Disappearing is one act your arts organization should avoid

“Out of sight is out of mind” as the old adage goes. This is especially true now, in our digital age where social media posts fly by and news cycles last minutes instead of days.

It is important to keep your organization in the minds of your patrons, even between your events, or between your seasons.  As soon as you stop communicating, even for a short period, it’s as if you vanished from the public sphere.  If you were to ask your patrons what your organization is up to a few weeks after your season has ended, what might they say?  Or what event or show is coming up next?  As media splashes onto the eyes and ears of the public constantly, it washes away things formerly seen or heard, even if the patron cares about the other details more.

So what do you do to keep your organization present in the zeitgeist of your community?

It’s really pretty simple.  You communicate, with fun and frequency.

Between projects or seasons, you need to have regular social media postings, blog posts, email newsletters and even press releases going out about what you are up to, how you are working toward the next project, and more.  How can you share insider information with your followers to excite them about things to come?  Consider doing a feature story or series of posts about the costume staff and their advance work on upcoming shows.  What about changes in your organization’s methods and procedures that patrons might find of interest?  Might some upcoming guest performers offer a blog post about their excitement and preparation for things to come?  Of course, coverage of special events and fundraisers is great content as well.  Include pictures and videos where possible, and keep it all coming.

For the most loyal and invested patrons, they will find plenty of detail and interest to dig into.  For those less attached but still wanting to know what’s coming up, they can scan the content or even just look at a well crafted subject or headline giving them enough to remember you’re still out there working on the next thing to entertain and enlighten them.

Bottom line,  your communication system needs to remain active and engaged with your digital community even if the rest of the company is taking some down time, or only working behind the scenes.  Don’t let your loyal patrons or community forget you.  Keep up the fun and anticipation of what’s coming next!

 

DID YOU KNOW? Automated emails should be branded and recognizable

When you send a brochure, letter, postcard, you’re certain to pay attention to the look of that item, ensuring that it is branded and recognizable at a glance as coming from your organization, representing your style and professionalism.

Email communications should be the same… even if sent from your automated systems.

The Arts People system sends out notices and reminders to patrons automatically, when they make a purchase or donation, schedule a reservation, when their membership is coming due for renewal, reminding them of their upcoming performance, and more.  These emails are important for good customer service and communication with your patrons. They instill confidence and build loyalty among your customers and ultimately can help you to build on relationships to step those patrons up the ladder from ticket buyer to subscriber to donor and more.

Of course, these emails only have these benefits if they look professional and solidify your brand in the recipient’s mind.

In Arts People, all of these emails are customizable, allowing you to tailor the language to your typical tone of voice, using terminology that your patrons are accustomed to, with your logo and styling to reflect your brand.  Easy to configure, or with assistance from our friendly Client Services staff, you can make great impressions with your patrons through all your communication, even automated confirmations and reminders.

To learn more about the Arts People system and how it can help your organization in many ways, CONTACT US, or visit our website for more details.

Up-sell gift and donation options at your holiday show

Strike while the iron is hot, as my mother used to say to me.  Take the opportunity when it presents itself!  We all know that the holiday time is when many performing arts organizations make their most ticket sales and donation transactions.  It’s the season of giving!  (…and shopping for giving, and donating, and stressing over the perfect gift.)

So how can we maximize our patron interactions to boost our holiday income opportunities AND also help them to reduce the stress of holiday gift giving.

Easy!

Take the opportunity while guests are at your venue, enjoying the holiday presentation, to sell them on some simple gift giving ideas via your organization, WHILE THEY ARE THERE!  If you send out an email reminder of their upcoming performance, mention in it that special gift offers will be available as well!  Here’s some ideas:

Create some holiday gift and donation opportunities that provide benefits and discounts:

  1. Create a holiday gift pass or package of shows that you offer to attendees at the theatre at an extra special discount, but ONLY if they buy it that night during intermission.
  2. Offer gift certificates.
  3. Offer a holiday donation option that provides some special incentives such as a pair of free wildcard tickets for any upcoming show of the season.  The patron can donate, support your organization, get an end of year tax write off, AND they get a pair of tickets for themselves or to use as a gift.
  4. Create stylish and fun t-shirts or other branded goods from your organization or that tie into your season to offer at special pricing if purchased that night.

