Every time I send out an email or post to my blog, I end with my signature, “Cheers to happy and loyal audiences” and a quote by James Stewart, “Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
I am a firm believer that building a happy and loyal audience is exactly where our focus needs to be, and treating your audience as a partner is one of the many management shifts we can make in order to create a happy and loyal audience.
So, you want an audience that supports you, and you want them to be loyal to keep them coming back for more. What are some actions you can take to make this happen? Here are my top 5 suggestions to get you started:
1. Begin with knowing yourself.
If you don’t know who you are and what your art is all about, how will you be able to attract the right audience for you and your art?
This step means defining who you are down to the letter so you can brand properly and set up your marketing messages to speak clearly about who you are, what your art is, and provide the exact image that matches you and your art.
This is a crucial step. I have seen many artists and arts organizations that are not well defined, and their brand is mainly a copycat of their industry at large. What makes you unique is a better objective and will attract the best audiences for you.
2. Get to know your audience.
When I start a session to discover information about a client’s audience, I mainly ask both demographic and psychographic questions. I am finding that most of us know the demographics. However, when I ask what the main hobbies their audience enjoys or what other art forms they go to or if they have any issues with your venue, I usually get the answer “I don’t know.”
The psychographic questions, or the behaviors of your audience members and their likes and dislikes, are equally important. You can find these answers by talking with them personally and making a note in your system, placing a few psychographic questions on your surveys, and conducting special focus groups to schmooze with particular audience members to get to know them better.
As soon as you know your audience from this broader perspective, you will be able to use this information to broaden, deepen and diversify your audience! You will also begin to see a clearer picture as to why these people are attracted to you and your art form and get a good idea as to what to program in the future.
3. Get to know your community.
I am amazed sometimes when some of the goals for an organization do not fall in line with their community. Do your intentions that you want to accomplish speak true for your community? Before you start your audience development plan, it is advisable to know your community. Who is a part of your community? What is important to your community? How can you and your art benefit your community?
Is it feasible to attempt diversity by building relationships with a certain group in your area? How many people from this certain group are in your community? Are there enough people to actually warrant this type of diversity planning? In order to answer any of these questions, knowing your community is a must. Otherwise, you may think what you have in store is brilliant, but you may actually be wasting your time without this knowledge.
4. Invest in yourself by evaluating your budget.
Time, money, and energy are tight these days, but audience development lacking in any of these necessary components will fall short. Invest time to figure out what is working and what is not working to discover a better budget and use of your time and other resources.
Use your money wisely by seeking out opportunities to make your money go further. Take time out to find the people that will support your organization and make the asks for volunteers and donor support. Keep evaluating with every move that you make to guarantee that what you are doing is working. If not, make the changes necessary.
5. Create an audience development plan with the 4 C’s and keep it relatable to you, your art, and your audience.
You will want to create a plan that has audience relations programs that help you to build relationships with your audience members and have elements of the 4 C’s of audience development: connection, collaboration, community, and care.
This will enable you to connect with people again, form collaborations with other artists and organizations, become a part of your community and build a sense of community around your art.
You will also want to have programs that show that you care for your audience members, such as appreciation and follow up programs and audience participation programs. With each program, take time to judge if it makes sense for all the parties involved. You will now have audience relations programs that are innovative and make sense for you, your art, and your audience.
Building a happy and loyal audience will take some time and effort, but it doesn’t have to be difficult to achieve. As long as you keep your audiences in mind during your planning procedures while at the same time being true to yourself, you will be well on your way.
Cheers to happy and loyal audiences!