Senior Consultant, TRG Arts
As I reflect on the theme of the AMA Conference, The Power of Play, expressed as “responding to challenge, replacing isolation with collaboration, embracing risk, and experimenting,” I’m struck by a realisation. I’m reminded that at TRG Arts, we work with organisations that are doing exactly these things, every day. Our clients consistently have the courage and curiosity to ask the question, “what if?” and are committed to finding new ways of engaging audiences, growing sustainability and increasing impact. This commitment is more important than ever as arts organisations increasingly face several challenges. It’s critical that organisations build a strong financial base and more deeply engage their audiences so that these organisations can continue to deliver on their missions and grow impact in the communities that they serve.
At TRG, we know that the most powerful way to build stronger organisations is to build patron loyalty. Deepening relationships with patrons creates renewable revenue for sustaining the work. Patron loyalty is about engagement – mattering, impact, connection – which expresses itself in increased transactions, frequency and spend. Building loyalty is about getting audiences to do more, feel closer, commit their time and attention, and money for supporting the work. This is done through ticket sales, membership and subscription purchases, and donations. Patron loyalty encompasses and goes beyond audience engagement, creating bonds and ownership that sustain organisations.
The good news: patron loyalty is cultivated through commitment and investment combined with the right structure and outreach. Theatr Clwyd has a strong history of subscription but experienced a sharp decline in this key loyalty-building programme over two years, following a period of change at the theatre. Under the leadership of Liam Evans-Ford, Theatr Clwyd initiated a patron-centric focus that invited audiences to do more through incentivising and rewarding loyal behaviour. All of which was supported by a robust marketing campaign. Together, in just one season, Theatr Clwyd was able to grow subscription package sales by 470% year-over-year. And, increased their revenue by more than five times the amount achieved in 2016-17. In fact, Theatr Clwyd achieved the highest subscription revenue ever in 2017-18 – after only one season of renewed focus.
We see these subscription results again and again – clients like Long Wharf Theatre, in New Haven, Connecticut, who bounced back from a three-year decline with a 13% increase in units, and 21% increase in revenue in year one. And, Vancouver’s The Cultch with 36% revenue growth and 21% more packages over two years. In the UK, Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre launched season tickets for the very first time in 2015, and saw subscription growth of 18% more households and 30% more revenue over the following two years. Repeatedly, we are inspired by our clients who are committed to growing patron loyalty and reap the benefits for their organisation by doing so.
Subscription is one of the most effective way we’ve seen to build loyalty, increase frequency, and revenue impact in the arts. I encourage you to think about how valuable this tool could be in growing your patron relationships (check out our webinar, “Subscriptions Are Dead… But Are They?”).
If you’re not thinking about these things today – start. If you don’t have a loyalty strategy – develop one. Now is the time. It’s more important than ever to strengthen patron relationships, build patron loyalty and drive sustainable revenue — so that we can continue to achieve our missions and inspire our communities through great art.