Case study: symphony orchestra.

The North Carolina Symphony faced diminishing audiences and found part of the solution with a straight-forward approach: better marketing in three steps.

The executive director of the North Carolina Symphony was faced with a vexing business dilemma. At the time, season subscriptions had dropped 25%, single ticket sales were sliding, donors were pulling back on their gifts, and the overall operations and marketing budget had been dramatically reduced. Was this a foreboding of the 21st Century challenge for domestic symphony orchestras?  Were audience trends changing that quickly? Or was this something more fundamental about the business of the orchestra?  During my immersive engagement, the answer became clear: better marketing.

Better marketing, defined

The first definition offered was marketing as an investment in a transactional relationship with audiences – namely, selling tickets. While the cost to acquire a ticket buyer had remained stable, the budget had been reduced to a level that could not sustain support against 50% of their total earned revenue goal.

The second definition offered was marketing as a consistent and engaging exposure of the Symphony brand. We refocused their brand identity, including consistent usage, leveraging key elements of the Symphony’s strengths and helped introduce a cleaner, more contemporary “look-and-feel” to their advertising and collateral.

More definitions

The third definition offered was marketing as tool to understand buyer dynamics. We introduced a methodology of identifying best prospects/new ticket buyers, categorizing levels of current patrons (season ticket buyers & donors), and potential communication efforts against each group to build loyalty and increased overall revenue.

These and other refinements (digital and direct marketing efforts) were put into action, which provided the institution the insight to link effective marketing to financial sustainability – insights that are embraced to this day.