Building a Super Fan: Developing Brand Advocates in the Arts

Devoted supporters are essential to achieving success in a competitive arts market. Filling auditoriums is an important goal for marketing the arts but so is building a fan base that will return on an ongoing basis. Once you have sold that first ticket, how do you turn a trial buyer into a brand advocate; a super fan?

Here are a few steps to building long-term relationships with your patrons, establishing trust, and creating positive word-of-mouth in the community.


Put a winning product on stage.

Regardless of your marketing initiatives, the art itself will always be the most important tool through which to compel, engage and connect with audiences. Understand what your patrons look for in performances, and ensure your art is the highest caliber it can be. The psychology of a super fan tells us that even the most loyal fans will stop visiting if their local team is on a losing streak.

Develop communication channels.

How will you continue to connect with new fans who have recently seen your work? Creating avenues for patrons to opt-in to future communications is essential. Post an e-newsletter sign-up form in your lobby; create a Facebook page and invite your close network and supporters to join. An extensive email list not only keeps a super fan engaged with your content, but also has monetary value! According to Luminate Online’s 2014 Benchmark Report, an email address is worth $12.46 in future revenue and donations to the average not-for-profit.

Offer the best.

On average, 80 percent of an organization’s sales come from 20 percent of its customers. Use that to your advantage by offering your loyal customers the best seats for the best price – with no exceptions. When you develop ticket sale strategies, keep in mind that the cost of retaining an existing patron is significantly less than the cost of gaining a new one. It’s never worth losing a super fan to fill a house at the last minute.

Listen to your stakeholders.

Open communication is key to a long-term relationship – especially with patrons. What do loyal subscribers look for in a performance? Is their feedback being heard? Similarly, can you ensure that you have mitigated any negative interactions from the entire experience – from volunteers to ticket agents to front of house staff? It’s remarkable how quickly one negative interaction can distort a super fan’s perception of an organization. Attentively listening to your patrons by way of post-show emails, surveys, and clear feedback loops is crucial to good customer service.

Invest in an online content strategy.

Online marketing has revolutionized the way super fans consume content. No longer limited to television features or magazine articles, fans can now access content about their favourite performers at any time. Similarly, smart phones now allow every savvy marketer to create high definition multi-media content with a range of budgets. Sharing raw, behind-the-scenes rehearsal video or preview photos is an excellent way to engage your patrons. Not only does this boost your video view counts, but consumers are 64 percent more likely to make a purchase after watching a video.

Here is a great example of simple, effective behind-the-scenes video content from Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Market your stars.

A casual fan buys a ticket to the ballet. A super fan buys a ticket because Misty Copeland is performing the lead in Swan Lake at American Ballet Theatre. You don’t need an international superstar to sell tickets, but you do need to educate your audience about the unique and phenomenal talent featured in each show.

Promoting your stars as brand ambassadors humanizes your on-stage product and emotionally engages fans. Those fans are three times more likely to recommend to others, while returning to the ballet themselves.

Securing a ticket purchase is only the mid-point in a successful customer experience. It’s essential to have a strategy in place – based around the cornerstones listed above – to develop audience relationships and keep your passionate fans emotionally engaged and divinely inspired. By paying close attention to what your patrons value and appreciate, it is possible to turn first-time attendees into loyal fans and invaluable advocates.

Categories: MPMG