When Brenda Tally, the artistic director of the Victoria Ballet Theatre, was looking for a way to develop a marketing strategy for the nonprofit, she knew she could turn to the University of Houston-Victoria for guidance.
“As a small nonprofit with part-time employees, we are looking for ways to maximize our small budget to research the best methods for us to market to our community,” Tally said. “This is a great way to collaborate with the university as a resource.”
This past spring, UHV students in the undergraduate Marketing Research class conducted both a qualitative study and a quantitative study for the nonprofit to help provide insight into what current and prospective ballet patrons think of the theatre’s performances, fundraising events and outreach.
In the past, students in the School of Business Administration have helped nonprofit organizations, such as Fort Bend County Libraries, said Jun Yang, a UHV associate professor of marketing. Projects such as these are in line with what students are learning in the classroom and incorporate skills and theories students learned in other business courses, such as statistics.
“Our students love to have hands-on experience,” Yang said. “It is a great learning experience for our students while also providing a quality resource for our community.”
Ken Colwell, the dean of the school, said the school plans to do more outreach in Victoria and Katy so more businesses and organizations can have opportunities to collaborate with faculty and students.
“Here at UHV, we offer a real-world experience education, and collaborations with our community such as this one with the Victoria Ballet Theatre are great for our students,” Colwell said. “It’s one thing to learn in the classroom, and it’s also important for our students to see how businesses work in the real world.”
For the qualitative study, the students had planned to meet with focus groups made up of ballet theater patrons. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the students were unable to meet with patrons in person and had to quickly find a way to still meet with the participants.
Andres De Leon, of Cypress, is majoring in marketing at UHV and was one of the student leaders for the project. Since the marketing class was already online, De Leon and his classmates turned to the popular conference app Zoom to work on the project.
Students taking the class set up Zoom meetings with participants of the focus group too, which turned out well, De Leon said.
“The transition to virtual meeting actually went pretty smoothly, and it didn’t feel overwhelming,” De Leon said. “We were still able to learn from the participants through Zoom, and working in teams definitely helped.”
From there, the students compiled a list of questions for a survey that was sent to ballet patrons to collect data for the quantitative study. Questions included how many dance performances within the past three years the participants watched at a theater and preference of how to be notified about Victoria Ballet Theatre. Participants also were asked to rate their interest in several shows.
The results of the study showed that many participants were highly interested in traditional performances, such as “The Nutcracker,” as well as fairy tale-based shows such as “Peter Pan.” The survey also showed that participants did not know much about the Victoria Ballet Theatre’s fall shows, which includes a mixed repertoire of traditional ballet with avant-garde and contemporary dance.
The study also showed that most older patrons prefer to receive information from the nonprofit via email, while younger patrons preferred to receive information through the nonprofit’s social media page. Participants said they also received information about the Victoria Ballet Theatre through the local newspaper and by word of mouth.
“It was interesting to see how what we have learned fit into this project, such as how much math is involved in marketing and how statistics fits in with marketing research,” De Leon said. “I can see how this is all useful information for companies.”
Tally plans to take the study to the nonprofit’s board of directors to develop a marketing plan for the nonprofit.
“It is nice to know that we are headed in the right direction with our marketing so far, because we spend money on advertising and don’t know if what we are doing is making an impact,” Tally said. “It is good to know through the help of this study that we are getting the value of every penny that we spend on advertising.”