Each December since 2005 Gene Carr has written a year-end review and made some predictions concerning technology as it intersects with audience development, marketing, and fundraising. Continue below to see some of his past predictions and reflections:
- 2014 Wrap-up: Skating Toward the Puck
- 2013 Wrap-up: Everything Is Marketing
- 2012 Wrap-up: Five Tech Trends That Are Making a Difference
- 2011 Wrap-up: Best Guest Blog-Fest!
- 2010 Wrap-up: We’re In the Business of Tomorrow
- 2009 Year End Wrap-Up: Social Media, Email, and CRM
- 2008 Year End Wrap-Up: Why 2009 Will Be Good for the Arts, Despite the Economy
- 2007 Year End Wrap-Up: A Vision for 2008
- 2006 Year End Wrap-Up
- 2005 Year End Wrap-Up
2014 Wrap-up: Skating Toward the Puck
Each December since 2005 I’ve written a year-end review and made some predictions concerning technology as it intersects with audience development, marketing, and fundraising. I’ve just created a page with links to all of my previous wrap-ups, so if you’d like to go back and see how accurate my predictions were, click here.
One of the most interesting books I read this year was The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. It explains how Moore’s Law — which roughly states that the capacity of the computer chips that power computers would double every 18 months — continues to hold true, and has been driving some of the most amazing things we experience today and will see in the next few years. The notion that I can talk into my iPhone and dictate a message with 99% accuracy, or ask Siri a question and most of the time get a reasonably good answer, would have been considered science fiction only five years ago. The naysayers complain that Siri misses a lot, but let’s think about what’s really going on here. You talk into your phone in a normal speaking voice, in the street in traffic, and with your very strong (you fill the blank: New York, Midwest, Canadian, Southern) accent, and in under a second you get a reasonably intelligent response. And then stop and think that we are only entering the “stone age” of machine understanding!
The book also argues that the rate of technological change is increasing. Your responsibility as a manager is not simply to keep up with that change but to anticipate it. You can no longer think only in terms of next season; you have to look out three or four years. The famous quote from Wayne Gretzky, the great hockey player, applies here: “I skate to where the puck is gonna be, not where it has been.”
Here’s where the puck has been this past year and where it’s going in the future. Some of these things are reason for excitement; others are cautionary. Each is worth pondering as 2014 comes to a close.
1. The Shift From Desktop to Mobile
The Microsoft Windows empire was built in a world where work took place on a computer accessed at a desk. Even within the Windows operating system, the nomenclature “desktop” seemed entirely appropriate. However, the desktop PC is giving way to iOS and Android operating systems on handheld devices. Accessing business information on every size of mobile device imaginable is the new normal. And soon the concept of mobile devices will change again. I had a few minutes to try Google Glass recently and though it’s not yet ready for primetime, like it or not, soon wearable devices (watches, rings, and even contact lenses) will put information even closer and more accessible than at your fingertips.
Think about how useful this is for us in the arts! After all, our organizations are some of the most inherently mobile in the world. We have box offices separated from management offices, rehearsals in different venues, and meetings with donors outside our office. Our industry screams for mobility — having all your vital business information at hand when and where you need it.
Prediction: Mobility will mean the end of the traditional office as we know it.
(see also this blog post from 7/14 by Michelle Paul on this topic)
2. The Shift to Video Marketing
YouTube started the online video revolution solely as an entertainment service. But today it has become a marketing and fundraising tool. The best marketing and sales websites lead with a short, well-produced video (think about every Kickstarter campaign you’ve seen). This year, video was at the center of the hugely successful “Ice Bucket Challenge,” which we published a blog post on 8/14 about here. What arts organizations offer can often be more compellingly described by video than by any quote from a newspaper critic.
If video isn’t yet a tool in your marketing process, you should start thinking about how it can be. Soon enough, live-streamed video from a mobile device will enable every organization to become its own cable company. I am pretty sure I’ve been saying this for six years and just last week I paid to watch on www.concertwindow.com Matt Turk, a singer-songwriter friend, perform a live set from his living room (which you can watch on YouTube here).
Prediction: Video, both recorded and live-streamed, will become ubiquitous.
3. The Shift to the Cloud Gains Momentum
Our partner Salesforce.com started its business 15 years ago, at a time when there was still a robust debate about cloud computing versus self-managed servers. Some Fortune 500 companies still manage their own servers, but the realities of cloud computing in terms of scalability, technological development, and cost have made such a compelling combination that Salesforce is a now a $5 billion company with hundreds of thousands of corporate clients, and more than 10,000 non-profit ones.
And yet there is confusion about what cloud computing is. Having your data available on your iPhone is not cloud computing. Rather, a cloud-based service means that your system resides within a technology platform designed to share resources across thousands or even hundreds of thousands of companies. It is this shared resource model (the techies call it “multi-tenancy”) that makes the entire thing work.
Owning (or leasing) your servers means having servers that are either on premises or remotely hosted. Many organizations confuse moving their servers from the basement of their theatre to a remote server location with cloud computing. Your ability to log in and access your data remotely may look like an “on ramp” to the cloud, but it’s not the same thing. Whether your server is in your basement or in Texas, you (or someone on your staff) are still responsible for monitoring, managing, upgrading, and repairing these machines. Therein lies the cost and the liability. In resource-constrained arts organizations, technology is not our core competency. Today, not moving to a cloud system becomes the debate in the boardroom, not the other way around.
Prediction: Most organizations in the arts will move their technology to the cloud, as it’s simply a better model for our industry.
4. The Shift From Facebook for Friends to Facebook for Business
A few years ago, well before advertising was as prominent on Facebook as it is now, I heard Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, describe how Facebook would become an advertising powerhouse. She explained how its proprietary algorithms can understand your interests better than any standard targeting technology could possibly achieve. And now that Facebook’s ads are front and center within the newsfeed, it seems obvious that she was right. It’s an extremely powerful way of reaching people. At some of the arts conferences I’ve attended recently, I’ve seen case studies that show that marketing investments in Facebook have yielded staggering results.
Not only that, but Facebook also is ending the era of “free” self-promotion for organizations in their own newsfeeds. Yes, you heard me correctly. This article in the Wall Street Journal describes how in January Facebook will “filter out unpaid promotional material in user news feeds that businesses have posted as status updates.” Facebook is now a real business, and it’s your chance to leverage it for all its worth.
Prediction: Facebook will become a marketer’s dream, beating out Google AdWords as the most effective digital marketing tool.
5. The Shift From Data as an Asset to Data as a Liability
This year we witnessed database breaches from companies whose names we know well, such as Target and Home Depot. Companies that own and store data — which describes any company with customers — are more than ever before in a vulnerable place because the customer data can be hacked. This isn’t to say that these companies didn’t have good protections for their data, but it does reinforce how crucial is the investment you make in protecting your customers’ “PII” (Personally Identifiable Information) in terms of staff and technology upgrades. You may want to look again at your cyber liability insurance policy, assuming you have one.
