What This Puppy Can Teach You
About Your Patron Experience

Today’s guest blog post is written by Kevin Patterson, Senior Account Executive, Patron Technology.

Let’s face it, dogs have family, cats have staff. As a dog person, I believe there is just nothing as cute as a puppy.

So when I was asked recently to be the auctioneer at a benefit auction for a local high school, something I’ve done numerous times, I assumed the evening would pretty much be your standard fare silent and live auction with a lot of different auction items. But, what I didn’t know was that a Bernadoodle, (a cross between a Bernese Mountain dog and a Poodle) would be one of the auction items offered during the evening.

The live auction featured twenty-five items, travel to exotic locations, box seats to professional sporting events, and one-of-a-kind collector’s items, all experiences, things that you couldn’t go out and purchase easily or at all.

As organizations, especially performing arts organizations, you are in the experience business. Your patrons can consume anything, but they come to you because they crave an authentic experience. Auction items that are built on experiences will always attract more bidders and will always be more inviting to your patrons. Now back to our story.

So the live auction was underway and the bidding was lively thanks to a four person auction team coaxing bids out of well alcoholed patrons. The more unique the experience, the more money the item brought in at final bid. About halfway through the live auction, Irish, the eight-month old Bernadoodle, was quietly introduced to the crowd.

The breeder took the dog from table to table, all over the room. Patrons got to hold Irish, pet Irish, snuggle with Irish. In short, patrons got to sample the experience and what a cuddly sample it was for them. By the time Irish made it to the auction block the stage was set. The only thing left to discover was just how much an experience with Irish was worth.

The bidding set in with five to seven bidders with a starting bid of $500. (Note: the value of a Bernadoodle on the open market is between $1,600 – $1,800.)  The bidding shot past that in a matter of seconds, as with all seven bidders in place, $2,500.00 was achieved. Next came $3,000, $4,000, $5,000, $6,000, $7,000, and $8,000, then things got serious. When it was all said and done with two bidders remaining the winning bid came in at $10,000! Yes, this is not a typo, $10,000.

But why? We already established the market value at $1,600 – $1,800. $10,000 is six and one-half times the market rate. Why would anyone pay that much for a puppy? Not even a show quality dog. It all comes down to experience. The winning bidder was a couple that fell in love with Irish. The experience they achieved in those pre-auction moments set the course for a winning bid, a substantial donation, and lifelong experience with Irish, the Bernadoodle.

Think about this in terms of your own organization for a moment. I’m not advocating running out and adding cute puppies to your next fundraiser. But I am asking you to think about your relationship with your patron and what kinds of experiences you are providing to them.

The experiences that your patrons have with you can have a profound impact. You never know what might happen at a performance or an event that triggers a deep connection. Your organization is like Irish the Bernadoodle. Provide those special experiences. Create moments that deepen your relationship with your patrons. By doing so you may be a very happy puppy indeed!

Kevin Patterson is a senior account executive for Patron Technology. He hosts a twice-monthly podcast on the arts at 10toCurtain.com. He is also a professionally licensed auctioneer.

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