(This piece is by guest blogger Adam Thurman.)
It has been a while since I wrote something in depth about arts marketing but this current exciting moment in the field where new leaders are coming in prompted a moment of reflection that is hopefully worth sharing.
In marketing we talk about a lot of things like branding, audience development, the impact of social, etc.
I want to talk about alignment.
Alignment is defined as a position of agreement or alliance.
And when you look at great companies that earn more then their fair share of attention, dollars, etc., what you see is significant alignment.
The visuals, the messaging, the customer service, the programming all make sense.
The sales goals, the selected audience target, and the marketing mediums all make sense.
And of course the reverse is true. If key elements are misaligned then your marketing message will be too weak to break through.
So as you hit your new roles keep your eyes open for misalignment movements.
Does your pricing say elite but your message say “theater for all”?
Does your messaging say customer service is important but the level of pay and training for your FOH staff say “you guys are replaceable”?
Spoiler: That’s probably the case.
Note those things. Note them even though you may not be able to do anything about them yet. Talk about them before you have a solution. That’s the value of your fresh perspective.
And the spend your precious time and energy working to bring those things into alignment. That’s your opportunity. It’s your opportunity to create an organization that makes sense when you look at it critically.
When the marketing aligns with the goals, values, revenue model, people, etc., then the marketing can do incredible things.
I’ve got one of those fancy credit cards. You know the type, made of metal, high annual fee, that sort of thing.
Whenever I have to call that number I get straight through to a human representative. No phone tree, no holding. It takes me maybe two minutes to handle any need.
The same day I have to call one of those no-frills airlines to pay a fee. It is the exact opposite of the other experience. Call center. Long hold time. It may have taken 30 minutes.
It is fair to call the first customer experience good and the second bad. It would also be fair to call both experiences properly aligned.
The fancy credit card folks are making a set of implicit and explicit promises about what they offer card holders. So they have to make the significant investment of time and money to make it work.
The no-frills airline is making an entirely different promise. They don’t promise friendly or warm service. They promise a cheap flight. Being cheap about their customer service is one way to achieve that goal.
So let’s say an arts organization decides to highly value customer service. That implies a series of alignment choices.
You probably need to pay above market rate.
You probably need to invest in training.
If you can’t do that then you are out of alignment.
But let’s say you legitimately cannot afford the investment. Then a smart choice may be to reduce the emphasis on service and try the following:
Limit the hours your box office is open.
Prepare yourself for high turnover and make sure you have a good pipeline for finding new candidates.
Maybe you can change the way people enter or exit the venue in a way that reduces the need for FOH staff.
I’m not saying these are good ideas, but they are aligned ideas. They make sense when the end goal is considered.
But the mistake I see so often is to say one thing, do the other, and hope no one notices.
Smart marketing is about pushing toward that alignment.
Adam Thurman is an experienced arts marketing professional and consultant. To contact Mr. Thurman, email firstname.lastname@example.org.