Facebook fans, e-mail subscribers, Twitter followers, individuals on-site – however you collect data on your supporters, I’m here to tell you it just might not be enough.
You can be great in collecting, but unless you are extraordinary in connecting, all of that effort in content generation and engagement strategy is of little effect in moving your organization forward.
So what makes for excellent examples in connecting?
Unlike most nonprofits, the arts have the unique advantage of being engaging and entertaining from the very beginning. Telling our story is much easier than most because our art form, whether music, dance, theater or visual is about captivating an audience and creating emotional responses. To be able to capture this resonance in your marketing efforts at the same level as the visceral reaction your art from is the challenge of the professional marketist.
Hearing that amazing aria, or to be spellbound by the emotional performance is that point of differentiation that separates ourselves from the retailer or consumer product company. The companies work incredibly hard and put considerable resources behind their marketing campaigns to reach only a small degree impact that virtually all of our performances have.
Why else would you see so many of the very best marketing orgs try to use music and the arts to engage with their customer base? No-one can argue the emotional importance that music has on most people. By tapping into that psychological response, effective marketers are transferring the emotional appeal of the song to their product, and voila, sales will follow.
So how can those of us in the arts who are responsible for making that connection in the first place be able to use this same marketing technique, and do it effectively?
While our financial resources may be limited, our creativity certainly is not. We are so very fortunate to have tremendous talent at our fingertips to develop the meaningful connections necessary to continue on with our work. A single mindedness desire to entertain is needed in these days when the latest fad lasts three days and engagement extends only as long as the latest YouTube video.
On the other hand, connection alone is not enough to drive the support we need to grow and flourish. And even once we are able to generate the spark of a connection from our followers, it takes a tremendous amount of work to grow that connection to the level where financial, in-kind or volunteer support will follow.
Many ask, what would happen if your organization ceased to exist? All too often the answer is the world would simply continue revolving, a little less colorful or musical because of the loss, but continue on rather unaffected.
Our job is to make sure that never happens. Through our gifts as marketists, we are the ones responsible for using all of the assets at our fingertips to make
Too many times I’ve seen people give up too soon into an advertising or fundraising campaign, thoroughly convinced there’s no way it will work. Is this because the data is wrong? In some cases perhaps that is true. But in most circumstances it’s because the proper amount of time was not devoted to cultivating the relationship to the depth necessary for meaningful and reciprocal engagement.
Once you begin to look at your followers as dollar signs, you’ve taken the first step towards becoming ineffective in your marketing. Every day you must work with the zeal necessary to spread the gospel of your work to those who want to enjoy and engage in the offerings of your programming. Never, ever lose sight of this as your ultimate gift to the community.
Your role in bringing the audience to the art is just as valuable as bringing art to the audience.