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Kirk Mortensen
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Grow arts and culture revenue

Ask Me Anything: Sharing Data


Ask Me Anything Question

"Data is one of our most valuable resources. Why would we share it with other organizations?"

Kirk’s Answer

You’re right. Data about your patrons and their buying behaviors is one of your most valuable resources. If you’re using it well, your customer data brings value to your organization in many ways every day.

You can use it to invite patrons back for another performance or visit, but that just begins to scratch the surface. The data you collect can help you better understand your customers’ preferences and habits, identify likely prospects for deeper engagement, segment your audience for more targeted communications, and more accurately project future behavior patterns.

So, why would you go around giving that unique and valuable resource away?

First off, you’re never truly giving it away. You can share your patron data with another party, and still hold onto it for your own purposes. It’s possible to do some pretty amazing things without even exchanging patron names and addresses. Either way, the best reason to share your data is to get something sufficiently valuable in return. As consumers, many of us share our personal behavioral data with social media platforms, search engines, loyalty programs, health care providers, etc. all with the expectation of an exchange we and others have deemed fair: seeing updates from friends and family, accurate and fast access to the information we’re looking for, discounts and benefits, correct medical diagnosis and safe treatment, and so on.

List sharing is the most common form of data sharing we see among arts organizations.  And while list sharing can help you reach new prospective patrons, there are many other possibilities. We’re seeing more and more groups of organizations pool their customer data to add value in creative and powerful ways that go way beyond simple list exchanges. Here are just a few of the things you can do when you openly share your patron data:

  • Understand how your customer base crosses over with other similar organizations in your community to uncover programming and marketing opportunities.
  • Identify patterns, trends, and shifts across your cultural market that can help your organization more effectively pair your offerings with your prospective audience.
  • Compare your own organization’s performance metrics to those of other organizations and understand where you may be moving against or with overall industry trends.
  • See how similar shows are performing at other venues and in other markets, to make more accurate projections and plans.
  • Improve marketing effectiveness by understanding your customers’ behavior outside of your organization.

Sharing your data in a collaborative arrangement with other organizations can have a multiplying effect on its value to your organization.

Remember that not all data sharing collaborations are worth your time and hard-earned data. Here are a few situations to avoid when considering how to share your patron data with others:

  • Arrangements that don’t recognize the value of your data, and as a result, don’t offer you something valuable in return
  • Collaborations that don’t give you clarity about how others will (and will not) be allowed to use your data
  • Partnerships that don’t allow you to keep the promises you’ve already made to your patrons about how you’ll safeguard the data they’ve provided to you

As long as you can find opportunities that offer value, are clear and collaborative, and recognize your ultimate responsibility to your patrons, our experience suggests that the benefits of sharing your data outweigh the risks.