Like many non-profit dance companies, the extent of our market research for new projects and tours has been largely dictated by an informal appraisal of the interests of our community. Because we work with horses, we network with equestrians, trainers, equine venues – in other words a fairly diverse community that is far afield from our dance community.
For the most part, we've followed our gut. The ERPA process has helped us explore how we can expand our activity beyond our current network, and how we can do so with some informed research, specifically market potential research. Since this journey is new territory for us, I wanted to share what we're discovering in the hopes that others won't have to recreate the wheel.
Our ERPA project involves developing a network of regional coordinators who will help us cultivate opportunities (performance and workshop venues, funding prospects, press contacts) in four regions in the United States that we return to annually. Each region will center around a specific hub community, which will most likely be the community of our regional coordinator.
Our first goal has been to define these 4 regions in concrete terms. Do they include the entire states or simply the communities surrounding the hub community ? In some cases, as with our NYC hub, the region covers several states. As the project progresses we plan to fine-tune the boundaries of these regions. To get the ball rolling, we've delineated the regions based on survey data collected from audience/workshop attendees form previous tours.
We've also begun with some “low hanging fruit” from within the dance world. This has included things like tracking the number of professional dance companies listed on the arts council's registry in Seattle (our pilot region). This is step one towards assessing the dance audience size for this region, which we hope to estimate based on a few studies that were published in the region.
Of course, this is just a start. We need more clarity about these regions in order to make informed decisions as to how we'll build on-going relationships in each. At this point, however, we are encouraged by the generous and insightful responses we are getting from our contacts in Seattle, which has given momentum to this project.
We are learning that it's one thing to bring your work to a new community and just hope it works out. It's another to do your homework (the research) and set a strong foundation for developing meaningful connections.