There is no foolproof way to store your data safely. The question is simply how you allocate risk and investment. I don’t know many arts organizations that have the budget to invest in the technical protection of their data as well as a Fortune 500 company could. (And as we have seen recently, even Fortune 500 companies can’t always get it right.) So as you think about how valuable your data is, you should also think about how big a liability it would be to your organization if it were hacked.
In a cloud environment, the companies that manage these platforms (Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, Microsoft Cloud) spend orders of magnitude more money in developing data protection systems than an arts organization could ever afford, so using a cloud-based system is one option for giving your data a higher level of protection than you could afford yourself. If you do choose to store your data locally or in a server farm, for goodness’ sake, don’t store financial information such as complete credit card numbers. Ultimately, whether you go with a cloud- or server-based solution, it should be a top priority to understand how valuable your data is and how best to protect it.
Prediction: Managers and boards will rapidly become experts in what it takes to protect the data their organizations retain about their customers, wherever it is stored.
In closing, last week Seth Godin sent out an email that summarizes for me everything about the past year:
We live in an extraordinary moment, with countless degrees of freedom. The instant and effortless connection to a billion people changes everything….
We have more choices, more options and more resources than any generation, ever.
If you agree with my takeaways, let’s make 2015 the year for mobile, cloud, Facebook, video, and, most of all, protecting your data. Each year seems more incredible than the last, and I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and new year.
2013 Wrap-up: Everything Is Marketing
’Tis the season to summarize 2013 and predict the future. And this year, my summary is pretty simple. Technology now serves a new master: the customer. It’s helping companies of all types and sizes (especially small ones) build the kinds of direct and personal relationships that marketers have dreamed about for decades. This is the essence of marketing, and the essence of CRM.
For those of you who produce live events, here are a few examples of what I mean:
- The night before your next show, send an email to all first-time ticket buyers welcoming them and inviting them to meet a board member in the lobby.
- When you’re in the theatre, view a report on your iPhone to know where major donors are sitting.
- Get a notification as major donors arrive and scan their tickets, so you can greet each one personally.
- The next morning, email ticket buyers who attended; include a trackable offer for your next show. Follow that up three days later with a message to only the non-openers. Track responses and ROI as they happen.
- Track social posts and conversations about your organization within all social networks (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Pinterest, and Twitter) and prioritize the people you respond to by how much influence they have (based on their number of followers).
- Standing in your lobby, access your entire customer database from your mobile phone, and review your patrons’ donor history and most recent emails. Create a task for a co-worker to follow up with a patron next week.
As you can see, by having a single cloud-based CRM system, you can interact with customers more effectively, send them more targeted communications, and create an ongoing record of all your interactions with them in one place. And with the rise of mobile devices, you can do all of this on a mobile phone, iPad, or your computer at the office.
At Patron Technology, we saw this transformational potential of CRM early — nearly four years ago — when I wrote this blog post introducing CRM to the arts industry. As we reach the end of 2013, I’m grateful that so many of you see the value in this approach. Our PatronManager CRM system now serves more than 400 organizations that are using the power of CRM to build better customer relationships. Though nobody tracks the growth of companies like ours, I believe that PatronManager must be the fastest-growing system in the arts.
And the reason is that all we are doing is borrowing and translating what’s already been working in the corporate world. I’ve just returned from a week during which I spoke at the biggest tech conference in country — Dreamforce, which is Salesforce.com’s mega-event that drew more than 130,000 people to San Francisco. This conference used to take place mostly for developers who talked with one another about servers and code, automation and data storage. But the really exciting innovations I saw were not as much technical as they were marketing-related: new apps designed to help companies connect with customers, target them more effectively, and build relationships with them to help establish loyalty. What you are trying to do in your non-profit is the same thing that Whole Foods, Toyota, and even GE are trying to do today.
The conference was filled with marketers just like you who are anxious to cement their relationships with customers, reduce churn, and improve their marketing results. The CEO of Whole Foods commented that he sees social media as a way to fill in the gaps between the time someone leaves their store and comes back. So, let’s say you know someone is a first-time buyer at your specialty store who buys some balsamic vinegar. You send this customer an email with an offer for olive oil to motivate a second visit. Isn’t that the same logic that we use in the arts to motivate a first-time ticket buyer to come a second time? As you can see, this is not about IT; it’s about how IT powers marketing — and it’s great to see the arts industry adopt this approach.
As the new year approaches, I believe more than ever that all arts organizations must have an integrated CRM system as the backbone of their operation. Ticket sales and donations are now the byproducts of effective marketing and customer relationships. Next year will be all about this — cloud-computing CRM systems working for YOU the marketer or the fundraiser, to help YOU and your box office and development staff get better results.
2012 Wrap-up: Five Tech Trends That Are Making a Difference
As this is our final newsletter of 2012, I want to step back and take a look at trends in our industry that I have been paying attention to this year. I find that often we get drawn into the “new shiny thing” syndrome, where a new technology gets a lot of hype but ultimately turns out to be a distraction. How do you know what’s “real” and worth paying attention to? Below, I share five trends I am convinced will stick, and that are worth your time and attention in the coming year.
1. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Is Entering the Mainstream
Two years ago, in our December 2010 newsletter, I wrote:
“New technology is a proven way forward to building better, more robust relationships with your patrons, and maximizing every moment of every staff member’s precious time. And just as e-mail went from unknown to commonplace in five years, I predict that CRM will quickly become a ‘must-have’ technology for the arts.”
In 2012 we’ve seen this idea take hold. Our research shows that the vast majority of arts managers now understand the benefits of CRM. Our technology system, PatronManager CRM (a CRM and ticketing system that melds all ticketing, fundraising, and marketing in a single system), now has more than 300 organizations signed up, more proof that the arts world is embracing this trend.
2. Big Data Is Coming
Today the corporate world is well into the era of “big data,” as you surely know if you’ve been paying attention to news headlines. The aggregation and analysis of data is helping marketers (and politicians) target consumers in a more sophisticated manner than ever before. The New York Times Magazine explained how this is applied on the web in a November article titled “Who Do Online Advertisers Think You Are?” The CEO of BlueKai, a data aggregator, explains, “Oil was to the industrial revolution as data is to our information economy.” His company has technology that can divide consumers into 30,000 market segments. I do worry that the arts may suffer from a narrow-casting of patron interest as this trend continues, but right now there’s a long way to go, and most arts organizations can certainly improve their response rates by tackling the kind of segmentation you can do from within a CRM system.
