Art by Numbers: making your data work harder

Are you squeezing all the potential value out of your audience data, or is there more you could do? Michael Nabarro helps you boost your database

If you’re a ticket-selling arts organisation, the information in your database should constantly be improving in order to work harder for you. Increasing the number of contacts in your system is clearly important for direct marketing, but what about the contacts already there?

One data point that doesn’t get enough attention is ‘permission to contact’. Simply having the email address and booking history for one of your patrons does not give you permission to send them direct marketing messages. They may be a regular booker and a long-time supporter, but without a virtual tick in the right virtual box, it’s actually unlawful to send them your latest email campaign. Every database will contain people who don’t wish to be contacted. Yet, from working with our clients at Spektrix, we often find that only about half of their database is marketable to. Clearly this results in a phenomenal amount of direct marketing that can’t be sent and lost revenue-making opportunities to match.

It’s likely, however, that many of these non-contactables would still welcome marketing from an arts organisation. They may not be aware that they haven’t given permission, may have changed their mind about being contacted by you since they declined, or they may just be in the habit of clicking the ‘no I would not like to be contacted’ box whenever they see it. We find ourselves in an unusual position in the arts when it comes to direct marketing; although audiences are often keen to know what’s happening in their local venue, they may still associate direct marketing (of any kind) with unwanted spam.

Read: Art by Numbers – email is actually more effective than social media

The key to tapping this potential could lie with your box office staff. When one of these un-contactable customers rings to book at your organisation, or visits the box office in person, your front line staff need to be able to recognise that this person is not on your direct marketing list. By simply asking the question ‘Would you like to be added to our mailing list?’ and explaining the benefits of giving their permission to be contacted (perhaps exclusive offers or priority booking) your box office staff can start to build these already-captive audiences into your direct marketing lists.

Refining and improving your current database is vital, but the quantity of data you have access to is important too. As simple as it sounds, increasing the number of people you can market to is no bad thing. Finding an unobtrusive call to action on your website that encourages people to share their data with you is an incredibly valuable asset. Who’s to say that those ‘phantom visitors’ who visit your site but don’t book, won’t book something different in the future? Make the most of their attention whilst you have it and get them in your database.

Read: Inside the Berlin Phil’s Digital Concert Hall

The next challenge is to protect the mailing list you’ve developed. By carefully considering how you’re segmenting and communicating with your audiences, you can ensure you’re doing everything in your power to stop those on your lists from unsubscribing. A quality direct email that reflects your brand, is designed as an HTML campaign (rather than plain text), looks good on mobile and is based on intelligent segmentations will, when it lands in your potential customers’ inboxes, make a much more positive impact than a badly-designed campaign sent to a generic list. If they find your emails interesting and relevant it’ll keep them away from the unsubscribe link.

When managed effectively, your direct marketing database is hugely valuable, and well worth the investment in resource to keep it updated and relevant. If the arts industry is ever to plug the gap left by lost subsidy, data marketing solutions like these are the best place to start.

Michael Nabarro is co-founder and managing director of Spektrix. You can read his other Art by Numbers columns here.

Image: data visualisation, courtesy Wikimedia