With all the above opportunities, you want to emphasize how they can make the buyer’s life easier by getting some holiday shopping out of the way. Remind them how much fun they have at your performances and what could be better than giving that type of enjoyment to others.  Remind them how a donation at the end of the year helps support your organization and can be deducted off their upcoming taxes. And lastly, it’s critical to promote these things during your well presented curtain speech communicating that these special offers are available only if they do their transaction during intermission.  Have people waiting in the lobby to help the guests with their orders.

Have a great holiday season of sales and fundraising!


The Arts People system provides tools to easily setup and manage all the above efforts including full pass and package functionality, online pass and gift certificate redemption over multiple orders, donation tracking, membership details and automated discounts, even automated emailed ticket reminders that you can customize as you wish.  Contact us at sales@arts-people.com if you’d like more information or a free personal demo.

Your performances – gifts for your business partner’s employees

It’s the giving season again, and there’s another way your business partners and sponsor organizations can support you!

Gift Certificates, and gift passes!

Talk to those businesses and organizations who already support you and share with them a great way to provide a holiday bonus gift to their employees… the gift of an experience with their spouse or entire family.

The organization can purchase gift certificates in any amount they wish to give to each employee.  The employee can then use that amount toward any ticket purchase of their choice of show or event that you offer.

Passes can work similarly, if you have a pass that’s valid for the remaining shows of your season.  The organization can purchase them in any quantity to provide tickets to their choice of upcoming shows.

The financial purchase helps support your organization, AND it may result in more people discovering your organization to come back in the future as a loyal patron.  Once you have a number of organizations are on board, then you can promote it to other businesses that you’ve been hoping to connect with, telling them of other businesses that are taking advantage already.

The Arts People system offers both gift certificate and pass functionality where any unredeemed portion remains in the system to be used later. It makes it tremendously easy for the person to use and enjoy their gift.

The holidays are not just about giving, but also about support, encouragement, joy.  These gift options help to foster all three.  Give it a try!

Opening night banner

It’s opening night! Are you using it as the audience development opportunity it is?

I’ve worked with many performing arts organizations over the years and have helped them build their audiences through the strategic use of opening night, not as a money maker, but as an investment. This applies to those organizations who are running a show over at least a few weeks, as it will help build the audience of that run, and hopefully build your reputation within your greater community.

First, considering that opening night is when the critics are invited to attend, you want as many people in that audience as possible, and especially people who love your organization, who understand the niche and style of your work, and will be boisterous in their enjoyment of the show.

Second, for opening night you want a crowd that will enjoy the performance to such a degree that they will talk about it, to everyone they know, all over town.

Third, it’s great to utilize the exciting nature of opening night, when the audience tends to dress up, enjoy the show as part of a larger evening, indulge in wine, bring flowers and more, to also invite influencers to join in the festivities.  The mayor, business leaders in the area, other arts organizations leaders, key donors and others.  This is the night to make them feel special and to expose them to the most exciting evening at the theatre.

All these things point to the key aspect… Give them all a personal invitation, and tickets for FREE.  Play up the excitement and exclusivity of this event and in receiving an invitation.  Hone your opening night invitation list before each show.  This is a powerful tool for developing your audience and your organization within your community. It builds your brand and creates buzz.  Change up the list regularly.  You don’t want the receiving of an invitation to become old hat to anyone either.  Keep all those people on your marketing list, but any who have not attended after receiving 2 or more invitations should be removed from the invite list, and others should be rotated or giving individual consideration.  If someone does attend, and always is an advocate for you, then by all means keep inviting them!

Some organizations use the Arts People promo pass system to build their invite list, then send out an email en masse communicating their personal invitation and unique code that is valid for 2 tickets to opening night.  Seating is first come, first served.  The recipient then can follow a link in the email to that specific performance, select their seats and during checkout enter their special code to bring their total due to $0. They then finish off their order and print their tickets, making the RSVP process simple!

Whether you use this type of method or go for a more formal invitation process with phone RSVP, you want to make the guests feel very special, using your invite list as a very strategic tool.  Some companies will include all actors they have cast for the season as a way of honoring their work with you.  Pad your list with more people than the venue can hold, knowing that many on the list will not attend. You really want every seat filled for opening night.  This is what will help create the energy needed to propel your show forward with strong buzz in the community.

