Cost effective audience development!

It has been brought to my attention by Jim McCarthy at Goldstar (@goldstarjim – smart cookie – you should follow him) that I have yet to blog mainly about why audience development is cost effective.  Before I jump in with a few suggestions,  I wanted to share with you some math that proves how cost effective audience development is compared to some other methods.  Do keep in mind that audience development is all about obtaining the people power to help support your organization.  People power is what makes audience development extremely cost effective since mostly your people power is comprised of  friends and family, colleagues, volunteers, and loyal patrons.  Audience development done right means that your people are continually helping you to grow your support with more people – it is an exponential growth solution.I know of a chamber orchestra that asked their patrons to fill out a survey, and 68 people replied (23% of attendees).  The survey asked how they heard about the concert.  27 people responded (40%) that they heard from a family member or friend.  14 responded (21%) that they heard about it from an advertisement in the local paper.  The ad in the paper cost them $275.

It cost about $19.65 per person that attended via the advertisement in the newspaper.  The cost of the ticket was $20.  Not much of a take away here.  The cost for friends, family, volunteers and  patrons spreading the word?  It did not cost them a cent!

They also did radio advertisements for this concert at three local stations.  3 people (4% of respondents) were in attendance due to these ads.  The ads cost them $500 or around $166 per person. Ouch!

Advertisements in newspapers or through radio spots do work, but they do not result in as good of a ROI as they once did.  The world has changed.  I could give more examples from this survey, but I think you get the point.

Now granted, this was only 23% of attendees that responded, and survey results can be a little difficult to sort out at times.  Over the years though, many other surveys have indicated similar results.  One of the biggest reasons for attending an event was that they heard about it from a friend or family member.   Now imagine what would happen if you spent a little bit of money, time and energy to make audience development work for you, to increase the amount of people power that is spreading the word.

Here are three cost effective suggestions to take advantage of audience development:

  • The cost of a cup of coffee, $1 – $5 these days.  You would not believe how productive one little coffee conversation can be.  There is something about sharing a cup of coffee that opens up a conversation with many possibilities.  You can invite someone to help you during this conversation or find out some other useful way to collaborate.  You can give the juicy details about your next event, and if expressed with lots of enthusiasm, most of the time the person offers to help in some way.  Finding a very supportive person to help you and your organization is well worth this little expense!  In one case, meeting someone at a coffee house turned out to be free support.  My client, now very audience development oriented, struck up a conversation with someone at a coffee shop. She was so amazed by his event that she became a very active volunteer on the spot!  This didn’t even cost him the cup of coffee since she already purchased her own.  She turned out to be the connection for several companies that donated in-kind supplies and food for the event, a value of close to $300.  Plus, 6 people attended the event due to her spreading the word ($275 worth of tickets).  Not bad for free and friendly support!
  • Fliers – I can’t live without them now.  You can print out around 300  8 1/2 x 5 1/2 fliers for about $20.  Yes, I was able to swing a really great deal.  You then can personally invite 300 people using these fliers as handout information for them to take home, put on their fridge, and use later to purchase their tickets through your website.  Let’s say 100 people attend via this effort (1/3 of the people personally invited – sounds about right).  You spent only $.20 for each of these patrons to get them to attend!
  • Social media done right – the cost is usually free!  Imagine what you can do if you had at least 10 people helping you to spread the word through social media outlets and asking others to help do the same.  Each of these 10 people invite 100 people.  That’s 1,000 people invited to the event personally by your people.  These helpers also make sure to follow up on their conversations regarding the event.  If only 10% show up due to this effort, this is still 100 people that did not cost you money to get in the door!

It is people that truly make the world go round.  People make things happen.  I would bank on better results using people power any day. I encourage you to keep building relationships and asking your people for support.  Audience development is very cost effective if you use methods where friends and family, colleagues and loyal patrons can give you a hand.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,


Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
Facebook/twitter /E-mazing Newsletter /Blog

“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

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Filed under arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development, volunteering

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