11/22/2022

7 min

Imagine having an enthusiastic audience but not knowing who they are.

That was the challenge facing Scottish Ballet, Scotland’s national dance company. The ensemble tours the country, with each performance venue handling its own ticketing. So the company collected details about donors and class participants but not theatre audiences. Building long-term relationships with attendees was impossible.

Growth also proved difficult as attendance often reached upward of 90% capacity for Scottish Ballet tours. It was a great reflection of the company’s popularity. Yet this success was a barrier to building new audiences.

In 2020, in-person touring came to a halt. Scottish Ballet staff found themselves at a crossroads. How could the organization grow its fan base, increase engagement and build community — all in the midst of a pandemic?

“Scottish Ballet’s free membership program is very much about creating a sense of community.”

Redefining memberships

Shiona Walker wearing a striped shirt with pink hair.

Shiona Walker

The answer came in the launch of the company’s innovative membership program. For the price of sharing an email address, individuals become Scottish Ballet members with benefits. Perks include access to dance classes, digital magazine subscriptions and invitations to online events.

Scottish Ballet sends new members on a three-step welcome journey. With each email, members learn more about the company. They also answer questions about the type of information they want to receive. Scottish Ballet motivates them to provide more demographic data. Incentives include a shop discount when members submit their birthdate or behind-the-scenes videos when they update interests.

The company uses Tessitura to manage all program data. These details provide a more holistic view of the member audience. They help Scottish Ballet make informed decisions about how to segment upcoming promotions and offers. And they confirm results the company can share with funders about the impact and reach of its programming.

“We’ve unlocked a lot more information about who our audience is,” says Shiona Walker, the company’s Senior Membership and CRM Manager. “Scottish Ballet’s free membership program is very much about creating a sense of community.”

“We’ve unlocked a lot more information about who our audience is.”

Welcome email from Scottish Ballet with image of a dancer and a request for user details to unlock special offer

Scottish Ballet sends new members on a three-step welcome journey via email.

Automating processes

Marketing automation ensures the onboarding is seamless for members and efficient for Scottish Ballet staff. “It runs in the background, creating a really warm relationship with our audience,” Shiona says. “We don’t have to do much on a day-to-day basis.”

The team regularly uses Tessitura’s analytics tools to evaluate the program’s success. Experimenting has helped them identify opportunities to improve.

“Putting the work into ensuring all our information is in Tessitura, that it’s our one source of truth, has meant we can try and test things, and we can report on them,” Shiona says. “That information is there in the system. We can see what’s working and what’s not, and it helps us continue to evolve and get better and become more efficient.

“Tessitura allows us to streamline our processes and cut down on people doing a lot of manual work that isn’t necessary,” Shiona says. “It allows them to focus on audiences — on building those one-to-one relationships with our donors and our patrons.”

“Tessitura allows us to streamline our processes and cut down on people doing a lot of manual work that isn’t necessary.”

Nurturing engagement

Scottish Ballet’s audience has grown considerably since the membership program debuted in October 2020. Geographic reach has expanded, with more than a third of members now located outside Scotland.

The company also has seen big uptakes in engagement. Email open and clickthrough rates have increased. Careful behavioral segmentation reduces opt-outs.

While the membership program may be free, it still drives revenue. Since the program’s launch, new members account for 37% of class payments, 44% of event income, 46% of donations and 15% of merchandise sales. More than a third of the company’s Friends, or entry-level donors, are new to the organization.

This proof that new members are connecting with company programs means more to the team than simply increasing the total number of members. “If engagement in emails and in transactional experiences is low, then it’s not that valuable,” Shiona says. “With Tessitura, we’re able to target the right people at the right time and really deepen that relationship to get the best experience for everybody.”


Scottish Ballet members are able to access exclusive digital content, such as the feature film Dive.


Today, in-person classes and performances have returned. But Scottish Ballet remains committed to its virtual offerings, too. Online students and viewers now span six continents.

“The pandemic allowed us to reach a whole new group of people and interact with them on a digital scale, which wouldn't have been possible before,” Shiona says. “It allowed people to warm to that as a realistic way of connecting with us.”

While the membership program may be free, it still drives revenue.

The flexibility Tessitura allows also has been essential to the membership program’s success. “The best thing about Tessitura is you can do absolutely anything,” Shiona says. “It’s allowed us to create a unique journey for our audience. It’s allowed us to report on things in a way that out-of-the-box solutions from competitors wouldn’t allow us to do. It’s been a journey. But we’ve put a lot of work into it, and we’ve gotten so much out of it.”

What does the future hold for Scottish Ballet’s membership program? “We’ve got this aspiration for our membership scheme that in five years we’ll have a million members,” Shiona says. “It’s an incredible, ambitious goal. I think if we reached 150,000, I would be really happy.”


Topics

Arts & Culture

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Audience Development

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Memberships

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