Opinion | Planning with data

Thoughts on practical applications of big data...

I have to admit to being quite pleased with the live Audience Finder dashboard (and why shouldn’t I?). However, sometimes you just want a report – something to print and share that is definitive. Something that represents a moment in time because the problem with live data is that it’s always changing. Planning on the basis of live data can feel like building on shifting sands.

In my last blog I wrote about becoming a more data driven sector and I outlined practical steps that you could take to improve your ability to do so in your organisation. By improving the consistency, quality and quantity of data, your knowledge about audiences (existing and potential) should be even better. But what we all want to do is put that into practice.

A good place to start is the Audience Report in the reports section of Audience Finder. This isn’t just a tool to report to your funders, managers and board. By defining your audience in one simple snapshot, it can be easier to start pinning them down and not getting distracted by all the other information that’s available in Audience Finder. Which in turn will help you think carefully and with clarity about who it is that’s really interested in your different activities. Understanding who they are and where they’re coming from is fundamental to making this useful.

Whether you’ve collected survey or box office data, the report gives you an Audience Distribution: Postcode Summary. This gives you a quick view of the top 30 postcode sectors appearing in your data and therefore the 30 geographical areas you are most likely to bump into one of your customers on the street. Can you visualise those areas? Do you have a sense of the people there? If not, go and take a look on google maps, what’s the transport infrastructure like? Is it a short drive or bus ride? If you go to your Audience Finder dashboard, the mapping section will let you search those postcode sectors and compare the number of different Audience Spectrum profiles. You can then go back to your organisation Audience Profile and start to note which postcode sectors have the highest proportions of each of your top segments.

So now we’re starting to build a picture of where our audiences are coming from, have a picture of their interests and behaviour from the Audience Spectrum pen portraits and so we can start to tailor our communications to the types of people who live in these different areas. And most importantly see a better return on our investment in marketing. Emphasising different parts of the offer, not only the artistic content but also other aspects such as ease of access. Commuterland Culturebuffs are highly driven by perceptions of quality and ease of access frequently comes out high in our research on barriers to attendance – for example in recent work with a museum client a majority 90% rated it important in their decision-making about family leisure activities.