Stronger venue patron affinity – Part 3

Stronger venue patron affinity - Part 3

Free Hugs

free hugs

In part 1 and part 2 of ‘Stronger Venue and Patron Affinity‘, we wrote of examples of venue owners enriching the relationships they have with their patrons. In part 3 we cite the business results of such efforts. Starting with the mending of racial tensions in Chicago nightclubs, then moving on to a tremendous success story in Akron Ohio. We end with one venue that may have taken our "free hugs" idea to its hyper-literal zenith.

Chi Town Challenges

Huffington-Post associate editor Jacqueline Howard writes of a how several venues in Chicago's vibrant downtown are improving the relationships they have with their patrons. Earlier in the Summer, word spread of racial tensions and burgeoning segregation in a few windy city night clubs. Rather than let this abhorrent practice stigmatize businesses, local production company Posh Entertainment set forth to mend wounds and increase venue patron affinity.

Howard writes that Posh worked closely with venues Red Canary, Paris Club, NV Penthouse and Epic. The business of entertainment is far too important to let a rift form between the patrons and the venue owners, as Paris Tyler, director of operations for Posh, explains:

Our hope as Posh is to enlighten these venues, managers and their staff that African Americans in the city should be able to party in the same venues and have a good time. We have a crowd that we would like to call the 'Tastemakers.' They want what's new, cool. They spend the money to dine at the finest of restaurants, dress in the best of designers and to keep their pulse on what's hot.

Worth mentioning is the financial risk venues face when they disenfranchise patrons. Howard's conversation with Tyler suggests that a lack of venue/patron affinity ultimately leads to lost revenue attributable to word-of-mouth. Ticket buyers, club-goers and patrons of all event types talk to their friends about a given venue before deciding to go out. When patrons feel unwelcome, or the venue does little to reinforce a positive experience, they'll "vote with their wallet" and take their business elsewhere.

Akron Affinity

The revitalization of the various venues in downtown Akron Ohio serves as a text book case for stronger venue patron affinity. After nearly a decade of planning and effort, Akron's downtown nightlife is "alive, well, exciting" as Malcolm Abram puts it. Abram recently wrote of Akron's venue owners reaching out directly to their patrons and strengthening the relationships new and old.

Abram quotes Suzie Graham, president and CEO of Downtown Akron Partnership, who spearheaded the renaissance of affinity (not to mention profits for venues). Graham says the partnership has improved every aspect of business for Akron:

"With the area’s continued growth plus the potential for an influx of bodies with discretionary income, most of the downtown bar/club/restaurant owners are holding quarterly meetings with Downtown Akron Partnership. The meetings have included local police, representatives of the University of Akron and an outside consultant trying to find ways to hype Main Street and to help UA students and others think of downtown Akron when it’s time to party."

The focus on making the lucrative 18-25 demographic happy was more than mere marketing, it was a genuine commitment by the venue owners and operators.

Looking ahead, the affinity between venues and patrons at places like 3 Point, Crave and Musica is just going to get stronger. Jason Edge, general manager of LUX, says the area needs to graduate from "locals only" hot spot to a true entertainment destination that is "a place that people from surrounding towns want to come to and hang out for the entire night rather than see a show and then go back home."

In our previous 'Affinity' post, we mentioned the idea of venues involving themselves in transportation options for patrons. Jason Edge did exactly that. His club LUX has a luxurious bus that is available to rent for private parties - a example improving venue/patron affinity.

Free Hugs, Literally!

We began this series with images of "free hugs" as a way to convey the meaning of venue and patron affinity. Little did we know that one venue would take that very literally and offer an on-going event called "FREE HUGS"!

Designated one of the three hottest clubs in Seoul South Korea, Club Answer has been hosting "FREE HUGS" regularly on weeknights this past Summer. Richard Choi, of dining and entertainment website Seoul Grid, notes that Club Answer also offers patrons a free drink with admission as part of their affinity improvement efforts.

Choi says the results of things like "free hug night" and a free drink have given the venue a "a consistently great crowd that knows how to party."

Results like that do not happen by chance. No amount of advertising or paper flyers will build a consistent clientele willing to return again and again to the same venue or event. Only when a emotional bond between venue and patron is established can the business owner begin to expect to see results. Actual hugs for patrons is a great start, but there must be more to it than just that!

We hope this series of stronger venue patron affinity gives you idea on how to make a more meaningful experience at your event or venue. It need not be a matter of a big budget, just convey a genuine sense to your patrons that you care. Start with a free hug or rent a shuttle bus, the specifics are up to you.

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