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A Single View of the Customer: What Does It Mean for the Arts?

You work hard to make connections with your audience members. And they want to feel like they’re the most important people on your radar.

To nurture that kind of relationship you need to know as much as possible about each patron and use that knowledge to communicate meaningfully. But when there is duplication of data, ticket buyers feel like part of a herd, instead of unique individuals.

How Does Data Duplication Happen?

Performing arts organizations may hold customer data in various places for different purposes. Perhaps the box office system has information entered from various ticket orders over time. Am I in the system as Jayne Dutra, Jane Dutra or Jayne E. Dutra? Or all three?

Perhaps the Development Department keeps a separate list of donors, patrons and subscribers. Perhaps Marketing compiles groups by the type of production they are most likely to attend. Every time information is duplicated, the organization risks incorrect replication of the master record. Even if a single system is used, phone representatives may mistype a name or create a new record instead of editing the original. Or perhaps a new field was added to the data model (Household, anyone?) without clear instructions to the data entry folks.

Here are some of the problems that can result from duplicated data:

  • The organization sends copies of the same marketing piece to the same person every time there is a mailing.

  • Even worse, the same person is sent conflicting offers.

  • The organization tries to sell the audience member tickets they have already bought.

  • You do not have an accurate picture of the customers you may think are your best ones.

  • Marketing budgets are wasted every time a new campaign is carried out.

  • Your single ticket buyer is never transformed into a season subscriber.

When there is a single view of a customer, all duplicate records are removed and data about that customer is in one place. Every interaction and transaction is associated with one unique instance of a customer master record. Once the data is cleaned, deep insights can be gained by combining it with unstructured content and social media metadata.

What Are the Benefits of a Single Customer Record?

I have seen some wonderful presentations comparing the growth of patron attendance to a love story. But before you can evaluate exactly where you are in your relationship, you need to have the facts. With a single customer record:

  • You know the history of the ticket buyer definitively.

  • You can identify your best customers and engage with them appropriately, maybe with a directed message or offer.

  • You only send the correct marketing materials once to each potential audience member.

  • You are spending your marketing budget wisely and minimizing waste.

  • Cross selling or up selling efforts occur to the right buyer at the right time

  • Your patrons are more engaged because they receive timely, relevant information

  • A single ticket buyer may be more apt to become a regular subscriber because they enjoy the relationship you are establishing.

Creating a single audience member data view requires some effort, but is highly rewarding. It can lay the foundation for a more effective marketing dialog with your audience, which will help you keep them longer, increase their loyalty over time and find more prospective buyers like them.

There are resources out there that can help. If you are using Tessitura, Raiser's Edge or another BlackBaud software package, companies like JCA, TRGArts or even NTEN, can be very useful in providing assistance and advice for cleaning up CRM data.

Remember: Winning a new customer costs 5-10 times as much as keeping an existing customer!

Jayne Dutra is an enterprise information architect and a stage designer. Her IT consulting practice supports performing arts companies to better organize their materials so that they can focus precious resources on the creative process instead of drowning in information overload.

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