Art by numbers – 3 Tips for Effective Family Marketing

It can be tempting to think of family audiences as a single homogenous group – but that would be a massive marketing mistake, says Michael Nabarro.

A few weeks ago I attended the Family Arts Conference in London — a fascinating day covering areas like accessibility and family-friendly marketing and pricing.

The panel discussion on Marketing to Families sparked lots of interesting questions and discussion from the floor, so I wanted to share three of the top three tips we discussed on the day, alongside real life examples from arts organisations who are nailing it.

One of the worst mistakes arts organisations make when targeting a household demographic is failure to segment. All too often, mainly due to lack of resource, people fall back on what I’ll term the EE strategy – target Everyone and Everything. Sadly with that approach you can kiss your marketing ROI goodbye.

So let’s start there.

1. Segment your family audiences.

‘Family Bookers’ are often treated as one homogenous group, but there is as much diversity in your family audience as in your entire database. Sending everything to everyone is especially common when marketing to families. Just because someone came to one family show it doesn’t mean they want to come to all of them.

Children have defined tastes just like adults, as I’m sure any parent will tell you, plus the age suitability of shows differ so someone with a 1 year old is not likely to be interested in a workshop for 5-7 year olds. One good place to start is to segment on previous booking history.

Off the back of looking closely at their data and discovering which segments were most engaged, the MAC Belfast developed a new programme of workshops aimed specifically at families with babies and early years children. They created a marketing campaign tailored for this segment and, as a result these workshops regularly sell out. It pays to segment.

2. Data is key. Classify your programme and clearly communicate these classifications.

Be it theatre, workshop, educational, comedy, or film, your website and all communications should clearly define the range of family events on offer. We need to make it easier for parents to find events suitable for members of their family, whatever their ages.

Unicorn Theatre caters specifically to young audiences and last year undertook a redesign of their website, resulting in a much more user friendly customer journey with clearly specified age suitability and information about the shows.

The addition of an age-range search filter, along with several other changes to their website and marketing, contributed to a 6 per cent uptick in the Unicorn’s online sales.

3. Remember that the needs of your family audience differ from the rest of your audience.

Be mindful of this in all contact you have with a family audience. From first landing on your home page, to walking through the main doors, families need specific information in order to arrange a trip to an arts organisation – not only about the event but the venue as well. Many won’t be able to visit a venue in person or call during regular hours, so your website is vital for communicating this information.

Take the Mercury Theatre in Colchester, for example. They have a dedicated page for families, explaining the facilities available specifically for children and families, whilst helping to remove any logistical barriers that might prevent them from attending. Their pre- and post-show emails are an excellent way to get that targeted information to family bookers, and help to gather feedback to ensure they’re meeting the needs of families.

So what can your venue do next? Try taking a critical look at your website and communications from a family perspective. Consider what might discourage parents from booking. What information should they be able to access quickly, but can’t? Try asking friends and relatives, or undertake some structured user testing to find out what’s working and what isn’t across your entire operation when it comes to families.

Crucially you have to remember that families don’t all look the same. Can you cater for a single parent and only child as well as you can cater for a large family visiting with teenagers, toddlers and pensioners? If our youngest theatregoers have a great time today, they may just come back with their own children in the future.

–Michael Nabarro is CEO and co-founder of Spektrix.