Landing an ad sale for a performing arts program book is no mean feat, but have you given much thought to retaining these same advertisers for the next season? Not to mention many more seasons to come? Retention is just as big of a challenge as landing new program book advertisers, but many performing arts organizations tend not to focus on retention, and this is often a big mistake. The thinking goes, “oh these are the easy renewals, all I do is send them the ad agreement, and they send the signed one back!” This scenario couldn’t be further from the truth. Your current advertisers are your “gold” and they should be treated this way. Furthermore retained (or renewal) advertisers provide more value over time, and the cost per acquisition is largely decreased if you are able to retain advertisers over time. It might sound simplistic, but instead of chasing down new leads, it might be time to take a step back and evaluate your retention strategy.

Program book advertising, like many other forms of marketing, is all about return on investment. You have asked a business to invest in your program book as another channel for their marketing, but how do you show them that they are getting their money’s worth? If you want them to renew next season, you need to show them why your program book is so great this season and continue to build on that relationship. Here are some tips on getting your performing arts program book advertisers coming back year after year:

Have metrics in place

The first question is, how do you show your performing arts program book advertisers that they are getting their money’s worth. What metrics do you have in place, what are you measuring, and are these effective in telling a story? The great thing about key performance indicators (KPIs) and other tools is that they give you a lot of information, but retention is based on how you narrate that information to your advertisers.

Use their data to tell a story about their brand. What is working for them, and what is not–based on the data at hand. Performing arts advertising brings a lot of powerful demographics in, but you need to show how you leverage that effectively to give advertisers their money’s worth. Statistics is a good tool to wield, but you need to be strategic about how you use these. If you are not sure where to start, our previous post in measuring advertising ROI can be a good foundation for setting in place metrics that make the most sense for your advertisers.

Provide other complementary services

So you give your advertisers a lot of information about what is working, great! But are you cross-selling just as effectively? Let’s back up a bit. Your advertisers know about your program book advertising, but what else do they know about you? Do you offer other advertising channels that can boost their branding and awareness at your venue? Do you have content strategies in place that have helped previous advertisers in similar sectors before? There are lots of ways to provide additional value and services to your advertisers that keep them coming back, but you need to be more upfront about what you offer. You cannot assume your client knows everything about you, so do not be afraid to show off a little.

Advertisers often abandon marketing channels when they feel like there is really only one channel. However, that does not need to be the end. If you provide one service, then give clients value by providing white papers, case studies, and blog posts that showcase how you have helped similar clients get a great ROI on their program book advertising campaigns. And if you do provide other marketing channels for them, highlight these in a way that shows how each one complements each other to create a more holistic campaign that serves them better. Does your venue offer digital signage? Do you allow your program book advertisers to ride along with your current direct mail pieces? Etc. etc.

Keep checking in 

The last tip is a simple and very effective one, but the most difficult for a lot of inexperienced advertising account executives–check in! Don’t think the sale is done because you have a signed advertising agreement. Striking a careful balance between persistence and spammy is key here, but it serves you in the long run. A lot of advertisers might not be coming back simply because well, you did not really make the effort to ask. While generic email blasts are all well and good, a personal touch is important.

The first step to this is making sure your CRM has all your advertisers with complete contact information. The next step is the hard part–do periodic emails and/or phone check-ins with them personally. Keep up with their industries, so you have interesting icebreakers or topics to discuss (i.e. “Did you see that article about XYZ topic in your industry? Wow!”) It might sound like a lot of work, but it shows clients that you care. Loyalty and a personal approach go a long way in performing arts program book advertising, and this can serve you well if you keep a good routine and schedule of check-ins and catch-ups with your advertisers throughout the season. Good selling!

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