThis was an offer only they received and it was designed to keep them coming back oftenJoanne: Please describe the materials you used
  • SRT:Renewal packet we used(Point out the basic features)Joanne: And did they receive other promotions from you?SRT: DescribeJoanne: Now the results from year 3
  • Joanne: In this year, we saw growing commitment. The proportion of subscribers among the cultivation group grew from a quarter to nearly one-third.SRT: Most subscribed for larger series that the 3-play and there were more subscribers : A 5% growth in subscribers….small but in the right direction and powerful in impact when we look at other metrics. : We had a 58% renewal rate among cultivation group subscriber. That is significantly better than the 30% renewal rate we generally have with first time subscribers. : Plus in this year we increased average number of tickets purchased per household from 5 to 6Still had 15% of our cultivation group offering us contributionsWe had very low cost-of-sale – tailoring direct communications, some efficiencies of scale and numberAnd a nice jump in the annual amount this group spent --- from $126 in year two to $168 in year three.Joanne: These were steady significant gains….and again….you kept going
  • Joanne: Into the 2012-13 season ---your 50th Anniversary year, and your fourth season with the cultivation group. How did you stay together that year?SRT:Briefly describe the 50th Anniversary seasonStill treating this group as special and new subscribers with service and the confidence to ask for a $50 donation with renewalFocus is on continuing the frequency of their activityWe did it with…..(explain the effort)Joanne: Clearly, you were in this relationship for the long run, and there were a couple of key results that bear that out.
  • Joanne: After four years of romancing your cultivation group, there are more subscribers, buying larger series, and spending more.Take us through the details.SRT : 9% growth in number of subscriptions over the whole period. Compares to 5% drop in number of subscribers among other patrons who were new in 2010 : Renewal rate for our cultivation group from year 3 to year 4 was 81% !Average tickets purchased stayed at 615% of the group offered a donation – average gift size stayed in the $40 range but gifts weren’t our main goals in thisOur cost-of sale….remained small Big payoff is here: households in this group spent an average of $213.Joanne: That was great news….and there was more
  • Joanne:We looked at subscription history among the cultivation group and compared it with subscription behavior of other 2010 first timers, those that didn’t have a second date with SRT in year one.Over the study period:8% of the cultivation group subscribed, 2% of the other group subscribed.There was growth in the number of subscribers in the cultivation group, and decline in the number of subscribers in the other group.Average subscription revenue grew 68% among cultivation group subscribers. It grew 10% among the other 2010 first timers.Similarly, the average subscription revenue among the culitvation group grew much more than it did among the other group – 54% vs. 16%Here’s another finding on the value of SRT’s cultivation effort
  • Joanne:This bar chart measures lifetime value by looking at total cumulative revenue of the two groups of SRT’s 2010 first timers.The red bars represent the cultivation group.The blue bars represent the other 2010 first timers – those with no second date in 2010.The dollar values represent how much each of the original households in each group invested – on average – in each of the four years.Year one -- $73 for the other first timers, and $122 for the cultivation group.You can see that over the four years, the cultivation group’s lifetime value was significantly higher.By the end of year four, their lifetime value was a little more than double that of the other first timers of 2010.
  • Joanne: Katie, your team’s efforts – as we’ve told you many times – are a model for the field.Bravo. Could you please sum up for us? What would you like our audience to take away?
  • SRT in your own words : Focus and commitment are critical : It takes time.Joanne:Thanks so much Katie, Ashley and Jeremy.
  • We’ve been taking your questions and Amelia has been compiling them.Let’s look at a retention fundamental – collecting patron contact information.
  • Thank you so much for attending.There will be video of the webinar on the TRG website posted in the next week. We will send you an email with the link once it is posted.
  • We asked you about collecting patron contact information because you can’t have a second date with a patron if you didn’t find out how to contact them.We asked: Do you collect new patron names, mailing address, phone number and email when they make a first purchase.
