Views from April 2011

  1. 20 Apr

    Target Audience: Everyone

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Target Audience: Everyone

20 April 2011

Lorraine Emmans

Last month we held our annual conference at the shiny new home of Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre in Leeds. The theme was cultural tourism and we were treated to some thought-provoking keynote sessions from Visit Britain, Lakes Alive and Creative Tourist. All of whom talked about the great and varied things they do to attract attention, and attendance, from those we call the cultural tourists.

One of my favourite moments of the day was during the keynote of Julie Tait from Lakes Alive, when she uttered words along the lines of ‘we didn’t segment our audience into target markets - the programme was for everyone so we made it accessible to everyone’. I could feel the strategic hackles of 70-odd marketing and research bods rising around the room. But for me it was refreshing to hear and really made me think. How can Lakes Alive be so successful whilst rebelling from the Official Marketing Rule Book?

It was also in stark contrast to a workshop I’d attended a few weeks earlier, where I’d listened with interest to hear the marketing approach taken by another successful arts organisation: Tate. Their approach to segmentation is positively scientific, a wonder of the arts marketing world, with nine segments based on attendance behaviour and motivations identified through in-depth research and analysis.

Segmenting your audience in some way is virtually unavoidable; whether you’re doing it consciously or subconsciously. It’s a question I ask arts organisations regularly: “Who are your target audiences?” On the odd occasion when I’m met with the reply “everyone”, we’ll have a lengthy discussion and (usually) agree that whilst you might want everyone to come to your event or venue, it’s not realistic to expect that everyone will want to come, or that a One-Size-Fits-All marketing approach will work in getting them there. People are different. Your marketing needs to reflect this.

By looking at your audience as a bunch of different segments that make up a whole, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re only targeting your venue or event at a few types of people. It does mean you recognise that your audience is made up of different people who want different things from their interaction with you. And then you’re in a much better position to meet their needs and be able to communicate this to them through your marketing.

So how did Lakes Alive manage to be so successful? I like to think that the team simply had such an excellent intrinsic understanding of who they were reaching out to that recognition of the different motivations and behaviours of ‘everyone’ within their audience came naturally, and they developed their programming and marketing with this in mind.

But before you chuck the Rule Book in the shredder and head off to the Lakes, it’s important to know that whilst assumptions like this can often be right, it’s a high risk approach. And if you don’t get it right, the results won’t reward you. When it’s relatively easy to back up your hunches with basic audience researchand market analysis, the results of which might even surprise you, why take the risk?