Does Your Idea Pass The Eyebrow Test?

Posted by Sam Horn On October - 7 - 2011

Andy Rooney

Remember, you’re a lot more interested in what you have to say than anyone else is.” – Andy Rooney

Are you going into a meeting today to introduce an idea, request funding, or propose a program?

Did you know its success depends on whether you get people’s eyebrows up in the first 60 seconds?

People at many meetings are either jockeying to get THEIR idea heard – or they’re bored, distracted or just waiting for the meeting to be over so they can go back to work on the UPO’s (Unidentified Piled Objects) stacking up on their desk.

The good news is, you can test in advance whether your idea is going to get any traction.

Just ask a colleague for 60 seconds of their time.

Explain your idea/proposal/request to them…using the exact same 60 second opening you’ll use in the meeting.

Now, watch their eyebrows. Read the rest of this entry »

What Will Your Audience Look Like in 2020?

Posted by Will Lester On October - 7 - 2011

One of the prompt questions for this blog salon was, “What research is affecting your marketing and fundraising strategies?”

TRG’s research on arts patrons by generation has really given me perspective on where the arts are today and what we need to plan for long-term. Right now—even amidst the recession, organizational bankruptcies, and funding pullbacks, today may be the “good old days” for arts marketing.

There are four generations of arts buyers in the market right now. Each cohort is born roughly between these dates:

Traditionalists, born before 1945
Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964
Generation X, born between 1964 and 1981
Generation Y, born between 1982 and 1995 Read the rest of this entry »

Partnerships = Greater Community Impact

Posted by Kory Kelly On October - 7 - 2011

I am a HUGE proponent of partnerships! There is nothing like getting in front of a group that is loyal to a certain brand, and have that brand state that your organization has value for the group to also support you. Throughout a season, we work with numerous partners to reach new audiences, from arts organizations to corporations and beyond.

Here are some of the more successful partnerships we have had:

Dracula's Night at the Bats

Dracula’s Night at the Bats: A fully integrated campaign with Louisville Slugger Field and our baseball team, the Louisville Bats. Dracula threw out the first pitch (a bit high, but right down the middle), we had a table set up behind home plate, our promotional video was played on the jumbotron in the outfield, we gave away an opportunity to purchase $10 tickets to an entire section and  one lucky person won two season ticket packages (and Dracula handed them out on the third-base dugout).

The benefit: Exposure to a different audience in a fun and interactive way. It showed potential patrons that theatre is not as intimidating as they might think. While there was not much advance promotion of this event, the face time we had with the thousands of people at the event was invaluable. Read the rest of this entry »

Ian David Moss

The hardest question to answer in arts research is “what would have happened if we had done things differently?” Researchers call this question the “counterfactual,” since it refers to a scenario that doesn’t actually exist. Generally speaking, it’s hard to measure things that don’t exist; hence the difficulty for arts research. We can’t measure that scenario directly, but we can get close to it through experimental designs that include a control group.

In a marketing-specific context, counterfactual scenarios come into play when considering alternative strategies aimed at driving sales or conversions. One technique that a number of organizations have used is called A/B testing, which is when two different versions of, say, a newsletter or a website get sent to random segments of your target audience.

Internet technology makes A/B testing relatively painless to execute: in the case of a newsletter, for example, all it requires is a random sorting algorithm in Excel to divide the list in two before sending the slightly different newsletter versions to the lists as you normally would. You could test which design results in more clickthroughs to a specific link or which subject line results in a higher open rate. Read the rest of this entry »

What Laundry Detergent Can Teach Us About Winning Audiences

Posted by Christy Farnbauch On October - 7 - 2011

Christy Farnbauch

A couple of years ago the makers of Gain laundry detergent, Proctor & Gamble (P&G), were looking for a way to better engage and win customers. They used web and social media tools to launch a “Sniff Contest.”

They invited current and new Gain customers to purchase a bottle of detergent, open the cap, and sniff the scent. Then, customers were to visit the company’s website or Facebook page and write a brief story or upload a video about their experience with that bottle of detergent.

When I first heard about this request, I found it hard to believe that anyone would take the time to do this…for laundry detergent?

As it turns out, the campaign was wildly successful, resulting in over 300,000 stories, videos, and fans. P&G dubbed these people the “Gainiacs” and continues to engage them in a variety of ways to increase product sales.

Everybody loves to hear a good story. A powerful story is a critical tool for engaging and winning audiences – current and potential ticket buyers, class participants, board members, artists, and donors. Read the rest of this entry »

Are Subscriptions Dead? Maybe Not (Part 3)

Posted by Chad Bauman On October - 6 - 2011

Chad Bauman

In Part 1, Chad discussed how Arena Stage conducted research to determine if subscriptions still worked for their organization. In Part 2 and below, he discusses some of the tactical changes Arena Stage has made as a result of that work:

Eliminated Advertising, but Increased Direct Mail and Telemarketing.
Prior to 2008, 25% of our subscription budget was allocated to advertising. After exhaustive efforts, we could not trace a single subscription purchase back to our advertising campaigns. Therefore, we cut all subscription advertising, and refocused those resources on direct mail and telemarketing. In doing so, we completely revamped our direct mail and telemarketing campaigns.

