BLOG 21st July 2021

Give a wow moment to your first-time visitors

This year, we want to look at a typical audience journey. From the first time audiences come across your organisation to when they become your loyal customers. We’ve broken down the different steps of this journey up the loyalty ladder into 4 themes, simplified into a friendship analogy: when people first hear about you, when they meet you for the first time, when they meet you again and when they become best friends. With these themes, we hope you will have all the cards in your hands to offer the most wonderful experiences to your audiences from start to finish.

In our previous theme, we talked about the first time someone hears about you, whether it’s online or on a flyer they picked up in a coffee shop. First impressions matter. For this reason, it’s important to be mindful of your copy, tone, pictures and how friendly your different platforms and content are.

We’ve now arrived to the second stage of the audience journey: when someone visits your event or venue for the first time. They’ve read about you online and they liked what they saw. They have now decided it was time to pay you a visit in the flesh. How can you make sure that their online first impressions match their in-person experience?

Don’t be a catfish

Nobody likes to be promised the earth to later be disappointed because it’s not what they imagined. What you shared online and on marketing materials should feel the same as what happens within your walls or field. Branding isn’t only about colours, logo and shapes. It is really about the full experience you’re offering and how you make people feel online and offline. Likewise, an experience at your space isn’t only about your building or outdoor site. It is about the people who represent your organisation: your front of house staff, your tour guides, your café or bar staff, and anybody who works for you and meets audiences when they visit. Often, it is the simplest attention that goes a long way: a smile, a hello and a genuine how are you? Seize the opportunity to make a great first impression for new people walking in the door, it will win their heart and set the tone for the rest of their visit.

What can you do to build a relationship with these new audiences?

Your ultimate goal is to get these new visitors to come back to your space a second time (and more often if you hit it off!). Welcoming them at the door is a great start, but what else can you do once they’re inside? Mapping their journey through your space will help you to identify where audiences come into contact with you. Set yourself a goal that all touchpoints within your organisation should offer wow moments for your audiences. By wow moments, we mean moments that will meet and exceed audience expectations. These are some examples of visitor touchpoints that you can focus on:

  • Your parking access: if you don’t have your own car park, make sure to provide information on your website about where the nearest car park to your location is. Audiences also appreciate information about bus routes and other types of public transport.
  • Your tickets: With Covid, most tickets now need to be booked in advance. But think about some of your audiences who may be more spontaneous. Will you keep a handful of tickets at the door for potential walk-ins? If that isn’t possible, make sure the person working at your box office has a friendly message ready to respond to disappointments and offer alternatives. We know from our own research that arts and culture fans don’t mind paying for something they want to see but think about other groups of people who may not have the means, such as disabled or LGBTQIA+ audiences.
  • Your disabled access: It’s not always possible to change your physical access due to costs or building limitations, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to improve your accessibility. Download our Welcoming Disabled Audiences toolkit or read our blog for tips.
  • Your facilities: This includes the general condition of your venue as well as toilets, cloakroom, baby changing facilities, breastfeeding room, food and drink options etc. It also helps to provide information on your website about what types of facilities you have, so people know what to expect when they walk through your doors.
  • Your signage: Of course, it has to be relevant and user-friendly, but its language and tone are also things to keep in mind. Here’s an example we like:

Dinosaur in museum
A Dino that could bite at the Birmingham Museum and Gallery
  • Your retail/hospitality area: If you have a shop or a café/bar at your venue, these aren’t separate to your venue’s experience – although they can be staffed by third parties. They are very much part of the full package for your audiences. Make sure the visitor experience in this part of your venue matches with that of your core offer.
  • Your staff: Communication, respect and trust are three words we love to repeat again and again at thrive, but they are really the base of how your staff should make people feel when they visit. Good and open communication helps to build trust and foster respect amongst audiences. Again, a friendly smile, a listening ear and a real interest in who your audiences are and what they need will make a lasting impression for sure.
  • Finally, your event or exhibition: It is so obvious we can almost forget. This is what audiences are there for and they do expect to have a great time. Think about stage times, sound and light quality and how your ushers and security staff interact with your audiences.

The show is over but there’s still more you can do

Audiences came, they had an amazing time and loved all the wow moments you gave them. They’re now on their way home and you’re eager to know what they thought. Post-visit communication is a great way to keep in touch with audiences, giving them information to entice them to come back again. We recently wrote a case study about the California Symphony who implemented some fun ways to get first-timers to visit again, it could give you some ideas. Post-visit communication can also give you an opportunity to collect data with a short survey. Asking audiences for their thoughts and opinions shows them that you care.

Additionally, keep a close eye on your social media notifications post-show. What do people do when they had a good time? They usually share it with their friends on social media. And they may even tag your organisation while doing so. In developing our Audiences on Social Media toolkit, we learned that:

  • People who follow an organisation on social media are more likely to actually attend that organisation than people who do not follow it. Surprisingly, the majority of people who follow an organisation on social media are new audiences.
  • Social media followers have better onsite experiences.
  • People sharing stories on Instagram about their visit, or people reviewing your organisation in a Facebook post are as important as your own content because it enables valuable word of mouth. Audiences are much more likely to trust their friends’ opinions more than an ad from an organisation.

Re-sharing and engaging with those posts is the easiest way to build a relationship with newcomers. It shows you care about them. And when someone cares about you, it makes you stick with them for a little while longer.

From now throughout the end of September, we’ll be sharing more content focused on building a relationship with first-time visitors. In the meantime, we’d love to know: What are your wow moments?

This work is supported by our annual funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Arts Council of Northern Ireland Logo

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