A Carte Blanche in London

During my stay in London I met up with the The Place- team, among them Director Eddie Nixon, Deputy Director Adam Pushkin and Marketing Manager Caroline Schreiber. They were all extremely welcoming and answered my questions with great patience. They had me join their meetings and allowed me to listen to their discussions, idea-exchange and concerns. This was a unique opportunity to get an insight in how the departments work together, how the information is being processed and what the main focus of The Place is on right now. As I understood from the meetings attended, many of the theatre’s concerns are issues we share as institutions. Thus our communication activities and aims seem to be similar. In going through best practise examples, we spent much time discussing audience segmentation, targeting certain segments and what actions have been especially useful. The Place has a state of the art CRM system they can pull reports from on certain customer behaviour. This allows them to follow up their visitors, to send out information that might be interesting to them according to performances they went to in the past.

During my stay in London I also had the chance to meet up with Sebastian Cheswright, head of marketing and sales of Sadler’s Wells. It was very interesting to see in what regard all institutions promoting and furthering contemporary dance share similar issues (e.g. our audiences tend to book very late).

One of the most important issues for all of us is to re-engage with our audiences. The “oncers” as well as first time attenders are of special concern in this regard. From the discussions I had with both – Sadler’s Wells and The Place – I have drawn conclusions for Tanzquartier Wien’s communication strategy which we will now discuss upon my return. For some conclusions drawn from best practise examples seen at The Place measures will be fairly easy to implement, for some others we will need to look closely at the existing CRM system and its possibilities to re-engage with our audiences in a similar ways to Sadler’s Wells and The Place.

Aside from the many new ideas this exchange has given me, I also felt reassured with marketing activities, we have been using so far. There is a trend toward less information in the printing materials. Both institutions I spoke to confirmed that audience tends to draw information from their websites rather than from brochures. Printing materials still play a vital role in alerting potential audiences to events and in raising awareness to the institutions and their programmes. The programme brochure which Tanzquartier Wien changed to a 10 pages-leporello last season thus corresponds to a trend noted by the UK dance houses as well.

In addition to the information-aspect, I also sense from all the talks we had about audience segments, that this type of printing material will speak to the audience segments we still have to address more, in order to have them knitted in our regular-attendees and to make sure we have a “balanced audience” with many people who feel in close ties with Tanzquartier and will also chose to watch performances at the theatre for the theatre itself not just for the programme that is on. For The Place as I understand it’s not primarily about a change in numbers. One of their main aims in “sustainable audience development” is to make sure to have a balanced proportion of audience segments.

On the last evening of my stay, I got to be part of a “Touch Wood” evening at The Place. Every summer dozens of artists use the studio spaces at The Place developing new work. “Touch Wood” gives the audience a chance to see new and unfinished ideas and offer informal feedback, as artists try out fragments of their latest work. I especially liked the way the evening enables the audience to find a way of speaking about what they saw. The feedback groups were well organized with one of The Place team members leading the discussions offering a way of addressing the work we had seen – at the same time raising awareness not to be “judgemental” in addressing the artists and their work (still in early stages of development). Enabling audiences to find a language to speak about what they see during performances – to deepen the audience experience and their understanding – is as important an issue as the re-engaging aspect, I have mentioned before. The Place has done an amazing job in helping audiences to loose the “I don’t understand what this is all about” feeling and being at ease with themselves during the performances. Making audiences feel they grasp what this “world” is all about is an important step in keeping them inside the theater. Talking to audience segments directly through mailings according to their interests and letting them know we care, they have a great experience during their stay with us will help us continue build a sustainable relationship with our audiences.

Lisa Kerimi
Marketing responsible at Tanzquartier Wien
14 September 2014