Research Update: Making Data-Driven Decisions

AMT Title Long.png

Once arts organizations have identified data sets available to them internally (e.g., ticket sales, website analytics), it is important to recognize that these channels do not operate alone. “It’s critical that nonprofits discover how to effectively engage with their ‘next generation’ of constituents through new media channels. At the same time, it can create yet another silo, further burdening nonprofit staff and causing organizations to miss opportunities to build relationships with their constituents,” points out Heller Consulting.  How can marketers in arts organizations look at these multiple data sources, including new media channels, to conduct a more meaningful analysis? As a starting point, they can identify connections between their internal data sources and articulate goals for each relationship.

For instance, comparing an arts organization’s web analytics with ticketing data can help to understand how the site drives people from awareness of the organization to becoming ticket buyers. A post from Wired Impact mentions, “Many organizations place a lot of weight on website visits. But visits have little value in and of themselves. If your website visits went down 70% but your online donations went up 300% how would you feel? Probably pretty excited. What if your visits went up 300% but donations fell 70%? Probably not quite as thrilled.” The same holds true for ticket purchases. Is the website effective not only in attracting new people, but also in converting them to ticket buyers? By comparing website traffic with ticket purchases, marketers can work backwards to identify relationships between online actions – such as digital ads on outside website or links posted by bloggers – and ticket purchases.

Ticketing data can also connect with e-mail analytics to help marketers better segment their messages. Sending different messages to particular audience segments, such as subscribers or single-ticket buyers, is a common strategy, but further data analysis can help marketers focus beyond basic segments to audiences interested in particular types of shows and venues or people who purchase at certain times of year. npEngage suggests engaging audiences using the “Amazon model” which recognizes, “if you like X, you might also like Y.” After sending messages to different segments, e-mail data will help to clarify the interests of particular groups. For example, perhaps preview photos appeal to new ticket buyers, but multi-buyers want to learn more about shows with behind the scenes interviews.

Data connections between more than two channels – such as website, e-mail, and social media platforms – need not be overly complicated, and their analysis can offer insights into targeted communication strategies. Just as marketers utilize targeted strategies with traditional marketing platforms, they can also tailor messages in online channels to appeal to unique audiences. “As with direct mail, you’ll improve response rates by segmenting your email file based on factors such as constituent interests, donation history, gender, age, length of membership or any other defining characteristic, targeting them [each] with specific messages” explains Convio in its e-mail marketing guide. Perhaps subscribers prefer e-mail, but single-ticket buyers are more interested in social media. Identifying the flow of traffic from these platforms to an arts organization’s website then enables marketers to recognize the most effective content leading to longer visits and deeper site engagement.

Limitless possibilities exist for conducting analysis across data “silos,” and the goals and questions derived from them need not be time consuming or complex in order to produce effective information. Has your arts organization found effective ways to connect multiple data sources to make them more useful for decision-making? Please share your comments below!