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MAC Belfast's Successful Start

The MAC in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter

Situated in the heart of Belfast, MAC is one of Europe’s leading multidisciplinary arts venues. Recently nominated a finalist for the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year, the three-year-old organisation has welcomed more than 933,000 visitors since opening its doors in 2012. The £18m building features three art galleries, two theatres, a family room, an artist-in-residence studio, workshop spaces and a café/bar. The building itself has been nominated for numerous architectural awards.

As the centrepiece of the city’s Cathedral Quarter cultural district (key to Belfast’s post-Troubles regeneration), expectations were high for the new venue. Expert management consultants helped set ambitious attendance targets, despite starting from scratch with no data. So the MAC’s marketing and communications team needed to develop an audience base fast. Áine McVerry, Director of Marketing and Communications, says: “It was really uncharted territory as there’s no comparable venue in Northern Ireland with our blended offer of free-to-visit art galleries and ticketed theatre productions. Building our data and analysing sales for each performance and exhibition was a crucial requirement right from the start. It had to be speedy, simple and easily adaptable to our market segments.”

The MAC created a bespoke segmentation model for the first year of operation that divided potential customers into three primary groups: people excited about art who would respond to the contemporary programme; people with more traditional tastes in art; and more casual ‘dinner and a show’ customers for whom the MAC would be the focal point of a good night out. As a multidisciplinary venue, the MAC also needed to track ticket sales by the type of art attendance and look for opportunities to cross-sell other performances, events and exhibitions, based on customer buying behaviour. To make that happen the marketing team settled on the Spektrix cloud-based system to manage the box office functions. From ticketing, pricing and data collection to core marketing functions like customer relationship management (CRM), direct marketing and fast analytics to help identify trends, Spektrix became the platform that would allow the MAC to base its marketing approach on data-driven decisions. That included fine-tuning its price strategy in response to demand for individual performances. We also helped the MAC to design a streamlined customer journey that helps website visitors self-select the segment they belong to with a few probing questions, which gets them to the purchase stage within a few clicks.

The results have been impressive. The venue hit its initial attendance targets within eight weeks of opening and is expected to hit the one million visitor mark this autumn. Three years in, it has also captured enough audience and transactional data to move to phase two of its marketing strategy, focused on CRM. The venue is now working with Spektrix to shift from the initial market segment approach to a customer segmentation approach, defining customer segments based on their purchasing behaviours. This will allow the MAC to refine direct marketing campaigns by communicating with customers individually, based on their preferences and interests.

Áine McVerry adds: “From implementing the system to helping us plan for launch day in 2012, Spektrix has been a great source of advice and help whenever needed and were really there for us throughout the process. We are working with them now to create a customer loyalty scheme that recognises our new customer segments and incentivises re-attendance.”