Airlines do it. Retailers do it. Hoteliers do it. Sports team do it, but in a slightly different way. Many of the largest non-profit arts organizations do it, for yet another set of reasons. So why don’t you?
What are we talking about? We’re talking about introducing new levels of access and premium service given to those closest constituents of yours who have exhibited tremendous loyalty and support to your organization.
The airline industry has perfected this type of relationship in order to create loyalty where there is very little and where the act of purchasing an airline ticket is equivalent to buying a bar of soap and an exercise in what has become another commodity purchase. The price from one airport to another is “X” with airline number 1 and it is “Y” with airline number 2. Unless you are a frequent flier, you no doubt will purchase the ticket with the lower price. End of transaction.
The airline industry figured out this lack of loyalty many years ago and created programs to guarantee that if their fare was at least comparable, they would award benefits such as premium seating, early boarding, free tickets at different thresholds and more.
So what can we as forward thinking arts marketists glean from this type of program to not only allow us to create a better experience for our supporters, but also allow us to reach our business goals?
Loyalty program premiums for arts marketists probably line up closely to those which your fundraising department already has in their toolkit. Early access to tickets, exclusive access to artists and events, discounts of ticket and merchandise purchases and so on. Any non-profit that has been around even for a few years already has these in their bag of tricks.
But as I’ve wanted to do with each of these posts, I try to give you a few more ideas on how you might be able to push the envelope with your organization to try some new approaches to building a more fanatical base of support.
The key to all of these programs is access. Exclusive access is something that does not demand additional resources on the organization’s behalf, other than to know what type of access your fans would like to do and what really is the benefit to them.
As is the case with most of our organizations, we are fighting audience churn with every flip of the calendar. Because we have to work so hard to bring in new audiences, while also making sure we are bring back return guests, why not build a multi-tiered program based on the years of their participation in your organization or attendance at your events?
Many might say that due to difficulties with databases, this is impossible to do. I would suggest it might be time to break out the sales records from the past several years and default to our old friend Excel to create a spreadsheet to see how many supporters have engaged with you for two, three, four or even five years in a row. Then honor them with early access to the event, invites to special receptions usually reserved only for the highest donors or other special ways to be acknowledgement. Give them something special for their commitment and dedication over all of these years.
People love to be called out – in a good way. I’m not saying you need to make a formal presentation at the event in front of God and everyone, when a simple, unsolicited, downright surprise listing on your website or in the program guide might suffice.
There are so many ways for you to create your own ‘frequent-flyer’ program, you’ll only ever be limited by your own creativity. Go ahead, give it a shot and think of the ways you would like to be treated by those businesses or organizations to whom you are loyal. In many ways, it would have nothing to do with a discount price (although saving money is always nice), however to be acknowledged for the person you are and what you represent to an organization is always a bonus to the customer, and smart business to the organization.