Theater For The Future

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The Big List

September 03, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Chicago Theater, Community Building

An exciting announcement from the League of Chicago Theatres today:

In Jan. 2010, the Chicago Theatre community gets a city-wide patron database.

Boom. Right? There’s the necessary checks and balances to retain patron privacy and list autonomy. But even League member theaters who have *not* been tracking data will now be able to use this pre-built and pre-calibrated system as part of their League membership. As someone who both knows how to build a versatile database but still finds his company using a big obnoxious excel spreadsheet for this task, I say yay.

Theoretically, the big list would allow for the tracking of deep patron data – such as city-wide theatergoing habits of individual patrons. This would be a massive first step for small storefront theaters who are trying to gather real, actionable marketing data.

On a large scale, it’s also conceivable that this kind of data gathering could really shed light on exactly how big the Chicago theater-going audience is – and how big it needs to be to support operating companies.

I found some interesting thoughts on the TRG website, as well that comes from data culled from other cities that have tried this system – such as this finding that rented mailing lists and a season subscription campaign don’t exactly lead to success – specifically, rented lists can usually only scrounge up a 0.4% subscription rate. Huh. I knew it didn’t work, but I didn’t realize it was equivalent to setting all those season brochures on fire in a hobo oil drum.

Way to go, League. You’ve earned this:

(h/t ZeFrank)

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3 Comments to “The Big List”

  1. Alyse Kittner says:

    Another word on marketing: Those who have already had contact with you need less communication to make the choice to attend. So, spend less on those in YOUR database (emails/WOM/facebook) so you have the $$ for this new list fro LOCT and other rented ones. I typically find a 1% response from direct mails. The more you send, the wider the net and the more the 1% (or .4%) equals in actual ticket sales.

  2. nick keenan says:

    Thanks for adding, Alyse. On a practical level this particular finding is underscoring for me how storefronts, direct mail campaigns, and rented lists (lists an organization straight up borrows to contact folks they don’t know anything about – rather than two organizations leveraging their patron trust to drum up attendance for both companies) just don’t mix. If you consider that printing and mailing a brochure usually lands in the $1 – $2 range, you really need a success rate of over 5% (of new patrons) to make the campaign worthwhile.

    What I love about this system is that, hopefully, this means we can start leveraging data to collectively connect with the folks who are on that tipping point… Folks who see one storefront show a year who are more like 10% likely to come and 80% likely to come back, becAuse the habit and interest in seeing hidden theatre is already there. It also allows us to lay off the folks who see 10-20 shows a year since they already know the scene, know what they want, and don’t need that expensive brochure to choose.

    I’m much more comfortable with an inexpensive viral campaign on the web if the list I’m using promises a 1% return. Again, this list gets us into the realm of microtargeting, which just feels so much more married to DIY theatres that each cater to a very specific audience.

    What do you think?

  3. Thanks for the badge of awesomeness. We’re thinking about having shirts made. Yes, the list can do everything you describe and more. It will make our marketing much more targeted and sophisticated and most likely everyone will see a better ROI. Other Cities have used the list to collect data that makes a much better and clearer case with lawmakers and funders. It is very exciting.


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