Obviously, make sure your show is of the highest quality.  Preview performances can happen before opening night (no critics until opening!) often at a discounted price, in order to help the cast and director polish the show and make any adjustments so that on opening you have a show that is outstanding.  Prepare a press packet for any critics that will be attending, with press release, playbill, high quality photos for their use, bios of the actors, even background on the creator of the play or featured material, etc.  Be as professional as possible in every aspect of the production, performance and presentation of the evening.  The board should be in attendance, dressed formally, with name tags, ready to schmooze the guests.  Staff should also be dressed and facilitating an exceptional evening at the theatre. Put your best foot forward in all aspects so that those attending experience a truly exceptional evening and performance.

Opening night is about a grand presentation of the new show to your audience and to your community.  Use that opportunity to wow the movers and shakers of your area and send them out to spread the word far and wide.  It will benefit you in added sales for that show, as well as build your audiences over time.

Patrick Spike – Marketing Director – Arts People
Board Member of PATA (Portland Area Theatre Alliance)
Former Audience Development Director and Board Member of Bag&Baggage Productions, among others.

 

 

 

online ticketing

Help your patrons discover the benefits of online ticket purchase

As our client organizations, who may not have had online ticketing in the past, now transition their organization and the patrons over to the wonderful world of online ticket capabilities, there can be a learning curve that you can help facilitate.

If your organization has not offered online ticketing in the past, or if your former system charged high fees or was confusing to use, it may take a bit of time and exposure for patrons who were not satisfied with that former system to now discover how simple your new Arts People system is to use, giving them the ability to buy online at any time, with a simple step by step process, and then print their tickets themselves, or put them on will-call to pick up at the theatre.  This learning and discovery process is one that you can assist them with in various ways.

In order to help them better understand the new capabilities you’re offering, and to encourage them to give it a try, here are some possible tips for you to consider:

  1. If you typically sell lots of tickets at the door the night of the show, make sure you have separate lines for those who are buying, and those who already printed their tickets at home, and those picking up at will-call.  Clear signs to guide them, and perhaps an usher to make sure those waiting in line know of the other lines, provides great customer service and will help buyers understand how advanced purchse online might have saved them from waiting in that long line.
  2. Buy tickets online now. Admit one. As with the above, put a large sign on an easel next to the line that says “Don’t want to wait in this line?  Next time buy easily and securely online at (website address).”
  3. Send out email blasts to your patrons as you start promoting your next production.  Remind them specifically of online ticket purchase, and consider offering a bit of a discount for online purchase only, maybe within a limited time frame, to encourage them to buy through that channel.
  4. If you’re used to charging fees for online ticket purchase, consider removing this.  With the Arts People system online purchase is more desirable and saves you staff time and gives you more sales predictions, knowing what your audience is looking like in advance.  Encourage your patrons to buy online. Some organizations actually charge a fee for phone or in-person transactions, since that’s where the staff time is involved.
  5. Make sure your voice menu system guides patrons to online buying options.  If you are offering a discount there, make sure that is clear as well.
  6. buy tickets nowEmphasize the online buying button options on your website.  Make sure that every page has a clear call to action to buy tickets online, with a button that is consistently placed and consistent in appearance.
  7. Emphasize online buying on your posters, postcards and brochures.  Use the same button graphic that appears on the website (above) so patrons can recognize it easily in all marketing materials especially during this transition period to better online purchasing capabilities.
  8. Post repeated reminders via your social media channels reminding patrons to purchase their tickets to the show, and use links to directly take them to online purchase of the show you’re promoting.  The more directly the link takes them to buying the better.  Don’t make them have to take extra steps when they don’t need to.
  9. When you talk to patrons who are not buying online, ask them what their reasons are for not doing so.  It could be they have a valid reason or choice for not doing so, or they may be unaware of the security of the system or the ease of Arts People that you may have transitioned to recently.

You’ll never get completely away from phone and in-person transactions, but the benefits of more ticketing being purchased online is clear, and you can actually communicate that to your patrons as well.  Let them know that you honor their choice to not buy online if they prefer, but that having sales done in advance saves your staff time, helps you to marketing better to help fill up less sold performances, to even plan for concessions supplies and volunteers, and more.  When they understand the reasons, they might be more willing to try it out as well.

