Commentary: So You Think You Know Your Audience...

Joanne Steller, TRG Arts blog, 3/12/12

The more TRG studies patron behavior, the more we realize how often and how much even the smartest managers make wrong assumptions about the patrons who are visiting their exhibits or sitting in the seats of their theatres, concert halls and arenas. Take the question: Who in attendance at an arts event has been here before? A 2011 TRG study told us: only about half. We say "only" because the prevailing conventional wisdom was that most patrons -- 75% or more -- are repeat ticket buyers, subscribers, or members. In fact there are so many new patrons in America's audiences that the study's author, TRG Vice President Will Lester dubbed it, Every Night is Opening Night. See Will's 6-minute video presentation on the study here. Knowing that a large population of new-to-you or new-to-the-arts patrons makes up your audience should challenge some other assumptions like:

No, really, my audience is old and has been coming for decades. The only way to be sure is to look for new-to-file patrons and track them. Once you do that, deeper analysis can tell you when new audiences tend to show up and for what, and what they are willing to pay.

Seriously, people love us and keep coming back. Sorry -- survey says that 4 out of 5 new single ticket buyers come once and are never seen again.

Our new [_____] campaign is so good it will bring in everyone this season. TRG research consistently shows that newcomers respond differently to information you typically give insiders like subscribers, members or donors.

I won't trade lists. Don't ask me to let my competitors steal my patrons. Guess what? Nobody's stealing anything. As we've written before, the best patrons are active with multiple organizations. Research is clear on this point: your best patrons are also good, better or best patrons at other arts and entertainment organizations in your community.

I have to cut my budget so I'll just put money behind the events that need help. Another consistent finding of patron behavior study is that new audiences turn up more often and in larger numbers for the best-selling shows. Tight resources are needlessly wasted on the wrong assumption that more spending will save an event that is unlikely to find an audience.

It's tough to make informed decisions 100% of the time. Smart practitioners focus on making the best possible important decisions -- the ones that return on investment. What helps is information - data -- that's readily available in your own database and, where available, in your community's data co-op.


Commentary: How well do you know your online audience?

Jackie Purnell's Respectfully Disobedient blog

Data takes time. But rather than sit on the sidelines and wait, I'm suggesting you dip your toe in the water and test the temperature as soon as possible. It's the best way to make sure you're not wasting your efforts and your marketing is being correctly targeted. There are tools & resources around every corner, but they will only provide you with the raw data, you have to analyze and make sense of it all. To get a clear picture it's really important not to take any single site in isolation. Assess and look for patterns across the board of consistency and confirmation. Here's my selection to get the skinny on your crowd.

  • Google Analytics is a great tool, but it classifies your audience collectively as traffic. Great for exploring traffic sources, content popularity, location, visitor flow, tracking conversions etc...but doesn't tell you who those individual people are.
  • Many people find Get Clicky easier to navigate and less technical than Googles tools, but once again demographic makeup is missing from the mix.
  • While the validity of Alexa's ranking system often gets called into question, I actually like Alexa. You can get a feel for the actual people visiting your site, rather than 'traffic' as a whole.
  • Facebook Insights will give you data on reach & engagement, age and country demographics, and individual post stats.
  • Unfortunately Twitter only counts numbers. But a nifty app called Know Your Followers will enable you to get a quick snapshot of your audience make up.
  • I thought I would throw Quantcast into the mix, which is a full audience demographics measurement tool. I have only just begun using [it but] I've heard their service is excellent.

These tools will allow you to get a good feel for who your audience is. What content works, what doesn't. What gets shared, liked, & converts. After all when you know better, you do better.


Commentary: Ignore Your Audience, F*** 'Em, Be A Leader First

Jason Fonceca, guest blogger on

"You don't really care, in all honesty, and I mean this with the utmost respect, why I'm here. You don't [care] how I feel. You don't care about my agenda... And that's human nature... you can't fault human beings for being human but you have to appreciate, respect, and empathize how they look at life, and you'll be able to harness...all the opportunities that abound." - Jay Abraham

Jay Abraham is a very wise man, he understands this, and uses it to communicate with people better. But it's not just your market that's selfish at its core - It's you, too. So, since we're all selfish at our core, why are so many websites going on and on about "know your target market" and "catering to their needs?" It's boring. I'm not super jazzed to read about this stuff, for the most part. I'll tell you what resonates with me, and it's not "knowing my target market" - that doesn't move me. The advice, which is basically telling me to "be personal and get inside their heads,"... the advice itself feels abstract and impersonal, and like the people who are writing it don't get me well at all. If they did, they'd talk about what resonates with me. Success. Vision. Fantastic, thrilling, imagined futures which can and will come to pass! If the bloggers were talking about this leadership + influence stuff, I'd be more impacted, eager to pay attention, and to act. To me, talking about being an influential leader is sexy, and I'm riveted by it. It's selfish. It's what I want. It's what I enjoy. It's how I see myself and the result I'm after. I'm not focused on 'knowing my target market.' I'm not against it, I'm just not psyched about it. Is anyone? Does anyone wake up and say "Man, my life dream, what I really want more than anything... is to know my target market! Yeah!" And that's okay, be selfish, focus on being the leader you know you want to be.

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