The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Creating Young Ambassadors September 24, 2010

The topic of creating an audience for the future is one of keen interest to me. And is to a lot of folks who know that they will eventually rely upon the youth of today to fill our theatres tomorrow.

I came across this great article from The Miami Herald that talks about a new teen ambassador program that allows teens to attend one performance per month for free, in exchange for the teens writing reviews of the show and sharing them through their social networks.

It’s brilliant on many levels. I’ll be very interested to read the follow-up story.

Read the entire story here.

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Can SMS Save Our Souls? September 22, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Australia,Business of Arts,Marketing Ideas — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:59 am

While in Australia, I had a few conversations with folks there about how they are using SMS messaging to get bums in seats.

One gal I met at one of my workshops said “If I get a text message from a friend to come and see their show, I will probably go.”

Here are some quick statistics about our use of text messaging:

  • In September 2009, Canadians sent approximately 100 million text messages per day.
  • In total, Canadians sent 3 billion text messages in September 2009.
  • For the first nine months of the year, a total of 24.7 billion text messages were sent (from January 2009 to September 2009).
    This is up significantly from the previous year, when a total of 20.8 billion text messages were sent in 2008.
  • Text message volumes have been doubling every year since text messaging was introduced in 2002.

Statistics provided by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (from January 2010)

And one more thing: while most people I know text, we all know that it skews to the younger demographic.

We don’t use SMS campaigns to market our work here in Canada, but maybe we should start. I had a conversation with John Paul one day while we were on a plane about how they have used SMS to market shows. I’ve summed it up here.

1. You first need to sign up with an SMS gateway provider. I’ll include some links to some at the end. This gets you a phone number that people can respond back to, but you don’t get any messages on your phone. All of the work you do goes through a website interface where you can write and schedule your messages, collect data, and respond back to people’s texts.

2. You need to collect data and mobile numbers. There are a couple of options for this. First, you can ask the people involved in your show if they would mind giving up the contents of their mobile’s phone book. Second, you can create a data input page (for example, if you already have an e-newsletter sign-up, mobile number can be one of the input fields) that is connected to your website or blog. Third, put the word out using social networking that you are collecting mobile numbers for an SMS campaign (it may help to tease with discount or value-added offers), and link to your data input page. Finally, you can put the number on any hard-copy propaganda you have out there: posters, postcards, etc.

A screenshot from TextMagic

3. Build your campaign. If you are using someone else’s phone numbers (and here is where it gets a bit dodgy), you need to segment your list to just that person’s contacts, and send those contacts a text that references the person you got their number from. For example:

Liz Sidle wants you to know about her new show, Dreamweaver, October 28-31, at Performance Works!

You also have to give them an out. So, you need to say something like

To stop recieving messages like this, reply with "STOP"

The tricky bit is that you only have 160 characters to work with.

You should not overwhelm the person with messages. And with SMS, the effect is more immediate than with email. So, for example, you could do a “day-of special” where you could send a text message saying that you are offering them a special discount that is only good for tonight or tomorrow night. They simply reply with the amount of tickets they want. You can phone them, or request their email address to close the sale.

While in Australia, I met a really cool guy named Craig Lambie, who is working on a SMS program specifically for the arts. I can’t tell you too much about it because it is currently in progress, but I’ve been invited to beta test (nerdgasm!), and will certainly let you know when it’s launched.

Has anyone out there had success using SMS campaigns? I’d love to hear from you.

References:

How to Set Up an SMS Campaign

www.textmagic.com

www.clickatell.com

 

Getting the Kids In September 20, 2010

Here’s what we know: children who are exposed to the arts from an early age, will, statistically speaking, probably grow up to be life-long consumers of art.

So, if you take your kids to see The Nutcracker every year at Christmas, chances are, when they grow up, they will continue to go to The Nutcracker every year at Christmas, and take their own families as well.

We are blessed in this city with companies like Carousel, and the VAG has family programs, as well.

For my birthday last month, I wanted to see the Impressionist exhibit at the VAG. I am a lifelong impressionist lover, Degas being my favorite artist. I went with my sweetie and my seven-year-old son. It wasn’t his first trip to the VAG, and he was pretty well behaved for a seven-year-old, but a couple of weeks later, when I visited the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, I discovered Kids’ Activity Trails.

I was there to see the main exhibit: European Masters: Stadel Museum 19-20th Century. It was an amazing collection, and I got to see lots of Impressionists and whole room (Sally Stubbs!) of Beckmann.

As I was wondering through, I noticed small plates, similar to the plates that contained the name and description that accompanied each painting. These plates were hung lower, at a kid’s eye-level, and featured a large letter and a couple of questions. The Trail worked two ways: first of all, as a kind of a treasure-hunt for kids: they had to go through the gallery and find all 26 letters of the alphabet. Second, each plate had a word on it (corresponding to its letter of the alphabet) that asked a question related to the painting to which it referred. (sorry I don’t have photos, they weren’t permitted in the gallery)

I couldn’t help but think how much Michael would have loved it. It was engaging and fun for kids.

In order for us to get kids hooked on art, it has to be affordable, and there has to be something there that engages them.

Have you seen any great examples of engaging children in art recently that you’d like to share?

UPDATE: I just saw this great Editorial in The Star written by Des McAnuff, the AD of the Stratford Festival (the Canadian one), and it’s perfect for today’s blog post.

 

A Website Checklist September 17, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Marketing with websites — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:53 am
Tags:

You know you need a website, right? But not just any website. You need something that is designed with usability in mind (meaning, people who aren’t super technically adept can find their way around with a minimum of effort), is graphically pleasing to the eye, and has the right information (and not too much of it) on there.

Though an art website is the beginning of the selling process, a poorly designed and ineffective website can stop a prospect from investigating that artist’s work further.  A professional artist website should have the following 10 basics for a visitor to evaluate whether they want additional information about the artist, their art work and experience.

