Audience development and the name game

Name (from –noun

1.a word or a combination of words by which a person, place, or thing, a body or class, or any object of thought is designated, called, or known.

When we are born, one of the first tasks of a parent is to name their newborn.  Parents usually put much consideration into naming their children.  There are books and websites with a plethora of choices because names have meaning, names are an identification for a lifetime, the choice is important.  At times a name can be a cherished heirloom handed down from generation to generation, our namesakes are special to us.  Our name, in one sense, is a brand for life.  We can change our name legally, but most of us become attached to the name our parents give to us.

Well then,  how does a name relate or translate to audience development?  One of the 4 C’s of audience development is “Caring,” and the quickest and easiest way to show you care about your patrons is to make sure you know their name – to remember their name, how to pronounce it and spell it correctly.  Learning someone’s name is the beginning to building relationships with people so it is important to get the name right.

I have been posting every once in a while the audience development tip of the day: learn their name and make sure you spell and pronounce their name correctly.  I thought it was time to finally expand upon this so there is no confusion as to why this seemingly common sense tip is a big deal.   Let me give you a few examples.

When I was a box office manager, actually in any of my sales/customer service positions, I made it a point to get to know my customers and to learn their names.  One day during a major subscription drive, we were dealing with close to 500 different patrons.  One of our patrons preferred to come in to renew his subscription.  I had met him after one of the concerts the year before.  I greeted him with, “Hi Bob!  Are you here to renew your subscription?”  He looked at me in awe and exclaimed, “Wow!  You remembered my name!”  We went on to have a conversation about his programming tastes, and I helped him choose the best subscription for him.  I also found out about his main hobby, which translated into a nice item for our silent auction later in the year.  This conversation, subscription sale (an upgrade from his original plans), and his increased involvement via a silent auction donation all occurred due to the fact that I remembered his name!

In terms of pronouncing and spelling names correctly, I will share another personal story.  With so many communications coming at us, our name spelled incorrectly is an easy filter to not bother with that piece of information.  My name, Shoshana, is often mispronounced and misspelled.  Most of the time it can be quite amusing, but at times when people are approaching me to ask me to become more involved or to donate, I am not amused.  Most people aren’t.  If our name is misspelled, we zone in on it and feel a little slighted.  If I see an ask letter from an organization that has misspelled my name, I tend to recycle those requests without opening.  If someone continually mispronounces or gets my name wrong, I tend to not want to be supportive with their request.  You see, if you do not care enough to get the name right, one of our biggest identifications in life, then it is showing that you do not care about the person.  The person will not want to donate or become more involved if you are unable to get the easy task done of spelling their name correctly.   Not spelling their name correctly will show that you only care about what you can get from the person.  If you have name mistakes on your list and they are not corrected, it is communicating that these people are only a number to you.  Names matter due to our identification with our names.

Getting someone’s name right is important in any form of communication.  Misspelling a name in an email or even a Twitter DM will be noticed by the person.  The person can communicate that you misspelled their name, but if you become savvy to the error, don’t be shy and apologize for the error.  It will show that you do care enough to notice and correct.  Our names are important to us.  Let’s show others we care by getting their names right!

It may take some time and energy, but a great way to connect with your patrons is to simply pick up the phone or send a more personalized letter asking them for proper spellings.  When you are meeting people, take the time to not only learn peoples’ names, but how to properly pronounce them.  Learning someone’s name correctly can open the door to bigger and better opportunities.  If you do not have a good memory for names, you can use little mnemonic tricks such as associating something about their physical appearance with their name.  Getting someone’s name right shows that you care, and they will be more interested in you and your communications (your needs) in return.

So the next time you are doing a mailing or meeting people, play the name game.  You will get extra bonus points for getting the name right!

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,


Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
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“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

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Filed under arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development, fund raising, Fundraising, Volunteer coordination, Volunteer Management

4 responses to “Audience development and the name game

  1. Wonderful to find this while searching for a definition of audience development for the paper I’m writing on economics of producing house concerts.

    Thank you!

  2. Pingback: Audience Development and lessons from Vegas | Audience Development Specialists Blog!

  3. Pingback: Audience Development and service with care… | Audience Development Specialists Blog!

  4. Pingback: 10 ways to join the club for better arts audience development | Audience Development Specialists Blog!

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