On the whole, arts marketing professionals do great work telling the story of their performing arts ensemble. It’s incredible! I really do enjoy seeing their work and the efforts they take.
But, on the other hand, some arts marketing teams do their job poorly, and it shows. I know and I think maybe they know too that they can do better. In this post I want to share how arts marketers get it wrong.
Now, this is all my opinion and should be taken with a grain of salt of course, but I really do think that these areas need to be addressed. It’s critical that marketers do well because a lot is riding on the success of their ability to bring their art to market.
Using the same playbook for marketing
I might be killing a sacred cow here but I think it needs to be said. Years ago your organization may have decided on a certain approach and methods to promote your season or show or concert. You found that it was tremendously successful and decided to codify that system or process for the rest of your time at your organization.
The problem is that as demographics change and your audience changes as a consequence, that same playbook is probably the wrong tack to employ now. It was fine years ago, but now you need to innovate. Here are some instances.
You’ve relied on a single television appearance to sell your work to your community. Which, was fine years ago, but now that more people have cut the cord to their cable subscription, that doesn’t work any longer. Maybe use that time to do more Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube live streams instead?
You’ve relied on billboards to get your message out there. Now, I know that there is big appeal to put a large sign out by a major highway, but nowadays people don’t seem to see them. Unless you’re willing to create a billboard with an eye catching message or cause some sort of buzz (I like what Mightily has done with the Louisville Ballet) in the community, I’d say the money and time spent could be allocated to social media ads and display ads online. That way you could track your results and impact online.
You use the same agency to help you execute your campaigns. Perhaps this is the most controversial. Your organization has enjoyed a great relationship with the ad agency for years. But, as many things go over time, things get stale. Maybe for every new season you submit requests for proposals from area agencies every year to get the best ideas for your organization. It’s not personal, it’s only business.
My point is that over the years and life of an organization you need to continually evaluate what you do and how you do it.
Not being human enough
I’ve already shared with you Mark Schaefer’s thesis in marketing that “the most human company will win”. But, with your marketing you’re not showing the human-ness of your company. It’s just stars and celebrity and status and prestige. Instead of these things, maybe focus on sharing the inner life of your organization through video and interviews and story telling in a whole new way. Show how your art affects the daily lives of people around you.
Perhaps this means doing more post show interviews of audience members, who’s life has been changed by seeing your latest performance. Perhaps this means showing a different side of the organization by showing the lives outside of the costume shop, scene shop, or rehearsal studio.
Not making informed decisions
I want to state something right now. I think that all marketing decisions should be backed up with hard data from either your website’s analytics, Tessitura, Social media, etc. This might mean that you aggressively start using analytics more than you’ve been used to. You’ve got to understand what works and what doesn’t work, and data will help you get there.
When you have data and are serious about data, you should commit to A/B testing of nearly everything that you do. Colors, copy, creative, subject lines, test everything. Find out a way to track everything that you do so that you can find out what is working and what isn’t.
While I see that arts marketing professionals get a lot right in their work, there still is some room for improvement. Organizations would do well not to rely on their old playbook to expect new results, they should endeavor to be more human in their marketing, and commit to basing decisions on data.
Now it’s your turn! How do you think arts marketing professionals do their job poorly? How can they improve? Let me know in the comments below!