We’re also seeing the maturing of several “big data” initiatives in the arts. The Pew-funded Cultural Data Project aggregates historical data across the industry. According to its website, “The CDP provides nonprofit arts and cultural organizations with the tools necessary to streamline financial reporting, quickly and easily track trends in their own performance and benchmark themselves against others.” Also, TRG Arts has developed the Community Database Program, a master database of arts patrons in 18 communities, providing a national snapshot and the ability to analyze arts attendance in a more finely tuned way.
3. The Early-Adopter “Arts Organizations as Broadcasters” Have Shown Up
For years (see here in 2007 and here in 2010) I’ve been saying that as soon as the hardware for television and web browsing becomes the same, any arts organization could become its own broadcaster. I’m not talking about copying the Met and showcasing your events in movie theaters — I’m talking about live-streaming events on the web, offering access to audiences that for whatever reason can’t or won’t make it to a live production.
In the past year, a few arts organizations have done this well. I’ve watched live jazz events streamed by Jazz at Lincoln Center. JALC tells me that it is working to include a streaming clause in more and more artist contracts, and is investing more heavily in streaming technology. Last week the Metropolitan Museum (not opera!) here in NYC streamed a live opera, “The Peony Pavilion.”
There’s no doubt that live-streaming technology will become even simpler to use. Eventually it will be as easy as turning on an app on your iPhone, placing it on a tripod, and clicking “stream.” After all, isn’t that basically what Skype is already?
Think about the ways you could engage your audience and bring them closer to your organization in this manner. It doesn’t have to be the live arts event — there are plenty of opportunities for interviews, backstage tours, pre-concert talk-backs, etc.
4. Social Media Is Becoming Institutionalized
I’ve lamented that for the past few years Facebook has been the “crack cocaine” of marketers. One mention of Facebook and it seemed that all conversation about other kinds of marketing (e-mail, direct mail, all the rest) would get drowned out.
Thankfully, social media marketing is coming back to earth. The initial free-for-all has calmed down as organizations realize that doing successful Facebook marketing is hard to do and quantify. The lure of outsized returns on Facebook propelled that company to an astronomical IPO this year, but its stock price today reflects the reality that marketing on Facebook (and Twitter, for that matter) is just like any other kind of marketing: You need numbers, measurable analysis, and a coherent strategy. That said, as Michelle Paul and I argue in our book Breaking the Fifth Wall: Rethinking Arts Marketing for the 21st Century, social media marketing is an entirely different animal, and the metrics that you look for in direct mail don’t necessarily apply. Building word of mouth and community on Facebook will ultimately lead to ticket sales or donations, but you ought not look for the strict ROI measures as you would with a direct mail or e-mail campaign.
Facebook and Twitter seem to be the institutional social media sites that will stick for a while. Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr are making inroads as they focus on largely image-based approaches to social sharing.
5. Dynamic Pricing Is Becoming Accepted
I was recently at a ticketing industry conference in which I heard a VP of the San Francisco Giants explain that they reprice every seat for every game on a case-by-case basis. They have consistently improved their revenue numbers (last year by 7 percent), but it’s still as much art as science. There’s no “black box machine” that does all the work for them. What they do have, however, is a flexible ticketing system that enables them to quickly and easily reprice when they want to.
There’s some pricing experimentation going on in the arts, mostly at the biggest organizations, which in many cases are seeing dramatic improvements. There’s now enough evidence to support the idea, and several firms specialize in helping organizations do this. It’s a trend that’s increasing, and for good reason. I’m an aisle seat lover, and so are many others — so I can’t see why most arts groups set prices based only on distance from the stage. I figure in the next few years they’ll realize that I ought to be paying more for those aisle seats.
Finally, I want to say thank you to all our clients, and to the thousands of you that we’ve reached in our seminars, webinars, and at arts conferences this year. We come to work every day trying to help raise the bar for the industry we all care about, and your passion fuels ours. Thank you for your support and best to you in the new year.
2011 Wrap-up: Best Guest Blog-Fest!
Regular readers of my “Wired for Culture” blog know that over the past few months, I’ve invited members of the Patron Technology staff to be guest bloggers. Their posts focused on a range of topics, from innovative ways of offering great customer service, to data collection, to website improvements. The feedback I’ve been getting has been so positive that I decided to devote this newsletter as a way to give these articles wider attention. Here’s a summary and a link to each one:
“The Case of the “Phantom Subscriber” December 12, 2011: Allison Klein describes a new kind of black hole in arts marketing — the phantom subscriber — and what to do about it.
“You Don’t Need to be a “Genius” to Exceed Expectations” November 29, 2011: Nathan Anderson describes just how many times he’s spilled coffee on his MacBook and how Apple responded, and relates that to how you can empower your box office staff to offer great service.
“Ticketing: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” November 16, 2011: Steve Walsh talks about his ideal vision of an online ticketing experience, influenced by his years of being an actual ticket buyer and working in the ticketing industry.
“Can Fantasy Baseball Help You Run Your Organization?” November 2, 2011: Nathan Anderson talks about how fantasy baseball can be a role model for making data awareness a priority in your organization.
“Three Simple Steps to Reboot Your Website” October 18, 2011: Eric Saber offers three dead-simple ways to improve your website, things that are easy and not expensive, and can have a disproportionate benefit to your site’s visitors.
“If a Patron Buys a Ticket but No One Collects Any Contact Info, Was She Really There?” October 6, 2011: Lily Traub offers four simple ways to collect information from your patrons at your venue. This is the art of creatively getting patron data.
“Does Netflix Know What Its Own Product Is?” September 26, 2011: Michelle Paul talks about how Netflix seemed to have forgotten just what business they were in, and how that relates to your brand.
2010 Wrap-up: We’re In the Business of Tomorrow
Along with 15,000 others in a packed convention center in San Francisco last week, I witnessed an amazingly inspiring event. President Bill Clinton took the stage (introduced by Stevie Wonder), and held court for more than an hour, talking about what’s on his mind. From physics to green energy to the earthquake in Haiti, he outlined his take on what’s wrong with the world, what’s wrong with America, and how to fix it.
He said a lot that resonated, much of it relevant to the arts. My ears continue to ring with this phrase from his speech: “We live in a world where the way people get information is filtered through yesterday’s categories.” Put another way: We’re constantly making decisions about the future based on the lens of the past.
Clinton explained that in highly evolved societies like the United States (as opposed to developing countries), entrenched processes and economic interests make profound change much harder than in other societies. People cling to the ways they did things in the past out of fear, and out of self-interest. This stops innovation and leads to stagnation.
He used as an example the fact that while the U.S. once held the lead in solar energy panel production, we bungled the opportunity, and the Chinese and the Germans are now the ones who will likely own the industry. Clinton said that unless things change, we are on a path to becoming a country in decline, rather than one on the move. A sobering perspective.
His antidote? America ought to be in the “tomorrow business.” We need to recognize and accept how the world has changed, and adapt to the future. We need to make our plans for the way the world will be five years from now, not the way it was five years ago.
