Guide | Devising a segmentation for touring companies

This toolkit illustrates how segmentation can be used by touring companies to build understanding of their audience groups, enabling them to get the fullest picture possible of their audiences...

Not all audiences are the same, and we need to be specific in our understanding of different groups – why they attend, why they might not and how we can best persuade them, in order to engage them i.e. what messages will be most effective. By segmenting audiences into groups of people who are most likely to respond to a similar message, we can design our marketing activity accordingly. Segmentation is a compromise of efficiency – grouping people so that we avoid having to make a bespoke offer for everyone that is too expensive or a general offer for everyone that is too bland.

Process

  1. Start with what you know
  2. Add in some trusted sources
  3. Test it out with venues
  4. Ask the audience

This is a simple process which you can use to build understanding of your audience groups and draw together a picture of each of them (literally or descriptively). It may take a matter of months or more than a year to get the fullest possible picture of your audiences. The timescale will depend on the resources you have to develop your segmentation and the opportunities you have to observe and engage with them. However, for many touring companies it may not be necessary to go all the way, as a little information and a good conversation with a venue or partner may be all that is required.

1. Start with what you know

You probably already know quite a lot about your audiences, based on your observations, conversations and

instincts. For example, based upon the types of events you deliver you will have an idea about the kind of arts activities they like; you will probably also have seen for yourself what sort of age groups tend to enjoy your work; and perhaps will have seen the same faces at different performances, which will tell you if they attend often, are prepared to travel and are your ‘loyal fans’, or maybe have some direct connection to you/your company.

Tip

List your key audience groups and describe their characteristics and your assessment of their relationship with your work or similar work. These should be equivalent to light sketches of the types of people in each group. Involve your colleagues and use whatever information you have available, however anecdotal. To inform your thinking look at some of the characteristics of audience groups within the segmentation sources such as:

Audience Spectrum segmentation

Mosaic

Acorn segmentation

Culture segments segmentation

2. Add in some trusted sources

Depending on what type of group you are describing, there may be existing data or research reports, which although not necessarily totally relevant, will enable you to develop more in-depth portraits of your different audience groups. Ask your peers in other organisations, talk to the Arts Council and other specialists to track down these ‘secondary’ sources. Here are a few:

Tip

Consider what information you might find useful to build pictures of your audiences – whether it is the age ranges for your artform, likely use of Facebook, frequency to the arts or other lifestyle interests. Read any secondary sources of data with these questions in mind. Start to add some hard facts to your light sketches to make them into portraits.

3. Test it out with venues

Talk about what you have observed and what you have found out and see if a venue or partner’s understanding of different audience groups corroborates with yours. Ask about regional differences and where the venue’s successes have been with the local population. Add to your body of knowledge by gathering audience feedback and information from either box office information or audience surveys.

Tip

Ask venues if you can have a look at any research on their audiences, or for particular artforms or audience groups – again identify if there are some hard facts which can enhance your own portraits. Request relevant box office data or audience survey findings which relate directly to the audiences for your work (in the context of those for the venue). Lastly, agree any research you would like to undertake at the venue, taking into account good practice in data sharing.

Audience Research Top Tips

Be clear on your research objectives – how are you going to use what you find out, what decisions will it inform, what changes could be made as a result of the findings

  • In deciding what you want to know – make sure that you are only asking what you really need to know to answer your questions, and not what would be merely interesting. Think VUMI – Vital, Useful, Merely Interesting
  • Ensure you have allocated sufficient resources to get to the answers you are looking for, either enough people to collect data or time/money to do the required analysis
  • Get advice on the ‘robustness’ of your findings based on your sample size
  • Make sure the venue is not doing other research at the same time so audiences get survey fatigue
  • Standardise your question choices i.e. age ranges to align with the Census and TGI so that you can put findings into a wider context.

4. Ask the audience

Think clearly what it is you want to ask the audience and why – what gaps do you have in your understanding? Work with the venue to deliver a survey or focus groups, whichever is the most appropriate for the information you want. A survey will help with the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions, i.e. quantitative questions. Although you can also include open questions or qualitative questions in your survey to understand the ‘why’. Alternatively, qualitative focus groups or telephone interviews will provide a greater opportunity for probing motivations and attitudes and answering the ‘why’.