A look at some of the blogs and social media sites connected to arts and visitor attractions will reveal the many challenges they face in 2012. The fears over the Euro, the overall weakness of the economy and the continuing fall in consumer spending are all areas of concern. Add the fact that the European Tour Operators Association is forecasting a downturn during the periods just before and just after the 2012 Games and many venues are justifiably a bit nervous.

Instead of adding our thruppence worth to the 2012 doom-mongering, we thought it might be a good idea to do an article focusing on a positive; an area where all visitor attractions can make changes to improve their lot. So what are the challenges and how best can they be tackled to produce long-term, sustainable results?

We spoke to a number of different arts and visitor attraction industry experts to get their insights on the coming year. The following challenges were identified:

  • Funding cuts and financial support
  • Engaging new audiences
  • Promoting little-known shows
  • Encouraging customers to complete the sales funnel

Giles Conisbee, Head of Sales & Marketing at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, said; "the main challenges for PFT are like many arts organisations across the UK, in that we have been adversely affected by unprecedented funding cuts. We have to do more with less."

Our advice is to focus on the holy trinity of marketing:

  • Engagement
  • Acquisition
  • Loyalty

Your web presence has to support the buying process, efficiently reaching your relevant target audience with your core message, attracting them to engage with your organisation, listening to their needs, encouraging them to purchase, and ultimately, helping them to build a relationship with your organisation.

Search engine optimisation and an efficient digital marketing strategy will maximise the performance of your website and make sure that your target audience find you when they need you. Following our top ten digital marketing tips is a great initial step to creating relevant, targeted and successful online marketing communications, which will help you to publicise new shows and events without breaking the bank.

However, you cannot always rely on customers to seek you out, and so it is imperative that you target new customers and promote your offering across the board. Email marketing campaigns can be a highly efficient and cost-effective means of engaging your audience and bringing traffic to your website, as well as maintaining communication and building rapport. A recent Marketing GAP Report found that 51% of consumers rate email as their preferred means of contact from companies. Whilst a 2008 Keynote report estimates the costs of sending opt-in emails to be as little as 1p per email, compared with the significantly more expensive option of direct mail which averages £1, or telemarketing that averages at £1.50. Therefore, in an increasingly price-sensitive economy, email campaigns are the obvious marketing communications choice for arts organisations.

Once you have attracted your target audience to your website you need to find ways to engage their attention and encourage ongoing interaction. Several factors will be key to your success here, including the appearance and structure of your website, the relevance and quality of your content, and the opportunities available for interaction. Developing a social media strategy that mirrors your on and offline business objectives will optimise your success rate and create opportunities for feedback and two-way dialogue with your customer base.

Research shows that on average only 57% of online customers complete the sales funnel for ticket transactions on arts websites in the UK. Organisations must address this by targeting basket abandoners and enhancing the purchase process from start to finish. Ensuring that your website and ticketing system are effectively integrated is the best starting point to create a seamless shopping experience online and facilitate customers through the sales funnel.

Finally, use the channels available to you through your website and social media channels to address customer dissatisfaction and problems, or to promote positive feedback. Your customer base are your biggest brand ambassadors and so nurturing their relationship with you is key to future loyalty, and thus, to success.

 

References:
Insight Live (2011) Email vs. Direct Mail, Insight Data, Available at: http://www.insightlive.co.uk/index.php/tag/marketing-gap-report/http://www.insightlive.co.uk/index.php/tag/marketing-gap-report/
Keynote (2008) Internet Advertising, Market Assessment 2008, Available at: http://www.keynote.co.uk