When Serving Bad Food To Patrons Can Solidify Their Loyalty

Over the years I have made many posts riffing on the idea that marketing it is the responsibility of the entire organization, not just a single department. For that reason, I was happy to see a recent case study report TRG Arts posted on that topic.

Working with Performing Arts Fort Worth (PAFW), they emphasized the need for everyone to be involved in the effort by simply including everyone in the conversation.  PAFW started having patron loyalty meetings where they discussed the issues at hand, including the cost of retaining long time supporters versus attracting new individuals.

That’s when it clicked, and the floodgate of ideas opened up! House management said they were going to make patron loyalty a regular topic at their usher meetings. Someone suggested they send patrons a voucher for a free drink in their birthday month. Someone else suggested they turn the process for testing new concession products into a tasting event for loyal patrons. There were many more ideas that came up, and there were a number of people who said they would take responsibility for implementing ideas. “I never was a part of that process” quickly became “I understand our shared goal and I want to help.”

I particularly liked the idea of involving loyal patrons in a tasting of new concession products. Even if the new options weren’t tasty, the idea that your input was valued could go a long way to cementing a patron’s relationship with the organization. I am curious to know if PAFW has implemented that idea.

There was one thing the TRG piece mentioned that caught my attention:

And yet, there were legitimate operational questions that needed to be answered. If a VIP Presenter would like their complimentary drink in a souvenir cup, whose budget gets charged for the cup? How far can I go (and should I go) to make a patron happy?

The sentence evoked a memory of an episode of the West Wing when newly appointed chief of staff CJ Cregg is running into a lot of opposition from the Secretary of Defense over some new initiative (I think it was accepting the nuclear bombs form the Republic of Georgia). She has a realization that his resistance is based in the fear that the funds to implement this will come out of his budget.

As idealistic as you may be, there is always a cost of some sort associated with every good idea. So if you insist that marketing is everyone’s responsibility, you are insisting that everyone bear some degree of additional cost to implement this directive. The cost may be in time, resources or money.

It will be important to communicate that marketing/patron retention/whatever you call it, is a priority for the organization and allowances (and perhaps allocations) will be made to enable the achievement of this goal. Otherwise internal resistance may thwart your efforts from the start.

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 (artshacker.com) 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. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

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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