Throughout my career as a theatre professional, I’ve worked with dozens of organizations as an actor, publicist, marketing assistant, playwright, and even a stage manager. In all of these roles I’ve dealt with the pressures of low ticket sales and a lack of audience engagement, and in my marketing capacities I’ve encountered the frustration of wrestling with clunky ticketing software and ancient data processes. Many theatre administrators are hesitant to update their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software due to budgetary, time, and personnel constraints, but finding a the right CRM system has the potential to increase revenue and decrease excess marketing spend. Plus, you’ll be able to stop sifting through hundreds of excel spreadsheets every time you need to update your donor list.
What To Consider
In the crowded field of CRM software, there is no one-size-fits-all tool for theaters. It is essential to use software that is both customizable to your particular needs and scalable as your business grows. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering a CRM system.
What is currently working well?
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Take stock of the features that you like about your current CRM system. Is it possible that you can work with your vendor on an upgrade or customization? It’s possible that you’ve simply outgrown the capabilities of the software, but it’s worth exploring the opportunities available within the tools you already use.
What are your current goals and needs?
A smaller organization won’t have the same CRM and ticketing needs as a large national theater. While it is important to choose a system that can accommodate changes and growth in the future, creating a list of your most important features will help you narrow down the available options. Consider making a MoSCoW matrix — must have, should have, could have, and would/will have (in the future).
Where are the inefficiencies and gaps in your organization?
To help you refine your needs, take a look at your current system to find your pain points. What processes could be streamlined? Which tools feel unintuitive? Also consider if there are things missing in your marketing efforts that you would like your CRM to address. Perhaps you would like to create a customizable season subscription or more easily retarget abandoned carts. The right CRM system will both suit your current needs and help you meet future targets.
What are the top audience complaints about our ticketing and marketing efforts?
While your first considerations may be for your frustrations from the backend, you must consider your user’s experience before making any decisions. Collect data on the top audience needs and concerns regarding your ticketing, email newsletter, social media, and other marketing efforts. How many clicks does it take someone to check out? Is it easy to find the shows they want? Dig into the stats that reveal pain points like bounce rates and cart abandonment to further zero in on the solutions that would have the greatest impact on your audience.
And Finally…What is Your budget?
This is where your MoSCoW matrix will come in handy. While everyone wants it all, the reality is that arts organizations use their creativity to work with what they have. That’s part of the magic of theater, isn’t it? Luckily, there are a wide range of softwares for every budget.
After taking stock of your current needs, it should become clearer which features you need to prioritize. Here are some common features that theaters should consider.
A CRM vendor specifically geared towards the performing arts is going to have a better perspective on your needs and is more likely to have the tools (like subscription packages) that you need built in to their options. And their customer service is likely to be more knowledgable and empathetic about your field, which can make a world of difference when you’re experiencing an issues hours before launching your new season tickets.
Seamless Customer Experience
This one is a no-brainer. When you are demo-ing or doing a free trial of software, test out your most common user interactions (searching for shows, purchasing tickets, signing up for email updates) to see if there is any friction. Ensure you are making life easier for your audience!
Integration with Other Software
Finding a tool that easily integrates with the other apps you already use can make a world of difference when it comes to training and implementing a new system. No one has the time or desire to reinvent the wheel, so look for tools that can connect with your other data and project management tools.
Data is a marketer’s best friend. But what good are hundreds of data points without a way to analyze them? Look for a program with an easy-to-customize dashboard. Bonus points for clean, simple reports to export for your board or trustees.
Access To Trainings and Customer Support
Software providers are constantly updating their products. A user-centric company will have readily available trainings and support to help you maximize your experience.
Theatre and Performing Arts CRM Systems
There are overwhelming number of CRM systems out there. Here are a just a few suited to theaters with differing needs.
- Brown Paper Tickets and Eventbrite: simple, ticketing-centric services free for event organizers with 24/7 support and custom seating charts.
- Audience View, Ovationtix, and Patron Manager: comprehensive ticketing, data analytics, and membership features
- Ticketmaster: ideal for larger organizations and touring shows
The bottom line of picking the right CRM system for your theatre is to use data to zero in on your business and audience needs to prioritize features that will best serve you. This will free your organization up to do what you do best: make wonderful live art.