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.

Resolution #7: Create or Join a Peer Group

Sitting behind a computer can get lonely, especially if you’re the only marketer in your office. One of the best things I did for my career was to join a peer group. We met twice per month for several years, and to this day I seek out these kinds of groups. There are things that only people in your position will understand, and it’s so vital to have a community of support and encouragement. Beyond the “feel good” aspects of a community, there are major tangible benefits you’ll get like learning best practices and getting some industry buzz. Being useful to a peer can even change your outlook on the way you approach your own work.

In arts marketing, a peer group could be a challenge if you’re going after the same ticket buyers. But don’t despair. You can create or find a group of peers from various industries to eliminate the competitive agita. No matter the product, marketing challenges are often the same. What could you learn from a restaurant or sports marketer?

Resolution #8: Beautify Your Space

As a marketer, your job is inherently creative. The place in which you perform your job should match the level of inspiration you are trying to share with your fans. If you think this is touchy feely bunk, think again. Did you know that simply having a plant in the office, or increasing natural light can raise productivity by 15%? You’ve got to love where you spend most of your day if you’re going to love (or even like) what you do there. Be bold, have fun and inspire yourself and your colleagues so that you can inspire your fans!

Too much?

Resolution #9: Ask Your Fans

What better way to get to know your audience than by asking them what they think? Tastes and fads change, so you should know when your fan’s tastes are changing. Doing audience surveys is pretty common, and there are some easy tools like Surveymonkey and Google Forms to help you.

The real work in this resolution isn’t just sending out a survey, but deciding what to ask. Maybe there’s a question in the back of your mind, and you’re kinda afraid of the answer. That’s definitely the question you should be asking. For instance, you might ask your ticket buyers what three things they would change to improve your events. Or you might ask them to rate you compared to your competitor. 

You might even ask them to write a little mini-review of your last event. Sometimes artists and organizations are scared to read reviews, but your audiences are talking about you whether you listen or not, so you might as well listen to what they say. If you’re still in business after the last event, then chances are you’ll get good feedback from your fans!

There are so many different methodologies to getting feedback. The one rule I try to stick to is to ask for feedback that is quantifiable. Using lowest to highest scales (1-5), yes/no responses, or pre-determined multiple choice can give you just the right kind of analysis you need to make the aggregate feedback useful. Freeform feedback is really useful to read, but hard to take action on. So, I try to give only one option in any survey for free-form feedback. Everything else can be quantified. 

Resolution #10: Ask Everyone BUT Your Fans

This is an underutilized tactic in arts marketing research. Why don’t you like us? I strongly encourage you to create your own focus group of people who don’t come to your events. It may be a little harder to find them, but it’s totally doable. You can put an ad on craigslist or email your network of friends to get referrals. It’ll be easier to get people to help you if you compensate them with a gift card or something like that (pro tip, don’t offer free tickets to your events because you already know that’s not valuable to them).

Once you have your focus group (in-person is best, but not totally necessary), you get to decide what you want to learn. It honestly won’t serve you to ask them a lot about your own event or organization because they don’t know you yet. Instead, ask them about their lives. 

  • What are their pain points when it comes to performing arts? 
  • Where do they search for things to do? 
  • How often do they attend other events like yours? 
  • What do they find brings them and their families joy? 
  • Have they ever heard of you, or your competitors, before this exercise? 
You'll learn so much from doing this!

Resolution #11: Don't Forget to Pay for Ads

I know from experience that it’s easy to get into the trap of writing emails and posting on social media, and then sitting back and waiting for your fans to flock to your box office. Unfortunately, much of the time you really do have to pay for ads, so don’t be afraid to spend the money…wisely. You need to rise above the clutter and get as many eyeballs as possible on your great content, and unless you already have 5 million followers on social media, then you have to pay for exposure.

When you’re deciding where to spend your money, tracking with your analytics can be really helpful! 

Here's My Formula
For online, I like to look at the cost per click and cost per conversion. It goes like this. If you spend $1,000 on a particular ad, and that ad results in 1000 visitors to your website, you have spent $1 to “get someone in the door.” Then if 50 of those people buy a ticket, you have converted 5% of your web visitors into a sale. At $50/ticket, you have turned a $1,000 ad spend into $2,500 in revenue. In this case, I would try to get the cost/click down to about $0.75 with the same acquisition rate. It may mean buying more ad space at once or retargeting your user demographics on the ad platform, but it's worth it to find the sweet spot.

For offline ad tracking, it’s a little tricky. I find the most reliable way to track non-internet-initiated sales is with discount codes. If you offer a specific discount code in a newspaper ad, you can hope that everyone who buys as a result of that ad uses the code (they won’t) and you can know your ROI (it’ll be approximate). Radio has a similar challenge. 

Considering that fewer and fewer people are consuming print and commercial radio, I predict that most arts marketers will be spending less and less here as time goes on. 

Resolution #12: Say Thank You

Take every opportunity to say thank you. Even if it’s “Thank you for opening this email, you’ll be glad you did!” These two magic words are so simple and effective.

Resolution #13: Bonus

Follow these brands on instagram for some inspiration!