Audience development for the arts end of year a-musings (Part 2)

In order to make my “Best of” list of advice a top 10 list, there are three more main points to make.  Drum roll please!

8.  Deliver impeccable customer service!  I wanted to remind you that when we have an extremely positive experience or when we have an extremely negative experience, most of us will tell 3-10 people.  Now that we have social media, these numbers are vastly larger.  For example, yesterday I read someone else’s blog about how poor the customer service was for a business he had to deal with.  He sent this blog to his list of Twitter Followers (around 450) and he probably sent it to his Facebook friends as well.  I bet he even sent out a few emails to his closest friends and family.  Some of his followers, family and friends probably forwarded to their circle of people. It would be fair to say that his bad experience with this company, his story was told to at least 1,000 people total.  Yowza!  Next, consider whose opinions we value the most – opinions from our friends and family.  Double yikes!

In this age of blazing fast communication, it is extremely important to give your patrons the best service possible, before, during, and after your event.  When the service is incredible, people will talk favorably about you and your art, and your wonderful story will spread across the land.  With our world becoming smaller and smaller due to social media, “the land” is bound to be international (more to think about).

9. Fast and friendly follow up, please!  I know I have blogged about this topic before too, but it needs to be mentioned again.  Many artists and organizations are not following up with their patrons.  Part of the reason may be lack of keeping good data so you can follow up.  Another factor is the old “I simply don’t have enough time” excuse.  If you are scratching your head wondering why your patrons are not following up with more purchases, it is probably due to the fact that you are not following up with them.  When you drop the ball, it sends a message to your patrons that you don’t need their patronage again.  Period.

I recently framed my Linus Maurer with the little message he sent to us.  If Linus can take time out of his busy schedule, I’m sure you can too.  Following up is more valuable than creating marketing for new purchasers so allocate a little of that time for following up.  Keeping a relationship with your existing patrons will reap you many benefits and it costs less to follow up (versus obtaining a new patron).  Remember the old adage:  Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.  If you do not keep a good database so you can follow up, consider obtaining a better way to keep your records.  This investment is completely worth it.  After you have a good system in place, develop a program that creatively keeps you in touch with your patrons.  Above all, any reason to thank them is a good reason to get in touch.

In a nutshell, if you continue to spend your time obtaining new patrons (instead of following up with your existing patrons), that is all that you will ever have, new patrons.  It is more costly and a less effective way to run a business, and you will never achieve the loyal support your art needs and deserves.

10. Implement changes when needed.  The old excuse “that is how it has always been done” is simply, in a word, weak.  With our world changing at lightening speed, we as artists and arts organizations need to change too.  Traditions are only traditions because we have made them so.  Consider making new traditions.  Here is a list of items to consider changing:

  • Your Board (if you have one)  Are the right people on your board?  Are they doing their job of fundraising and strategic planning?  Are they advocates for your organization – do they build relationships in the community on your behalf?  If the answer is no to any of these questions – your board needs to change.
  • Is there something your patrons complain about?  Develop a solution and tell them about it – make the changes to make them happy!
  • Is your marketing/brand bland and like everyone else’s – refer back to beginning points in Part 1 and change!
  • Are the people who are volunteering or being paid to support you actually supporting you?  If not, make a change!
  • Are you getting to know your patrons as people?  If not, make a change and get to know them.
  • Are you taking time out to connect with people?  Coffee, lunch, dinner?  If not, go out there, connect, and change.
  • Are you thanking your patrons enough?  If you are not thanking them at least 3 times per transaction/donation – make a change!
  • Are you asking for support personally – again refer to Part 1 and change.
  • Is your business structure working for you?  If not, make a change.
  • Is your programming working for you? Ditto.
  • Are you engaging with your patrons?  No?  Change and engage!
  • Is your mission current?  If not, make a change.
  • Are you following up?  No?  Then change and begin to follow up.
  • Do you have a good database for keeping notes about your patrons?  No?  Take some of your change and make this change!
  • Are you collaborating and becoming a part of your community?

I think you get the idea.  Sometimes it takes action before your entire team can be motivated.  Someone needs to make a change so your world, your circumstances can change.

With 2010 coming to an end and 2011 beginning, take the time to breathe and to sort out what is working for you and what is not working for you.  Look around at all the new solutions that have occurred during the year.  Create solutions that are best for you and your patrons for a brighter new year.

One of the wisest men who ever graced our earth said:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi

What do you want to see?

Happy New Year to you!  Cheers to a prosperous 2011 with an arts world that is supported by a plethora of happy and loyal patrons!


Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists


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

Workshops are available!

Does your arts organization or artists group need some new energy?  Our workshops can generate enthusiasm for audience development.

Contact us for more information!

Hourly Phone Sessions – Do you have a question about audience development or need feedback or advice on a project or challenge?  ADS can help!

Donate to the Audience Development Specialists Grant Fund!

YouTube Gallery – Do you have an amazing way you use YouTube to promote your art?  Let ADS know, and you might see your YouTube highlighted on our new gallery!

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Filed under arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development

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