Case Study | Do you have one audience?

Lindsay Cook, Head of Marketing & Communications, at mac birmingham shares how her team use Audience Finder...

Does your audience behave in one distinct way for the one distinct product you offer? If it does then congratulations - and keep it quiet. There a 650 arts marketers at the AMA Conference whose jealousy could drive them to unspeakable acts.

I do not have one audience or one product. I'm responsible for the audience development strategy for a thriving and complex multi art form venue in the country's second city. A city where multiculturalism flourishes, a city of both deprivation and abundance, where people - broadly speaking - live shoulder to shoulder in harmony. And all are welcome to mac birmingham. They make up the 1m visits we receive each year to a contemporary arts centre packed with a diverse cultural offer. I politely compare my audience to the NHS. Cradle to grave care. Toddler Art Play to Tai Chi for Arthritis Sufferers. Igglepiggle to anything with Judi Dench or Maggie Smith.

Defining my audiences and noting the differences in their behaviours, values and culture consumption with clarity and efficiency is hard enough for someone who's been working in the industry for 14 years. But I have to consider over 200 colleagues and two boards of trustees from many other industries and backgrounds. And all of them need to understand our current and potential audiences to be able to drive the business forward with efficiency and purpose.

So when Howard Buckely, Head of Marketing at The Audience Agency, asked me how I used Audience Finder, my answer was not one about statistics or wading through data. It was about understanding, advocacy and - to be frank - managing up.

Most of you will have seen the Audience Finder dashboard and had a little play. And it is a marvellous tool for cutting through the swathes of data which delight and confound us in equal measure. So here's my provocation to you. Open the gates. Give it to your Chief Exec, your artistic director, your sales team, your chairperson and there will be no better education. We arts marketers are a sophisticated bunch, let the rest of them in on our secret.

Then understand the things they didn't know. Sometimes, particularly when you're really familiar with your organisation, you forget the obvious things aren't obvious for everyone. Here's some things I'd forgot to share, which knocked the socks off some of my colleagues.

Our 5 sock-knocking facts

  • Yes – we do a lot of work.
  • More than 48% of the Birmingham Arts Partnership cluster performances in 2014/15 originated at mac.

  • Yes – our yield is comparatively low.
  • But that’s part of our ethos and business plan – arts for all. Price should not be a barrier to attendance.
  • Yes – lots of people book on the day of the event.
    But see how we’ve reduced that 15% in 5 years AND we have a cinema audience who just don’t tend to book far in advance.

  • Yes – even with a massive and active social media following, Twitter and FB combined only drive 4% of our website traffic.

  • Yes – our name is a confusing. There is always a proportion of our website traffic which comes from MAC Cosmetics

Naturally, I use Audience Finder as an intelligence tool. The more data goes in, the more of interest there is for me. Here’s a few of the things I love about Audience Finder

Things my team like about Audience Finder:

  1. Quick clear headlines and measures.

  2. Playing with maps and hunting for target audiences. Seeing where others do better and matching that with the Audience Spectrum profile is excellent insight.

  3. Hitwise – Looking at the wider online journey of customers. Upstream and downstream sites showing us who they are comparing us too, or what other brands they like. As internet transactions account for over half of our sales, understanding who is using our site and how they differ from the audience who purchase via the counter/phone.

  4. Audience Development Planner – most of us can write and write and write these, but the template helps to respond to ACE’s requirements for SMART objectives. My 40 page opus is now a 7 page, usable, clearly evidenced document.

  5. Surveys: We’re not there yet but can’t wait to see how survey information augments what we understand of our audiences already.

Things I would like (and have a sneaking suspicion they’re already being talked about):

  • For Hitwise to incorporate the Audience Spectrum segments. Currently, it uses Mosaic.
  • BME profiling of audience using Postcode data because we’re asked, but we don’t want to ask our audiences.
  • Metrics to be split down between sales channels such as internet, over the counter or phone. This would be great for day of booking, frequency etc.
  • More tiers on the artform crossover report for more detailed analysis. This is particularly useful when your product is increasingly niche.

This is an exciting time on our Audience Finder journey. It’s the doing bit. One year from now I’d like to tell you about our great successes or even great failures. The experiments where we’ve moved out of our comfort zone and discovered something new. One year from now I’d like to show you how the clusters defined a project using this data to predict ways of working together for the greater cultural good. But for this year, I’ll just tell you that at least I really know my starting point.

Lindsay Cook, Head of Marketing & Communications at mac birmingham, first presented this at the Arts Marketing Association Conference 2015 in Birmingham and then at the Wales Audience Finder Workshop at the Wales Millennium Centre in September 2015.

Mac birmingham has been using Audience Finder since 2013 collecting both box office and survey data and is part of the Birmingham Arts Partnership managed by Rhiannon Davies, the West Midlands Regional Manager.

If you would like to join mac 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.

Photo credits
Top photo: CC Midland Arts Centre by Tony Hisgett
Middle photo: CC Midlands Art Centre - Cannon Hill Park - mac sign by Elliott Brown
Bottom photo: CC MAC 1st May 2 by Tony Hisgett