E-marketing E-ssentials: 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.

If you’d like to learn more about PatronManager CRM, click here.

Learn More about PatronManager, the powerful CRM platform that helps you sell more tickets, raise more money, and cultivate stronger bonds with your audience, all in one database.

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