What Audiences Expect from Arts Marketers: Four Technology Must-dos

Posted by Amelia Northrup-Simpson, Oct 07, 2013 5 comments

Amelia Northrup-Simpson Amelia Northrup-Simpson

One of the pleasures of attending the NAMP conference is seeing how the field of arts marketing evolves each year as new technologies emerge. Social media, mobile technology, database systems, and video (as well as print and mass media), along with the role these play in our work, have changed considerably since the first time I attended just 3 years ago.

Changes in technology must always be viewed through the lens of what audiences (and prospective audiences) expect of your organization. As technology evolves, patron expectations and preferences change as well. In the mid-90’s, having a web presence was optional. Nowadays, not so much. Or, think back to when arts organizations were creating MySpace profiles. This was OK in 2006, but it would certainly raise patron eyebrows today. When you have so many marketing technology options at your disposal, you need a way to prioritize.  Thinking about patron expectations can help you separate the “gotta have it” options from the ones that fall under the category of “not necessary right now”.

At the NAMP conference this year, I expect to hear about the following 4 technology expectations that many patrons now have:

Let me get to and use your site easily on my smartphone.

Every year since 2008 has been dubbed “the year of mobile”. Mobile devices have been rapidly growing in capability and importance ever since. 2013 marks a tipping point for mobile. Research shows that U.S. consumers will spend more time online this year on tablets and smartphones than on laptop and desktop computers. This means it’s officially time to start thinking seriously about your mobile presence.

Patrons increasingly expect that they’ll be able to navigate your site easily on their mobile devices, without clicking the wrong link because several are too close together or “pinching and pulling” in order to read your content. At the very least, they expect to be able to quickly find things they need on the go—like directions to your venue, at which venue tonight’s show is, or where to park.

Respond to me (immediately) on social media.

In 2013, patrons expect that your organization has its act together on social media. That doesn’t mean you’ve jumped on to the very newest social media platforms, but it does mean that:

  • At the very least, you respond in a timely manner to comments.
    Patrons don’t necessarily expect you to be everywhere, but they do expect that if they reach out to you on social media where you have a presence, that you will acknowledge them in some way, particularly if they are complaining.
  • You’re participating in conversations.
    You’re not just “broadcasting” your own stuff; you’re also talking to patrons, other organizations, and other members of the community.
  • You’re doing periodic upkeep on each platform on which you have a presence, even if you’re not especially active.
    We all get busy. Even when things are crazy, I still spend a few minutes a week updating our Twitter account, and taking a look at what people are saying on the hashtags I follow. A little bit of maintenance goes a long way towards signaling to a patron that you’ll be responsive to them if they are to interact with you.

Let me buy tickets online without a hassle.

Online ticketing interfaces and web content management systems don’t always play well together. But, in 2013, patrons expect to be able to buy tickets online simply and securely. An easy sales pathway has become part of good customer service, and has been since the 00’s.

For most organizations, ticket buying is a main source, if not THE main source of revenue. However, many don’t regularly test how easily patrons can buy tickets. Make it a priority, before the end of 2013, to test your online ticketing interface yourself, and watch others (even if they’re fellow staff members) do so. And, if you have analytics on your ticketing pathway, investigate where people are dropping out.

Talk to me like you know me.

Perhaps most importantly, patrons are beginning to expect that your organization knows them—and talk to them like you do. This isn’t (necessarily) because they’re narcissistic. It’s just that consumers get so many tailored communications these days that the ones that aren’t targeted very well really stand out—in a bad way.

For example, last week on my Facebook feed, I was served ad after ad for a blog on potty-training. I don’t have kids; while it’s possible that I’d be interested in passing this along to a friend who does, I’m definitely not a hot prospect.

Same concept with direct mail and email. If you’re targeting a message to single ticket buyers only, subscribers should never get it. Patrons expect that you have basic data on them—not every demographic detail, but definitely what they’ve bought from you. And, bonus: They respond better when you target them correctly and specifically. We see this concept play out often with new subscribers, who are notoriously hard to keep after the first year. When clients create tailored messages and special campaigns for those new subscribers, the renewal rates begin to rise.

There’s a lot more to say about messaging with patron expectations in mind, regardless of technology platform. That’s why Amanda Edelman of Academy of Vocal Arts, David Dombrosky of InstantEncore, and I have put together a whole session about it at the NAMP conference. We’ll talk more about data, technology, and viewing marketing from the audience’s perspective in “The Patron Lens: Using Data-driven Targeted Messaging to Engage Audiences” on November 9 at 4:00.

5 responses for What Audiences Expect from Arts Marketers: Four Technology Must-dos


October 07, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Although...I may have spoken too soon on MySpace; see #6: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2013/09/24/the-top-7-social-med...

However, I feel like I've heard MySpace is coming back "this year" about every year since people started jumping ship en masse.

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Ms. Rachel A. Ciprotti says
October 14, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I would recommend that arts organzations which are too small to afford customized, responsive websites, should look into using Wordpress. There are MANY responsive WordPress themes. Some are free, but even those which cost money are typically less than $100.

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October 09, 2013 at 11:52 am

I agree that mobile strategies are absolutely key now. Responsive web design is addressing mobile web needs well, but I think it's going to be a while before it becomes affordable for a lot of arts organizations.

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October 09, 2013 at 4:16 pm

You're right, affordability in terms of both time and money is a big issue for mobile adoption. There are many options that are low-cost (InstantEncore, for example) and responsive design web templates that are free. But re-building your website is time-consuming. And then there's the issue of mobile ticketing which is a whole 'nother can of worms...

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Laura Kakolewski says
October 10, 2013 at 11:35 am

Great post. As we look toward the future as well as today's practices as arts marketers, mobile technology, targeted advertising, customer service (online and offline) and tailored communications should all be facets of the work you do.
I think it is safe to say that arts organization’s be using Myspace (it was only 2006? Time Flies!)

As a social media platform, it is growing as a platform for musicians to display their work.

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