Programmatic Marketing

Within The Cycle we identify aggressive marketing as a key organisational activity for every arts organisation. We then break marketing into two streams; the first being institutional marketing and the second being programmatic marketing. This post focuses upon the second stream.

Programmatic marketing is about informing your audience or potential audience about your artistic program.

That sounds simple. Let’s send out a brochure, showing all the shows and exhibits we well host this year and people will flock through the doors. Wrong. This way of looking at programmatic marketing is so flawed – yet time after time, organisation after organisation actually do just this.

When you are thinking about your programmatic marketing there are a number of questions you should ask. What are you selling? Who are you selling to? What price are you selling at? What marketing channel are you utilising? These questions are closely aligned with the classical marketing model – The 4 P’s – Product, Promotion, Price and Place.

The 4 P’s tends to imply that marketing is a simple, formulaic process. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you apply a cookie cutter approach to your marketing, if you assume all your audience is the same and if you believe all your audience can be found at the same place, then your marketing with fail.

There is no such thing as a single audience, just as there is no such thing as a single marketing channel. Even within the same product, there may be audience segments that demand a different marketing strategy.

Programmatic marketing is placed along a spectrum from informational to missionary. Informational marketing is used where your product is so well known that all you need to do is invite people to attend. If you are mounting an exhibition of Ben Quilty’s work you might use informational marketing. If you were presenting a theater production that is unknown you might use missionary marketing. At different places along that scale the message, price and channels used will be different, as will be the message content.

Look within your organisation. Are there times when your gallery is almost empty, is there a group of seats in your theater that never seem to fill? These may be indicators that you have not got your marketing strategy fully sorted.

Marketing is as much social science as it is business process. Our world changes daily. It has been changing constantly for many years prior to the current pandemic and it will continue to change constantly after we have a virus for the pandemic. Your marketing strategies must be flexible and able to adapt to a constantly changing world.

Marketing does not need to be expensive. While we look for financial indicators to show how much is being spent on marketing they serve only to act as a warning that a lack of marketing may be contributing to revenue issues. Some of the most effective marketing has been achieved on the smallest of budgets.

Look to trade on your differences! You need to stand out in a crowded market.

Who is responsible for marketing? Ultimately the Board and CEO are responsible. In small arts organisation’s marketing becomes a key – read critical – activity of the CEO or Director. There is very little reason to hire specialist marketing people or sub contract marketing. Obviously as an arts organisation grows it can become prudent to form a marketing team – however . . .

The CEO must maintain a significant overview of the marketing process. Daily if need be the CEO should be meeting with the marketing manager to examine and dissect the marketing strategy. They are a team.

The Board must never simply rubber stamp marketing plans. Be prepared to ask questions. Don’t just accept what is tabled. Ask why and how? Look to expose doubt, test assumptions and revise if there is confusion. That is your role as a board member.

Some will ask, though I don’t know why they would, why is marketing important. I would suggest to them it isn’t important, it’s critical. When you market your artistic program you are achieving much more than selling tickets (very important for revenue) you are also building your family of supporters, you are giving them something to talk about, stories to share and within that family of supporters are you future donors, ticket buyers, board members, store customers and volunteers.

I’m John Coxon, founder of art4u.australia, a consulting agency helping arts organisations to remain viable through application of The Cycle, a proven model for arts organisations. If you would like to talk about future marketing in your organisation email John.

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