Expressing Value in Selling and Marketing the Performing Arts…

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A while back, I wrote a piece that has consistently been at the top of my most read list about the challenges facing the performing arts.

Which leads me to believe that a lot of these challenges are evergreen for many arts organizations.

So today, I wanted to share a few ideas about how you can better express the value of the arts when you are marketing and selling the performing arts.

Focus on the customer: 

This should be at the heart of all marketing and selling efforts because you have to scratch an itch for your customers…they don’t have to conform to you.

For too many of us, the challenge of customer-centric marketing and selling lies in not understanding what customers really want. In my mind, this leads to scary things like relying on reviews to generate buzz or only having a viable production if you have a star.

The thing is we aren’t our customers.

For many of us, seeing everything in town is just a way of life.

For our customers, that isn’t likely the case.

That’s why we start on value by thinking about our customers.

Do they look to be moved?

Are they looking to be entertained?

Is your show a great way to connect with the family? Entertain clients?

Whatever it is, you need to begin with the customer in mind.

Realize that you don’t have one audience, you have many:

I think that some of the worst marketing efforts happen because we feel like we are trying to hit one mass audience.

In the days before the internet and cable exploded us into fragmented audiences, focusing on the massive middle could work as an advertising strategy.

Heck, there were 3 stations and a finite number of choices…not so much any longer.

In today’s world, you have a lot of different audiences and each of them wants their fancy tickled and attention given to them.

That means that the big splashy advertising or marketing campaign might not work.

That means that one size fits most messaging isn’t going to work.

It means that you are going to have to spend a little more time focusing on who your buyer is.

In a recent podcast I did with Martin Gammeltoft, we talked about some of the ways that you can use Artificial Intelligence to understand your audience better and to make connections.

While I don’t know that everyone can use AI yet, I do think that the principals we discussed should be used by everyone by looking at your customers and their habits and building a better profile of them.

Focus on outcome, change, or experience: 

If you are only selling based on the hit impact of a show like Hamilton, you may get a short-term bounce.

I’m sure that these venues that are hooking people into subscriptions with the promise of being able to see Hamilton tickets feel good about how they have increased their subscription numbers.

But have they really increased them at all?

I’m not so sure.

Because you may have a short-term boost in subscribers that fall off a cliff the next season.

While you had this boost, you also might have taken your eye off the marketing and selling ball, so when the subscribers that bought to guarantee access to one show don’t renew…you are stuck with an even bigger hole and a reputation for manipulating audience when you have a really hot show.

Two bad things.

This is why you have to focus on the outcome, experience, change.

When I speak, I often talk about community.


Because the connection is vital and treasured more these days.

The connection and community you have in your building isn’t a commodity. You can’t be replaced easily.

The hot show, that’s different.

Because it is coming to your town, but its also coming to a bunch of other towns.

That’s why your marketing and selling needs to focus on the things you can control all the time. Things like the experience, the community, and the commitment to the best programing imaginable.

These are only 3 examples of value in marketing and selling the arts, but I think they are also the foundations.

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