Do you ever get overwhelmed by the number of marketing metrics you have to report on?  Is your frustration not just the number of reports you look at on a weekly basis, but finding it hard to know the ones that really matter?

Sure, we all manage various marketing channels, but what are they all delivering?  What should you be looking at to see where your marketing needs to improve, or where you’re doing well?

You need a barometer.  Something to tell you when your marketing is swaying too much in one direction.  Just one measurement that shows you whether your marketing is working or whether you need to change your strategy.

It doesn’t have to be frustrating, I’m about to tell you the one measurement in arts marketing, you should be looking at, why you should you look at it, and what you should do about it.


Introducing the ‘RAR’

I hear you suddenly sigh. Great you think, another acronym I can put down alongside ROI, KPI, PPC and FBI.  Just bear with me…

RAR stands for: ‘Return Audience Ratio’.

What is it?  Simply put, it’s the percentage of past or returning audience members that come to your latest production measured against the total audience members.

No matter what you’re presenting, there will be new audience members, or people who have seen your work before.

Let’s say you have 100 audience members at a theatre, a gallery exhibition, or even a live concert.  If 50 people present are audience members that have been to a previous show, and 50 are new, your RAR is 50%.  If though, you only have 10 audience members that have been to one of your previous performances, your RAR is suddenly only 10%.

Extremes of any sort are not great.

What if I have low RAR?

Only by measuring over time and developing a benchmark score will you know the extremities of your particular art.  However, in order for longevity and success, you will always need to be capturing new audience members and retaining some of the tried and tested loyal fans you have built up over time.

If you suddenly find yourself in a position where your RAR is extremely low, for example less than 15%, you’re faced with a  situation where audience members who have seen a previous performance, are not returning to see your latest production.

This could be due to any number of factors.  Perhaps your previous production wasn’t great?  Did you price the tickets and entry too high?  Was it promoted well, and was it targeted enough?  What was your communications strategy with past audience members?  Were you even talking to them in the lead up to your latest show?

If you have a low RAR you need to ensure that you are communicating to your audience.  Use your mailing list and database to have regular updates and communications.  There are any number of email clients out there these days such as mailchimp who can help manage your email database.

You can also provide incentive for past audience members to come back by offering something additional for their ticket.  A discounted offering on pre-purchased tickets, discounted merchandise – a free program, or drink upon entry, a backstage pass after the show to meet the cast and crew, or even a Q&A with audience members as a one-off if you want to open something only for past members.

What if I have high RAR?

This is probably a more fortunate scenario to be in as your productions are seen as quality affairs, and your audience had a great time last time so are coming again.  The problem you have, is that to ensure longevity, you need to be attracting new audience members.

This problem is due to your communications.  How are you promoting the show, where are you promoting it, and what media channels are you using?

You need to discover what drew your existing audience members to your show, and either target a similar market with refreshed comms, or discover why your target market isn’t attending.

You can promote your production to new audience members by utilising your existing base and offering a ‘word of mouth’ incentive for them to bring new people to discover your art.  This incentive could be any of the ideas mentioned above.

Alternatively, you could also provide incentives for new audience members to come such as offering one night with reduced prices as a ‘discovery’ night.

What you don’t want to do, is make sure that you offer your new audience members more than audience members that come and visit you often.  That will just annoy your trusted patrons and increase the chance they won’t come back.

No problem is unsolvable

By understanding one important metric that is easily measurable, as a marketer you’re well on your way to understanding the why, how and what type(s) of marketing.

You don’t want to be jammed with reports.  You don’t need to understand the granular details behind every piece of collateral you distribute.

What you do need, is a simple guiding light to show you where improvement and opportunity is.

If you want to understand what marketing levers need to be pulled, and to ensure that you’re attracting the right type of audience, I would start by ensuring you have ways setup in your marketing to measure your RAR.

Go on.  Do it.  Add another acronym to your list…