Cultivating Word-Of-Mouth

Building Your Framework

As leaders of performing arts organizations, we put a lot of trust and faith in word-of-mouth. In this series we are looking at a significant marketing practice that is fundamentally changing the way corporations do business, and considering its adaptability and scalability for smaller arts organizations.

Let’s get started.


First, you really need to ask the questions, “why?” This is something you should ask yourself whenever you start a new initiative, as the answers will be critical in shaping your programs, guiding your decisions, keeping you focused, and reaching your goals.

Before you can invite people to be your advocates, you must clearly know what you want to achieve. Without this initial planning, you are going to waste your time and, worse yet, the time of your fans.

So, start with a little planning. But don’t despair – this isn’t likely to take too much time as you probably have a pretty good sense of what you want to accomplish.


As you would for your organization’s strategic planning, you might want to consider an overview mandate that addresses the broad ‘why’. I wrote this one, for a fictional theatre company, in about five minutes:

To work with our biggest fans in creating a greater presence and exciting performing environments, so that we can achieve our artistic goals and engage a larger, more loyal community.

Next, consider the objectives of your word-of-mouth campaign. What is it you want to achieve?

Here are some suggestions:

  • To increase traffic on the website

  • To develop an active social media community

  • To create a stronger brand presence for the company

  • To improve advance ticket sales

  • To develop stronger engagement with audience members

  • To foster referrals and recommendations from patrons

  • To encourage a greater rate of return (more patrons returning more frequently)

  • To develop greater audience retention (ticket buyers retuning year after year)


In considering your purposes, think longer term and go beyond the idea, however tempting, of selling tickets for your next performance or production. Take the long view and invest in your word-of-mouth program, so that the returns pay back over years.

So, let’s now go a little deeper and consider some goals. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • To receive unsolicited reviews from patrons

  • To increase the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers for a greater number of likes and shares

  • To increase the number of first time ticket buyers

  • To realize stronger sales through your website

  • To earn an overall larger audience

So there you have it, a framework for your word-of-mouth program.

In the next section, I will look at building your internal team – the people who will carry out the program.


Before launching headlong into a word-of-mouth program, take a little time for some planning. Know why you want to do this and what you expect to achieve. A good beginning will guide you to your goals and it will ensure you are not wasting the extraordinary gifts of your fans: their time and their enthusiasm.

1. Cultivating Word-Of-Mouth: An Introduction

2. Building Your Team

3. Establishing Your Framework

4. Finding Word-Of-Mouth Advocates

5. Activating Your Campaign

6. Measuring Your Success