Here are five copy writing rules that professional marketers follow closely.
Sadly, arts administrators tend to ignore them.
If you’d like to grow audiences by developing smart marketing content, try this:
Be Customer Centric
If you’re like most arts organizations, virtually all of your marketing content is about you and how wonderful and important you think other people should think you are. This may have worked well back when everybody agreed that you were wonderful and important, but nobody cares about that now. Your future customers want to know if they’re going to have a worthwhile time with their friends or families in your venue.
If you’re just blathering on about how wonderful you are, your marketing content is untethered drivel. But if you write about your customers’ positive experiences with your products, your strategic content will motivate more people to buy.
Know Your Customer
Go stand in your venue and pick out one of the seats you have trouble filling. Do you know the person you’d like to see sitting there? If you don’t, you can’t possibly know how to find her or what to say to her to get her to come.
If you’re like most arts administrators, you toss around vague phrases like “younger, more culturally diverse,” or you complain bitterly about churn, or you sit in conference rooms guessing what new audiences care about, or you’re one of a growing number of arts professionals who believe that data will replace relationships, but that’s all wasteful nonsense. If you want to speak persuasively to the customer who hasn’t yet decided to fill that empty seat, you have to be as well engaged with her as you are with the loyal, long-time subscriber/donor in the center of the tenth row.
Sales is about convincing people that your products will satisfy their desires. To do this you have to learn what your customers want, then you have to describe how your products will make them happy. Write down everything your new customers told you they want, then write down a list of your products’ most salient features. Everything you need to know to create persuasive sales content will be found where these two lists intersect.
If you haven’t learned what your new customers want, you have to go ask them.
(If there’s no overlap between what your customers told you they want and what you’re trying to sell, don’t bother. It’s over.)
If you’re like most arts organizations, your sales copy is atrocious. It’s old-fashioned, artificial, overblown, presumptuous, selfish and shamelessly boastful (yeah, go look). Effective sales copy, meanwhile, is fresh, natural, generous, customer-centered and confidently assertive. It’s the way you’d speak to a friend who you think might enjoy your next event. If you can’t figure out how to write effective copy, go find a friend who you think might enjoy your next event and record yourself trying to persuade him to come. What you say will probably be the right language for the brochure.
Always Be Closing
Sales copy is like a finely crafted machine. Every part is essential and all parts work together to help the machine do its job. In good sales copy, every word, phrase, sentence and paragraph is designed to impel the reader toward completing the transaction. A good message strategist can point to any part of the copy and describe exactly how it works, alone or with other parts, to close the sale.
If whoever’s developing your strategic sales content can’t describe how it works, they shouldn’t be writing copy.
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Arts leaders can be forgiven – to some extent – for the amateurish way they speak to their communities. No one has ever asked them to use more professional methods. But with audiences in steady decline, it’s worth wondering if this is a good time to stop all the self-indulgent boasting and start speaking to tomorrow’s audiences in a language they can relate to.
If you’re looking for an example of how to do this, here’s a great place to start.