The Importance of having a CRM Strategy

Posted by on Nov 1, 2017 in Blog

With the continuing reduction and uncertainty in arts funding, most arts organisations have to achieve more with less. We all have to work harder to prove that what we are doing is effective so having a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy in place is becoming ever more urgent.

CRM isn’t about selling, it’s about marketing. It helps you build and maintain long-term relationships, through discovering how your audiences want to interact with you, and actively meeting their stated and unstated wants and needs.

So if it is such a good idea, why is CRM not practised more widely? Partly because it takes hard work and the day to day tactical necessities of selling tickets and filling seats always takes priority. But today’s multi-channel environment means that there are a whole host of ways to talk to potential customers, and that, coupled with increased competition for people’s time and today’s economic climate, make it imperative for us to work smarter, listen and be more responsive. The days of pushing out a standard direct mail letter or email to all our customers are gone.

In 2016 I worked with Shakespeare’s Globe to build them an audience-focused CRM strategy that is reinvigorating the way they work and interact with their diverse audiences.  They had recognised that they needed a deeper understanding of what motivates, frames and influences the buying, engaging and supporting behaviour of their different audience segments.  That’s when they commissioned Morris Hargreaves McIntyre & HD Consulting with the aim to maximise the opportunities for all areas of their business – including theatre, education, commercial and development.

This meant two things; the Globe needed a CRM system to enable them to better manage and analyse audience data across departments and an insightful segmentation system that would give them the understanding required to develop and maximise their audience relationships.

The box office system is your organisation’s most powerful CRM tool. Its database contains all the information on your customers and their interactions with your organisation, from every ‘touch-point’. Underdevelopment of box office data means that only the most loyal customers are contacted; the task should be to persuade the less knowledgeable and wary to come and to come more often.

Finding the right software or technological solution to provide the CRM/ticketing system needed was a key factor for the Globe in achieving a successful CRM Strategy.  The process began with a series of intensive consultation or information gathering sessions with staff across the organisation (including the CEO).  This facilitative approach proved to be revelatory; highlighting the historic silo working and its effect on progress, the multiplicity of ‘data’ systems, a need to review practices and processes and that the time was absolutely right for change. Armed with this insight, development of a specification outlining the kind of CRM system functionality that would be needed was made so much easier.

Confident with their choice of CRM system, implementation was the next stage. Discovery sessions involving the Globe, the new system supplier (Tessitura) and HD Consulting brought about some in-depth customer journey mapping which showed just how each customer (customer group) interacts with the Globe across multiple touch-points.  It allowed them to see where it was easy to interact with them and where it was extremely difficult and convoluted.  As a result the CRM system and website are being configured to eliminate those pain-points.

But technology (no matter how good) and data mining are worthless without a deeper understanding of the audience’s motivations and values.  Through a process of in-depth research with the Globe’s audiences by Morris Hargreaves McIntyre they gained rich and invaluable insight into their audiences enabling them to differentiate their customer segments, and understand and agree behaviours using their Culture Segments segmentation.  They now have a three segment focussed strategy that will allow them to grow audiences and engage them better.

The project has led the Globe to become even more customer focussed with the creation of a core CRM team consisting of representatives from different departments where colleagues’ needs and concerns are addressed.  A training policy and data policy are being created to show staff teams the value of adopting and applying the strategic initiatives, and in setting an organisational ‘rule book’ or benchmark to work to.

A key factor in the success of the Shakespeare’s Globe project is that they have embraced CRM by ensuring that it is a strategic function.  It was never seen as a tactic or marketing function and the leadership team were on board from the start – clear about both the end game and the cultural change that would be needed.  This is still a work in progress and breaking down the internal silos, using the technology effectively and thinking in a new way (Culture Segments) about their audiences is ongoing.  The Globe know it won’t be a quick win but will ultimately be a new (better) way of connecting with their audiences.

CRM isn’t a quick fix: the process requires a fundamental change to the way strategies are planned, budgeted, communicated and monitored. It’s not for the faint hearted but for arts organisations that want to look to the future, CRM has to become a way of life, not something to be talked about and then forgotten.

So if theatres really do want to develop an effective CRM strategy don’t forget:

  1. CRM isn’t CRM unless it affects the customer experience.
  2. CRM is a strategy not a project.
  3. CRM should improve return on investment.
  4. Technology is a means not an end.
  5. A 360-degree view of your customer

©Helen Dunnett, article first appeared as UK Theatres blog

Leave a Reply