Why Data is Essential for Marketing Success in The Arts

Arts and marketing have a long relationship, but often are thought of as one serving the other: art for marketing—i.e., graphic design and advertisements. In a few weeks, Austin will be welcoming the National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference, and I am excited to explore the flip side of this dynamic: the marketing of the arts. Earlier this year I shared some of my thoughts on The Impact of Technology on Museums, and now I will look at things on a larger scale: data and the arts, and how it impacts marketing.

Last year, the American Alliance of Museums 2015 Trendswatch observed that museums need “to generate enough mass of data to detect patterns.” In fact, this is the case for all arts organizations. With the rise of social media, there are more ways to reach your constituents than ever before, but it also means there is more data available than ever before. The more data that your organization can collect and access, the better your organization can understand and meet your community’s needs and interests – and how to better target your marketing efforts. 

Download our guide to 10 specific ways to use data to increase conversions

So what data should I use?

This is today’s “million dollar question” for marketers. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, there are a few key things you can do.

  1. Use the data available to find out what channels your constituents are on and market to them there. Do you have a large Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter following, or is email where you have the most information? Arts organizations working with Umbel have found that their multi-touch multi-channel campaigns have higher conversion rates. Campaigns targeting those on Facebook as well as through direct mail meet constituents where they are.
  2. In addition, it is likely that you also have data available that’s not being used. Think about insights you can gain from that data.  For example, ticket purchase history is a great data source for targeting upcoming performances, new exhibits, or events. By looking at this, you can make that data actionable, and target marketing efforts based on past ticket type, the day of the week, or the topic of the event.

What types of data should we be looking at?

Demographic, brand, and social data are essential data points to gather in order to effectively target marketing efforts. Constituents today are busy, overloaded with information, and want personalized content. By targeting your marketing materials to a subset of your constituents that have indicated (with data) interest, you will see higher conversions. For example, say your organization is going to have a performance that’s geared toward families. By having demographic information about who in your database has kids, or has indicated they have brand affinities for children’s programming, you can send those people a direct mail piece and serve them a Facebook ad. By not sending the ads to everyone online, you save your team money, and you’ll see higher conversions since these constituents have given you the signals of their interests.

But how do I organize the data?

A great way to think through how your data should be structured is by looking at what data is available to you, how it is structured, and how people interact with your organization. It is also important to look at who in your organization uses data and who has the bandwidth to start analyzing and acting on insights gained. A data solution might be a worthy investment if bandwidth is already tapped. Yet, just because someone in your organization says “we need a data solution” does not mean you go and buy or build the first solution to come across your desk. It is important to evaluate how you are going to use the data, what data you already have, and where there are gaps in your data. You also need to think about how all those answers affect your job, your department and your organization. You might be surprised during the evaluation process to find that there were things you are doing with data that were unnecessary.

Always be evaluating.

If you’re like most people, time is limited and the day-to-day tasks make looking ahead difficult. This makes evaluation essential to ensure that your data, the system, and your organization is always one step ahead of your constituents’ needs. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and use the data you have available. If you think there are gaps or needs, data can help define and confirm what you’re seeing. Not every organization is going to approach data the same way, but every organization should use data to improve their marketing efforts and constituents’ experiences.