Heads up, the blog returns on October 10. These months off has really helped me generate some posts that I think you'll find interesting and helpful. More to come soon.
That's the number of people who have touched this little blog over the past eight years.
That's the number of individual posts I have written on the arts, marketing, leadership and other issues.
That's a lot. So it's time for a little hiatus.
I'm going to be taking a small break to recharge and rethink this blog. I'll be back in the fall. In the interim you can also contact me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @missionparadox
And while I'm gone here are my top posts in the eight plus years of this blog
First, congrats to Catherine for winning a copy of A Beautiful Constraint. Your book is going into the mail soon.
Next up we have Seth Godin's book, What Do You Do When It's Your Turn.
The arts world is filled with people look for permission. Permission to act. Permission to dance. Permission to design. This isn't a good or bad thing. It's just reality.
What this book is about is mixing your pursuit of permission with something else, a heavy dose of initiative. This uniquely designed book is your chance to see your world a little differently and (maybe) find some opportunities you never knew you had.
And so, to get this book shipped to you for free you've got to email me at email@example.com with an answer to this question:
Tell me about a particularly unique challenge or obstacle you encountered in your work, how you solved it and what you learned from the experience.
Deadline for answers is Friday, May 13. One winner will be chosen.
Over the next few weeks I'll be giving away a copy of books that I have found invaluable in my arts marketing career. All the details on how to win will come at the end of each post. We are starting with A Beautiful Constraint
A life in the artistic world is a life defined by constraints. You have the typical restraints that all businesses have to some degree i.e time and money. You also have constraints that are unique to the arts world. For example I work in theater and theater has a "scale" restraint. Any theater production has a limited number of seats they can sell on a given night. A play like Hamilton can be incredible but the Broadway run may still be physically experienced by less people then will watch one quarter of a sub par NBA game.
And the thing about many of the constraints we face is that they may never go away. Let's look at another constraint many of us face in the arts, relatively "high" ticket prices. The costs and structure of many arts organizations may also create a need for a large amount of earned revenue through ticket sales.
The book A Beautiful Constraint will give you a variety of different ways to consider, reconsider and (possibly) overcome some of the constraints that are challenging you in your professional and personal life. I have one copy of the book that I will mail (shipping covered by me) to one reader of this blog. To get a chance to win here's what you have to do:
I've got a least 2-3 more books (and possibly more) to give away. So keep reading the blog over the next several weeks. Good luck.
Everybody gets a share. A share of attention. A share of money. A share of trust. Some get a lot. Others not nearly enough. But we all get a share.
Think of it this way. Where I work if we did no marketing at all we would still get a few people to show up to our performances. If we literally shut down our website, didn't spend a dime on advertising, etc. we would still get some people to show up based on our history and reputation.
Of course the people that show up wouldn't be enough to achieve our goals, but that group is an example of what I mean by our "fair share".
But the goal of real, authentic, arts marketing is to build a relationship with your potential audience that leads you to getting MORE audience then you "deserve".
That's what every great company does.
A lot of companies sell athletic apparel but for years Nike got more then their fair share of the market. Now companies like Under Armour are trying to find ways to get more then what their size, history, etc. implies they deserve.
You can't really advertise your way to more than your fair share. You don't have the money.
And you can't work a PR spin into getting more than your fair share. You don't have the clout.
But what you can do is tell a story that resonates with more people. You can turn your email marketing, your social media, your website, your show program, your lobby, your front of house staff, your packaging . . .
(Get the idea)
You can turn ALL of that into something that communicates a message to the public about why you deserve more than your fair share.
Why do comic book creators and film makers think it is so important for you to understand that Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and lost his Uncle Ben. Why do they need you to know that Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered?
It's because they know that to understand Spiderman or Batman you must know where they came from. You have to understand the origin story because that influences everything that comes after.
All great marketing also has an origin story. It is influenced by the place that created it. If you think about a company that had a rise, then a fall, then a resurrection (a company like Starbucks) you can see this in action.
Starbucks started by positioning itself as a unique spot in the ecosystem. The language (tall, grande, etc.), the dedication to the beans, etc. all came from a specific beginning that was designed to get to a specific place.
And then things started to slip. It's hard to stay unique and it's only when the CEO decided to try and go back to the principles that made them unique that the company began to progress again.
Here's the thing to consider. The goal of marketing isn't just to sell. It's to sell in a way that feels like only you could make it feel. It's to sell in a way that reflects your origin and your values.
For example, I work at a place that has it's origins in intellectual rigor. So how do I sell you that show in a way that makes you feel that? Maybe I could have an acclaimed professor talk about the story in an interview. Maybe I could produce an in-depth timeline of the history behind the piece. The options are endless but the point is simple:
When I put that brochure in your hand, or you read the email, it should feel like US and ONLY US.
Like YOU and ONLY YOU.
That's the goal.
Any less is just advertising and noise.
When I do a blog post like the one I did a few days ago on the role of advocacy in arts marketing I get some interesting responses. One common response is this one:
Adam, it's easy for you to talk about not worrying so much about sales but I have big sales goals to meet.
