How to make “free” work now and use the “it” factor later

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There were two articles that have me thinking more this morning.  The first one, Hidden costs of free tickets by Deborah Stone.

Giving away freebies may not be the best way to grow your audiences but how do you set the right discount?

UK Arts economist Tim Baker told arts marketing professionals at the Australia Council Marketing Summit that they needed to be strategic about the incentives they offered.

Baker, who is Director of leading UK-based arts consultancy, Baker Richards, and Vice-President of its US sister company, The Pricing Institute, was speaking about pricing strategies for arts marketing.

He said free entry was often less valuable than strategic discounting because people took the freebies but didn’t come back. If they paid something –even very low – they were more likely to see the service as something worth paying for and would return and pay more.

Discounts and freebies do have to be handled carefully.  There is a chance that the audience will get too used to discounted prices and take your art for granted.  The fact that free does not guarantee that people will come back is also a consideration.  I recommend reading the entire article since it highlights some of the best ways to promote discounts.

My thoughts after reading this was the simple thought I have had before, free could work if you have a follow up program in place.  Free should not be just about getting people to come and sample, but also for you to build a relationship with them.  Make them feel important by following up and offering them a way to stay connected to you and your art.  I do not see the majority of artists and arts organizations using follow up programs to convert these free (or discounted) audience members into future loyal members.

Also, free could be a fabulous way (I agree with the 2-for-1 strategies) to get your current audience involved in bringing new audience members.  This works on so many levels since your audience becomes more involved (deepening their experience with you) and you end up broadening and potentially diversifying your audience as well (similar and different people will attend).

So, I agree that free can be undervaluing your worth, but if used in the right way, it could bring exactly what you were hoping it would.

The second article that caught my eye this morning was Jade Simmons: Elvis, Meryl & Michael at the Cliburn: The Intangibles of “It”.

The audience didn’t even know this kid, but they loved him, from his stride to his stringendos, even with only one prelim recital under his belt and a long grueling road ahead in the Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. So how come he made them swoon so? Because he had “it,” that thing that makes you like music you once ignored, that makes you cheer when that’s not usually your way of behaving.

She goes on to compare three different performers of the Cliburn Competition, their special qualities, to Elvis’, Meryl Streep’s and Michael Jordan’s “it” factors.

There are a couple reasons why her thoughts have sparked a few of my own.  First, I applaud her ability to connect the dots from pop culture to classical music.  We need more of this mentality to create the relevancy that is missing today.  Secondly, it made me consider the “it” factor further.  It’s not just about individuals with this special quality.  Organizations can also have an “it” factor that makes them hook you.  These organizations stand out from the crowd and apply their “it” to everything that they do.  You feel fantastic working with them!

Perhaps we need to consider what our “it” factor is or how to reveal the hidden “it” factors we possess, bring them out, and make them shine.

Once we are using our “it,” we might not need to discount or give tickets away any longer since we will attract the right people that love our “it.”   Free can open the door for them, and the “it” will have them coming back for more!

Feel “free” to comment about your “it” to share…

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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3 Comments

Filed under Audience Development

3 responses to “How to make “free” work now and use the “it” factor later

  1. Great point on the “freebies.” I think giving away tickets can be a good way to accelerate and amplify your other audience building efforts. It doesn’t accomplish anything by itself, but if you combine it with initiatives to build relationships with the people who come to see your work it will get you a larger pool of people to engage with.

  2. Dan Meagher

    Very true. Freebies do not generate return audience. And, as we are seeing, neither do the Groupons/Living Socials either. What does? Excellent product at an affordable price. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Free can work as you quite rightly say if the tickets are used to build an ongoing relationship with your audience. There is a very successful programme in the UK called ‘Test Drive’ (of which I was the pioneer, with Andrew McIntyre, from my days at the Halle Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra). This audience development programme is about offering free tickets to people who are not your current audience and once accepting taking your new attenders on a journey from free to low price to eventually full price and subscription. And it works… very successfully.

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