In terms of direct mail, we would previously print hundreds of thousands of season brochures, and then mail them out in a few rounds of massive mailings. Our brochures were 28-32 pages in length, and functioned more as a branding tool than a sales piece.

Today, we send out 30+ direct mail pieces during each subscription campaign that specifically tailor the offer to the target. We have eliminated our subscription brochure, cut our design costs by 60%, and have directed all of our resources to testing message and offer. For more information on our new approach to direct mail, please read “The Future of the Season Brochure.” Read the rest of this entry »

How Strong is Your Social Net? (Part 2)

Posted by Mary Trudel On October - 6 - 2011

Mary Trudel

Our 2011 How Strong is Your Social Net? Survey – that gathered responses from more than 1,600 arts organizations across the country – explores adoption and usage of digital and social media, measurement tactics, platforms, and return on investment (ROI).

The findings track the “how,” “to whom,” “what,” “why,” and “how often” of communications across multiple platforms and probes perceptions of effectiveness. We also examined internal policies and institutional protocols around issues of community building and audience feedback.

Trudel|MacPherson developed the survey to help arts groups connect with target audiences using a wide array of available digital communications options. The survey gathered data on how arts groups regularly communicate with various target publics; whether and how groups are connecting with patrons and fans – creating communities of interest and responding to their ideas and concerns — and how groups are measuring the ROI of their digital efforts.

Creative Connections with Audiences

We asked respondents to share their best/worst experiences with digital media.

Very few arts groups reported any horror stories and most praised the intimacy and immediacy of social media to help them repair relationships, deliver last minute information, and build awareness and demand. A few examples: Read the rest of this entry »

Mapping the MarComm Continuum

Posted by Clayton Lord On October - 6 - 2011

Clayton Lord

As the marketing and communications director at an arts service organization, I’m often approached by marketing directors at our over 300 member companies with questions about various channels of marketing and communications.

Recently, a frazzled executive director at a small company (one of those that often doesn’t have a dedicated or even semi-dedicated marketing person) contacted me to have a conversation about social media. She had a board member who thought they could expand their reach dramatically by reaching out through social media, and she wanted to know how to create a Facebook page to do that.

I was sad to have to tell her that that strategy probably wasn’t going to work. The truth of the matter is that social media, like all the tools in the marcomm toolkit, has a specific spectrum of usefulness—and unfortunately, the type of social media interactions she was talking about just weren’t going to get her very much traction with people who didn’t know or care about her organization already.

Whenever I think about a marcomm plan, I work in my head with a very basic and non-scientific spectrum, stretching from what I term “engagement” (i.e. making those who already know you feel more engaged with you) to “development” (i.e. making those who don’t know you, well, know you). Read the rest of this entry »

POP! Your Pitch, Close the Deal, Get the Money

Posted by Sam Horn On October - 6 - 2011

Sam Horn

I’ve talked about how having FUN and using LINKS contributes the F.L.A.I.R. that motivates investors to care on my own blog, but what comes next in F.L.A.I.R.?

A = Alliteration

Say these words.

Best Purchase.

Dirt Vacuum.

Bed, Toilet, Etc.

Kind of clunky, eh?

Now make those words alliterative. (Alliteration is when words start with the same sound.)

Best Buy.

Dirt Devil.

Bed, Bath and Beyond.

More musical and memorable, right? Read the rest of this entry »

Success Stories

Posted by Drew McManus On October - 6 - 2011
Drew McManus

Drew McManus

Regardless if you’re a client, consultant, or vendor you’ve been on one side or the other of this perfectly reasonable sounding question:

“Do you have any success stories or case studies on how your service produced a positive result?”

A typical response looks something like this:

“Why yes, after implementing Technology-X, Arts Organization Y experienced a 15 percent increase in single ticket sales in the first year alone. Arts Organization Z experienced a 23 percent increase over two years and a 12 percent jump in the number of annual fund donors.”

Naturally, arts organizations want to know how a product or service produced a positive result but in an environment filled with pressures and problems, the decision making process can get cut a bit too short and decisions end up getting influenced by vendor provided statistics more than they should. Read the rest of this entry »

What New Ideas Are You Deploying to Win Broader Audiences?

Posted by Kory Kelly On October - 6 - 2011

Kory Kelly

This year, Actors Theatre has launched a campaign that features the art on our stage with a combined focus on the people who attend. The campaign’s tagline is “Your City. Your Arts. Your Actors Theatre.”

