The Art of the Business

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

Arts Organization Website Essentials: The Main Three Questions September 27, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Guest post,Marketing with websites — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:38 am
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A guest post by Brian Seitel.

Recently Rebecca Coleman posted on her blog a link to an article describing the most essential elements of a website for an artist.  Individual artists often have different goals than arts organizations, and as a theatre artist that moonlights as a web developer, I thought I would offer my insights as to what makes a good arts organization website.  It really boils down to three questions that each visitor will have and absolutely must be answered as soon as possible.  I call these the Main Three Questions (how original, right?).

Studies have shown that visitors allow any given website about 5 seconds before they make up their minds about whether they want to stay or not.  That means you have 5 seconds to grab their attention and keep them on the site to hopefully at some point make what’s called a “conversion” — selling a ticket or reservation.  The easiest way to grab a user’s attention is to provide relevant content immediately.  The less clicking they have to do, the better!

They’re rather simple, and when you read them, you’ll probably think to yourself “Of course. Why is he stating the obvious?”  The truth of the matter is that a great many arts organizations focus too much on the blog and getting donations, and not enough on the Main Three Questions.  What are these questions?  I’m glad you asked.  They are:

  1. What piece of art is being produced?
  2. When (and if not an organization with a permanent venue, where) is the production?
  3. How do I get tickets or make reservations?

The absolute number one reason a visitor comes to your website is to see what is currently going on with your organization.  Once they’ve figured out what the event is, they want to know the event location and dates.  If they don’t know when and where it is, then they can’t schedule time to see the show, right?  And finally, once they’ve checked their schedule and realized that they are indeed free that weekend, they’ll want to know where to buy tickets or make reservations.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about:

The Goodman Theatre (Chicago, IL, USA) – http://www.goodmantheatre.org/

As you can see, the biggest, most prominent element on the page is a guy’s face next to the name of the play Candide.  Underneath are the dates and times.  Below and to the left you can see a smaller section dedicated to upcoming plays, and each play has a “Buy Tickets” link. See? Easy peasy.

Some more examples:

The Philadelphia Orchestra (Philadelphia, PA, USA)- http://www.philorch.org/
The Lincoln Center (NYC, New York, USA) – http://new.lincolncenter.org/live/
Vancouver Art Gallery (Vancouver, Canada) – http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/
The Fox Theatre (Atlanta, GA) – http://www.foxtheatre.org/

The blog, donate buttons, photo galleries and other things that you put on your site are completely and totally irrelevant until the audience has decided that they want to learn more about your organization.  After all, if I don’t know what you’re producing or if I’m not interested in any of your upcoming events, why would I want to read your bio or blog?

Keep it simple:  what, when, and how?  Your audience will thank you, and your organization will benefit.

Read a longer, more detailed version of this post here.

Brian Seitel: Born nude, helpless and unable to care for himself, Brian overcame these handicaps and became a juggler for a passing circus. After saving a poodle from a burning building by jumping from the fourth floor, Brian gave up the traveling lifestyle and turned to more daredevil routines by spending all his time talking about social media, web development, and the arts. You can follow him on Twitter as @briandseitel.

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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.