All of this resonated personally, because his thinking is very much in line with our company’s philosophy. In 2001, we were first to introduce e-mail marketing to the arts industry, recognizing that e-mail would quickly become a “must” marketing technique. We built PatronMail, and nine years later, e-mail marketing has indeed become mainstream. (As a small bit of evidence of e-mail’s prominence, our 1,800 clients sent out over 30 million e-mails in the last month alone.)
And, as you may know, we made our second big bet this year, launching PatronManager CRM to introduce CRM to the arts industry. If you’ve not yet heard about it,
PatronManager CRM is a cloud-based CRM system built for small and mid-sized arts organizations. It offers 21st century technology for next to no cost. It’s not a ticketing system, and it’s not a fundraising system. It’s an all-in-one system built from the ground up that instantly provides collaboration and efficiency for your staff, because it combines ticketing and subscriptions, e-mail marketing, day-to-day tasks, calendar, and fundraising in one web-based system. There’s no hardware to purchase and maintain, no software to install, and no IT person needed to operate it.
In the past, arts organizations operated stand-alone systems for ticketing, fundraising, and e-mail. But the world is changing, arts patrons are changing, and the technology options that are available to arts organizations are changing, too. The lens of the future shows that as our society becomes more and more web-connected, and social media and mobile devices take off, what’s required is an entirely new way of thinking – and thus a new approach to arts management and technology. That approach is CRM (customer relationship management) and cloud computing – in which all of your patron data, and all of your transactions and operations, are on the same system, accessible over the web.
That’s why, when we decided to build a CRM system, we partnered with one of the most dynamic and successful CRM technology companies in Silicon Valley, the $20B salesforce.com. Salesforce.com pioneered cloud-based CRM for the corporate market, and today has over 85,000 corporate clients and over 2 million users. Mark Benioff, Salesforce’s CEO, is also a non-profit visionary who, starting on day one, mandated a corporate commitment to philanthropy by creating the Salesforce Foundation. The Foundation has already donated technology to 9,500 non-profits worldwide, and our partnership takes advantage of this philanthropic program. (It was at the annual salesforce.com conference that I heard Bill Clinton speak.)
Indeed, we are in the business of tomorrow. CRM and cloud computing are the future of business technology; that’s why we’re introducing and evangelizing CRM for the arts. Our mission is to revolutionize the industry by providing world-class cutting-edge technology to arts and non-profits, at a price they can afford, and CRM fits our mission.
I hope in the year to come, you’ll join me in looking at the world with your own lens of the future. The economic climate is challenging, and your jobs are not getting any easier. New technology is a proven way forward to building better, more robust relationships with your patrons, and maximizing every moment of every staff member’s precious time. And just as e-mail went from unknown to commonplace in five years, I predict that CRM will quickly become a “must-have” technology for the arts.
In 2011, as you wear that lens of the future, we’ll help guide the way. I’m pleased to announce that early in the year, we’ll publish (in print and for Kindle/iPad) a new book I’ve written with my colleague Michelle Paul, outlining our vision of arts marketing for the 21st century with a focus on CRM, e-mail, websites, and social media.
I hope as we travel around the country in this coming year, you’ll attend one of our seminars or presentations. Despite the efficiency of e-mail and webinars, there’s nothing like meeting you face-to-face, and we look forward to it.
On behalf of our entire staff, thank you for your support. We wish you a wonderful holiday season.
2009 Year End Wrap-Up: Social Media, Email, and CRM
[This was originally published earlier this week as Patron Technology’s “end of the year” newsletter — I’m reposting it here in case you missed it.]
Each year at this time, I take the opportunity to reflect on arts marketing on the Internet, the work we’ve done here at Patron Technology, and the work we will be
doing next year. As in past years, I’d like to use this as an opportunity to give my perspective on the direction that technology for
arts and cultural organizations is heading.
I’m going to talk briefly about what’s happened in the last year, but spend most of the time focusing on the future. One note before I get started: It’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room that arrived last week in the form of a report from the NEA about how the arts audience is shrinking. This is not news to anyone in the field, but it should spark an active debate on the topic, and will certainly put more pressure on those running arts organizations.
The Social Web Meets Main Street
My quick summary of what’s happened this year: The “socialization” of the Web has begun to really stick. Twitter and Facebook are not new phenomena—Facebook started up in 2004 and Twitter celebrated its third year in 2009. This was the year, however, that the consciousness of arts organizations woke up to the possibilities of how these new media types could work to their advantage. As you know, we’ve done several workshops as well as 12 live webinars and multiple articles on this subject. We are still amazed that Michelle Paul’s nine Facebook webinars this year drew a total of over 1,500 registrants!
The social Web is here to stay, and those organizations that embrace it, innovate with it, and use it wisely will reap benefits. This is definitely not a fad—it’s a new way of communicating.
Now, if you’re not totally convinced, let me present the following undisputed fact: Notwithstanding how effective your direct mail or other marketing efforts are, the hands-down winner for driving people to attend and/or participate in things arts and cultural has been and continues to be word of mouth.
Word of mouth wins by an order of magnitude. Someone telling their friend about what you’re doing is far more effective than any statement you can make on your own behalf. It stands to reason, then, that if social media is nothing more than word of mouth on steroids, and if you can harness discussions that other people are having about you, and can both incite and participate in them, you can finally begin to use word of mouth as a true marketing tactic.
I am always fascinated when I read stories in The New York Times about a Broadway show that is about to close. Inevitably, the writer will make a reference to the fact that the show “did not find its audience.” That is merely code for the fact that despite a huge marketing effort, people didn’t talk to their friends about the show, and the word of mouth machine never put the show into orbit where it could become a commercial success. It’s commonly accepted that good word of mouth is the sine qua non of arts marketing.
That’s the key reason why I believe the social Web is so amazingly powerful and so incredibly important for arts organizations to embrace and to utilize. No, there are no rules of the road that have been tested for years. And no, there are no hard and fast ROI calculations that anyone has been able to come up with that make sense yet. It’s just too early.
But, like everything else online, rewards come soonest to those who take chances and innovate. In the early years of our business, clients used to tell us that they would let their interns and volunteers do their e-mail marketing. After all, wouldn’t it be best to have a 25-year-old who “understood technology” handle it? Well, it’s now commonly accepted that e-mail marketing should not be the realm of the volunteer or intern, because it’s too important a mouthpiece to the public.
We are seeing that move all over again with Facebook and Twitter. Everyone seems to be lining up their twentysomething staff member or intern and telling them, “You deal with Twitter. I don’t understand it, and I don’t have time for it.” In my view, they do this at their peril. The fact is that Twitter and Facebook postings are probably more powerful than print or direct mail because they live on forever and spread virally through the Internet. And now that Google and Bing are beginning to provide real-time search results, these social media postings may soon be the freshest information out there about your organization.