Of course you do. That's obvious.
In fact, I'm pretty sure I can describe the situation for 95% of us that work in either the profit or nonprofit arts world.
See. It's like magic.
But the point here is that the public doesn't care about your sales goals or mine. They don't care what we need in terms of sales. Our goals are our problem. The question is how the marketing we do and the art we produce solves the problem that the audience has.
So what problem does your audience have?
A lack of places to spend money? Nope.
A lack of entertainment options? No.
A desire to feel like they are part of a community? Yes.
A need to feel smarter, more connected and more informed? Yes.
A need to feel like they are part of something meaningful? Yes.
So that's why I talk about having an advocacy mindset over a sales mindset.
That's why I talk about marketing your work based on your values, not just the perceived benefits of the production.
It's because doing those things puts you on the path toward creating marketing that people actually want to engage with and respond to.
To understand how to effectively sell art you should begin by embracing the idea that art really can't be sold.
Or at least it can't be sold in the way most people understand the term.
Most people understanding "selling" as a process of taking a product or service and defining its benefits. Then those benefits are relayed, through advertising, to a target audience.
The issue is that the benefit of what you and I offer . . .
The benefit of seeing Long Day's Journey into Night
The benefit of hearing Beethoven's Fifth live
The benefit of being in the same room with the works of Picasso . . .
Can't really be relayed. Those benefits are intensely personal. The hundreds of people who arrive at my theater on a given night are going to have hundreds of different experiences.
So let's think about another idea. Let's think about advocacy.
An advocate is someone who supports a particular cause or policy.
Maybe that's a dividing line. An arts marketer uses advertising to get you to see a show. An advocate wants you to see the show AND wants you to support the cause.
What's the cause you want people to support?
Why does your organization exist? What are the values? Why should people care about the work you are doing?
That's the real work. That's the important work that we as marketers should be communicating.
Because shows come and go. Some are good. Some are bad. Most are in between.
So if that is all we are selling then we will be on a financial roller coaster that we can't really control.
But if we can learn how to be an advocate AND a marketer, or even better, see our arts marketing as a form of advocacy then we have a chance to not only sell to an audience but change them.
We can change them from people that see a show to people that love your company.
From people who see the museum exhibit to people who love the museum.
That shift from "I saw this thing" to "I love this place" is what marketing, in it's highest form, is all about.
I know my blog posts have been sporadic and I apologize for that. I've been working on a few projects. But I did want to point out two great opportunities that are available to you.
First, I invite you to submit a session proposal to the 2016 National Arts Marketing Conference. It will be happening in Austin, Texas. It's scheduled for Nov. 11 to the 14. I'll be there doing something that I'll tell you about later. It's a great conference and I know that they are looking for proposals from people who aren't the "usual suspects".
So that may be you.
The theme this year is Fueling Change. And they are encouraging all entries from nonprofit professionals, marketers, and fundraisers, as well as arts organizations of all sizes and disciplines.
Seriously, do it. The deadline is 3/31 and the link to apply is here
The second thing is that you should apply to the Alt MBA program. As you may have seen from previous posts I'm participating in this program now. It has been a great experience so far and now the door is open to you. The next session runs from April 18 to May 16. The application deadline is March 20.
The link for more info to the Alt MBA is here.
I know a good amount of info about both these opportunities so if you have any questions send me an email and I'll be happy to chat with you about it.
In March I have the privilege of joining 100 people from all over the world and participating in a program called the Alt MBA
Over the next weeks I'll share some things I'm learning, starting with this insight from the soon to be released book The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier. In the book he talks about seven key questions and I love question six:
If you're saying Yes to this what are you saying No to?
I love this question because it reminds us that every decision we make, in both our personal and professional lives, has a set of consequences.
For example, when I first started my consulting career I often worked with arts organizations with relatively small budgets. Often we would talk about increasing their fundraising capacity. I would encounter a lot of resistance in this area. Organizations would talk about not wanting to "beg" for money or would be worried that high value donors could end up running the company by proxy.
So in essence they were saying "Yes" to their desire to be free of a lot of the messiness and complication that comes with fundraising for the arts.
But I would remind them that they were saying "No" to some things as well.
For example they might be saying "no" to paying their artists a living wage because its very difficult to do that based solely on ticket sales. The question then becomes whether or not they are comfortable with the possible consequence of that "no".
Of course different organizations would answer that question in different ways. There really isn't a right or wrong answer. What was important is that the organization fully consider the consequences of their choice.
This is so important to those of us who work in the arts because we are constantly confronted with opportunities to say "yes" to things. We can choose our projects and our partners. We can choose how much revenue to generate or not to generate revenue at all.
To make wise choices it's good to consider both what you are saying "yes" to and the inevitable "no" that comes with it.
Reminder: My call for new arts marketing consulting clients has generated some interest and spots are limited so if you want to talk send me an email and let's see if I can help you connect your art to audience.