Tony Lance
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Grow arts and culture revenue

Ask Me Anything: Tracking a Growing Audience

Ask Me Anything Question

"We’re a growing theater company and have been doing our best to keep track of our customers over the years, but I’m worried we’ve grown too big for pivot tables in Excel. What should we do to keep track of our growing audience?"

Tony’s Answer

Keeping track of customer behavior as they mature within your organization is incredibly important—and to do so, you need a functioning customer relationship management (CRM) program in place. Let me illustrate by sharing an experience of poor CRM from outside of our industry. Recently I had a frustrating interaction with an international car company at their Manhattan outpost. I have been a customer for two years, having bought my first car with them in the fall of 2016. Earlier this year I had to replace the car after it was totaled by a storm (hail is no joke…). When I got a new car, I called the service office to make sure they had updated information about which vehicle I currently owned and would need to have serviced. They acknowledged the new information with a quick “got it” and we all went on with our lives.

Then it came time to schedule routine service for the car. Tires rotated, oil changed…the works. When I called they seemed to be confused as to why I would bring in my 2016 vehicle for service that wasn’t needed for another few months. I corrected them and reminded the service department representative that the old car was gone and this was my new vehicle, same make and same model – different year. “OK, got it.” I didn’t feel confident that they’d gotten it, so I called just before leaving to bring the car in on Friday. “Well, we have an appointment in our system that you’re bringing your car in today at 6PM, but not why.” I said it was for a service appointment on Saturday. “All our appointments are booked for Saturday, so you’ll need to come later next week.” Eventually, we were able to fix the appointment snafu and get the car in for a Saturday appointment.

Then something even more mind boggling happened on Saturday. Within one hour, I got three phone calls: “We have your car here, but we’re not sure why.” “Hey Mr. Lance, have you considered trading in your car for a new model? We see you’ve had this one for two years.” “Hello. I have a note in our system that you need to make an appointment to have your car serviced next week. What day is good for you?”

Clearly, they need to find a new CRM application as soon as possible. Nothing about this experience gave me confidence that my car was in good hands. Had they been using an effective CRM tool to track my customer behavior over time, they’d have noticed a lot about me: the old car was gone, the new one was ready for routine service, and I didn’t want to trade in my brand new car so they could upsell me to a more expensive one.

Replace the customer account and car with your constituents or audience and the same rule applies: If you have bad or non-existent records of your customers’ behavior, you could quickly alienate someone by unnecessary or unqualified marketing messaging. This could be asking a young subscriber who has spent, on average, $150 a season on tickets to donate at a patron level of $1,500. Or even asking a single ticket buyer who attended one show one time to subscribe the next season after they bought their ticket at a discount and waited until the last minute.

With customer relationship management, the key word is “relationship.” If you aren’t paying attention or recording accurate and robust information on your customers, you put the relationship management in their hands and you risk losing the chance to have a say in the relationship.

Do you need to assess your current CRM system? Click here to read about how you can look into your current situation. If you know you need to move on from your current system, read this for tips on how to shop for a CRM that will work to meet and exceed your needs. There are many to choose from, not all are prohibitively expensive, and we’ve got experts ready to help you find the right one that fits your needs and budget. Contact us today.

Do you have a question for the team at JCA Arts Marketing? Submit it here. It could be featured in an upcoming Ask Me Anything post.


JCA Arts Marketing collaborates with cultural organizations to increase revenue, boost attendance and membership, and grow patron loyalty. We provide consulting and software services to hundreds of cultural institutions across multiple genres, including dance, museums, opera, performing arts centers, symphony, and theatre. We can help you achieve your marketing goals.

Tony Lance, Consultant, JCA Arts Marketing

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