FROM TC: This week, Americans for the Arts' ARTSblog is hosting an Arts Marketing Blog Salon, as a preview of the 2012 National Arts Marketing Project Conference being held next month. Here are some early entries posted in the Blog Salon which raise some fundamental questions about the effectiveness of current arts marketing -- and fundraising -- activities:

 

Commentary: Why do the arts still have silos for marketing & development staff?

TRG Arts president Jill Robinson, 10/2/12

If so many arts leaders believe that marketing and development departments working together will generate better patronage results, why are so few organizations actually doing it? Perhaps it's because true marketing-development collaboration requires change and new ways of doing things that most organizations find impossibly difficult -- especially on top of everything else that's necessary to keep the art on our stages and in our exhibit halls. [But] look beyond the challenges toward a starting point: Marketing and development need a bridge linking their often siloed departments. A couple of management initiatives and tools can build that bridge.

1. Integrated patron reporting.It's easy to miss individual patrons' passion for your art when you are looking at them through the singular lens of individual campaigns. That's why the best first step toward productive collaboration is good information. Integrated patron histories add up to form behavior patterns that groups of patrons have in common. Those shared patterns are a source of information that can empower integrated campaigns, especially [for] patrons whose loyalty is on the rise and with whom an organization's greatest opportunity exists.

2. Collaborative budgeting. When push comes to shove at budget time, executives tend to abandon big picture goals and send marketing and development officers to chase individual revenue objectives. That sets up internal conflict between departments for the investments of the organizations' patrons. When marketing and development compete for patronage, nobody wins. It's an operational bias that is limiting retention and growth of a loyal patron base. Instead of budgeting separately for single ticket, subscription, and annual fund revenues, consider creating a small number of integrated goals. For example, create a budget line for Subscriber-Donors. To start, track the current percentage of subscribers who are also donors, and budget to increase the proportion of them and their integrated revenue.

When you get down to the individual patron level -- what they buy, how they give, and how much they spend -- it is easier to see individual patrons' love of the art form and how it translates into value for your organization. Having information on all patrons at the individual household level can illuminate steps you might take to deepen loyalty for both individuals and groups of patrons.

Put loyalty analysis tools like integrated patron analysis in front of marketing and development collaborators and watch how quickly and effectively working together can be. The payoff is longer, stronger patron relationships and sustaining investments.

 

Commentary: Is your arts org creating an "awesome" patron experience?

Devra Thomas, theater manager for Deep Dish Theater Company [Chapel Hill, NC], 10/1/12

Scott Stratten, in last year's NAMP Conference keynote, said, "We don't share brochures. We don't share logos. We share awesome. We share experiences." How is your organization crafting the total experience for your audience -- or is it? Too often, we get caught up in the questions of how we find new audiences and how we get those audiences to give us more money. Those are valid questions, but exist in the before and after of the actual art experience. We need to be more concerned with the "during" portion of the audience member's visit. The customer's personal experience with our organization does not begin when the lights go down, or when they stand in front of a painting, it begins the minute they pick up the phone to buy tickets or they step in the door. It doesn't end with the applause; actually, the goal is for it not to end, but to grow into a personally (and, yes, financially) valuable relationship. Yes, the art itself is of utmost importance. [But] imagine what would be said about your organization if you combined your great art with exceptional service. Crafting an exceptional customer service mindset within your entire organization is the fastest way to start creating those awesome experiences that your audiences will share. If half of our patrons are returning, let's greet them by name and engage with them as we would our personal friends. For new patrons, ask questions beyond the "how did you find out about us" to start learning about the deeper reasons of why and how they participate in the arts. Even simple questions like "Who are you here with?", "Do you have family in the area?", or "Where did you go for dinner before the show?" will glean practical information and leave the customer feeling important at the same time. Providing exceptional customer service to go along with world-class art is one of the simplest ways to turn your audiences into raving fans, mainly because so few other organizations are doing it.

 

Commentary: Why aren't more arts orgs tracking impact of online campaigns?

Allied Integrated Marketing's Adam Cunningham, 10/1/12

The biggest myth facing digital (and all the activities from social media, advertising, and marketing that fall under that title) is that it is still viewed as something that cannot fully track sales, being incorrectly lumped into the same categories as print, television, and radio. In reality, 100% of all digital activities can be tracked via 11 conversion pixels that can be placed on all major ticketing systems. Most verticals outside of the arts have realized this for years, and have adjusted their spends accordingly. The arts, meanwhile, appear to be hesitant about shifting dollars. Looking at where ticket sales are coming from for Broadway, regional, and touring productions over the past year, online is easily ahead of the pack at 34.75%.  (With the increasing issues facing group sales and subscriptions these days, I don't imagine much of this trend to be reversed.) Looking at the actual spend of these same productions, the ad budget hasn't caught up. Obviously with any new medium (especially one that requires a reallocation of dollars, and one that is also run by folks with a median age of 22), marketers might be weary. So let me give you three simple steps to overcome your fears, look fantastically progressive in marketing meetings, and most importantly, sell more tickets:

1.  GET PIXELS. You wouldn't send out an email without a code to track sales, so why put digital media out there without the ability to track it? The pixel doesn't cost you anything, and any agency and webmaster worth their salt can install it in about 30 seconds your website.

2.  GET SPECIFIC. Having pixels up for multiple shows is also important. This way, if you are running a campaign for Show A but already have Show B's pixel live, you can see if Show A is selling Show B (or vice versa) and get a better picture of what is working. Sometimes Show A on its own will not return well, but it may in fact sell your other shows. Whether you choose to relay this to Show A's producing team is your own decision.

3.  TEST YOUR THRESHOLD. Just because you made $20,000 by spending $1,000 doesn't mean you'll make $40,000 by spending $2,000. Incrementally increase your digital buys in each category (search vs display vs social vs retargeting) to better understand your market's variables. At the end of each show, run a post-mortem. Take your findings and apply it to your next campaign. Then, take your season and do the same at year's end. Rinse and repeat.

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