Christopher Stager  

Recession Marketing

Christopher Stager
January 7, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

The newspapers are full of stories about how arts organizations are suffering from the recession in terms of contributed income and ticket sales, not to mention the loss in endowment funds because of the stock market's steep decline. Christoper Stager offers some very concrete and innovative strategies orchestras can use to restructure their subscription marketing campaigns during this recessionary economy. Perpetual Acquisition marketing? Selling subscriptions on a rolling 12-month basis? Read on for some fascinating and unusual insights.

- Ann Drinan

It’s official. The US Government now says we are in a recession. In case you hadn’t noticed.

It is unlikely we can stand before our boards and our musicians, simply shrug our shoulders, and attribute declining sales to the economy. It’s an easy excuse. It requires little imagination to declare an obvious issue. What is needed is a strategic response to the impact this economy may have on our 2009-10 seasons. Now is the time to plan and identify marketing tactics for these times.

I have considered a few and appropriated several from other colleagues. This list is by no means definitive. Consider this an open forum and feel free to share philosophies on how to retain, sustain, and even build audiences for our orchestras in this troubled economy.

Send Renewals the Week of January 19, 2019

If there is going to be any optimism in the near future, any inspiration to be discretionary with income, it may be during inauguration week. The timing is ideal to mail subscription renewals that week, and further, to make a priority new subscription acquisition offer. A simple letter pack can be swiftly assembled and mailed, with an irresistible offer on the outer envelope, and inside a compelling letter, a single sheet with the season’s programs, and an order form. If the economy continues to falter after the inauguration, we may well feel the effect in our renewal and acquisition campaigns if we hold the mailing until February or March.

If prices must be raised, raise them after the renewal/ priority period

This will be a difficult climate in which to raise prices, and we can presume subscriber price sensitivity will be high. If ticket prices must be raised, it would be best to hold the increase until after the subscription renewal deadline and the initial priority new subscription acquisition period. The renewal/priority offer can be presented: “No price increase when you order by March 15!” This leverages the impending price increase into a hard-to-resist urgency, a tactic that can be repeated each campaign by renewing subscribers at the previous season’s “final published price.” The price increase is presented almost as a benefit, telegraphed in advance to motivate the value of responding early for a lower price.

Comp Unemployed Renewals

In the course of on-going patron contact, should it be discovered that a subscriber has become unemployed and is now unable to afford his seats, provide him with a complimentary subscription. Such a gesture of genuine good will is certain to engender deep loyalty. Upon re-employment, which organization will be the first he will think of? Word of the organization’s compassion is sure to spread. Following the collapse of Enron and WorldCom, Houston Grand Opera made such an offer publicly. While other non-profits were reporting to the press the impact the Enron demise would have on their financial bottom line, Houston Grand Opera was cited in the press for putting its public first. Even with highly visible press coverage, only three subscribers requested the offer, negligible in relation to the depth of press coverage the offer received.

Secure an Annual Fund Gift from Non-Giving Subscribers

Subscribers are more likely to renew if they have given even a token Annual Fund gift. Securing that annual fund gift from the non-donating subscriber, particularly at-risk first-year subscribers, is certain to boost subscription renewal rates. Once vested, subscribers are far more certain to return.

Will non-donors give in periods of economic uncertainty? Blackbaud’s Index of National Fundraising Performance for the fourth quarter of 2007 notes that over the past four decades, despite economic ups and downs, annual individual giving has remained consistent, perhaps even increased, as more volatile corporate and government funding decreases: “Although the overarching industry of charitable giving generally flattens out during periods of relative economic weakness, performing arts institutions experience a slightly different phenomenon.Because arts patrons are most often linked to the organization as both donors and consumers, their attachment to the organization is considered deeper and therefore their wherewithal to continue significant support on all fronts is often stronger than in other non-profit industries.”

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Comments (Click to Hide)

The turning down of the US economy is the main reason of everything. This public predicament has been the major problem of everybody. Many Americans are looking for sunlight in the current economic crisis, but take heart that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. 2008 taught us a lot of lessons, and 2009 is going to be the year when it all starts to rebound. Many people are looking into making more sound financial decisions - especially about spending and savings habits. Check out this article if you, too, are searching for good news during these dark days or to read more on [l=][/l]
StanleyJ on January 15, 2019 at 6:09 AM

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