Ask Me Anything: Second-Time Patrons

February 12, 2018

“My question is about bringing back the first-time patrons. Once you have segmented them and sent them a great offer to come back that they took advantage of, what next? Do they get another deal, but smaller? Do they get added to the greater list? How long do you keep them segmented?”


First off, congratulations!!! You’ve cleared the hurdle of getting a first-time patron to come back a second time! Our data shows that only 20% of people will EVER do that. So now that they have come twice, it’s time to tackle your excellent questions.

The answer to whether or not they should get another discount offer is… further segmenting! If they initially paid full price, particularly a higher price, see if you can get them to return without a discount for a third time. If they paid full price, but in a cheaper section for their first visit, perhaps messaging about mid-low full prices that are available might be a good idea in their next email. If they first attended with a discount and now the second time is also a discount…you may have created a discount junkie and they’ll expect it again.

Slowly moving them from a new or recently new buyer list may take some time. Our recommendation for that process is to figure out what a regular buyer for your organization looks like. Take into consideration:

  • How many years a patron, on average, has attended
  • How many performances, on average, are seen in a year
  • How long before a performance they typically buy
  • What is the average yield per ticket/household

Using those measures can be a big help in determining the best asks to nudge people into preferred behavior. Once a new or recent patron starts behaving like a typical buyer, it’s probably ok to move them out of the cultivation lists.

However, we wouldn’t recommend one “greater list” as an effective strategy. Your organization may have a typical patron, but there are so many behaviors to consider that having several standard lists is wise. For example, you may have:

  • Last minute, high price buyers who come more than once a year.
  • Early buyers who need a discount.
  • Patrons who skip a year on average but have been coming for more than four years.

Each of these segments require a different purpose, message, and timing to appeal to the behaviors those patrons already exhibit. Creating those lists can help you determine where the new and recent buyers filter into after they return a third time and hopefully many more after.

JCA Arts Marketing collaborates with cultural organizations to increase revenue, boost attendance and membership, and grow patron loyalty. We provide consulting and software services to hundreds of cultural institutions across multiple genres, including dance, museums, opera, performing arts centers, symphony, and theatre. We can help you achieve your marketing goals.