25 Things to Help You Get Ready for the New Season

Next Season
Read any good books this summer? I spent a good part of my summer reading business self-help books. Though reading these books was maybe not as enjoyable as losing myself in the latest bestseller, I was hoping that in each one I’d pick up one or two tips that could make my job just a bit easier. I found that nearly all of them include a “to do” checklist — which streamlined that process.

In that spirit, I’m offering up my own arts manager pre-season checklist. Just as with those self-help books, I’m hoping in this list of 25 ideas, there are things you’ll find relevant for your organization and for your job. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Know your website traffic.

Which pages on your site get 80% of your traffic? What could you be doing to optimize them?

2. Improve your online ticketing.

Is it time to upgrade to an integrated CRM and box office ticketing system? (If it is, contact us!) Or perhaps you simply need to rewrite your purchase confirmation email or do a better job direct-linking to ticketing pages on your website. Take a few minutes to review what your patrons experience when they buy tickets, and I’ll bet you can find something to improve.

3. Review your website copy and images.

Are there pages that need to be rewritten or retired? Do you still have last season’s events listed? Is it easy to find your venue’s address?

4. Commit to your Facebook page.

Every month or so, carve out some time to come up with a list of ideas/links/topics for the following few weeks, and then all you’ll need is a few minutes a day to post — a 10-minute commitment — to keep your audience engaged.

5. Build your email list.

Email is still hands down the most effective and efficient digital marketing tool out there, and you should be collecting email addresses from as many patrons as possible.

6. Develop meaningful email segments.

Identify groups within your email list, such as first-time ticket buyers, donors, parents, subscribers.

7. Send relevant emails to targeted groups.

Email is not for mass mailing — I dream of banishing the word “e-blast.” Email is for targeting segments of patrons with very customized messages that appeal specifically to them.

8. Test and proofread your email.

Before you send out a campaign, send a final draft to three of your friends or co-workers, asking them what they think of the subject line and the content. Edit as needed.

9. Write a marketing plan, with specific goals.

Nobody has “enough” money, so you’ll have to make choices about what to focus on. Putting it in writing and getting buy-in from your colleagues is a great way to validate those choices.

10. Set an ROI target for your paid advertising.

Does your marketing plan help guide you on knowing if your paid advertising/promotion is working?

11. Set “key performance indicators.”

KPIs are the metrics that guide your entire organization against stated goals. You might choose to track ticket sales in dollars, or percentage of house sold, or percentage of renewing donors. Set your targets and make sure everyone knows them, this season.

12. Review your customer service standards.

Does everyone in your organization know how to treat patrons, on site and on the phone? Do you keep records of these interactions, and are those records available to everyone in all departments?

13. Survey your audience.

How do you know if your audience is satisfied? If you’re not using an applause meter, how do you measure audience satisfaction? There are plenty of free or inexpensive tools like SurveyMonkey to help you find out what your audience thinks of you.

14. Increase the use of video.

Start or update your YouTube channel and integrate video into your website, email, and social media. Conduct backstage interviews, or get testimonials from audience members, and post them! Video is your next great marketing tool.

15. Review your donor development plan.

What more can you do to make donors feel you appreciate them? Better service? More exclusive offers? Better parking?

16. Mine your database.

Do you know who attended a performance for the first time last season? Have you invited them back in a personal way? Do you know who your longtime patrons are? Do they know that you know who they are?

17. Improve your volunteer program.

Volunteers are often seen as free menial labor, but some volunteers can take on executive-level responsibility in order to boost their résumé or simply for the experience of working closely with an organization they admire. Find them!

18. Measure the happiness of your staff.

How fulfilled are those who work for (or with) you? Does your organization do annual reviews? How do you measure how motivated your employees are?

19. Clean up your data.

When was the last time your de-duplicated the names in your database? Do you have patron lists strewn across multiple systems? (Could a single CRM system help get your patron database organized?)

20. Collect patron information at your venue.

If someone pays cash at the box office and leaves without giving you a way to reach them again, you’ve forfeited the opportunity to market to them forever. Most people are willing to share their email address if you simply ask them for it nicely! Build this into your box office script.

21. Collaborate.

How effectively does your staff collaborate? Are there better ways for the box office to update development and vice versa? Are there other departments that should be talking with each other that aren’t? Can you save time by making it easier for people to work together?

22. Conduct a process review.

Why does your organization operate the way it does? Take some time to review processes in your organization that have been in place for years and ask, “Even though we’ve always done it this way… is there a better way?”

23. Plan which conferences you’ll attend.

There is no better way to improve what you are doing than getting inspired by ideas from your colleagues first-hand. There are so many arts industry conferences to choose from! Try to attend at least a few this year.

24. Optimize your time.

How do you plan how you spend your time? Is there a better way to organize your day? When was the last time you analyzed exactly how much time you spend each week doing various tasks? Record your time next week and see what you learn.

25. Double-check your passion.

How happy are you in your job? Most people in the arts have a strong drive for what they are doing. Is your enthusiasm still there? What can you do to double your excitement for your job? Triple it?

If any of these are useful to you, please comment below, or feel free to add to my list. Here’s to a great 2013/14 season!

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