Buckle up for a rant, (but also I hope this helps you).
I've been working in arts marketing for several years now, and yet have never taken a formal marketing class. My undergrad was in theatre and I always felt very self conscious or out of the loop for never being a "real marketer." When I had the opportunity to take a nonprofit marketing class for my graduate program, I was excited to learn something new and dive into a formal marketing class. Instead I am dealing with several classmates who spend most of the time trying to get specific consulting from the professor while the rest of us sit there.
I am about to lose my mind.
Mostly because they keep arguing with the professor.
I'm not the teacher, so I am not about to sit there and tell these people what they are missing (or that half these questions are answered in the textbook). Also if they want my help they can pay my consulting fee (not sorry). However, there are a few things I wish I could scream at the top of my lungs in the middle of class, that I instead will rant about here and hopefully help you learn a thing or two about nonprofit marketing.
The Goal of the Class:
Our final project is to take an already established nonprofit that has an event they need help marketing, and build a marketing plan for them. The class is all about building that marketing plan.
My project: I picked a theatre company that is producing a play that is really interesting to me. They brought me on board about a year ahead of time, which isn't something I normally get to do so far ahead of time. I really get to take my time creating a juicy marketing plan instead of a "we open in 3 weeks and have nothing posted on social media" marketing plan.
My goals: Create a marketing plan that could support a crowdfunding campaign and/or pre-sell tickets (financial stability). Reposition this play to have a different target audience than past shows that resonates better with the themes of the show and values of the organization (audience development).
Again, I admit I am already a pretty well versed theatre marketer, so I am pretty ahead on a lot of concepts. That's not what bothers me about the class. What bother's me is when my classmates refuse to sit, listen, and set realistic goals.
Another group picked a music festival that is apparently already world famous and their goal is to make it "bigger." More artists involved, more patrons attending, more donors. Their target audience is "everyone" because "everyone can benefit from this festival."
When I am working with nonprofits and artists, I hear this a lot. "I just want a bigger audience. I want more social media followers. We need more money."
HERE ARE MY ISSUES:
1) If the music festival is so well known and world famous, why do they need your help as a volunteer marketing student? And why has no one in this very diverse classroom EVER heard about it. Do not act like your organization is better than it really is, that's not to be mean, that's to be honest. Take it down a notch. Keep in mind there are still plenty of people in the world who have never heard of Hamilton. Are you better than Hamilton?
Also I have know spent several hours listening to these students talk about this music festival and I have yet to learn the purpose or mission. Who is it meant for? Who does it serve? Why does it exist? THESE ARE SIMPLE QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO ANSWER. EASILY. *hint: it's not "everyone" see #3*
2) What the hell does bigger mean? 100 patrons to 200? 10 artists to 20? $10,000 budget to $100,000? Give me real ideas here. And what would you do with "bigger"? Can your space and venue handle more people? Can you manage more artists? What would you do with a bigger budget, and how would that help your event? I shouldn't be the first person asking you these questions, because I won't be the last. Donors want to know where your money goes. Do you want 5 quality artists or 15 amateurs? Don't forget you can buy Instagram followers. Bigger does not always mean better. What do you actually want to accomplish? What does a successful event look like to you and how can a marketing plan help reach that goal?
3)My absolute (least) favorite: Everyone is our target audience.
NO. THEY. ARE. NOT.
That implies I am your target audience. I also have a twin sister. So she is also your target audience? Despite the fact that we are both millennial, white, cis-gendered, straight women from Southern California, from the same income bracket, I can guarantee we are not your same target audience. The demographics are the same. The people are not.
She doesn't like plays.
I don't like musicals.
She is a dog person.
I am a cat person.
The last concert she went to was Taylor Swift.
Mine was Warped Tour.
Which one of us is going to come to your show? It's probably not both.
"Everyone likes our art" no they fucking don't. That's just never going to be true. If it is, then it isn't art, so get out. Be brutally honest and know yourself as an organization. The theatre company I work with puts on weird plays by playwrights who aren't as mainstream, and that is who we are. Not everyone is going to like us. Not everyone liked our last play, and I promise not everyone is going to like the next one. I can still build a marketing plan around who will actually like our play, because those are the people that will probably buy tickets.
I will probably go on a whole separate rant about "we should do more popular shows." Because guess what - that won't solve your marketing issues either.
Stop begging people to like you, and start finding the people that already do like your art or organization. They exist, I know they do. But when you ignore them, or act like something you're not, they won't like you anymore.
And that's your intro to Michaela's Marketing Rant. Stay tuned. I have 8 more weeks of this class.