So if you’re going to “outsource” any of your marketing efforts, I wouldn’t outsource social media. This needs to be a medium that you understand and pay attention to, in just the same way you do with your Web site or e-mail campaigns.
E-mail Still Wins
I was recently on a panel sponsored by the innovative marketing firm Situation Interactive, along with two other panelists: forward-thinking Broadway producer Ken Davenport (Altar Boyz, Oleanna, The Awesome 80s Prom) and Larry Goldman, a sports marketing consultant most recently with the NY Islanders. It was the most stimulating panel that I’ve been on in
recent memory, and the room was engaged with energy and interest. At the end of the session, Erik Gensler of Capacity Interactive, the moderator, closed with a pointed question to each of the panelists asking us to give one idea that Broadway producers and arts managers should use to improve their business.
My response was the same as it has always been: The most important thing you can do for your digital marketing efforts is to build the size of your e-mail list. I suggested that everyone make a goal next year of doubling the size of their list.
It’s no longer in doubt that if people opt in to your mailing list, and if you send them relevant, compelling, engaging, and useful information, they will respond in dramatic numbers. E-mail marketing from arts and cultural organizations is the furthest thing from spam. You are connecting people with their passions, and if you feed them a healthy diet of juicy content you will strengthen the relationship between your organization and that patron. And naturally, you’ll have a positive effect when it comes time to ask for an end-of-year donation. Our own 2009 research studies show that 16 percent of people who are on e-mail mailing lists for arts organizations said they would give more money as a result of receiving regular e-mail updates from an arts organization.
Love Your Subscribers AND Your Single-Ticket Buyers
Back in the 1960s, Danny Newman wrote a book called Subscribe Now, often considered to be the bible for arts marketers. In it, in no uncertain terms, he described the long-term subscriber as the gold standard relationship that your organization should aim to develop with a patron. His view of the single-ticket buyer was that that person was a noncommittal slug, a creature to be despised.
It’s easy to understand the benefits of subscriptions from the perspective of an arts organization. After all, you’re getting a lot of money up front from your patrons, which helps your own cash flow, and you minimize unpredictability about what your season is likely to look like. But subscriptions ultimately should not be about you—they are about your patron. And not all patrons are created equal and not all patrons need or want subscriptions.
Fundamentally, I believe subscriptions are more about personality than anything else. A subscription satisfies a particular personality type of a consumer. There are people out there who will always subscribe because it makes them feel complete and organized. But there are others who will never be subscribers, not because they don’t like the work you do but because their lifestyle simply doesn’t work that way, or they are unable to commit that far in
advance. And, of course, there are also those who won’t subscribe because your own policies are so difficult that when they subscribe and then want to exchange tickets, you don’t make it easy for them to do so, and so the “benefits” of subscriptions don’t matter to them.
(As an aside: I’m not going to renew one of my subscriptions for a theatre company here in New York City because I’ve been unable to return or exchange my tickets twice this season. Why? Because they require you to physically go to the box office between the hours of 11 and 6 if you want to exchange any sooner than 48 hours before a show. You can’t do it online—the only way you can manage a ticket exchange is to go there in person, and for me that’s enough of a hassle that my subscription consequently offers me no benefit at all. Now, if I were running that organization, I would make a deal with a messenger service that could arrive at my
patrons’ office and exchange their tickets for a charge of $15. But I digress.)
The point is that subscriptions are perfect for people who have a plan-ahead personality, are price sensitive, and/or for whom the benefits of a subscription matter a lot. I reject the Danny Newman notion that somebody who buys, say, three tickets to the symphony on a single ticket basis should be treated differently (i.e., less well) than the person that subscribes for three concerts in a “make your own subscription” series.
Yet that’s exactly the approach most organizations take, and I have a theory about it. Let’s assume that some organizations would like to treat those single-ticket buyers better—but they simply don’t have access to technology that can enable them to care of those multi-single buyers in the same way that they take care of their subscribers. Well, that’s all about to change.
The Future is CRM
Let’s turn to the year ahead, and focus on new technology which some of you may be familiar with, commonly known in the corporate world as CRM, which stands for “customer relationship management.” You’ll be hearing more about this from me in the next year because I believe it’s the “next big thing” in the arts & cultural business.
Large Fortune 500 companies have been using CRM for the last decade, and those that use it effectively have transformed their businesses. CRM systems represent the ultimate simplification in managing your historical and current data. These systems integrate all of your organization’s information and databases into a single, seamless unit.
Once you have all your patron data in a single database, and that information is accessible online to everyone in your organization in real time, your organization can make dramatic improvements in efficiency, customer service, and marketing efforts. CRM is not simply a fancy name for a new ticketing system—it’s an entirely new way of managing all of the data for your customers. (I write about this with some energy because, as some of you know, we have been working on a CRM initiative for the past two years—you’ll be hearing a lot more about it from us in the coming months.)
Why is CRM is so important now? The number of “touch points” with your customers is increasing, not decreasing. In the old days, you used to send out messages in a one-way manner—direct mail, newspaper, and telemarketing. You had a limited number of
opportunities to connect with your patrons. But today, we can reach people in many more ways: through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, via e-mail campaigns and individual e-mails, and also on our own Web sites. Our customers are more accessible to us than they ever were before, and they are more easily able to reach us as well. It’s now incumbent upon us to manage those relationships in the most efficient and effective way. Customers expect it!
This is where CRM is going to make a huge difference. With CRM, you can track all of our customers in the same way, and offer preferred treatment to the best customers, no matter how or when they buy from you. (That’s why every time I rent from Hertz, they give me an automatic upgrade at the counter—they know I’m a frequent renter because I’m identified in their CRM system as such.)
CRM is a new paradigm for running your organization, and in the next three to five years, a complete transformation of the technology for back-office operations for arts and cultural organizations will emerge. There’s a generation of CRM technology in the offing which will be several magnitudes less expensive and several magnitudes more powerful than anything arts managers have to work with now.
You will see new products and services; new competitors; alternative ways of developing technology that will knock your socks off. In many ways I think the golden age of running a non-profit cultural organization is just now starting. In the foreseeable future, those competent managers who want to run an efficient and smart operation will now have a fighting chance of running their organizations the way they know they should be run, but could never before afford. Next year will be the beginning of a new standard of technology. The era of CRM is coming and I’m betting it’s going to be quite exciting.
Weathering the Bad Economy
In closing, I want to comment about the economy. Last year at this time, we all were worried about the arts & cultural industry, and a lot of fears were justified. What is amazing to me is that a year later the vast majority of small and medium-size organizations (which make up the bulk of our client base) seem to have made it through by sheer grit, smarts, and hard work.
Sure, many have cut budgets and are doing things more efficiently than before. And they are surviving. Larger organizations appear to have been harder hit. When corporate funding gets cut by $250K, that’s hard money to replace.
