Case study: Placing visitors at the centre of your launch
How the launch of a new venue, The Box in Plymouth, paved the way for a meaningful, long-term relationship with their community.
In well-established and brand-new organisations alike, the detail of the day-to-day often takes over.
Throw an event or new initiative into the mix, and it becomes even easier to get bogged down by logistics and lose sight of what really matters: our supporters. So how can we keep our supporters at the forefront of all that we do?
The Box in Plymouth, UK found an answer. As a new cultural destination encompassing a museum, gallery, performance spaces, archives, and more, The Box wanted their opening to lay the foundation for a meaningful long-term relationship with their community.
When planning for their opening in May 2020, The Box crafted an event dubbed the “Plymouth Preview,” which aimed to thank local residents by giving them an exciting sneak peek at The Box before it opened to the public. Those interested could enter a ballot (or random drawing) for a chance to attend this special, soft launch event.
Knowing they would need top-notch technology to support the launch and beyond, The Box chose Tessitura for their CRM and ticketing system, along with Tessitura's integrated e-commerce platform, TNEW. Using Tessitura ’s unique constituent ranking feature, The Box was able to categorize entrants based on postcode so that they can always connect with their local constituents.
The plan was set: interested residents could sign up for the Plymouth Preview ballot online via TNEW. Using Tessitura ’s unique constituent ranking feature, The Box was able to categorize entrants based on postcode so that they can always connect with their local constituents. They would then randomly draw entrants from those eligible. If selected, residents could confirm when they wanted to attend.
While all interested residents could sign themselves up via TNEW, The Box looked beyond engaging those with tech know-how or computer access. Staff held several pop-up events throughout the city, where community members could share their info for The Box team to enter into Tessitura later. This boosted entries for the Plymouth Preview and gave residents who may not have been reached a chance to learn about The Box.
A successful Plymouth Preview
The launch was off to a successful start, with over 2,500 tickets claimed in the ballot’s first day, and over 6,000 in its first month. But like so many others, The Box was forced to retool their campaign when Covid-19 derailed their plans.
They started by examining their original plan to come up with modifications that could fit into a changed world. Then, they developed a new strategy, making adjustments like adding an extra day to the event, reducing capacity, and simplifying the ballot process.
Throughout this process, their goals never wavered. By maintaining their focus on the local community, they found new ways to keep their original vision intact.
The Plymouth Preview finally took place in September 2020. Stacey Turner, Events Officer at The Box, shared that, “despite a change in direction for the user journey and a global pandemic, the Plymouth Preview was a huge success. Not only were our visitors able to have a memorable first visit with our offer, but we were able to collect valuable data about our local and now, at that point, most engaged audience.”
Results and outcomes
“[This experience] enabled us to meet that ambition we had at the start, which was to put our local audience at the heart of our organisation,” says Turner.
The buzz and excitement around the launch made patrons feel involved in the process and created a sense of community ownership around the space. Guests were given a memorable first visit where they felt celebrated and appreciated. This left them wanting to return and discover more ways to engage with The Box.
The Box had begun a relationship with their most supportive audience, including both those early visitors as well as those who weren’t successful in the ballot drawing. They were also able to build a strong donor database, with 24,000 constituents (and growing) in Plymouth alone.
The campaign also made it possible to reach residents beyond those who attended the Preview. As Turner shares, “Even if someone wasn't successful in the draw for the Plymouth Preview, we were still able to communicate with them and tell them to visit The Box for free for the first time when we opened the following week and even to apply for membership, if they wanted to continue to have access to special offers and free tickets.”
What’s next for The Box?
With a successful launch behind them, The Box is looking towards the future.
Thanks to the visitor data they’ve collected, The Box can continue encouraging Plymouth residents to enjoy all the facility has to offer, while also connecting with a broader audience. Out-of-town visitors and seasonal guests can easily be contacted with updates, such as when a touring exhibit may be visiting their area. Their data, in concert with Tessitura’s analytics, provides a toolkit to help them tailor future offers, marketing efforts, and communications.
“We've learned a new system and a new way of working, and have managed to create that lasting legacy we set out to achieve at the start.”
Through Tessitura, The Box is able to easily track and organise their customers for personalized outreach. According to Turner, “We are still very much at the beginning of this journey and I'm immensely proud of what we've achieved at The Box.
Key takeaways: setting up for success
Creating a quality guest experience is key to the success of any organisation — especially when launching a new program or initiative. By placing visitor experience at the heart of their launch, The Box put themselves on track to transform their supporters from casual visitors to long-term donors and champions of their mission.
Some of they ways they set themselves up for success included:
1. Partner with other community organisations
To spread the word about the Plymouth Preview, The Box partnered with local libraries to share information and created pop-up events throughout the community to reach residents. Leveraging the support of established community organizations and locations in your area (including local library chains, school systems, or community systems), can expand an organization’s visibility to reach potential supporters that may not otherwise become engaged.
2. Celebrate supporters
The Box focused on putting visitors at the heart of their work, and used the “Plymouth Preview” to engage local residents. Using events as opportunities to celebrate and thank your local community not only makes them feel appreciated and involved, but puts them on the path to becoming your most loyal supporters.
3. Lean on partners
When in doubt, ask for help! When they hit a roadblock or had a question, the staff at The Box didn’t hesitate to reach out for help — and they’re glad they did. As Turner shared: “It wouldn’t have been possible without Tessitura... They’ve held our hand through a very ambitious onboarding.” Navigating challenges alone can be difficult. Your partners are there to lend support and help you overcome any obstacle in your way.
Saundra Montijo, Content Contributor
Saundra Montijo is a Midwest-based writer, performer, and nonprofit strategist with a passion for all things arts, culture, and wellness. She is a regular contributor to Greatist and Psych Central, as well as various arts and nonprofit blogs.