Sunday, August 30, 2009

Want to get into trouble? Concentrate on new audiences

If I had a quarter for every time I have been asked in my career how I planned on attracting new audiences to an organization, I would be a rich man. On the flip side, I am almost never asked about customer loyalty or retention. The quickest way for an organization to get in trouble from a marketing perspective is to ignore audience retention problems in favor of attracting new audiences.

Some common misconceptions:

1. In order to grow, you must attract new audiences. This statement is only true if you are attracting more new audiences than you are losing the audience members you currently have (and even if this is the case, it can be much more expensive...more to come on that point). Many of us are so captivated by the allure of attracting new audiences that we concentrate much of our attention on getting the new ones in the front door while the old ones are running out the back door. A recent study of nine of the most prominent U.S. orchestras conducted by Oliver Wyman showed that these orchestras were great at getting new audiences, attracting on average 57% additional new households in 2007, but had significant issues in retaining current audiences with 55% of unique households not returning in the same year.

2. New audiences are great for the fiscal bottom line. This simply isn't true. The only thing that new audiences are on their first visit is a losing proposition. New audiences only become financially beneficial to an organization over a significant period of time. The money invested in bringing in new audiences only pays off when looking at lifetime value. And to determine lifetime value, one must ensure the new audience member sticks around for more than one visit. A study conducted by Katy Raines in the United Kingdom showed that first time attendees spent on average half as much as their returning buyer counterparts. When looking at the Oliver Wyman and Katy Raines studies, one truth comes to light: first time attendees will spend half as much as regular attendees and on average 83% of them will never come back.

3. Spending money on programs specifically designed to bring in new target audiences is a good investment. The holy grail of new target audiences is the revered "young" audience. So, to get them in the door, organizations spend a lot of time and resources on developing young professional societies, throwing parties, putting together after hours events, and other similar tactics. But if your programming isn't of interest to the target demographic you are focusing your efforts on, you might as well just throw money right out the window. Having a late night club scene in your building might attract young people, but it won't convert them into experiencing your organization's central product. If you are truly invested in cultivating any specific target audience, you must find ways of making your core product attractive to them.

By nature, humans are attracted to what is new and hip. The grass is always greener on the other side, that is, until one reaches the other side. Don't be sucked into a strategy because it is shiny and new. Before digging new wells, make sure that your existing ones don't have any leaks.

So the next time someone asks how you plan on getting new audiences into your organization, you might want to begin the conversation with the status on your current audience. Are they loyal to you, or do they run for the hills after their first visit?

Monday, August 10, 2009

So you are a first time marketing director, huh?

Just recently, I have had several students and former employees who have been offered their first marketing director gigs who have reached out to me for words of wisdom. Below are the fifteen points that I like to share with any first time marketing director.

1. When results at the box office are disappointing, one of two things are usually the culprit: the artistic product didn't live up to expectations or the marketing plan wasn't successful. When enquiring minds want to know what happened, don't point fingers unless you want fingers pointed back at you. Artistic Directors will fail, and so will Marketing Directors. The arts are inherently risky, and if you are taking risks, at some point you will fail. Get up, dust yourself off, and work to make up the loss on future productions.

2. I have worked for very large and extremely small organizations. I used to think that large organizations had the resources to do everything right. I have found that organizations are sometimes like dogs, the bigger the dog, the larger the pile of shit you have to deal with. So instead of judging the organization on size, judge it on how well you fit within it -- we all have to deal with shit, so you better love the dog.

3. If you want to be successful as a marketing director, you either have to love the product or be a masochist. You are in the arts, which means you are over worked and under paid, so make sure your commitment is worth it.

4. On hiring:
  • There is nothing more important than hiring.
  • Always be scouting for talent. You might not have a position to fill, but you will some day.
  • If I have to choose, I will always pick hunger over experience. You have to be hungry in today's market to be successful. The real key is not to have to choose between hunger and experience.
  • Know yourself before you look for others. Look for people who have strengths where you have weaknesses.

5. I don't know is an acceptable answer for questions that you don't know the answer to. Whenever you have that as a response, it is your responsibility to seek out the answer in a timely fashion.

6. When you start working for a company that didn't have a successful marketing campaign prior to your arrival, fight the urge to change everything immediately. For two reasons: 1) Most times, there are good reasons (even if outdated) for the decisions that were made, and 2) you will need some time to prioritize which things need to be addressed first.

7. If you plan on being the marketing director for more than a month, make decisions that make sense for the long term, even if they might not make sense for the immediate future.

8. As soon as you start seeing the signs that one well is starting to dry up, you better do two things: 1. address the cause for the well drying up if possible, and 2. start digging a new well. Too many marketing directors aren't on the look out for new revenue streams when we should be.

9. Offer help to your colleagues. Most likely you can help someone in a situation you have dealt with, and in turn, your colleagues can probably assist you.

10. Never forget about a patron's entire experience. You can have the greatest play on the most beautiful stage in the best section of town, and it won't matter a bit if you run out of toilet paper in the women's bathroom.

11. Be a discount ninja -- move quickly and silently if needed, but don't disturb the general public.

12. On negotiating:
  • Rule 1: When leaving the negotiation table, always make your opponent feel like he won.
  • Rule 2: Never let your opponent win. Only sign agreements that are beneficial to you.
  • Rule 3: Don't be greedy with Rule 2. You want to win, but if you win too big, you will violate Rule 1, and it will be the end of your relationship.

13. Before accepting a position, make sure you have a candid conversation about your general beliefs on marketing strategy. If the organization is looking for a technology wizard, and you just figured out "the internets" recently, probably not a good fit. Always better to have the lengthy conversations before you start than the awkward conversations after.

14. In times of trouble, often inaction can be more costly than reaction.

15. Be aware of your ego. Many times the best marketing ideas won't come from your department. When good ideas cross your desk, be humble enough to act on them and thank the source.