However, when I look at the vast majority of arts and cultural organizations across the country, I see hard-working and committed managers weathering the storm
and persevering to continue to do what they are so very passionate about.
To you, I tip my hat. I know I speak on behalf of our entire staff—a staff filled with technically savvy folks who also happen to be theatre buffs, singers, actors, musicians, playwrights, composers, directors—arts lovers—in saying that we’re trying our hardest to do our part to help you attain your goals, and we are in constant admiration of what you do every day.
Have a wonderful and happy new year.
2008 Year End Wrap-Up: Why 2009 Will Be Good for the Arts, Despite the Economy
It’s my tradition to take time at the end of each year to reflect on important trends in our field, as concerns technology and e-marketing for the arts. My theme this year is naturally colored by the extremely challenging economic climate that is facing all of us, and most especially non-profit organizations.
Ultimately, my message is a positive one. What is certain is that no matter how our economy stumbles, new technology coming to the market in the next few years will continue to transform old business models and create entirely new ways of operating. And as this happens, the way you manage and market the arts will continue to change. New technology will be a huge positive for our field because the Web has become a platform for highly sophisticated tools at fees that non-profits can handle easily.
It seems to me the best way to keep your organization stable in this environment is to either raise more money or to be more efficient with the money that you have. We touched on the former in our E-marketing E-ssentials article earlier this month; now it’s the second part of this equation that I am urging you to pay attention to. New technology can be central to this efficiency.
Big Software Changes: Better and Cheaper
First, let’s talk about what’s ahead for software. Actually, I should step back and start by first explaining that it’s likely that soon there will be no such thing as “software,” as in software that is installed on your desktop computer or a server in the basement of your organization. More and more, technology is moving into a “hosted” environment where programs are available online, provided to you by a company that has embraced a SaaS (“software as a service”) model.
Here at Patron Technology we’ve been in that business for over seven years with our PatronMail system. What we are seeing every day now is that many of the software powerhouses of the past (particularly Microsoft) are slowly becoming irrelevant, as Google and others not only replicate their products and deliver them on a SaaS basis, but do so at amazingly low prices or for free. This trend will impact the non-profit world in a very positive way. In the last two decades, for most non-profits, acquiring new software has most often meant signing long-term contracts for relatively expensive ticketing systems or fundraising software that ran on a server. But once software is delivered online, vendors can offer much more sophisticated systems at much lower prices. What this means for you is that not only will functionality be dramatically improved, prices for this technology will plummet relative to what you are used to. If you’re thinking about buying new systems for your organization, focus on the type of system that you are being sold. If it’s a traditional “client/server” system, you’ll be asked to pay a hefty one-time license fee, a set-up fee, and an ongoing “support and upgrade” fee each year. If you’re talking with a SaaS company, typically there won’t be a balloon payment up front, but rather a flat fee per year, with options for support levels and additional modules. From a pricing perspective, the latter should be vastly less costly.
Replace Newspaper Arts Coverage with Your Own Message
Second, I see the landscape of marketing changing, potentially dramatically, because of the demise of the traditional newspaper. We all know that newspapers are facing a huge challenges. Their business models are being turned upside down by the Web and their very existence is in question. In the last month we’ve seen some ominous signs: The Tribune Company has filed for bankruptcy, and The New York Times has borrowed against the value of its own building to counter a recession-driven dip in advertising revenues. Just this past week, a Detroit paper announced that it would cut back on delivering the physical paper to those who have subscribed to it. And last week The New York Times carried a lead story on how few newspapers have Washington, D.C. bureaus anymore.
If papers are cutting their Washington operations, you know that the arts are next. I see the very real possibility that in the next several years, there may not be a local arts section at all, as print newspapers that survive will be only a shadow of their former selves. We have already witnessed the near-complete gutting of the arts-reviewing staff at the Times; that kind of thing is happening all over the country.
In a world in which there is less arts coverage, cultural organizations will face a vastly different marketing landscape. Of course there will be bloggers and online newspapers that will reach some portion of the arts audience, but not in the same way as before. And when this marketing channel dissipates, cultural organizations are going to be faced with a very new challenge in terms of reaching their audiences. I’ve been saying for years that the solution to this dilemma is not to replace newspapers with another newspaper, or to double up on posters on the street. Rather, the right approach is to focus like crazy on developing a direct relationship with your audience members so that you are no longer relying on a third party to promote what you are doing. You’ll still do direct marketing. But you’ll do it in a smarter way, with more effective list segmentation powered by new technology. And you’ll want to share research and statistical data with other organizations, because sharing will mean better targeting and more effective marketing results.
So I urge you to build that relationship with your audience by continuing to develop your e-mail list so you won’t need that third party to get the word out. We witnessed a perfect example of this recently, as Barack Obama’s campaign developed a multi-million-name opt-in e-mail list. The campaign managers knew very well that their e-mail list would be as powerful a marketing weapon as any newspaper or TV ad. While I don’t think that 2009 will be the year that newspapers go away, the story is not getting any better for print journalism for the arts, and that has big implications for what you do in the coming year. I urge you to continue to cement your online relationship with your patrons before the “lifeline” of old media goes away.
The Arts Will Go Live Online
Finally, 2009 will be the year that live online arts broadcasting gets real. If you want to get a glimpse of this future, check out what the Berlin Philharmonic is doing. You can buy tickets to watch a live concert from Berlin. They’ve taken the concept of “Live from Lincoln Center” and cut out the middleman. It’s direct marketing in an entirely new way. This past week the 92nd Street Y did a live webcast of a lecture, and yesterday I watched a live concert from the Cite de la Musique in Paris. The era of live arts and culture, direct from the organization to your computer, is about to unfold. PBS won’t go away, but if you’re following the logic above, I’m sure you’ll realize that many organizations will soon become their own broadcasters. When your patrons have technology that connects the television on their wall seamlessly to the Internet at high-quality speeds and with hi-fidelity sound, a new marketing channel will have emerged.
We’re in a moment of revolutionary change in so many ways, and 2009 promises to bring more and more fundamental changes to the way you communicate with your audiences and run your organizations. So as you consider your ever-tightening budgets for this next year, improving your technology to run your organization more efficiently, developing deeper digital relationships with your patrons, and engaging a new audience online all seem to be good recipes for our challenging times.
2007 Year End Wrap-Up: A Vision for 2008
As is my custom, I like to do a review of the last year in e-marketing and take a look forward at the year to come. This wrap-up is somewhat different for me than in past years, since it’s now been a year since I started my blog, and those of you that follow it have had a regular dose of what I’ve been thinking about.
What was most interesting to observe in 2007 was the maturation of e-marketing. By now, some things are just accepted as necessities in the arts marketing world – having a good Web site and sending regular e-mail is becoming such a “given” at most arts & cultural organizations that it’s no longer seen as “new” or cutting-edge.
