Technology / 09.20.23
Foltin and Nothstein on the Importance of Ticket Platforms and Data Management
A couple of INTIX members took center stage for a roundtable talk on ticket platforms and data management at this week’s Midwest Arts XPO (or MAX) Conference in Indianapolis. For those who were not in attendance, Cate Foltin, Business Manager for the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Michigan, and Bethany Nothstein, Sector Strategy and Community Manager, U.S. and Canada, for Spektrix, were gracious enough to provide us with an overview of what was discussed.
Both agreed on the importance of capturing customer data for the purposes of future promotions; targeted campaigns; and, generally speaking, “catching the next wave.” Foltin says, “It is one of the key foundations for which all successful campaigns are built. You can’t target unless you: one, know who you want to reach; two, have the relevant information in your system; and three, know that you are capturing the relevant information consistently. It is also important because having good customer data can also let you know where you aren’t reaching or connecting with — who isn’t coming from similar demographics.”
To that end, Nothstein adds, “The most important way to truly build back, expand, attract new and retain audiences is through effective customer relationship management [CRM]. The starting point of effective CRM practices begins with capturing effective customer data. Tracking various touchpoints at every level, like website pages visited and the buttons/links clicked, through to the tickets, merchandise, and classes customers are purchasing, and through to the donations made and loyalty programs joined. Each of these touchpoints powers key engagement strategies that can be automated to nurture a wider customer base.”
The key is to use one’s ticket platform to analyze things like customer demographics and attendance patterns to do a better job filling seats at upcoming events. Foltin says, “If you have the ability in your platform to gather information beyond name, address, zip code … do so. Ask questions. Allow customers to let you know what they are interested in attending — Broadway, family shows, comedy, etc. — in broad terms when they are creating their accounts with you either online or at the box office. Ask them other questions like ‘Is seating preference important to you?’ and ‘What other value-added services would you be interested in?’” This would include digital programs, pre-show talks, meet and greets, and so forth.
Foltin adds, “Most importantly, use that information. We all gather data. But if it just sits there, it is useless.”
“The key to analyzing customer demographics and attendance patterns really comes down to understanding and actioning the information your CRM is collecting,” Nothstein says. “A really powerful booking behavior report can change the game in terms of understanding the what, the who and when purchases are being made. These key elements lead to understanding what affinity individuals have for your work and/or organization and will allow you to understand what incentives might attract those individuals to return.”
For those venues and organizations looking to get better at using the technology in this way, Nothstein and Foltin had some choice advice. The former says, “There is so much that you can be doing at your organization, and that can be very overwhelming. Leveraging your tools with your organization's priorities in mind will help guide you. A key question is ‘How much automation have you set up to let technology do the work in this process?’ With under-resourced teams, it is nearly impossible to manually do this process effectively. The key is automating the flow from new customers to returning customers to donors through effective automated tagging, emailing and reporting.”
The latter agrees, adding other questions that need to be asked have to do with “Can your technology keep up?” Examples range from “Can your technology keep up with changing governmental policies and regulations?” to “Can it keep up with advances in smart devices?” to “Can it keep up with keeping your data secure?” Foltin adds, “Paraphrasing from my friend, Bethany: ‘There are three important ingredients when looking at technology, which are: agility, simplicity and comprehensiveness.’”
Both Foltin and Nothstein added that post-event data can be used to craft future pricing strategies. Perhaps the biggest concern both expressed was preserving “data integrity.” How important is data integrity, and what can be done to protect it? According to Foltin, “It is critically important! Customer data is the lifeline to any organization from patrons to donors to VIPs. Keeping up with PCI-PII compliance is one way to assure your customers that their information is safe with your organization. Invest in data security, fire walls, prevention software. The fallout from having your data compromised will result in losses to both the bottom line and customer/patron/donor confidence.”
Presented with the same questions, Nothstein says, “The primary factor for maintaining data integrity is to ensure your system has a single identifier for each customer that rejects attempts at duplicate entry — for example, an email address. From there, it’s about leveraging the tools available to you in the system for de-duplication, such as tagging, address matching and the ability to merge records. More than anything, the importance of a single, centralized system capable of storing all data from your operations — be they from sales, marketing, fundraising, education or retail — is key to maintaining a single source of truth for customer records and customer data.”
Finally, both interviewees spoke of the importance of having the ticketing office and the larger organization on the same page regarding all things data management. Nothstein says, “The reality is that in an ever-changing landscape of personnel, systems and new technologies, it is hard to keep everyone on the same page about how best to manage the organization’s data. This means that the better and more centralized a software platform is at automating and managing that for you … the more likely a large organization is to maintain clean and effective data even as they scale.”
Foltin closed by quoting Kay Burnham, founder of Perceiving Possibilities, who said, “Do not keep changing your data standards every time a new leader comes in and is used to doing it a different way.” She concludes, “Every change to your standard resets your ability to analyze your data accurately. Without clear accountability and consistency for managing data, it will drift into the land of garbage-in/garbage-out faster than imaginable!”
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Tags: Technology , Data Management