steppenwolf theatre company
Based in Chicago, IL, Steppenwolf Theatre Company (STC) is an internationally renowned ensemble of artists that presents contemporary theatre experiences. After receiving a grant from the Wallace Foundation to further audience development, STC commissioned WolfBrown to conduct a major attitudinal study of its ticket buyers (current subscribers, lapsed subscribers, single ticket buyers, etc). This study marked the first time that WolfBrown adapted its audience segmentation cluster model, initially developed for the Major University Presenters consortium, to theatre. The overall goal of the study was to develop a new customer model which would allow STC staff to design and implement new marketing relationships and engagement programs with single ticket buyers. The initial survey protocol was drafted with significant input from STC staff, and focus groups with subscribers and single-ticket buyers were held to test and refine the questionnaire.

A random sample of 3,000 ticket buyers from the aggregate pool of all STC ticket buyers over the previous three years was surveyed. Booster samples of different ticket buyer groups, including multiple single-ticket buyers, lapsed subscribers and Steppenwolf for Young Audience buyers, were added to supplement the random sample and allow for more extensive data analysis on these sub-groups. Additionally, 1,000 donors were surveyed. The survey was administered both online and via mail. Altogether, a total of 2,055 completed surveys out of 8,505 were returned, representing an overall response rate of 24%.

A cluster analysis was performed on a sub-set of attitudinal variables relating to knowledge of theatre, breadth of involvement in the art form, preferred ways of engaging before and after performances, motivations for attending, and purchase decision factors. In the end, analysis revealed a five segment customer model, with segment characteristics ranging: High Impact Loyalists (17%), Ensemble Followers (24%), Progressive Theatre Geeks (19%), Topic-Driven Socializers (27%) and Selective Story-Seekers (15%). Overall, the cluster analysis identified disparate segments of customers with different motivations, tastes, engagement approaches and planning horizons. These edifying results informed Steppenwolf's marketing and audience engagement practices and exposed new opportunities to engage single ticket buyers. Additionally, a factor analysis was performed on 18 different pre- and post-show engagement activities that helped identify five distinct groups: Readers, Actors, Bloggers, Talkers, and Listeners. The data suggests that post-performance processing primarily occurs through informal discussions between audience members, either in the car on the way home, or over the ensuing days afterwards, and provokes further thinking about how STC can elicit these sorts of discussions.

Consultants: Alan Brown, Rebecca Ratzkin
Year Complete: 2009