Happy ticketing!

Patrick Spike – Marketing Director, Arts People

Added income and revenue - get creative

Generate extra income in creative ways

As a performing arts organization, we know that balancing income and expenses can be a tricky thing.  Generating income also generally must fall into methods in line with your non-profit published mission in order to avoid any scrutiny from the IRS and the public.  But there may just be ways to add a chunk of extra income to your bottom line using methods that are easily within reach.

For those considering the Arts People system for their ticketing, fundraising, marketing, database/CRM needs, the low costs of our system can often be offset by these means!

We’re creative people… let’s get to it!

Here’s some ideas:

  1. In selling your season package, have you considered that adding just an extra 25 or 50 package sales might bring in an extra $5000-10000 annually.  Get your board involved, encourage your patrons to help you promote the packages, hold an annual season announcement event with a super special discount for attendees and get it done!
  2. Add options for season packages.  If you currently sell a traditional subscription package, consider adding flex passes for more patron options and see how it increases your package sales.  You could possibly add an additional $2500-5000 through this method.
  3. The print at home ticket design of the Arts People system allows you to customize the layout.  Consider selling space on the ticket for a local business to print a coupon, or a sponsorship logo.  This can be done creatively on a show by show basis, or for the entire season for more money, or both!  Charge for that space and bring in an extra $2500-5000 or more annually.
  4. If you’re not booking sponsors of each production, you should.  Exclusive single sponsor, or a few sponsors together for each show could bring in $15000 a year.
  5. What about a sponsorship specifically for your online buying experience.  Sell an online season sponsorship and place the sponsor logo with a link to their business info on your Arts People customize-able public pages for an annual amount of $3000-4000.  “Online transactions brought to you by….”  Businesses love this type of exposure.  You could do smaller levels of this also by having individual sponsors of the different transaction types… tickets, donations, membership, retail, passes, subscriptions, class enrollment, etc. Each path in the Arts People system has system messages where sponsor info credit could be displayed. Additionally, the confirmation emails can also be customized with text and images!
  6. Make sure you’re asking ticket buyers online to add a donation.  The checkout screen has a customize-able area for a donation pitch. Use it!  Encourage ticket buyers to add a small donation to their ticket purchase and bring in an extra $1000-2000 a year.

The above methods, if all successful, total between$29000 and $41000 yearly.  Think that would help the bottom line?  Get creative with your options and see the bottom line come up!  This, along with added sales due to the easy to use online purchase process of the Arts People system, and you’ll find it can actually make you money, and be completely paid for in the process.

 

How does your area provide art to all?

The arts are sometimes criticized for catering only to the elite of our society, with admission prices and other costs far above the means of many members of the community.  How can arts organizations help to bridge this gap and provide access to those of low income, while also maintaining the income they need to budget for high quality work?

One common method is to provide specific performances that are “pay what you will.”  This can work well, allowing patrons attending those performances to pay the amount they are comfortable with.

Arts for AllBut here in the Portland, OR area, our Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) has coordinated another approach.  The “Arts for All” program enables those on low income to access performing arts at most any performance of any participating organization in the area very affordably.

Oregon Trail Card

Patrons who have an “Oregon Trail” card can show it at the box office of a participating organization and receive a ticket to the performance for only $5.  The Oregon Trail Card, or EBT card, is Oregon State’s method for providing food and other discounts to those in need. Details on the card can be found at: http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ASSISTANCE/FOOD-BENEFITS/Pages/Oregon-Trail-Card.aspx.

The RACC Arts For All program is detailed at https://racc.org/artsforall/.

How does your organization or area provide for those in need when it comes to performing arts programs?  If you don’t currently have a program such as Arts For All, how might you help develop something similar?

When we introduce the arts to under-served groups within our communities, we build a love of the arts, we may allow new people to discover a formerly unknown passion, and everyone wins.

Website design must have items

White paper: The Six Things Every Performing Arts Website Must Get Right

Your website is your online storefront, your business card, your billboard, your elevator speech and your siren song all in one.  It often is the first exposure a person will have to your organization. It must represent you clearly, efficiently and express your artistic intent and passion in a way that allows the visitor to align with you, or to move on if what you do is not for them.  It is critical that patrons can find the information they need quickly and easily, and are able to buy, donate or reach out to you without any difficulty.

