Sunday, May 29, 2011
I've seen all sorts of different analogies and metaphors used to describe the strength of someone's connection to an organization... circles, pyramids, bull's eye targets, diamonds, oblong rhomboids with a tuck into a backwards double twist and a cherry on top... But I'm going to introduce a new one that works for me, the loyalty tree. What can I say? I like the organic feel of a tree.
The loyalty tree can be broken down into four main components (and I promise to try to limit the Capitalization of these terms to this post...): Customers, represented by the roots that nourish the tree; Patrons, represented by the bark of the tree, its protection and the most visible part of the tree that some day might become part of its internal rings; Donors, the tree innards that give the tree life and give the tree its stability; and Advocates, the branches that reach out and grow flowers to pollenate on behalf of the tree.
Customers: This is the purely transactional level of interaction with your organization on the Customers' part. Loyalty is low to non-existent for Customers; they might not even know specifically what organization or artist they are coming to see if asked, but came based on a recommendation from a friend or critic, good marketing, or perhaps an issue that is near and dear to them. There is little to no interactivity and engagement on the part of Customers. These are hopefully new purchasers of your work, but they can be repeat purchasers as well that haven't connected with your mission, your organization, and/or your work. I associate the action word "Observing" to Customers.
Patrons: This is the first level of significant interaction with your organization. Patrons know who you are and are seeking ways to be active with you in your work. They may be repeat single-ticket buyers, subscribers that don't donate, someone that connects with you on Twitter, or even a first-time purchaser that just loved your work so much that they stayed for the talkback and can't wait to see what's next. Loyalty to your organization is low to medium-high. Patrons know your organization's name, probably "like" you on Facebook, respond at least occasionally to your emails by writing back or purchasing what you're advertising, enjoy filling out surveys that ask for their feedback, and will be more likely show up to events to meet artists or learn more about what's going on. They'll tell you when you do things well, and, more importantly, they'll tell you when you don't which gives you a huge opportunity to become a hero to this cohort. I associate the action word "Engaging" to Patrons.
Donors: These are the folks that recognize and actively express that there is value in what you do that goes beyond the price of a ticket. They are emotionally invested in the work you do in some way. While that emotion might be wanting to please/help a friend that asks them for donations when they might not have ever seen a show, and I certainly never turn down someone's expression of generosity, I prefer not work that way and will do everything in my power to connect them to the artwork as quickly as possible. Ninety-nine percent of the time, though, Donors are no strangers to your work. Whether they saw one show that so moved them that they felt compelled to commit to your work, they like the nifty benefits you designed to enhance their experience, they seek the prestige of being a donor with you, or they are long-time Patrons that understand your work as well as you do, they've made a deeper commitment to you and expect that commitment to be reciprocated. Saying thank you, quickly and personally, is the first step, and this can be supplemented with events, special insider info, and other ways that reward their medium to high loyalty. Recognize that time is also money, and your priceless volunteers fall in this category as well whether or not they also give money. I associate the action word "Supporting" to Donors.
Advocates: These are the holy grail of any organization. Alone, we can only achieve linear growth at best. With Advocates at our side, growth is potentially exponential. They are more than just another retweeter, they recruit for you. Their form of living social proof moves Customers into the Patron and Donor categories that much faster. Their extreme levels of loyalty are infectious. Sadly, many organizations only recognize and recruit Advocates on their Board of Trustees, but you can and should also find them on Business Advisory Councils, Auxiliary Councils, Young Professionals Groups, Booster Clubs, and any other opportunity you have to bring your Advocates closer into the work you do. They don't just come themselves, they bring others. They don't just give, they ask on your behalf. They don't just attend events, they throw parties on your behalf. I associate the action word "Championing" to Advocates.
It's all a bit of behavioral economics really. While all four categories are parts of your audience, you can see by their actions and level of involvement how different they are. Those actions can be measured which is why I like those action words so much. And as we're wired psychologically to work towards those things we measure, it gives us a strong way to create goals and experiences around moving our Customers towards being Patrons, Patrons towards Donors, and Donors to Advocates who are bringing us new Customers.
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