Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Ultimate Question - Surveying our Audiences

Posted by Rachel Rossos:

I am one of the members of the 2nd class of the League's Executive Leadership Program - a group that I am honored to be a part of. We started off our week in Chicago on Tuesday with a presentation by two speakers from Bain & Company, a consulting firm that has developed a research metric called the Net Promoter Score. The basic concept is that when an organization surveys its customers (or, in our case, audiences and donors), it centers the survey around one main question, scaled from 0 to 10: How likely would you be to recommend us to a friend? The organization subtracts the percentage of ratings 6 and under ("detractors") from the percentage of ratings of 9 and 10 ("promoters") to find out their score. (Someone who gives a rating of 7 or 8 is considered "passive".) This score can then serve as a metric to both measure customer loyalty and to predict future behavior of the audience.

The ELP2 class was asked to conduct surveys like this (see mine here), followed by phone calls to our patrons to dig deeper into the reasons behind their ratings. We all seemed to gain a more thorough knowledge of our audience base. For some, the survey results confirmed things that the marketing or development director had already guessed; for others it brought to surface unexpected results. My survey results did both, and, as an added bonus, I got a lot of feedback from the New Century Chamber Orchestra's promoters that I will be able to use when drafting marketing messages over the course of the next few months.

How many of you out there are regularly surveying your patrons? Do you have a system in place for following up on the responses you receive?


CW said...

Define "regular"- how often is recommended? Every year? 3 years? 3 months? We have done audience surveys, mostly with a few years in between each one.
Can you share any specific examples of comments from "promoters" and how they are impacting your marketing strategies?

Rachel Rossos said...

Hi CW,

I consider regular to be at least once a year, but ideally it would be more frequent. At New Century, I've got us doing email surveys after nearly every concert. We do additional telephone surveys when we have the volunteer support to implement it, or we'll add a feedback question to telemarketing and telefundraising. After most of our renewal campaign is completed, we mail a final push to our non-renewed subscribers with a stamped envelope and a short survey asking them, if they do not intend to renew, what their reasoning is. Last year was the first time we did this and quite a few people returned the survey with candid answers.

As far as feedback from promoters - the most prevalent comments I received were about the energy and enthusiasm of our musicians. I took thorough notes on the calls so that I can use the language of our patrons in our marketing copy.

The second biggest comment was on the accessibility of our concerts. More than one promoter told me that they thought our concerts are the perfect introduction to classical music, especially for someone who might enjoy the music but be turned off by the "stuffy" nature of the traditional concert experience. This is the first time in my three seasons with New Century that I've received so much feedback about this aspect of our concerts, and I plan to play it up in not just messaging, but also in our single ticket targeting and in our strategic planning process (which begins next month).

One last thing about frequency of surveying -
If you survey after every concert (keeping it short, of course), then you have a better chance of getting a much wider group of audience members responding over the course of a year. You tap into your new patrons from each concert, and you also find out what someone thought who may not have clicked on your link two months ago but has a few moments now. Mixing in phone or mail surveys helps capture those that do not supply or have email addresses. The frequent feedback also allows you to keep a pulse on whether identified problem areas are improving.

Thanks for the great questions!