Art By Numbers: dealing with ACE data

Arts Council England are getting all its National Portfolio Organisations to share their audience data. But what can touring companies do with it? Spektrix CEO Michael Nabarro has some suggestions.

In January last year, Arts Council England announced that it would force its National Portfolio Organisations to share their audience data with other NPOs, prompting a reaction from the sector that seemed in equal parts confused and delighted.

Whilst some unanswered questions remain, touring companies should be jumping for joy at what’s been announced so far. Traditionally resigned to inconsistent and irregular data streams from the venues they work with, touring companies are now likely to see a more consistent stream of data about their audiences.

Data sharing opens the door to a much more strategic approach to CRM for touring companies, particularly in terms of marketing, allowing them the ability to segment and communicate directly with their audiences in a more sophisticated way than was previously possible. A greater amount of data to explore, however, requires more intelligent tools than simple spreadsheets to fully analyse.

I’d advise touring companies to explore what CRM systems are out there for smaller organisations; these solutions will allow touring companies to model their CRM on the way theatres and larger arts organisations approach their customer data, without offering functionality that they don’t need.

Approaching CRM in this way will, most likely, use email addresses as a unique identifier for each customer record. These can then be used to highlight and remove duplicate records when importing new data from other NPOs, allowing touring companies to build a clean and useful database over time. Although many touring companies will have already built a similar database, this new change from ACE should increase the quantity and quality of data available to them.

Touring companies will then be able to tag and segment their audiences in whichever ways best serve their goals. The arts sector as a whole needs to move away from blanket communications that target nobody in particular. With a greater amount of contextual data from other NPOs, touring companies will be in a much better position to move in this direction too.

In the short term touring companies are most likely to be first to reap the benefit of ACE’s data sharing rules, as the challenges involved in upskilling and moving towards stronger data-led strategies are small compared to the potential benefits.

Michael Nabarro is co-founder and CEO of Spektrix.

Read the full feature in issue Vol 11: Issue 13 of IAM here.