Decoding Your Audience: Building New Clients, Patrons and Donors

Written By Josie Gulliksen
May 29, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Decoding Your Audience: Building New Clients, Patrons and Donors

As an arts organization, knowing your audience is the key to keeping the support of existing patrons and donors as well as building new ones. That was the focus of the Arts & Business Council’s Miami Arts Marketing Project workshop held on May 20 at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

The six featured speakers represented a wide spectrum of industries where the workshop topic is a daily part of the work they do.

Robert Lander of Behavioral Science Research, spoke about “Six Great Reasons to do Research:”

  • You want to build traffic
  • Trends in attendance make you sick
  • You have new product concepts; a new look; a new name
  • You are forced into changes you think will kill you
  • You have a new competitor or an old one is growing, expanding
  • You have a feeling your audience isn’t who it used to be

His tips continued: Keep audiences returning by offering what they like; find out why they stopped attending. And are they uncomfortable or bored with what you’re presenting? Review your old research and use it as a baseline to get them back, he said.

“Market research is inexpensive and imperative to retaining and building an audience,” Lander said. Internet and phone surveys, on-site polling, focus groups, and comparison marketing are good examples.

John Copeland of the Arsht Center shared numbers and research figures from a survey they’re currently conducting using Survey Monkey.
“We’re using it to see where we rank and using the data to hopefully change business for the better,” Copeland said. Of their 180,000 member database, close to 6,500 have responded and the questions they asked of survey takers included:

  • Where do they consume their information: television was first, but they’re gravitating to social media and many listen to the radio.
  • 6% said friends tell them about shows at the Center.
  • Performance and discount offers were top motivating factors for attending.
  • Annual household of attendees income spiked in the $150,000-250,000 range so their development department uses that to develop a specific campaign for that target group.

Rayna Davis, audience development for the New World Symphony, said their four concert formats – Encounters, Pulse, Mini and Journey — are the base for their audience research. Their findings are as follows:

  • For Mini-concerts, 47% of the audiences are new to their database, making it a good building block for growth, and 45% are under 55.
  • Encounters is a one hour concert featuring the orchestra playing against a visual backdrop with a post-concert reception. They’ve strengthened their relationship with this particular audience.
  • Pulse concerts feature social media, a DJ, then the orchestra. The median age of attendees is 38 and 40% are new to their database.

They use audience response surveys, focus groups and interviews, database research and internal data mining for polling.

“We have found that research has been effective for product development, gauging new funders and for publicity,” Davis said.

Rebehak Monson from the University of Miami School of Communication pinpointed four key actions — listening, understanding, creating, and facilitating.

They’ve incorporated these principles during their current massive Web re-design. “The site was built five years ago and has not been touched so we conducted e-mail and phone surveys,” said Monson. Those surveys showed alumni and students wanted the Website to show how other students were doing and how to reach out to them, rather than the school listing all their accolades.

“We actually sat and watched people use our website and only then realized they had to do four or five clicks for something that should have taken only one click,” Monson said.

They also surveyed people to find out if they were civically engaged and acting on that, created Buskerfest, where local musicians performed at Metromover stations, a campaign they devised to entice the public to use Metromover.

Giving insight into the actual polling and survey process was Lanie Shapiro of Touch Poll of South Florida, who said “our forte is on-site data.” She stressed the importance and value of polls and surveys stating that data can help organizations re-vamp programs that may be aimed at the wrong audience.

And from her years in the business she knows:

  • Adults are likelier to return if you include incentives for their children.
  • Gather open-ended reactions to create taglines and gather info you may not usually get.
  • Cross-promote and learn if people attending your event are dining out near the venue, then partner with area restaurants, especially if visitors plan to linger in the area.
  • Review your grant application before developing your survey questions.

The workshop concluded with Bill Anderson of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, who said that “culture has helped us grow a whole new image.” They conduct their surveys in Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports, as well as visitor centers and shopping venues.

As of 2013, they know 51% of visitors came from international markets, the largest percentage ever.

They also know the number one issue in Miami is traffic, whereas in the 1990s it was crime. They found 25% of people complain about the traffic.

“The research helps us determine where to open our offices. We work with the airlines to learn about new and developing markets. We are doing more forecasting and survey our members on a quarterly basis,” Anderson said.

One last tip: Data collected must be used and presented in a useable format so organizations need to ensure the survey company they hire has staff that understands how to collect data for a survey.

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