Case Study | Audience Finder: the CEO’s perspective

Adam Buss Chief Executive Officer at QUAD shares his experiences of using Audience Finder

At 35 I became one of the youngest CEO’s of a major centre for art, film and media in the UK and one of the few in the country to have come from a predominantly marketing and communications background. With this in mind, I have always been conscious of and passionate about data and the usage of data to drive decision making, not always on its own; data mixed with instinct can be a powerful force also. Having previously worked in the world of commercial marketing, I know how powerful a tool data is for income generation and product development. This is something I wanted to embed within our organisation here at QUAD.

When QUAD opened in 2008, we faced a significant challenge in regards to audience development, as for many of our services we were starting largely from an audience of zero, because they simply had not existed in the form we were presenting them prior to opening.

In 2008 data was scarce and expensive. We went through a significant period of synergising existing desk research, some of which was out of date (e.g. census data) and most of which was non-specific to our aims and objectives. We commissioned new qualitative and quantitative data surveys to gain a broad, but detailed analysis of our audience opportunity. We also took part in a number of cross venue audience research projects, including work with comparative venues in Nottingham (Broadway) and Leicester (Phoenix). These gave us all valuable insights into our audiences, but also flagged up that each of our audiences had significant nuances and very little crossover.

The difference Audience Finder has made

Audience Finder for me is one of the most exciting and potentially powerful forces in Arts Marketing that has ever existed. We live in a world of ‘big data’ which is used as much to frighten as it is to develop. Previously the arts have sat outside of this world whilst commercial entities have driven forward. Our audiences are and always will be, our most powerful asset and without them we are nothing. Audience Finder has given us as organisations the power to understand and reach them in ways we hadn’t previously understood.

Before Audience Finder our data was often hidden behind box offices only to be revealed once a year when surveys were collated and analysed. Now, through live box office data analysis, self-confessed data geeks, can view anonymised audience data 24/7 for 365 days a year. This enables us to be fleet of foot when it comes to opportunities; when a conversation is to be had with stakeholders we can reference and interpret the data which is up to date and powerful, rather than distant and vague. The fact this service is FREE is even more impressive.

The robustness of the data is crucial to us using it to make DDD (data driven decisions), these are many and varied and are used in the context of board discussions, development of strategy and for making the case to funders and sponsors.

How Audience Finder helps us

QUAD uses Audience Finder in a number of ways, starting from the annual survey which has now replaced our own in-house survey and informs strategy going forward. This enables us to make best use of the dashboard, primarily through the marketing team. I personally access it fairly regularly to refresh my knowledge and to help illustrate key discussion points. Data insights are used in internal team meetings, board meeting stakeholder discussions and to help with fundraising and sponsorship opportunities.

Audience Finder has reinforced my belief that data can help support and inform all decision making, at all levels of the organisation. All team members know we have this powerful data at hand and through the marketing team they can enhance their work and partnership forming activities. On an annual basis the findings of the survey are presented to the wider staff team to ensure everyone knows where we are heading in regards to audience development objectives. This data is also shared with board members and this becomes richer every year as we compare like for like data. The data has also highlighted some interesting challenges in regards to benchmarks and potential future partners. Which has led us to start looking further outside our region to build partners we have previously not engaged with.

Tip tops to new users

We are always learning how best to maximise the data usage and this will never end. The key tips I would offer to anyone using Audience Finder for the first time or who are new to data analysis overall would be:

  1. Consider your data collection methodology. It may be that if you only collect at one time of the year in one way, the data may not be representative of your whole audience. Particularly if you are a multi-art form, multi-event venue with pockets of niche audiences.
  2. Find ways of creating a narrative around data. Huge amounts of data can be difficult to navigate so try and find a way of creating a narrative to describe the trends and audiences- use quotes to illustrate broad points and refer to customers so the data doesn’t seem abstract.
  3. Ensure the whole of your organisation are engaged in the process of analysing and interpreting data. This may be as simple as getting heads of department to share key findings or by making it a standing agenda point at board meetings.
  4. Manage your resources appropriately. Data collection and entry can be a laborious task so ensure everyone knows what is expected of them and put reasonable time frames in place. Don’t let a big box of surveys drop on someone’s desk be their first involvement in the process

The Future of Audience Finder

In the future as the Audience Finder ‘family’ of organisations develops, I can see a greater cross-regional partnership where geography is not the defining factor on why you work together. Through greater understanding of audiences and trends, we can better shape our product campaigns and ensure all partners know why they should be working together.

For QUAD I am excited by the possibility of identifying partners in other areas of the country, who may have similar audience development challenges to ourselves and through this find ways of sharing best practice. We are moving forward into an ever changing investment landscape and with greater diversification in all fields of our operations, it is crucial we work together to use data to support each other and develop the sector as a whole, not just for the benefit of our own organisations.

Ultimately Audience Finder helps focus the mind on why we do what we do – to inspire, educate, entertain and improve the lives of our audience.

As the Chief Executive of QUAD Adam has overall responsibility for all areas of the business and strategic leadership. Growing audiences, developing partnerships, managing change and representing QUAD locally, nationally and internationally are key parts of his role.

Quad has been using Audience Finder since 2013 collecting both box office and survey data and is part of the Arts Derby and Derbyshire Cluster managed by Katie Flaherty, the East Midlands regional manager.

If you would like to join Quad and hundreds of organisations already using the programme, you can register now and access the full potential of your data! Contact a member of the Audience Finder team to find out more.