Maximizing Patron Engagement: 3 Steps to Better Understand and Market to Your Customers

Matthew Zarracina
4 min readJan 17, 2023
Image by Vlah Dumitru on Unsplash

In the animal kingdom, an “apex” consumer is one with essentially no known predators. They sit atop the food chain. In the business world, your apex consumer is the consumer of your service that, by far and away, generates not only the most revenue for you and possibly the ecosystem you operate, but also commits a significant amount of their time engaging with your product. In the live experience space, the apex consumer is the true fan. True fans aren’t just buying Taylor Swift tickets, they’re buying tickets, merch, and trying to attend shows at multiple cities across her US tour this summer. It’s the football fan who commits an entire day for every home game to be at the stadium, rain or shine. Those are your apex consumers.

“The big point to emphasize is that the touchpoints begin earlier than you realize and go longer than you imagine.” — Dave Wakeman of Wakeman Consulting Group

I recently wrote about the importance of live experience operators knowing their “shadow audience”, a foundational requirement to more effectively market to them. Once that happens, the next critically important step is what you do with that knowledge. This is especially true when it comes to your patron relationships, as these individuals have already demonstrated their support for your business or service by choosing to engage with you. By understanding who your patrons are, you can leverage this new relationship to better understand their behavior, curate a more personalized, targeted, and effective offering for them, and ultimately drive continued engagement with your service.

Leveraging the New Relationship

The first step in more effectively marketing to your patrons is to understand the nature of the relationship you have with them. Are they repeat customers who have consistently engaged with your venue over a long period of time, or are they new patrons who have just recently discovered you? Understanding the nature of the relationship can help you tailor your marketing efforts to better meet the needs and preferences of your patrons.

For example, if you have a loyal group of repeat patrons, you may want to consider offering them exclusive access or perks as a way of thanking them for their continued support. This could be as simple as offering a loyalty program that allows them to select their next level experience or providing unique access to content or creators.

On the other hand, if you have a large number of new patrons, you may want to focus on building a relationship with them by providing valuable content or resources that can help them get to know your organization better. This could include your organization’s “why” or trial offers or personalized recommendations based on the interests and preferences they’ve exhibited.

Better Understanding Patron Behavior

Once you have a clearer understanding of the relationship you have with your patrons, the next step is to better understand their behavior. This includes analyzing data on their habits: purchasing, engagement, attendance, and overall satisfaction with the experiences you provide.

While there are a number of tools available to assist with gathering this data (customer relationship management (CRM) systems, survey tools, and analytics platforms), it may be helpful to focus first on the outcomes you want to achieve with your analysis. What do you want the trends or patterns you identify in your patrons’ behavior to help you do? Is it to simply sell more tickets? Is it to help you to diversify the demographics of your audience base? Is it to better inform the content you should be presenting? Starting with the end in mind will allow you to make better use of this information to inform your marketing efforts.

For example, if you notice that a significant portion of your patrons are buying tickets for certain performances well in advance of the show date, you may want to focus your marketing efforts on promoting offerings leading up to the event that may make it more enjoyable or memorable. Alternatively, if you see that certain patrons are last minute buyers, you may want to consider engaging them with last minute specials or timely, unique packages to get them in the door more often.

Curating a Personalized, Targeted, and Effective Offering

Once you have developed a deeper understanding of your patrons’ behavior and preferences, you are now in a position to curate a more comprehensive personalized, targeted, and effective offering for them. This could include customized product or service recommendations, personalized email campaigns, or targeted social media ads.

For example, if you have a group of friends who regularly attend your experiences together and share on social media, you could create a personalized email campaign that recognizes them with targeted messaging and relevant images. New social graph information, enabled by a more robust knowledge of your shadow audience, can make your use of social media more effective in reaching friends of friends who have similar interests and preferences to those of your existing patrons.

Close with a Strong Focus on the Customer Experience

No matter how effective your newfound marketing efforts are, they will be rendered ineffective without also delivering an exceptional patron experience throughout their journey. This includes everything from how they found out about your organization or the event they want to attend, to the sale and ticketing process, to getting to their seat, the experience itself in the venue, and how you engage with them post-event. Focusing on the overall customer experience will complement your enhanced marketing capabilities to drive further engagement and build long-term loyalty with your patrons.

Don’t forget that this all begins with first knowing who your audience is; without that valuable knowledge, you’ll be fumbling in the dark!

Note: Huge thanks to Dave Wakeman for offering his assistance and perspective for this piece!



Matthew Zarracina

Co-founder & CEO of True Tickets | reader, rower, & former pilot | amateur ball player & guitarist | full-time husband & dad | intellectually curious by nature