I’d be hard pressed to find a member of an arts organization who doesn’t believe in the power of providing the option to sell tickets online. It gives many people a way to serve themselves (thus reducing your manpower needed at the box office to answer the phone), offers the patron the peace of mind of knowing that the ticket has been purchased, and usually offers additional benefits such as seeing your seat location, and being able to buy a ticket any night or day. Some groups I know have chaffed at the additional credit card processing fees, merchant account fees, or ticketing vendor fees of using a real ticketing system, and opted instead to collect credit card information online via a form, through an email, or into an unsecure database. Yes, you avoid additional fees that way, but is the cost of potentially exposing your patron’s credit card and identity information to hackers and thieves worth it? I don’t think so — and one lawsuit from an angry patron would seal the deal.
A recent article in our local paper mentioned that arts & cultural groups should have a plan in place to cut their expenses by 10%, before they need to use it. Just so the plan is ready to go. We think that’s a great idea, and decided to pluck out some ideas. While the following is certainly not an extensive list, a few easy ways to save 10% came to mind: 1. Prepay and save with your 3rd-party subscriptions — check out your organization’s monthly credit card bill for the 3rd-party companies you use for a variety of business services, such as Quickbooks Online for accounting, Constant Contact for email marketing, or Salesforce for CRM. Most organizations give you a substantial discount (10% to 20% for paying up front for 6 or 12 months. If you know for sure you’re going to use it for that amount of time, sign up in bulk, and save.
Difficult economic times call for different ways of thinking about marketing. From arts organizations looking to fill a seat, to restaurant managers trying to sell a dinner, the issue is the same: how to keep patrons coming in and participating with your organization. In many cases, an organization’s first response to needing to save money in a down economy is to cut costs, and often times the first budget to go is marketing. But when you stop to think about it, marketing is one of the only direct expense-to-income streams you have. Marketing is a revenue generator, not simply an expense, so your organization should be budgeting to market MORE in a down economy, and to market smartly as much as possible. Let’s talk about some easy ways to do this with a goal of not raising expenses or reducing revenues.
There are many ways to spend your time marketing or developing your arts organization. But which are the most effective? We’ve narrowed it down to 9. A recent survey of arts organizations compiled by the Wallace Foundation tells us that most groups feel that the use of next-generation technology is vital to audience development. On the next question, when asked how organizations feel they are doing with implementation of next-generation technology, the vast number of groups surveyed said “not as well as we’d like to be.” One issue seems to be that many groups have yet to master what we like to call “previous-generation technology.” Let’s examine what is known to work, in an effort to build an arts marketing foundation for you, the arts group. We feel that groups should focus on having all 9 of these techniques in place before putting a lot of effort into other technologies. So, play around with the “new” stuff, but remember your marketing roots first. In no particular order…
As arts marketers, we know that having an up-to-date website is one of the primary ways our patrons find out about our activities. But after serving on the board of a small community theatre group, I know the pain that cultural groups feel when they have to wait for that one board member to update the website. Or perhaps it’s waiting for your friend’s cousin to respond to your email that it’s time to put up the cast list. The great news is it doesn’t have to be like that. Imagine a scenario where any company member who knows how to use Microsoft Word can login and make changes to their section of the website? That updating the content could be shared by multiple people without getting in each other’s way? It’s called a Content Management System (CMS) and it should be a part of every marketing plan for arts organizations.
Here’s a great definition: A CMS is used to edit your website by giving the user an interface where they can log in and make text, graphic or structural amends to then publish the new pages on the live website. So the important thing to know is that arts groups can make changes to their websites by just logging int
Money to fund your arts programming. It’s out there, from a variety of sources. And if you know which stones to overturn, you’ll have everything you need to get it flowing into your organization. The web is the most powerful tool at your disposal to find funding sources for performing and visual arts grants. There are specialized grants for women in the arts. Arts grants for individuals. If you can imagine it, there is probably somebody out there who can support it with a grant. And knowing where to apply is half the battle!
Let’s brainstorm for a moment about some sources for funding for your arts organization: 1. The NEA 2. Local, regional, or national foundations that serve your arts genre’s niche or geographic area 3. City-based arts funding programs 4. Nonprofit arts service organizations in your area 5. Corporate grants for supporting the arts and humanities 6. Your state arts council 7. Individuals with a history of giving to the arts 8. Companies and individuals that give products or services to the arts in lieu of money I’m sure there are more, but that’s a good start. As a real-world example, let’s try to find some arts funding sources for an arts organization in Santa Cruz, CA. Using google, I simply searched for “arts grant santa cruz,” and looked at the results. 1. Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County — holds the #1 spot on google 2. Rydell Visual Arts Foundation — looks like they fund the Santa Cruz Art League (note, looking at who
The invention of email was a gift to arts marketers. Zero cost and instant up-to-the-minute communication with plain text. Nice. Then came email marketing with graphic newsletters. Even better! Your copy and your brand’s “look and feel.” When used correctly, graphic email marketing is one of the most effective ways to keep up a conversation with your patrons. Make sure they are saying more than “unsubscribe”!
Write each message as if you were writing a sweet note to Mom (Hi, Mom). Create engaging and intelligent content that people at least have the potential to enjoy reading. Some background on the performers or the show. A backstage interview of the director. A short note on something that make this arts experience especially relevant. In the way you would talk to Mom. You wouldn’t send Mom an ad, would you?
People don’t like getting what they’ve already read. Make sure that each email you send is unique — something must be different, and it must be right at the top. You’re not only trying to sell