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How Data Can Help to Make Strategic Decisions

These days, data is vital to any business. And not only that, it’s easier than ever to collect it and dissect it to discover meaningful things about your customers. We’re a big fan of data at Spektrix and our main goal is to help the arts use it in a way that helps organizations understand and increase their audiences and therefore their business. But if you’re not a member of your senior management team, changing the way your organization works to become data-driven, and using this data to make strategic decisions can be difficult.  

Perhaps those reporting to you don’t see the relevance of collecting data at a Box Office level and how important it can be when it comes to discovering your customers needs? Or perhaps your senior management team doesn’t have the time to work through hordes of data?

If this sounds like you, then fear not. We’ve put together some steps on collecting relevant data and how you can use it to benefit your whole organization, particularly your senior management team as they make strategic decisions to best lead your organization in a direction which ensures its continuing success.

1. First, collect the data

Selling ticketed events puts you in the very enviable position of being able to capture a lot of data about your customers in advance of their visit. Customers are used to giving information out about themselves at the point of purchase in the rest of their consumer lives, so this is the opportunity to find out more about them. You’ll most likely find that your audience are already interested in the work you do, and so will be happy to share this information with you, especially if your are transparent about how this information will be used.

This data will give you access to incredibly rich demographic and behavioral information about your audiences from the point that they first engage with you, which you can then follow through to the point that they arrive at your venue, looking at the trends in bar, restaurant and merchandise spend.

2. Use data to help you behave commercially

We often speak about behaving commercially. This is partly about making smart decisions, based on things you know to be true as you have the data to back them up, rather than what you think you know or what has historically been done.

With the rise of Uber, Deliveroo and TaskRabbit promising immediate and convenient access to goods and and services, consumers are used to getting what they want "on demand". This applies to theatre too. It means we need to offer audiences the ability to book tickets in a variety of ways across many platforms, but also means we need to compete with the likes of Netflix. As a result of this, audience's behavior is changing, booking patterns and sales channels are constantly evolving, so it’s no longer possible to make assumptions. Remain relevant to audiences and respond to their changing behaviors, by finding out what they’re doing and what they really want. By doing this, you’ll become agile and able to respond to these changes as soon as you notice them.

As an example, can you identify your lapsed attenders and look at what made them stay away. Is it a gap in your programme? Is it cost? Or could it be your scheduling? Getting the data is the easy part. What’s harder is making sure that you learn from it, and it can only truly help your organization if your senior teams are engaged with the data.  

3. Schedule consistent reports and interpret them before distributing them

At some point, we’ve all been in a situation where we receive monthly, weekly or even daily reports, and let’s be honest, often we don’t have time to fully delve into them.

Schedule relevant reports to land in your inbox if you’re the one collecting the data but there’s no need for everyone in your organization to be getting the same reports. Your Chief Executive may be receiving many reports on a daily basis so having to wade through another one, attempting to digest all that information so they can make the best decisions for your organization probably isn’t the best use of their time. As an organization, you’ll have specific targets and indicators of success - this allows you to prove to funders and board members that you are on track. Your CEO will have a good understanding of what these are, and so think about how to display this information to them in the most concise way.

As Box Office Managers, Sales Managers and Marketing Directors you hold the key to all this data. You’re the ones with the understanding of not only how to get your hands on that all important data, but also how to interpret it for others to benefit from it.  Think about the goals of your organization as a whole and what your Chief Executive will prioritize as well as the sort of data they’ll be interested in. The coupling of these two things means that you are in a great position to help your leadership team as they try to make strategic decisions.

4. Always consider your organization’s goals

As in the previous point, you must be aware of the goals of the whole organization when looking at data. If you’re not sure what the priorities of your Chief Executive are, why not take another look at your mission statement and think about what it means in terms of goals.

Schedule some time with your senior team. Get a better understanding of their priorities and a better idea of how you might be able to help them with data. If your Chief Executive isn’t already engaged with the data you have, then this gives you the opportunity to make a real contribution to the strategic decisions that are made, and your senior management team will probably be very grateful to have your help.

The data you present to them could involve looking at booking trends to help push through a website project, looking at previous spend on concessions to maximize secondary sales opportunities, looking at previous booking behaviors to see if you can refine the scheduling of your events, making informed decisions around pricing and even informing artistic programming.

5. Make sure you’re communicating the data to everyone

You’ve spent all this time collecting and analyzing the data, but what use is it if no one knows about it? A culture of good internal communication is vital to allow information to flow upwards. If you aren’t already sharing data with your senior team as well as the wider organization, then think about what you might be able to instigate to make it to happen

This could be in the form of regular sessions with your senior team where you all dive into the data and set out a goal for what you want to learn from it. This culture should also be extended to your entire front of house teams. The staff on the front line come into contact with your audiences all the time, and so they’ll be able to provide you with some great qualitative data as well.

The sort of information that they are able to gather through conversations with your audience gives you the opportunity to offer your audiences an exemplary user experience by responding to their needs. Giving all members of your team the ability to contribute to future planning in some way will also give them a sense of ownership over your organization, and you’ll benefit from data that would otherwise be very hard to capture.

Yay for data!

Once you have established this way of working, it’s important to continue to learn from the data to make informed decisions. A cycle of change, followed by reporting and then refining is the best way for you to approach this. Keep your fingers on the pulse and continue to learn from the data you have, so you can retain your audience in a world where leisure time is seriously competitive. You’ll also learn more about those audiences who are engaging with you for the first time so you can respond to their needs too.