This great article on Artsy Shark has a checklist of 10 items that should be on your website.

Click to read the rest of the article.

Hat-tip to Lili Vieria De Carvalho.

 

Are Facebook Invites Dead? September 15, 2010

Okay, so I consider myself to be a social media enthusiast. I love it, I love talking about it, and learning new things.

So it hurts me to say this, but I am afraid that the Facebook invitation may be dead.

Here’s the thing: I get tons and tons of invitations. I have over 700 friends, and I like 250+ pages. All of that adds up to many, many events that I get “invited” to. And I’m really terrible at going through them and responding. It’s just a time thing–it’s a pretty low priority in my world, especially seeing as my theatre viewing is mostly limited to shows I am doing publicity for.

There’s one more thing: I have had producers in the past have hundreds of people RSVP “yes” to their Facebook invites and then be dismayed when less than half of them actually showed up at the box office.

Facebook invites, it goes without saying, are a bit lame. Because it’s easy to check the yes box when you don’t have to fork over any cash.

In my experience, only about 40% of the yesses on your RSVP list will actually translate into sales.

Applications to sell tickets directly through Facebook are currently happening, although these are not yet accessible to the little folks (read: us) just yet.

What do you think? Is the FB invite dead?

 

The Rule of Brian September 13, 2010

So, I just got back from doing a series of workshops in Australia. Sorry, you’ll be really sick of me talking about this soon, but I am processing through all that I learned, and I want to share it with you.

One thing kept coming up repeatedly at all the workshops, and that is this:

You cannot take old methods of marketing and apply them to social media.

I start to teach my course at Emily Carr tonight, and this is exactly the topic of tonight’s class.

In the past, we employed what my former boss at the Alliance, Judi Piggott, called spray and pray: you got as much marketing material as possible, and then put it in as many places as possible. Your goal was to reach as wide an audience as possible, because you never knew where they were. I’m talking, billboards, TV commercials, sides of buses, ads in the newspaper, posters, postcards, websites, the whole works. The problem with spray and pray is that it’s expensive. And the return on your investment was minimal, maybe, if you were lucky, 10%.

Now, if you’re a big business with lots of money in your marketing budget, maybe this isn’t a problem (although many big businesses are adopting the new rules of marketing, as well). But if you are small business, like an artist, you probably can’t afford to buy the side of a bus. So instead, look for your niche, and market to that.

But you can’t just spray and pray to your niche using the same methods. I mean, you can, and you will probably have a higher return rate. But increasingly, we are exploring methods of relationship marketing. I’ve talked about this ad nauseum, so I won’t get into it too much here. But I had a great conversation on Twitter the other day with Brian Seitel, and I promised him I would quote him in my class tonight. So, ladies and gentlemen, The Rule of Brian!

New Media, Social Media Marketing, is about creating a conversation with your potential or current audience. How is that marketing? Well, if we define marketing as being creating relationships based on trust, then being accessible to your audience and being responsive to them is a great way to make that happen.

If there’s one thing I want my class to take away with them tonight, this would be it.

 

Who’s your audience? September 8, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Marketing Ideas — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:07 am
Tags:

Picture, if you will, a  meeting. The meeting is between me and you. We are meeting to discuss publicity and marketing options for your upcoming play/performance/concert/art exhibition/CD launch.

I say to you:

“So, who’s your audience?”

And you say…..

Oh, please don’t say “Everyone.”

This scenario has come up for me a few times in the last few weeks, so I thought I’d dedicate a blog post to it.

Look, we all want everyone to love us and come to our shows (“They like me! They really like me!”), but it’s unrealistic. Most of the shows I do publicity for are not appropriate for my 7-year-old son, or for someone’s granny. So, if you cut off the top and the bottom, you’re left with the middle, which is still pretty big.

It’s also incredibly expensive to market to “everyone.” It means taking out a billboard, or an ad on the side of a bus, or a full-page ad in your daily paper. That’s a lot of money if you’re a small business, and you probably can’t afford it.

We’re afraid that if we “niche” our work to a specific audience, we’re excluding the rest of our audience. And this isn’t necessarily true. But if you bill your show as the greatest comedy ever written (which, in my estimation is a horrible sales pitch to start with, but stick with me for a bit), and people come to your show, and don’t find it funny at all, then you are in a bad situation. You promised something that you were not able to deliver.

Just because you are marketing to one slice, doesn't mean the whole pie can't come. Mmmm.... pie....

On the other hand, if you let people know that it is a comedy in the style of Monty Python, well, then, now we’re getting somewhere. At the risk of alienating 90% of my audience, I have to confess I’m not a huge Monty Python fan. So, if I went to see a show that was billed in that style, I’d at least know what to expect, although most likely I wouldn’t go.

Who would go? People that like Monty Python! And there’s lots of them. Not only that, but you can figure out where people who like Monty Python hang out (online and otherwise) and target your marketing directly to them. Which is actually a lot easier to do than marketing to “everyone.”

So, the next time you are planning something that requires getting people in through the door, ask yourself:

1. What kind of people would really like this event? Get as specific as you can with your demographics: age, sex, income, profession. You may not have access to all this information, but do the best you can.

2. How do I get in touch with these people? Where do they hang out online, or in real life? Is there some kind of a networking event that they would be at that you can get yourself into?

3. What kind of campaign would appeal to your ideal demographic? Speak their language, and use graphics or images that will appeal to those kind of people.

4. Finally, if you have someone in your inner circle that fits your target demographic, you might want to test it on them before you get started, and get their feedback.

Your goal is to have people see your marketing material and say “Oh, I so relate to this–I see myself in this–it appeals to me.”

That’s the first step to getting them in the door.