Audience Development and rewarding your valuable patrons

In terms of good audience development, building relationships with your patrons is key.  However, time and time again I see many artists and arts organizations forget to spend time on and with their most valuable patrons.

We seem to be doing business backwards.  We reward our newcomers with discounts and extra attention and the only reward and attention we give our most loyal patrons is perhaps a subscription discount, which some of them rather not be given in order to support you.  We bend over backwards for obtaining a new audience with our marketing budgets, but are we doing anything to bend over backwards for our loyal patrons?

Perhaps some of the benefits for your subscriptions and memberships make these patrons feel a little more comfortable, but I dare say that we have fallen short when it comes to building a better connection with our most loyal patrons and supporters.  We most certainly do not spend enough time coming up with audience development programs for them.

I liken this to what most companies do.  They offer a wonderful offer to their first time customers, and once they have the customer, they practically ignore them.  The only way a loyal customer can get attention is if something goes wrong or if they finally switch companies and then switch back for the new offer. Money wise, this doesn’t make sense (cents) for any business.  We should all know that it costs more to obtain a new customer than to keep a loyal customer.

In the arts world, we may (or may not) be a little better than this.  Sure we contact our patrons when there is an upcoming event or a fundraiser, but aside from marketing to them year round and asking for their support, what are we doing to build relationships with them and making them feel honored?

Today would be a good day to start implementing programs that will finally address your loyal patrons to make them happy and to make them feel cared for.  With any audience development program, make it a point to add time to get to know them as people.

Here are a few suggestions you can bank on:

1. Audience appreciation nights
These are programs that make a fuss over your loyal audience.  It does not have to be a discount, but it should be some form of acknowledgement for your favorite audience members.  Perhaps a special show or party.  Or you could simply do something extra special for them at a regular concert.  Use your creative powers to come up with interesting and fun ways to give them the attention they deserve.

2. Rewards programs
Start rewarding your loyal audience members.  Maybe there are DVD’s or recordings you can give away after they have attended their umpteenth show.  Maybe you could start a badge program so they can show off their loyalty.  Whatever you do, make sure it is a reward that your audiences would enjoy.

3. Special drawings only for the loyal
Drawings don’t have to be only reserved for galas and fundraisers.  You can have a drawing for your loyal patrons for various prizes (based on levels of loyalty) such as coffee with the conductor, lunch with a musician, a special sitting with an artist,  a particular piece of art, or perhaps a prize seat for a performance with other bells and whistles added.  Again, you can get creative.

4. Thank you gifts
I can’t say it enough that thanking these loyal patrons as often as you can in a variety of ways is the best thing you can do for your business.  For the cream of the crop, you can make it a point to thank these patrons with a special thank you gift just for them.

There are many more ways you can show appreciation for your most valuable patrons.  The point is to start implementing these programs sooner than later so you can make your loyal patrons feel valued.  You in return will reap the benefits of these valuable relationships.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,


Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists


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Filed under arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development

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