September 5, 2012

You Have to Cultivate Connections


It’s always a bit awkward when you think you are on a first date and the other party has the two of you walking down the aisle. How such different perceptions of a relationship’s status comes about is beyond me, but it seems to happen all the time between myself and the arts groups whose shows I attend.

As someone who values the arts, I always try and catch a performance wherever my business travels take me. I buy my ticket, enjoy the play or concert, and call it a day. For me, it is essentially a one-night stand.

But the groups whose performances I attend take my casual flirtation as an expression of long-term interest. Soon after my likely one and only time to physically be counted among their audience’s ranks, I begin to receive the most personal of love letters. They speak in intimate terms of the deep affection I must have for them. Of course, they don’t want a diamond ring, but they would be just smitten if I’d reward their aggressive pursuit with a charge card contribution to their annual fund.

I’m not even in lust and they are talking to me like we are in love. And just like on a real date between two people, pimping this pretend passion so soon and so blatantly is a real turnoff, particularly because I know it’s not the first time they've used these lines, nor am I the only prospect that's being courted this way.

We live in a time when customer or member acquisition and cultivation demands more finesse and customization. The one-to-many approach was long ago discarded my most corporations, but apparently our cash-strapped performing arts groups haven’t quite gotten the message. Just because I bought a single ticket doesn’t necessarily mean I want to enter into a mating ritual for life.

And the irony of it all? I do make annual fund contributions to several groups in cities other than Indianapolis. But these are groups whose performances I attend at least on an annual basis. This at least a "second date status” makes it a bit more palatable when they ask for money because my multiple expressions of interest can reasonably be construed as enough of a green light that I am worth soliciting.

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