The latest trends, such as online video, podcasting, text-messaging, and social networks, while technologically not new, have certainly taken center stage in most arts marketers’ minds. As I’ve been saying in my seminars and on my blog for a while, this is a very exciting time for arts & non-profits, since as these technologies mature and become more and more affordable, we’ll have better tools to reach and motivate our patrons than ever before.
In the e-mail world we focus on, what I see is that the organizations that are having the most success are the ones professionalizing their strategy and approach to e-marketing. The truth is that once you’ve gotten the hang of sending an e-mail, it’s no longer a question of technology. The things that make a difference are the things we cover in our training sessions and webinars and seminars:
E-mail editorial: What to send, to whom and how frequently – and most importantly, how to always be relevant.
- E-mail segmentation: Sending more and more targeted messages to your list through smart segmentation and not just doing a “blast.”
- List building: Smartly and aggressively building your list to reach your donors and patrons consistently.
The thing is, these aspects of e-mail marketing are harder than merely composing an e-mail! They do take thinking, planning, and some investment of time and resources. It’s becoming more and more obvious when I get an e-mail from an organization as to whether it’s been really well thought out, or thrown together at the last minute. Much the same thing can be said about arts web sites.
The thing we all need to keep in mind is that arts patrons are being bombarded with more and more high-quality communications online and are exposed to the very best Web sites every day. And thus consumers won’t be as forgiving as they once were.
As a result, more and more of our company’s time and energy is being placed into helping share industry best practices, case studies, benchmark statistics, and tips & techniques that we gather from our clients. This is one of the things that makes Patron Technology different than other corporate software providers, and we’re poised to do more and more of it in 2008 to help the industry improve.
We had another terrific year and I know that I speak for everyone on our staff in thanking you for your support. We’re now servicing over 1,200 customers in the US and eight foreign countries. In the second week of December our clients sent out over 3.5 million opt-in e-mail messages! We presented seminars in over 25 cities and at national conferences, and we also produced our first day-long e-marketing conference, the “E-marketing E-mersion E-vent,” which become an annual event.
In addition to stepping up our training/consulting and educational offerings, we’re making changes in the format of these e-mail newsletters.
If you’ve been a regular reader for the last five years, you know we’ve published two “interview” style newsletters every month: Arts Marketer of the Month and E-Marketing Organization of the Month.
Starting in January, we’ll continue to publish our regularly scheduled e-mail newsletters on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. The first will be brand new, titled E-marketing E-ssentials, and will offer a host of educational information about e-marketing. We’ll be featuring an article from an “e-marketer in residence,” who will later in the month participate in a live webinar that you’ll be invited to attend. For the second newsletter, we’ll continue the Arts Marketer of the Month – but while it still will be in interview style, it will be in video format, which we think will be a more engaging way for you to get to know your colleagues and their work.
Beyond this, we’re working on several new technology initiatives in 2008 which you’ll be hearing about as they come to fruition.
In the meantime, we all wish you a very happy and healthy New Year.
2006 Year End Wrap-Up
Welcome to our final issue of 2006. To wrap-up the year, we’re presenting a Q & A with Patron Technology President, Eugene Carr, who shares his thoughts and insight into the year that’s been, and looks at what’s to come in the world of online arts marketing…
Q & A with Eugene Carr
As an engaged observer of the online technology and Internet world, what’s of most interest to you in the past year?
When I was preparing for this interview, I reread what I wrote last year and I was gratified to read that a lot of the things I’d predicted seem to be coming true. For instance, the whole idea of convergence – where all types of technology and communication are jammed into a single piece of hardware – is coming true. Today’s cell phones are also MP3 players and cameras, and more and more they are including Web browsers as well. Last year I was wondering whether Apple would get into the cellular phone business, and now some of the blogs that I read say that indeed in the not too distant future they’ll have something called the iPhone.
What’s been amazing to me during this year is the pace at which technology and Web services have grown and innovated. Clearly the second “dot.com boom” is coming, as there is a lot of venture capital chasing new ideas. Every day I read about new and useful services that are going to make the overall Web experience for the visitor that much better.
For us in the arts, one can no longer say that you should get on the train before it leaves the station, because in fact the train has already left the station. Those organizations that are aggressively collecting e-mail addresses and building an online relationship with their patrons are going to reap the benefits when the Web becomes more portable and people’s lives become even more intertwined with it. If you’ve got the ability to communicate with your subscribers and members by e-mail, the newsletter you’re sending today is just the very first stage of what will be an amazing next few years of technological development. We’re living in a very exciting time and arts marketers would do well to pay attention to it.
What are the trends you’re watching that relate to arts e-marketing?
You can’t have this discussion without mentioning the whole issue of spam. In fact, a couple of recent newspaper articles have documented the fact that the amount of spam flowing through the Internet has doubled in the last few months. Today almost 90% of all the e-mail that gets sent out is spam or junk mail. That means that e-mail filtering and the incorrect marking of legitimate e-mail as spam is even more likely to happen than ever before. Needless to say, this is something we keep a keen eye on here at Patron Technology.
The next trend that I’m watching is that of e-mail segmentation. Not only can you segment your e-mails based on people’s preferences, or internal categories such as whether they are donors or members, but today you can segment based on their own activity. That is, if you want to mail to everyone that didn’t open your e-mail last week and send them another reminder, your e-mail system can do that for you. If you’re doing a fund-raising campaign, you can target people who have opened all of your e-mails for the last four months, as these are probably some of your better prospects. We’re now in the end stages of a beta test of the Patron Technology Advanced Patron List Inquiry system that will enable our clients to do exactly this. We’ve responded to the ways that the industry has changed by enabling our clients to do more sophisticated targeting of their patrons.
How has Patron Technology fared this year?
Well, we’ve had another terrific year adding nearly 300 new organizations to our to our client roster which today numbers almost 900 organizations. We’ve built our UK audience to over 50 organizations and we are expanding into other nonprofit areas beyond just the arts. We’ve expanded our staff and customer service and the recent customer satisfaction survey shows us that we’ve got a happy group of customers.
As always, our clients are clamoring for us to add more features and that’s just what we’re doing. We’ve introduced several upgrades of PatronMail in the last few months, and we’ve got another upgrade coming just after the first of the year, with new design features and a whole host of new templates and designs in the works. Design is clearly something that our clients want more control over and that’s what we’re going to focus on.
In addition, we’ve been very active in the educational side of our business. I’ve given over 50 seminars – including three national tours and appearances at many of the arts trade association conferences. I have been delighted to meet many of you personally and look forward to 2007, when I will be continuing with our live seminars around the country.
We updated Wired for Culture last year and we’re working on yet again another update with current statistics, as well as an update of my 2004 book, Sign-Up for Culture.
