How to utilise spare capacity to stimulate repeat attendance

How to utilise spare capacity to stimulate repeat attendance

By Morris Hargreaves McIntyre


This report provides a summary of the Test Drive: North West audience development project which looked at how venues could increase repeat attendance using spare capacity. Using telemarketing, potential attenders where given a chance to ‘try before you buy’ with the offer of free tickets providing an opportunity to capture personal data and profile their demographics and their attendance histories. The project targeted 20,000 new attenders, and set out to test the concept with diverse audiences, measure the response and retention rates and  provide a body of evidence which could form the basis of a nationwide campaign.

4.8 ‘…to provide best practice guidelines for other arts organisations…’

The project has produced a wealth of experience and insight into the running of Test Drive campaigns. Much of this has already been put into use in informal advice given to agencies and organisations throughout the UK. We have also made presentations on Test Drive at a number of meetings and conferences (e.g. Select Ticketing conference)

This advice would be the most effective in a special publication and could be supported by a series of workshops and seminars, and we hope to produce these jointly with the Arts Council later in the year.

However there are a number of broad guidelines we could draw from our experience:

The following factors increase the rate of response.

  • Timing is crucial- most events seem to work best between 28 to 10 days before the performance. A greater or smaller lead time appears to reduce the turnout rate.
  • Choice is important- offering a choice of times, days, dates, events or even artforms increases the conversion rate of leads as there is more likelihood of a suitable opportunity at a convenient time.
  • Designing the offer to meet attenders’ needs is therefore important. For some attenders this may mean a pre-performance talk or special beginners’ programme notes to ‘make sense’ of the artform. For others they might respond to a free glass of wine or meeting the cast to make the experience more ‘special’.
Resource type: Research | Published: 2013