Marketing that Doesn’t Suck

Here’s a coda to my snarky post from earlier this week. I’m taking this opportunity to turn my impatient diatribe into some constructive, useful suggestions.

There’s a lot of room for improvement in arts marketing, most notably in the area of message development. With audiences in steady decline, it’s more important than ever to make sure that the content of our communications is as effective as possible.

The following list contains several criteria that can be used to measure the relative effectiveness of arts marketing messages. If you want to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing materials, preferably before you send them out, ask yourself if they are:

Fresh. Do they speak to audiences, both old and new, with thoughtful, original words and images that are free of tired clichés and old, formulaic design or copy templates?

Humble. Do they offer something of value, not by telling people how valuable the product is, but rather by describing how it will satisfy their desires? (The difference here is huge.)

Strategic. Do they leverage factual information about the audience’s needs, wants and desires to motivate them to participate by describing how the product will make them happy?

Real. Do they touch people by speaking to their hearts and minds in a natural, personal, colloquial language they understand?

Meaningful. Do they make sense? Even the attention-getters? Are you sure? (Hint: If you’ve said “Celebrate!” and you’re not inviting someone to a party, it doesn’t make sense.)

Sensitive. Do they avoid using words and images that outsiders find off-putting?

Unselfish. Do they spend as much time talking about how happy the customers will be when they buy the product as they do about how wonderful the product is?

Professional. Are they designed and executed according to accepted best practices in the marketing profession (not just the nonprofit arts)?

Developing arts marketing messages according to these criteria will guarantee better across-the-board results and increased participation from new audiences. Why? Because they’re audience-centric. Best practices in marketing always focus on what the customers want and on how the products will make them happy.

Traditional arts marketing is self-centric and assumes that audiences will participate by virtue of the inherent quality, value and desirability of the products. It’s a valid approach, but it only works when the market contains enough people who already believe the products are worth their time and money.

I said in my last post that arts marketing sucks and that wasn’t entirely fair. There’s a lot of great stuff happening in arts marketing – especially where message delivery technology is concerned, but until we start rebuilding audiences and guaranteeing dependable long-term sources of earned revenue, it’s vital that we exploit every opportunity for improvement.

Fortunately – and this is the best part – it’s all free. Developing marketing content that’s fresh, humble, strategic, real, meaningful, sensitive, unselfish and professional is not something you buy, it’s something you simply do.


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