An Expert View With…

RPRACHEL POOLE

COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER & MARKETING, NORTHERN BALLET

What’s been the development of your approach to the groups market at northern ballet?

As a touring ballet company that visits many venues just once a year, it is important to remain on a GTO’s ‘radar’.  Through groups publications we release the year’s tour dates ahead of anywhere else as this helps to facilitate the GTO’s planning process. I appreciate how much effort goes into organising a group visit and it’s important to recognise and reward this. The opening of Northern Ballet’s stunning new home in 2010 has allowed me to open the doors to groups offering talks, tours, and opportunities to watch rehearsals or classes as well as hosting special launch events at which GTOs can enjoy a sneak preview of the ballet. It is a joy to be able to share this side of the organisation and the feedback from groups, whether regular Northern Ballet attendees, or new groups that I’m trying to cultivate, is that they feel privileged to experience more than just the performance.

How do you work with venues on group marketing when on the road?

When it comes to the performing arts, groups are saturated with choice and the changing market and financial restraints means that competition is greater than ever. It is important, therefore, to work with the venues to ensure our discounts are comparable with other similar productions so it is the product, and not the price, which influences choice. Each venue has different booking procedures
and added benefits for groups so the more information we can offer about this through our marketing materials and website, the easier it is for the GTO to organise their visit.

How popular is the North East with groups? What are the challenges?

The region is comparatively low on the tourism radar. Over the last 10 years however, the number of groups visiting Newcastle has grown and in 2014 there was a remarkable increase in German visitors of 40% over the previous year. Not every group stays overnight, but at least the city is now included on itineraries. There is great potential for groups visiting from overseas, but they do generally have their own language needs and I am always amazed at how few attractions provide written material in a range of languages! Other types of customer service training into cultural differences would also help visitors from abroad feel more welcome; for example, in Germany’s bars it’s customary to place your order at your table whilst in Britain you order at the bar.

What would be your best advice to those with a performance product with a varied programme to make sure that groups are aware of what is available to them?

The simplest things can make a huge difference such as including an extra line on marketing material highlighting the group booking number or group discount. It’s about making GTOs aware that your performance is an option for them.  Theatre attendees tend not to differentiate between venues and the performing company, rather seeing them as one and the same.  The key is to develop your own relationship with this market, set up a designated groups page on your website and have a named member of staff within your organisation who GTOs can approach directly with questions or queries.  You cannot put a price on the personal touch.

Following several years working for a variety of arts festivals and venues in Northern Ireland and Edinburgh in a range of roles including Arts Administration, Front of House and Box Office, Rachel was employed as Group Sales Officer at King’s and Festival Theatres Edinburgh. She moved to Leeds to join Northern Ballet as Communications Officer: Marketing in May 2010 and is a member of the Group Travel Business Forum.