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3 Tips for Effective Family Marketing

A few weeks ago, I attended the Family Arts Conference in London. As documented in Kerry’s recent blog post it was a fascinating day, with insightful and thoughtful sessions covering areas as broad as accessibility and family friendly employment, as well as marketing and pricing.

I was part of a panel discussion focussed on Marketing to Families, alongside Ben Park of Minor Tickets, Millicent Jones from Liverpool Philharmonic and The Audience Agency’s Anne Torregiani. The session sparked lots of interesting questions and discussion from the floor, so I wanted to share again the top three tips I discussed on the day, alongside some examples from our client base of venues who are nailing it.

To start with, I’d like to answer one of the questions that was tweeted. I didn’t get a chance to answer this question during the panel session and it leads nicely on to my first point. I was asked “what are the worst mistakes cultural orgs make when applying segmentation and CRM?”

Family Arts Conference

This one is simple; it’s a failure to segment at all. For me it’s a cardinal sin. I work with a lot of our clients to use our marketing tools to segment and refine their communications, to reach the right people and increase return on investment. All too often, mainly due to lack of resource, people fall back on what I term the EE approach – Everyone Everything. I understand why it happens, and I’ve been there myself, but essentially if you can’t find the time to segment then your time has already been wasted, you can kiss your ROI goodbye.

I could go on about that for more time than you have to sit here and read, so on to my top tips – of which I shall begin with, of course, segmentation.

1. Segment your family audiences.

'Family Bookers' are often treated as one homogenous group, but there is as much diversity in your family audience as in your entire database. Sending everything to everyone is especially common when marketing to families. Just because someone came to one family show it doesn't mean they want to come to all of them.

Children have just as defined tastes as adults, as I'm sure any parent will tell you, plus the age suitability of shows differ so someone with a 1 year old is not likely to be interested in a workshop for 5-7 year olds. I’m not saying it’s easy, but one good place to start is to segment on previous booking history.

The MAC Belfast (Spektrix users and fellow data geeks) have a varied family programme. I got in touch with Áine McVerry, Director of Marketing & Communications to ask about their approach to family marketing and I was delighted to hear how they had used the data they were collecting to develop their programming.

“Contemporary families is one of the four segments which we’ve developed a persona for. We do have marketing strategies/communications specifically for this market.” I was already intrigued at this point. She continued: “From a marketing point of view we’ve responded to what the data was telling us, especially in terms the age profile of our customer base, which has led us to redevelop our Learning and Participation families programme.”

Áine knows a thing or two about segmenting her family audience. Off the back of looking closely at their data and discovering which segments were most engaged, the MAC developed a new programme of workshops aimed specifically at families with babies and early years children. They created a marketing campaign tailored for this segment and, as a result, these workshops have been so successful they regularly sell out - the MAC often have to add additional dates. It pays to segment!

2. Data is key. Classify your programme and clearly communicate these classifications.

Age suitability is obviously key, but so too are the types of family events. Be it theatre, workshop, educational, comedy, film, the list goes on. Your website and all communications should clearly define the range of family events on offer. This makes it easier for families to find the events that are suitable for members of their family, whatever their ages.

Another Spektrix client, the Unicorn Theatre, specifically caters to young audiences, so they have a wealth of experience in marketing to them (and their parents) directly. Last year they undertook a redesign of their website, resulting in a much more user friendly customer journey with clearly specified age suitability and information about the shows.

I asked Bonnie Smith, Marketing Co-ordinator, how they approached the redesign, specifically the age range search filter.

Unicorn Theatre Family Arts

“The filter part of the website development came from some customer feedback, but it was also a way to reflect how we’d recently started to organise our shows – we use the XS – XL system in our brochure so it felt right to replicate that online. It was also important to allow users to choose more than one category, seeing as we are talking to families who may have a few children of different ages – which is why we built in the multi choice feature where users can highlight more than one age range. We’ve always had a positive response to that function during user testing.”

The addition of this filter, along with several other changes to their website and marketing, contributed to a significant uptick in the Unicorn’s online sales; after changing from their old website to their new website, they saw a 6% increase in online sales.

3. Remember that the needs of your family audience differ from the rest of your audience.

Be mindful of this in all contact you have with a family audience. From them landing on your website, to walking through the door. Families need specific information in order to arrange a trip to an arts organisation – not only information about the event, but the venue as well. Many parents are not able to visit a venue in person or call during regular hours so your website is vital for communicating this information.

Take the Mercury Theatre in Colchester, for example. They have a dedicated page for families travelling to the theatre, explaining the facilities available specifically for children and families and helping to remove the logistical barriers that might prevent families from attending the theatre. Pre and post-show emails are also an excellent way to get specific information to family bookers, and give you the opportunity to gather their feedback to ensure that you’re meeting the needs of a family audience.

So what can you do next? How can you make sure that you’re as welcoming to family audiences as you can be? Try taking a critical look at your own website and communications from a family perspective. Consider what might discourage parents from booking. What information should they be able to access quickly, but can’t? Try asking friends, relatives or undertake some structured user testing to find out what’s working (and what isn’t working) across your entire operation when it comes to families. But remember that families don’t all look the same either. Can you cater for a single parent and only child as well as you can cater for a large family visiting with teenagers, toddlers and pensioners? Let’s try to make sure our youngest theatregoers have a great time today, because they’ll hopefully be bringing their own children in the future.