Sunday, December 30, 2018

12 Easy New Year’s Resolutions for Every Arts Marketer

Thank you for reading!

The new year is always the perfect time to reflect and…oh enough with the fluff - here’s my content marketing series loosely themed around a holiday with a catchy title that makes you want to click. The following are 12 easy things that any marketer (or generalist who is wearing too many hats) should be sure to optimize anytime, not just in the New Year. I even throw in a bonus resolution for the overachievers out there!

Happy marketing and Happy New Year!

Resolution #1: Don't Just Sell, Content is Still Queen

Do all of your emails start with something like “Act fast. Buy Now. Tickets on Sale,” etc.? If so, this resolution is for you. In your email campaigns and social media it can be tempting to write what you want to tell your fans. Instead, think about what they want to know. Here’s an example. You might want to tell them that they should buy a ticket to your upcoming concert featuring a local children’s dance company. In this case, your message would be “Buy a Ticket to our Upcoming Children’s Dance Concert.”  But what your fan might actually want to know is who are the students? What pieces are being performed? What inspired this particular event instead of performing something else? In this case, the message would be something like “Hear what inspires a 7 year-old dancer to be her best.” You tell me which message inspires you more?

Your fans are smart, they know that you sell tickets. You don’t need to hit them over the head with it. Fans want to learn, to be entertained, to be delighted, to be surprised. You need to schmooze them before asking them out on a date. Give them a reason to say yes first. A good rule of thumb is that only every 4th message should have a sales call to action. Eveything else should be teaching, entertaining or delighting your fans to help them see why they should love you.

By the way, keeping your content relevant to what else is happening in the world is always a good thing. It shows you’re human, and that you pay attention to your fan’s lives. For instance, I could have said “Content is still King” in the title of this section (the original phrase was coined by Bill Gates in 1996), but that would be ignoring the fact that 77% of arts managers identify as female, and also would ignore the important discussions happening around gender equality and #metoo. 

Resolution #2: Improve (or Create) Your Landing Pages

Do you know what a landing page is? You might not, and that's okay. When you are advertising an event and a fan clicks on the ad to visit your site, they should almost always be directed to a landing page. Occasionally, this may be your homepage, but most of the time it shouldn’t be. Your homepage is pretty general and could lead someone in a dozen different directions. The more options you give a potential buyer, the less likely it is they’ll choose any of them. Here are some landing page tips:

  • Your landing page should have a specific, upfront goal (for example, buying tickets to a single event). 
  • You want the primary headline or subject of your landing page to match the ad or email your fan clicked on. 
  • Your call to action (“Get Your Tickets” for instance) should be super visible and high enough so the fan doesn’t need to scroll to see it. 
  • The call to action should be a button that is a bold and contrasting in color from the rest of the page. 
  • Including a video can increase your conversion by up to 80%.  
  • Do you have an offer? Be upfront about it! 
  • Use testimonials or quotes from patrons on your landing page. Your fans want to know that they are getting into something other people are also into. 
  • De-clutter your page, and only say what’s absolutely necessary. White space and bullet points are great for readability. 
Most of the time, a landing page is the first impression, and you want to get your new fan in and out with a great experience as quickly as possible. 

Resolution #3: Don’t Ask For My Life Story, Just Let Me Buy a Ticket

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve made the decision to buy a ticket, then I’ve gotten to the purchase page and have been overwhelmed by what they are asking me. There are only four pieces of personal information you actually need from your buyer:

  • name
  • credit card number
  • address for payment verification
  • and email to send a confirmation

Don’t ask them for anything else. Give your fan what they want - a ticket - and follow up later with an email if you want to learn more about them.

Here’s a great case study. One of the best symphonies in the world, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, makes it frustratingly hard to buy a ticket. The individual concert pages on the CSO website are good landing pages. They have video, relevant information, good photos, and a very visible “buy tickets” button. But it goes downhill from here. 

I’m a new patron, so I’m just looking for an individual ticket. From the time I click “buy tickets” on the event page, I have to go through six different pages before I am asked for my credit card info. Two of those pages are ticket selection pages, one is a donation page (why I am being asked to donate before I’ve ever purchased a ticket?), one is a login page because apparently I need an account to buy a single ticket, and another is a "create a new account" page because of course I don't have an account, I'm not even sure I'm going to want to come back yet. To make matters worse, their Facebook login integration isn’t working so I actually have to come up with yet another set of login credentials for a website I'm not sure I'll visit again. 

Is this all necessary? No. Again, all you need in order to sell a ticket is name, credit card number, address for payment verification, and email to send a confirmation. If you want your fans to create an account or donate, then you should first wow them with your product and content that adds to their life. If an organization as masterful as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra can get some of this wrong, chances are that your sales process can be improved too.

Resolution #4: Track with Analytics

It's so important to know your audience. A few top level things the I look for are:

  • seeing how they behave on your website
  • where they come from
  • whether they’re on a computer or mobile
Paying attention to the visitor analytics on your website will give you a ton of useful information. For instance, if you knew that 52.4% of your website visitors were viewing your site and emails from their mobile phone, you would probably display your content a little differently (by the way, 52.4% is the global average of internet traffic originating from mobile in Q3 of 2018). Maybe your long paragraphs should be shortened. Maybe your high-res photos should be sized down for easier download. If you don’t know where to begin with analytics, here's a great resource.

My favorite way to use analytics is to see what ads and traffic sources turn into the most sales. If you knew that 10% of your clicks from Facebook ads turned into sales, and 20% of the clicks from an ad in an online arts calendar turned into sales, where would you spend more money?

If you have the time and resources to do A/B testing, I highly recommend it. Trying out a new ad campaign, but unsure of the right message? Test two different versions of the landing page and see which one converts more. Trying to find the perfect subject line or header in an email? Try sending two versions to different parts of your email list and see which has more success. Analytics can do all of this, and there is no better substitute than real data from your fans. 

Resolution #5: Scrubadubdub Your Contact Lists

Speaking of email campaigns, do you know who gets your emails? You might have a list of 12,000 people, but how many of them are real fans that would take an action, or even open your emails? You might be sending thousands of emails to people who don’t care, or worse, are getting annoyed with your emails which increases the likelihood your domain will be marked as spam. Chances are, you are paying to keep those subscribers in your email management system. And if you’re using traditional snail mail (yes, you should be) with an un-scrubbed list, then you’re wasting even more money by paying for printing and postage to send your messages right into someone’s recycling bin.

The overall logic in this scrubbing process is to identify which contacts are inactive, ask them one more time to engage with you, and then remove them if they continue to be inactive. Every email marketing system is different, and since I prefer MailChimp, here’s a detailed tutorial on how to scrub your MailChimp lists. The same logic should go for your snail mail lists.

Before scrubbing, I would recommend a few months of great content marketing first (see resolution #1).

Resolution #6: Call Me By My Name

I've decreased my engagement with an organization this year because they started writing to me by saying “Dear Friend,” “Dear Music Lover,” etc. This was after several years of personalized marketing and solicitation messages, being a regular ticket buyer and donor, visiting them in their office, and even being on a first-name basis with their staff. In the year 2019, if you can’t mail merge your letters and auto populate first names in your emails, then let’s talk.