Marketing Automation in Performing Arts

I’m in a new industry, which means I come across different marketing approaches. I always like seeing how these new perspectives translate to the performing arts. My current industry is heavy on lead generation and marketing automation. Skip forward a little to this week, when I came across an interesting post from the TRG Arts folks.

The post, “Too Many Tryers to Sustain the Arts,” echoes the Orchestra Churn study I have written about in the past:

In our firm’s decade of arts consumer research, Tryers are the most prevalent type of patron behavior.  They are households that have infrequent, one-time, or long-ago transactions with your organization. Right now your database–like those of most arts and entertainment organizations–is likely comprised of 90% Tryers.  And most of them are patrons you’ve allowed to lapse.

In my Take A Friend to the Orchestra post about flipping the funnel, I cover a strategy on how to market to these “Tryers,” or “Unconverted Trialists” as the Churn study calls them. In particular, how you follow up with them after an experience is crucial.

A November 2011 post by PatronTechnology CEO Eugene Carr eloquently and anecdotally explains it in different words:

Often as arts patrons we are thanked personally for our contributions. But when buying a ticket, is a generic “Thank You” screen enough after a completed transaction? Actions speak louder than words. If patrons receive a “thank you” email after they buy their ticket, it registers. If they receive a reminder before the show, they are impressed. If you send them a message after the performance asking if they enjoyed it, or if you provide them with an invitation (or discount) to future productions you’ve proven to those patrons that you not only appreciate their business, but you appreciate them. In the end, individual attention is worth its weight in gold.

Speaking of emails, I’m always happy to know if an event I’m interested in is coming to town. On the other hand, I’m not terribly happy when I receive emails that have nothing to do with me. For example, if I bought tickets to see The Messiah, do I want to know when the Megadeth tour is coming to town? Keeping all correspondence relevant to a patron is not only a responsible marketing approach, but a respectful one.

Enter marketing automation. Marketing automation is all about a follow up sequence, or rather sequences, on leads you captured in some form or another.

Capturing leads

You may well consider these “Tryers” and “Unconverted Trialists” to be very hot leads for future performances (although technically, they would be repeat buyers). In addition, there are many ways for generating leads and capturing those leads. You likely already do so in a very basic form with a simple “Sign Up for Our Newsletter” page on your website.

Generally, the more information you can get the better (not just name, phone number, address and email, but also what performances interests them, what performance day they prefer), but the more information you ask the less likely a lead capture form gets filled out. The all-important question becomes: how do you segment your lists? Followed logically by what information do you need for your segmentation?

Looking at industries other than performing arts, we can learn a little about lead capturing. Usually, companies offer a white paper or a webinar or other content in exchange for contact information. Interestingly, I have not seen any performing arts organizations use their content for lead generation. Free downloads of music files, when offered, are often just openly available on a website. And what about that behind-the-scenes video you created? And why not generate a white paper from a lecture on a particular opera or symphony?

Nurturing and converting leads

When you’ve captured your leads and you’ve tagged them appropriately, you can start the nurturing process. Tagging is important, because a tag will determine how you’ll follow up with your lead.  Some examples:

  • Tag based on: money spent (Can we put them in a sequence for an up sell?)
  • Based on: repertoire (Indicated interest in what? Previously attended what?)
  • Based on: [insert tag that makes sense for your segmentation]

The tags determine in what marketing sequence your leads will be placed. Simplistically, it goes something like this: “If patron has A tag, then they’re in A marketing sequence” or “If patron has B tag, then they’re in B marketing sequence.”

This tagging and segmentation is key, because as Carr writes you need to keep “all correspondence relevant to a patron.” The Churn study too showed that offering a relevant “killer deal” will get those Tryers and Trialists back in the door.

And once they’re back in the door—once the lead is converted—they’ll be put in another marketing sequence. Perhaps you can put them on a path toward subscriptions.

If they don’t respond to a marketing sequence, tag them accordingly so you don’t keep bombarding them with messages or abandon the lead altogether. If, let’s say a marketing sequence consists of 8 email messages (or better yet, a mix between online and offline messages) and they haven’t responded by the time the eighth message appears in their inbox, you can put them on in a sequence that nurtures them more slowly, keeping the lead warm, but not annoyed.

Sample sequence where the patron is moved into another sequence if not converted by the campaign’s end, keeping the lead warm, but not annoyed.


Of course, marketing automation does not mean impersonal. In your sequence, one or more of the touch points can and should be a phone call or personal conversation. If a patron with tag A is in stage 4 of the sequence, you can flag your box office or sales team to call them, for example. And not all messages in the sequence have to be a hard sell; let’s say the purchase of a show is the entrance into a sequence, then that thank you note after a show should be part of the sequence.

You cannot execute a well-structured marketing automation campaign without accurate analytics. I’ve written before how I set up e-commerce tracking for the Austin Lyric Opera. This becomes key. One of the most important elements of marketing automation is testing and configuring the optimal messaging. This should be an ongoing process.

I admit, setting up a marketing automation campaign is complex (a lot of “if this, then that” scenarios). Even more so for organizations that do not have the resources to work with the software or vendors specialized in automation. In fact, I’m not even sure how well most ticketing solutions are set up for this. I suspect very few to none.

The point is also not to completely automate all your marketing, push a button and sit back. There should always be room for flexibility. You should take elements and apply them where you can and where you know they make sense. Perhaps you just want to test the concept with lapsed subscribers and put them in a nurturing sequence.

Start small, segment well and keep testing. Then, rinse and repeat and scale up.

If you have any examples of marketing automation in performing arts, leave a comment below!

1 thought on “Marketing Automation in Performing Arts”

Comments are closed.