We are also now talking with our clients about blogging, streaming media, RSS, and other up-and-coming new technologies which we think will enhance the online marketing that clients are going to do. We’ve got some initiatives in these areas and you’ll be hearing from us about this in the coming months.
Any final thoughts for 2006?
Time magazine just came out with its “person of the year” issue – in which they chose “You” – a reference to what its editors perceive as the sudden ubiquity of “you-based” Web services. Here they are referring to Youtube and Facebook and other sites that offer interaction with consumers, rather than preaching to them.
What’s of most interest to me is that there is really nothing new here. In the early days of AOL, it offered “Hometown AOL” which was nothing more than a service that enabled its members to create and update their own personal Web sites in a common location. There was a site in the 1990’s called www.sixdegrees.com which was a precursor to Facebook and other social networking sites.
So, we haven’t learned anything new from Time magazine, but we’ve merely been reminded what we already knew: The Web is about interactivity – online engagement with an audience. It’s about online ticket sales; it’s about people reading (and commenting) about your performances and interacting with you.
2005 Year End Wrap-Up
In the Q & A that follows, Gene shares his insight into the big picture of e-marketing for 2005, and predicts where the medium is heading for 2006 and beyond…
Gene, to begin, tell us what online trends and developments you’ve been watching closely over the past year.
Let’s start with some history, ancient history in Web terms. About a decade ago when I was working with the then-upstart company AOL, I attended a conference in which the big buzz word was “convergence.”
The idea was that eventually all information (whether in text, audio or video format) would eventually be digitized. Then, that information would be accessible on a compact and affordable device – like a telephone or Palm Pilot, which was wirelessly connected to the Internet with a super-fast connection. In essence, your wireless experience would be as fast and would have as much quality as your radio or television does today. I believe this vision is what fueled the dot-com boom of the 1990s.
What’s been unique about this past year in my view, more than any other year recently, is that we’re now seeing the light at the end of the convergence tunnel.
Let me give you a few examples. Apple has released a video iPod, and has forged arrangements with TV and movie studios to allow users to download content that plays on it. The iPod was initially a music player, but it’s clearly evolving into much more.
It will be interesting to see how Apple handles the wireless challenge, since there are already services that allow you to download streaming media directly to your telephone. Will the iPod morph into a telephone? There are now mini-computers that are all wirelessly connected, all leading the charge towards disconnecting the Internet and putting access to the Web at your fingertips essentially 24/7.
A few weeks ago, AOL made an announcement that they were creating a service called In2TV, which will stream re-runs of television shows which cannot command airtime on traditional television or cable. They are betting that this “back-catalog” distribution of content will have the same effect Amazon found when it put a world of back-catalog books and CDs online. They found a huge demand for items not immediately available in the stores. I’ll bet this will happen with television and with movies. It’s going to be a few years more before this ‘convergence’ reality hits home for the masses, but I’m convinced it will.
How do you see this ‘convergence’ impacting the arts and nonprofit industries?
From an arts perspective, this has all sorts of implications. I’m not a believer that technology will replace the live event – but rather that it will enable and motivate more sales and visits. The creative use of video, from event previews to interviews and other more creative ideas, is bound to motivate patrons more than simple text and pictures.
As well as keeping an eye on online trends, you’re a seasoned watcher of e-mail and e-marketing in particular (for both the corporate and not-for-profit worlds). What trends have you seen developing in e-mail technologies over the past year?
I do follow the industry carefully and I think this past year has been a turning point in the validation of e-mail as a bona-fide marketing tool in every marketer’s toolkit. Witness:
- E-mail is now recognized universally as perhaps the most powerful online marketing tool. Savvy marketers are making increasingly large investments in technology, list-building and staffing of this new medium as the payoff is clearly warranted. We’re definitely past the stage where people still think e-mail marketing is spam.
- Spam continues to be a problem, but more for ISPs and for e-mail companies like PatronMail in that we have to be diligent in ensuring that our clients’ mail gets delivered. Unlike some corporate e-mail providers, we take responsibility for our clients’ mail being delivered and we maintain excellent relationships with ISPs and are part of the coveted “Bonded Sender” program, which helps ensure good deliverability.
- Spammers are being counter-attacked: There is a huge amount of investment in the corporate and venture capital world to solve this problem. Both entrepreneurs and ISPs sense there’s a lot of money to be made if they can find “the cure” so to speak. There are all sorts of schemes and protocols being invented and tested. I’ll bet 99 of 100 will fail, but one will work and the tide will turn.
As 2005 is coming to a close, give us a sense of how the year has wrapped up for Patron Technology. Tell us some of the notable developments for the company over the last year.
By any measure, we’ve had an extraordinary year. Our efforts to lead the way in helping the arts and cultural industry recognize the value of e-mail marketing are working. Our client base has doubled in size since this time last year, and we are thrilled to now work with over 600 clients in 45 states and 7 foreign countries.
Our partnership with Purple Seven in the United Kingdom has given us a presence in that country that is beginning to blossom, and during the next year we’ll be giving demonstrations of their powerful Vital Statistics marketing analytics software system here in the US.
Their product is jaw-dropping in that even if you have disparate databases (fundraising, ticketing, marketing) it allows you to have an instant dashboard – giving you an overall picture of your organization’s data as if you’ve got everything in one system. And, you can run countless reports to understand everything that dashboard is telling you – customized to your organization.
We’ve also been very active in the arena of education. Earlier this year, I published my third book on e-marketing, titled “Web Sites for Culture: Essential Principles for Great Arts Web Sites.” I’ve also traveled around the country giving over 20 seminars as well as 8 seminars in cities in the UK. This past summer we offered a day-long seminar in New York, Chicago, LA, and DC which was so successful that we’re offering it again this January in Boston, Philadelphia, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Seattle, and San Francisco.
We believe that educating the field about e-marketing is a critically important part of our mission and one that we’ll expand during the next year. (We’re even working on an idea for an e-marketing conference to be held in New York next fall).
We’ve also built several Web sites this year, most recently for Chanticleer and Washington National Opera, and we’re becoming more active in that arena.
Our PatronMail E-marketing Add-ons (online donations, event registrations, contests, surveys and viral marketing tools) have all really taken off. And, finally, two weeks ago, we co-produced, with the Washington National Opera, the first-ever Internet-based press conference in the arts. Placido Domingo announced the WNO’s new season which drew press reps from all over the country. We’ll be talking more about this early next year in a special e-mail describing exactly how this works, and what the possibilities are for our clients.
If you could have one (business-related) wish come true this year, what would it be?
I’d like all our clients, and anyone that is thinking about becoming our client, to subject their current marketing to a strict ROI analysis — because I know that when they do they will see that e-mail marketing (and e-marketing in general) when done well can provide the best return on investment of anything they are doing.