Are your customers mysteriously disappearing?

Why databases are shrinking at an alarming rate – and how to fix it.

Customer ticketing/email data is essential to the success of performing arts. Email is one of the top 2 marketing channels used by performing arts audiences across WA(The Search For Audiences 2019).

However, most in the industry are seeing an alarming  difference between the customers in their databases and customers they are able to contact.

This is a major problem where some organisations are only able to contact 10% of the customers who they are engaged with on their database

There are several reasons for this major problem:

  • In line with the Privacy Act all customers are given an option to opt out of marketing on their first ticket purchase. The default choice on most systems is opt-out. If they opt out then this decision is rarely ever confirmed with the customer. As a result, half of ticket purchasers will effectively be forgotten by venues, even if they become loyal users of the facility after this first purchase.
  • Few ticketing systems can send emails and so email data is manually transferred to email systems. This leads to significant loss of data between the systems and massive lack of clarity as to customers’ opt in statuses. This means venues have two different datasets with different contact status information.
  • In manual over-the-counter sales, email data is often not collected. For some venues 20% to 50% of their total customers buy face to face. Whilst it is not always easy to gather data like email at point-of-sale it is a major point of data loss.
  • The Privacy Act contains the principle below, and this is often used as a reason to cease all contact with a customer, when in fact the principle simply states that no direct marketing should be sent, it does not say a venue should have no further contact with a customer

The Privacy Act Where an organisation is permitted to use or disclose personal information for the purpose of direct marketing, it must always:

  • allow an individual to request not to receive direct marketing communications (also known as ‘opting out’), and
  • comply with that request

If you want to be successful you need to hang on to the customers who are engaged with your organisation whilst complying with the Act. This means ensuring customer contact information is both correct and up to date. Preferences change over time. Your first time customer who buy a first ticket will often opt out automatically before they have seen a show.  Once  the customer has seen a work, they may well love your organisation, but chances are they will never hear from you again because of an action taken on their first ticket purchase.

The second key to success is to collect emails where ever possible. Remember to inform customers that updates for the work they have purchased tickets for will be sent by email. Sometimes it is time consuming, but every email collected has great value over time.

Keep these five points in mind


  1. You must provide an opt out/unsubscribe option to comply with the Privacy act
  2. Opt out/unsubscribe is the option many customers choose automatically.
  3. Once this is the choice you cannot email or mail direct marketing
  4. Over time you should provide the service of confirming that those who opt out/unsubscribe want this to be their ongoing status
  5. In most cases those people who have an opt out/unsubscribe will change their preference over time if they have has a positive experience with your organisation.


Whilst this may sound complicated, it isn’t. The question is what are the thousands of customer records sitting in your opt-out data worth to your organisation and, more importantly, are you providing good customer service by having no contact with customer just because they have ticked one box?


What to do if your database has shrunk.

These are the steps to consider if you want to confirm you have the correct contact relationships with the customers in your database.

  1. Do not change the status of any customers from opt-out. Ask the customer to confirm this choice.
  2. Develop a contact strategy that ensures you only contact customers for the purpose of ensuring you have the contact status they agree to. Decide how many customers you will you contact, what will you ask them and how will that communication piece will work effectively. Generally, you can achieve all you need in a single line email.
  3. Download all of your customers from the ticketing database going back as far as possible, but at least 2 years.
  4. Create an audience segment in your email marketing service specifically for the purpose of this contact strategy
  5. When you begin your contact strategy ensure it includes a direct contact in the venue so customers can respond directly if necessary.
  6. Ensure the wording very clearly states the purpose of sending the email and make it easy for the customer to update their contact preference and/or to confirm if they wish to opt-out
  7. When a customer in this audience opts-out then venue must honour this for the life of their relationship with the venue in terms of marketing.
  8. When a customer in this audience opts-in they can be added to your marketing database.

Case study


How MANPAC ReFound 10,000 subscribers

In late 2018,  MANPAC  believed  it could only contact a small 13% of its database huge database.

Research the same year showed email was the favourite ticketing buying channel for customers. This made the problem even more concerning.

The database, 30,000 records strong built with an ENTA platform, has been in operation since 2016 and saw the transfer of thousands of legacy customer records from the previous ticketing system.

It was robust and had great information and functionality, but customers were abandoning the communication ship at an alarming rate and, more importantly, some were never boarding that ship they were opting out from their first ticket purchase before they had ever tried the venue.

MANPAC used a 3rd party email system and it realised part of its  issue was that  it did not synchronise with the ticketing system. The decision was made to move to an allied system and try and synchronise customer marketing records with the  ENTA CRM.

In Mandurah, the main culprits of the loss of contacts were unsubscribes, new ticket buyers opt-outs  and the ever changing  customer address.

The Spam Act 2003 (Spam Act) sets out Australia’s regulates us all in terms of how we use customer data and it’s essential that organisations comply and respect the wishes of customers. MANPAC ‘s policy was never to contact the people who opted-out of marketing.

However, in examining its data MANPAC realised that it had an obligation to its customers to ensure it was aware of data preferences and confirm decisions customers made years ago on their first visit to the venue to ensure that have not changed. In doing this, it needed to respect those who has unsubscribed or not subscribed.

In June, 2019 send an administrative email to  more than 10,000 customers asking for their communication preferences. To its surprise, less than 5 % did not wish to receive information from MANPAC. In addition, there was a flood of email messages  from customers saying they were looking forward to receiving information. On the downside, one customer emailed to criticise the exercise.

By July 2019, Mandurah permission contact list had grown by 250% . This data was segmented by a customer’s preferred data and synched to Enta monthly.

This had a knock on effect on ticket sales, use of the online ticketing platform, and use of the website and social media.

According to Guy Boyce, the CEO and Creative Director, the exercise  has been a success in many ways.

“There was a time, like most others,  we outsourced customers’ communication preferences to a tick box, and broke up with important customers forever anytime they ‘ticked’. Now we take that responsibility more seriously  than ever and proactively ask their permission to communication. We realise that in the life cycle of a customer and their needs and usage change and it’s our job to actively ask the question out of the marketing context.”

“Now MANPAC has been able to harness the considerable power of ENTA with its own high levels of competence in data collection and management and ensure we are stepping up the relationship with the customer to the next level”.

“ We have retained robust and compliant policy on our data whilst hugely growing our contacts and connecting communication choices  to intelligence held in  ENTA. We strongly advice other venues to consider a similar exercise.”