  • Launching Loyalty from a ‘Second Date’ with Patrons:

    1. 1. Launching Loyalty from a ‘Second Date’ with Patrons A TRG Webinar with
    2. 2. Launching Loyalty from a ‘Second Date’ with Patrons A TRG Webinar with Seattle Repertory Theatre Hosted by Joanne Steller VP of Strategic Communication Copyright © 2013 TRG Arts All Rights Reserved
    3. 3. The Seattle Rep Team Katie Jackman Director of External Relations Ashley Coates Marketing Manager Jeremy Scott Patron Development Manager
    4. 4. Our Audience Today What could you stop doing to make time/money for retention? “don’t 80% know” Word cloud via
    5. 5. SETTING THE STAGE Seattle Repertory Theatre
    6. 6. STARTING POINT in 2008 1. Change New Artistic Director No Marketing Director 2. Decline Over Multiple Years 3. Opportunity Carrie Fisher
    7. 7. NEW STRATEGY Romancing the audience
    8. 8. SRT SITUATION Retention made sense 1. Budget Cuts 30% across the board 2. Affordable option Retention vs. Acquisition 3. Opportunity Lots of new single ticket buyers
    9. 9. STEP ONE, YEAR ONE A second date with newbies
    10. 10. STEP ONE, YEAR ONE A second date with newbies • Mail contact with new ticket buyers New-to-file • After first date, ask to come back soon Achieve 2nd date in 60-90 days • Repeated at end of every run Offer good on 1st 8 performances
    11. 11. Same Format Each Time Calendar Driven Offer K.I.S.S Principle
    12. 12. STEP ONE, YEAR ONE What SRT didn’t do • Ask or expect more from the relationship No donation ask No telemarketing No “pouncing” • Turn down any advances Voluntary donations happened • Have sudden change of heart Stuck with “Second Date” strategy NOT EASY
    13. 13. RESULTS End of First Year First Year by the Numbers Cultivation Other First Group Timers % All New-to-File 11% 89% Cost-of-sale Average # Tickets Bought per Household 2nd Date Strategy: SRT’s New Normal 8% 5 3 Average Amount Spent per Household $ 122.03 $ 73.25 % Gave Donation 6% 3%
    14. 14. YEAR TWO Continue Dating • Cultivation Group is special segment Still no “pouncing” • Goal: Keep coming back Prevent high first-timer attrition • Special offer, theirs alone Come back….often 3 Plays $99
    15. 15. YEAR TWO RESULTS 30% Returned 5 Larger Series 17% 3 for $99 6% Average Tickets Purchased 16% Donated $126 Single Tickets 77% Average Spent per Household 30% Cost-of-sale
    16. 16. LAUNCHING LOYALTY With a Second Date
    17. 17. YEAR THREE Deepening relationships • Cultivation Group still special segment Specific, tailored asks Still no pouncing • Goal: Bring them into the fold Renew at regular subscription price • Special offer, theirs alone Come back….often
    18. 18. YEAR THREE RESULTS Growing Commitment 3-Play Larger Series 27% 6 Subscription Average Tickets Purchased 1% 15% Donated Single Tickets 72% $168 Average Spent per Household 5% More Subscribers 58% Renewal Rate 1% Cost-of-sale
    19. 19. YEAR FOUR Togetherness in SRT’s 50th Year • Cultivation Group: special, new subscribers Personal renewal with $50 donation request Concierge-style service • Goal: Committed to ongoing activity Continued frequency is key • Personalized renewal, subscriber priority Mail and phone call
    20. 20. YEAR FOUR RESULTS Loyalty Growth 5-8 Play Subscription 21% 3 & 4 Play Subscription 9% 6 Average Tickets Purchased Donated Single Tickets 70% $213 Average Spent per Household 81% Subscriber Renewal Rate 9% Subscription Growth 15% 1% Cost-of-sale
    21. 21. Retention Pays
    22. 22. KEY TAKE AWAYS SRT’s Ongoing Retention Efforts Focus and commitment are critical Audience development takes time
    23. 23.
    24. 24. Webinar Audience Survey Do you collect new patron names, mailing address, phone number, & email when they make their first purchase? Some information at most points of purchase., 24% Some information at all points of purchase., 25% Nothing ever. We don’t ask., 1% All information at all points of purchase., 45% Some information sometimes., 4%
    25. 25. Our Audience Today Collecting contact information Best places to collect 65% Online Telephone 29% sales Worst place to collect 83% Walk up to onsite ticket window