Rosie Clarke, Campaigns Officer at Culture24, describes her experience at our Come Here Often workshop earlier this year.
Attendees at the Brighton Come Here Often workshop on attracting infrequent attenders came from a mixture of performing arts venues, a dance company, a gallery, the Arts Council, and myself. Their diversity and range of experience were a real highlight! Although we at Culture24 don’t run events, I wanted to attend the course because my role coordinating the Museums at Night festival involves sharing best practice in audience development to support hundreds of museums and galleries planning and promoting their own events.
The morning was theory-based, studying the marketing process of segmentation, targeting and positioning; considering the different groups who are infrequent arts attenders, and looking at audience research into their behaviour.
Trainer Sarah Boiling recommended research publications such as Arts Council England's Not For The Likes Of You. In this piece of research, to understand new audiences’ risk aversion and psychological barriers, one brave research team put themselves in the position of first-timers to a leisure activity by trying fishing, and noting the factors that left them feeling confused or put off.
In the afternoon we looked at examples of audience development and community outreach projects. We tackled a case study in groups, acting as an arts venue marketing manager keen to research their infrequent attenders, and considering the internal and external primary and secondary research we could do.
We then discussed different groups of infrequent visitors, their motivations and perceived barriers, how to create messages to attract them, and which marketing channels would be best to use. Inspired, my group suggested a diverse programme of events designed to appeal to our different target audience segments.
Key best practice tips:
1) Writing benefits-led copy to promote events: Ticket price isn’t the main barrier to entry for lapsed attenders; the language used to describe events has to be persuasive enough to allay fears, and explain not just what will be happening and why it’s good quality art. It also needs to convey the emotional benefits of spending time, money and effort in buying tickets and attending.
2) Collaborate with other organisations: If your organisation doesn’t have the budget or staff to do an audience research project single-handedly, consider carrying out research in partnership with other organisations that appeal to the same audiences.
Equally, it’s worth engaging and building relationships with local groups made up of your target audience who will give you feedback on your marketing and events.
3) Social media marketing can deepen audience engagement and build a longer-lasting relationship with your visitors. For example, Sarah Millican tweets after every show referring to a unique moment that took place during it – an exclusive inside joke that will only mean something to her audience that night.
Rosie Clarke coordinates the Museums at Night festival and edits the sector-facing festival blog, sharing event planning and marketing case studies and best practice. She is studying for the CIM Professional Diploma in Marketing.
The Come Here Often day workshop returns in 2013, taking place at Hughes Hall, Cambridge on January 16th, and the Sage Gateshead on 5 February. If this blog post has whet your appetite, follow the link to book your place now.