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An ArtsProfessional feature in partnership with Ticketsolve banner

What can you do if your event is approaching but your marketing campaign isn’t achieving its desired effect? If you’ve got access to the right data, there’s always time to turn the tide, says Paul Fadden.

Photo of Liverpool Royal Court interior

Making decisions based on hard data is something most managers know they should be doing. It’s the fear that this will somehow come at the expense of creativity that can sometimes hold them back. But a data-driven mindset can actually enhance creativity and spark innovation, helping organisations engage with a wider variety of audiences, and resulting in a better overall financial return. 

The data can become the basis for a creative, dynamic process on which digital campaigns are developed and refined

Moving to a data-driven approach has a learning curve, but it isn’t a steep one - and it comes with advantages at every stage in the development of customer relationships. At the outset it can help to clearly and concisely define audiences. Thereafter it can help refine how to engage creatively with different audiences, which channels are best used to reach them, and how to develop specific audience relationships over time. 

Fundamental building blocks

For arts organisations to use data-driven decision-making to achieve their objectives the foundations need to be in place. Clearly you can’t use this approach if you are not already tracking and managing purchase and sales data, and so a box-office platform that can assist with good GDPR-compliant data collection should form the basis of your data journey. 

But with digital campaigns increasingly at the heart of audience development activity it’s also essential that the platform has effective integrations with Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Facebook Conversion Pixels, Google Adwords - and has an enhanced e-commerce integration with MailChimp - to ensure those campaigns can be tracked, managed and changed as needed. 

Google Tag Manager infographic

Only by measuring as much marketing activity as possible can the clearest picture of the customer journey emerge. This then consequently allows for better strategies to be put in place at each part of that journey. And this means that rather than simply continuing to do what works year on year, the data can become the basis for a creative, dynamic process on which digital campaigns are developed and refined as new data becomes available.

Responding to change

Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre is one of the largest production houses outside London, and orchestrating individual creative campaigns is crucial to the success of its programming. Data is a fundamental driver behind its results.

The venue's Marketing Manager Iain Christie says: “For each show we monitor the response to cast-focused, show-focused and venue-focused messages across a number of online media. As the response to each campaign becomes clear, we adjust budgets to capitalise on the more impactful campaigns. We also review the campaign messages and formats (text, image, video) so we are reaching as many ticket-buyers as possible.”

The team is constantly assessing what the data is telling them. They control where to invest their marketing budget to increase their ROI, focusing on which areas are targeting their audiences effectively - and perhaps more importantly, which campaigns are not performing well. 

Iain continues: “For each show we use Google Tag Manager to track the impact of different forms of online advertising. The way this dovetails with Ticketsolve means we can respond quickly based on the data we receive and be much more creative, matching specific campaigns to specific audiences. We can see which campaigns are working and, more importantly, which ones are not. Since we have implemented this strategy there has been a sharp increase in return on investment across social media, online advertising and email campaigns.”

Regular testing

There are other advantages to moving to a more digital-based strategy. Box-office, campaign, test and channel data are all up-to-the-minute, allowing for quick strategy and tactical changes. If something is not working these changes can be made quickly, without hefty costs. Being so cost-effective means multiple campaigns can be run on a variety of channels and testing can be done using a range of variables, ensuring everything is working effectively and efficiently.

A digital-based strategy doesn’t mean a digital-only strategy. Certainly, there is value, especially in the arts, in traditional marketing techniques such as mailshots, postcode analysis and brochures. But whatever the basis for strategy, data and return on investment should still guide and inform decision-making.

Not every campaign achieves its target. Campaigns fail regularly, with or without the insight of data, but the data feedback loop is incredibly fast with digital campaigns and slower for traditional marketing channels. In either case failure doesn’t have to mean the ultimate end. It simply means getting creative to find what will work. Having the data creates the opportunity for you to fail fast and quickly move on to something that will better increase your chance of success.

Insights and creativity

Ultimately data is not about information but about insights, and transforming insights into decisions and actions that help you creatively engage with your audiences

Data-driven thinking gives you the freedom to question everything, encourages you to measure everything, and guides you to the best ROI. It can provide constraints and push you to correct your course if your marketing message isn’t having the desired effect. And it allows for trialing and testing in a way that traditional marketing cannot, so that you fail fast and can focus on what works. 

Paul Fadden is Managing Director of Ticketsolve.

This article, sponsored and contributed by Ticketsolve, is part of a series looking at the power of box office data to inform strategic decision-making.

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Photo of Paul Fadden