The idea behind this is to feature a variety of people in all the materials, including people of many ethnicities, age groups, occupations, and backgrounds. Each featured patron states why Actors Theatre is THEIR Actors Theatre, with reasons ranging from date night to seasonal fun, and everything in between.

This campaign has provided us audience engagement at offsite events where we provide dry erase boards and photograph people with statements about why they like Actors Theatre. These photos are then looped into our lobby videos.

We chose this campaign for numerous reasons:

1.  Community Focus
Actors Theatre’s mission (expanded for clarity here) is to represent the community in which we live and provide theatrical opportunities that anyone can attend. However, as most arts marketers know, access to all is not something that is easy to say, so why not show it? It is easy for people to look at a picture and say, “Hey! That person is just like me! And they go to Actors! Maybe I should go!” Read the rest of this entry »

When a Bigger Audience May Not Be a Better Audience

Posted by Sara Billmann On October - 6 - 2011

Sara Billmann

I’ve been thinking a lot about audience lately, and how we often we fall into the trap of marketing our performances TO certain audiences rather than thinking about what kind of audience experience we can design to attract the ‘right’ audience for the work that we’re presenting.

It’s a very subtle shift in thinking, but one that I’m starting to think can have a big impact on the work we do.

As a presenter, my involvement in the creation of any given work is basically non-existent. While I’m part of the curatorial team that puts together each season for our audiences, I seldom see the work that we present in advance and rely heavily on the press kit, recordings, and YouTube videos to gain a real understanding of the artists we present (ironic, isn’t it, that while we tout the importance of the live performance experience, we rely on digital media to understand it ourselves).

For most performances, that method works just fine – I either have past experience with an artist, or it is a relatively straightforward performance, and I have easy access to understanding the program and the artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Giving Back While Filling Theater Seats

Posted by Justin Karr (with Ben Cohen) On October - 6 - 2011

Justin Karr

Givenik, a service affiliated with Jujamcyn Theaters, connects charities and Broadway theatergoers. When theatergoers buy tickets through, they elect to contribute five percent of the ticket sale to a charity of their choice. Charities benefit through revenue earned on ticket sales. Broadway shows benefit through the attention and goodwill generated when Givenik is promoted to a charity’s supporters.

For Givenik to be successful, it must appeal to all three audiences: charities, shows, and theatergoers. Charities must agree to participate in Givenik and promote it to their supporters. Shows must agree to sacrifice a portion of their ticket revenue. Theatergoers must be aware of the service and what shows and charities are available on it. Social media is particularly well-suited for solving problems like ours by enabling us to connect all three audiences in a cost-effective way.

We primarily use Facebook and Twitter with a Givenik brand user. Our principle strategy is to connect charities, shows and their supporters to us and to each other via service posts.

Show fans become charity fans, charity fans become show fans, and everybody becomes Givenik fans. There is nothing fancy here; this is Social Media 101.

We try to remain engaged in the chatter in both the nonprofit and Broadway worlds and contribute to the conversation wherever we can. Read the rest of this entry »

Ron Evans

A colleague emailed me the other day and wrote “I gave a donation to an arts organization via (insert any popular online social fundraising site here). Does the organization get my information? I never got a thank you.”


Although it is possible that a fundraising site wouldn’t share the information of a donor to an organization, it’s really unlikely, and with this specific online social site, I know that they DO share the donor information.

So the organization didn’t get back to their donor(s) to thank them. I see this happen a lot with donations through newer technology channels. I’ve seen statistics for something like 71% of nonprofits (not just arts organizations) don’t send any sort of thank you (email or otherwise) to online donors. Wow! Read the rest of this entry »

Why Your Silent Auction Sucks & Why You Should Hold It Anyway

Posted by Sherry Truhlar On October - 5 - 2011

Sherry Truhlar

This post is for you if you’re one of the thousands of arts organizations holding a fundraising gala with a silent auction component.

Statistics show that you’re failing miserably.

National averages of silent auctions show a 50%-60% return. That means for every $100 item on the table, you’re selling it for $50 to $60. Sooooo sad.

And once we figure in the costs to produce the auction – hours spent procuring goods, preparing displays, buying services – your returns fall further.

So should you bag the idea?

For organizations already holding a silent auction, continuing to offer it is likely in your best interest. Here’s why.

1.  With targeted changes, you can improve returns.
An audit of our clients found that when returns are average, it’s most often due to poor marketing. Simple changes can have a profound effect.

For instance, one of our clients raised an additional $44 per item once we employed aggressive onsite marketing tactics. With 82 silent items, they earned an additional $3600!

Incorporate both pre-gala and onsite marketing strategies for the best results. At a minimum rewrite your descriptions, use vertical displays, and incorporate a sensory experience. Read the rest of this entry »