Don’t Take Them For Granted

A lesson from the big boys in the for-profit world. My sister works in the new business department of Deutsch Inc. (as seen on The Apprentice) In the last couple months they have lost two accounts because new people took over management positions and simply decided to move their business to agencies with which they had preexisting relationships. There was no attempt to meet with the folks at Deutsch to discuss anything, just a call saying the business was being moved elsewhere.

It wasn’t a matter of poor results either. The first company, DirectTV had actually seen the largest increase in business ever since those godawful ads with celebrities reading half-literate testamonial letters began airing. Yesterday, Snapple became the second company to dump the agency and Deutsch did everything for them including designing the bottles and labels and writing those fun facts that appear under the cap. (I actually contributed a couple!) Deutsch would like to replace them with another beverage account but it is tough finding one that Pepsi or Coke doesn’t own.

A less or two here for non-profits. The first is obviously not to take your customer’s loyalty for granted. This is not to say Deutsch did. By all accounts they served their customers well. However, as you can see, some times it doesn’t matter how good a job you do and how much value you offer a customer. It just takes one opinion leader to turn a large segment of your customer base in another direction. Obviously, this can make your job easier in some respects if you can identify the opinion leader and harnass his/her influence for your own ends. But you can also encounter an easy come, easy go situation too.

Another lesson that isn’t necessarily illustrated by the Deutsch example but bears discussion is not to take your audience for granted in general. One of the things that constantly annoys me, and I am sure I am not alone, is seeing lucrative offers for subscribing to a service or magazine. Unfortunately, I can’t take advantage of these offers because I have been a loyal customer for a decade. I really resent the fact that companies will do all sorts of wonderful things to entice me to be a customer but they don’t do anything to reward my loyalty much less entice me to remain a customer. Even worse, when I originally signed up, they weren’t offering any incentives so I missed out entirely.

The only time I get offered special deals, it is to buy something I don’t need from a partner. This makes me strongly suspect they are getting a cut of whatever I buy due to their referral. Do companies really think they are rewarding me by giving me a deal on something I may or may not want when they know for certain I value what they offer?

It is so much more expensive to get new customers than it is to retain current ones, it is worth at least recognizing a person’s loyalty. Given the power and ease of use databases provide, it would be so easy for arts organizations to reward loyalty. If person buys X number of single tickets in a year, they get flagged for a free ticket or a discount. They have been buying tickets regularly for 10 years? Their tickets are mailed in a thank you card with a gift certificate for dinner.

Certainly, you may do all this work and they may still be seduced away by an impulse to do something different. An arts administrator’s job is to make it easy to at least partially ignore those seductions.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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