In this white paper we’ll go into detail of the six primary elements that your organization’s website MUST get right, as well as other options that you might want to include, but not have compete with the top six.

Request a download link for this white paper:

Note that you will have 10 minutes to download your requested document from the email received.

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White paper written by 

Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts PeoplePatrick Spike is the Marketing Director, system expert, and one of the original architects of the Arts People software system, with over 30 years in performing arts creation and administration. His work with clients has helped them to increase their revenue while streamlining their box office and back office operations. www.patrickspike.com

Arts People, software for the performing arts, serves theatres, music and dance groups, choirs and opera, high school, college and university programs, performing arts center facilities and more.

 

Admit one - free tickets

Give away FREE tickets to high school students

A theatre I’ve worked with over the years built a very successful program that had clear benefits both for high school students, as well as for the theatre itself, by giving away tickets to the students… for FREE.

Called originally their “10 for 1” program, this is how it worked.

First, they would collect donations from individuals, businesses and granters to support the program.  For every $10 dollars donated, they would then give away a free ticket to a high school student in their area.

Usher with empty seatsIn their case, they were performing in venues that had plenty of seats, where they rarely sold out. So the seats they gave away for a given performance likely would have gone empty without the high school students occupying them.  With this in mind, this program would likely not work well for performing arts groups that do not have the extra inventory.

Obviously for the students, this was a wonderful offer, especially since the arts programs in their own schools had been cut back to the bone.  Their theatre programs were mostly extra curricular in nature, and the school did not have funding to bring theatre, English or humanities (or any) students to shows on field trip type of arrangements.

For a few years the theatre struggled to facilitate the students coming to the theatre.  They tried to work with the principals of the schools, with the school districts and even with the individual teachers.  They also tried advertising in the school newspapers, and tried placing posters on the grounds.  They even tried booking school buses on a weekend to bring the students from a meeting place at the school Each of those efforts proved mostly ineffectual, relied on overworked school personnel, or were taking too much manpower to be sustainable.  The board of directors discussed ideas and finally decided to try using social media to spread the word.  Instead of requiring a reservation, they communicated that students could just come to the theatre, show their active student ID, and get a ticket as long as seats were available.  The word spread via social media from student to student, parent to parent, was shared on the school pages and others, and it finally worked.  Students began taking advantage of program more and more, to the happiness of the theatre board and staff.

As for the funding, the donations that came in required really no special handling.  Again, since the inventory was readily available, the funding simply went into the general operating budget, helping the theatre to fund their season productions and everyone wins.

grantsThe program is imminently fund-able by granters and sponsors, since it falls under the category of arts education, and helps the schools with their clear desire to include the arts in the lives of their students.  They would do occasional asks of their patrons to contribute, would have businesses help underwrite the program, and grantors who favor arts education loved to help.  A paddle raise at their gala event also would add to the funding as well.  If they ever needed evidence of the effect of the program, they could call up the ticket counts in their Arts People system, flagged with a comp ticket code.

The theatre also prepared a study guide with accompanying teacher lesson plans in pdf form for those who might want to use them for a specific show. Unfortunately they found that in most cases the teachers didn’t have the budget to even photocopy them.  So for organizations who might want to try this type of program, you may need to take some of the funding that comes in to help the teachers with these.  In some cases the students were also given a coupon code on a flyer to take home to their patrons that would give them a discount off tickets to the show, creating some additional sales revenue, and possible new patrons for the theatre.

High school students, seeing outstanding theatre for free, gaining an appreciation of the art form, or encouraging their existing passion for it, and the theatre gaining much needed capital toward funding their season expenses.  The program has been a huge success!

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Patrick Spike - Marketing Director for Arts PeoplePatrick Spike is the Marketing Director, system expert, and one of the original architects of the Arts People software system, with over 30 years in performing arts creation and administration. His work with clients has helped them to increase their revenue while streamlining their box office and back office operations. www.patrickspike.com.   He is the former Audience Development Director for Bag&Baggage Productions, and is a current board member of PATA – The Portland Area Theatre Alliance.

Arts People, software for the performing arts, serves theatres, music and dance groups, choirs and opera, high school, college and university programs, performing arts center facilities and more.