Customer Retention is Broken. Here's How to Fix It.

Content sponsored by Spektrix.

If I told you you’d lose 68% of your customers next year, you’d probably be a bit worried, right?

The recent Spektrix Benchmark Report highlights a concerning issue for the arts: we’re just not doing well at retaining our customers. And not much has changed since we last did this report in 2014 where the retention rate was 31%.

On average arts organizations retain just 32% of their customers in the year following a visit (year two), and just 27% in year three. 

This means you will probably lose around 68% of this year’s customers. That’s a lot of people. Let’s say you have 30,000 customers a year, that’s 20,400 customers. Ouch.

But, the step change in the number of customers you retain in year three is evidence of the value of customer retention. If you can get your customers to come back in year two, you’ll only lose a further 5% of them in year three.

How do the arts compare to other industries?

The arts are doing a little better than some industries, such as clothing who retain 24% but worse than the health and drug supplements industry who retain 44% of their customers.

But some companies are achieving great retention rates. Apple retained 92% of iPhone customers in 2017 while Amazon Prime keep 96% of their customers.

What are the benefits of increasing retention?

It’s around five times more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to retain customers. If we think about the resources we need to invest in getting in a new customer, such as expensive advertising, compared with the cost of emailing a customer who has already visited you once, it’s clear to see the return on investment is much greater when retaining customers.

For arts organizations, this means building a core audience who are loyal, will take risks with you and in general are easier to sell to. These customers are also more likely to support your organization with donations.

So why do the arts struggle?

In recent years there’s been a growing need to increase audiences. With the average age of audiences getting older, many organizations are focusing on getting in new audiences from all walks of life. And while this is valuable and necessary, we’re ignoring our existing customers in the process.

What are some examples of good retention strategy?

Okay, so you don’t have a budget like Apple or Amazon but you can steal the guiding principles behind their strategies and apply them to your own efforts.

Case study: Apple

Let’s look at Apple. They release a new iPhone pretty much every year at the same time. When they released the iPhone 6 in September 2015, it’s likely that they already had the iPhone 7 ready to go. Apple carefully manages the timing of their new product releases because they know that releasing a new phone every month won’t keep retention rates up. On the other hand, releasing a new phone every year is in tune with when customers naturally start thinking about getting a new gadget. A parallel in the arts is the way that you manage your programming. If you program the two most anticipated events of the year back to back, how will you get a customer to come back in 12 months? Wouldn’t it be better to have a great excuse to get your first-time buyers back around six months after their first visit?

Case study: Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime does two things:

  • they offer benefits members want;
  • they make it easy to stay a member with auto-renewable membership.

Neither of these are expensive to offer and they keep their customers engaged. In arts organizations, it’s easy to monitor the uptake of member benefits so you can make sure members are getting the benefits they want. You can also offer auto-renewable membership with significantly increased retention rates.

Three Things You Can Do Right Now

As well as using inspiration from the above, there are a few more things you can do to increase your retention rates.

1. Make that first visit really great

Everything leading up to a customer’s first visit has to be great: from buying a ticket, to finding out all the information about their visit, to getting from the front door to their seat. Their experience has to be positive and everyone in your organization contributes to this.

Firstly, staff have to be friendly and approachable. If you can flag first-time buyers to front of house staff, do it and make sure staff know how to greet these customers.

Cut the line wherever possible—whether it’s lines in the parking lot, at the box office, for the bathroom, or at the bar. Offering print at home tickets, advance dining options and plenty of information on when to arrive can mean your customers go from standing around and getting frustrated right before the show, to having a great evening even before the curtain’s up.

2. Pay attention to the morning after the night before

So, your customer has had a brilliant evening and you have permission to email them. What could be better timing than getting in touch the next morning, just as they’re raving to their work colleagues about the great night they had last night?

Capitalize on the post-show high by inviting first time buyers back with an incentive. Something as simple as 10% off tickets or a free drink is a great way to drive them back to your website and start thinking about their next purchase.

3. Always make one last attempt

With all the best strategies in the world, some customers might not come back, and that’s okay. But before you give up, send lapsed customers one last amazing offer, and make it really special such as $5 tickets, access to a sold-out show, or a free meal. Not all of them will bite, but the ones who do are much more likely to come back again.

What retention strategies have you tried that have worked? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Arts and Cultural Solidarity

This post is part of our Marketing Equity and Content blog salon.

Art Should Love. I’m sure that wasn’t what you were expecting to read.

In the wake of last year’s presidential election results, no matter who you voted for, there emerged feelings and concerns coming up from dark places inside. Anxiety. Mourning. Real fear. Fear of the Unknown. There were acts of hatred perpetrated upon people of color in towns both large and small.

But yearning for peace is a nonpartisan act.

Art and making is a shared language. Using our hands, eyes, lips—creating art can be tactile and grounding. For many artists, making art is a coping mechanism to find inner calm and some kind of understanding about a confusing, chaotic world. When great works of art are described, qualities often include those of Peace and Beauty. These same feelings are often experienced by artists when they create.

So how might art heal our world? How might the artist become the healer?

We at Perry County Council of the Arts (PCCA) are grateful to have the privilege of seeing this happen in seven counties in central Pennsylvania. Our Arts in Education program administered through our partnership with Pennsylvania Council on the Arts help us execute our mission—connecting our rural community through the arts. In these residency art programs, whether students are elementary-aged or seniors, whether students work together on a mural or work toward a culminating event, these are all experiences of people coming together in community for a bigger purpose that we all might enjoy. As we work, we recognize our similarities, understand our differences, and build something wonderful, together. Ordinarily quiet students open up to each other, friendships are formed, and students with learning disabilities find strong worth and feel valued as part of the team. I’ve seen seriously conflicted community members come together to celebrate a mural, helping build bridges across relationships strained for years.

Art class for many students is a quiet respite, a cathedral of sorts during confused, unsettling times with conflicted emotions regarding peer groups and families. This classroom becomes a place of peace and solace. In this place, we remember our higher purpose, to contribute toward our community and our world. We remember that divisions are superficial, whether they are mental constructs or skin color. It’s what’s inside that’s real, that matters. It’s what we share with others that counts.

Our PCCA Gallery sells the work of over 150 of our member artists of every discipline throughout central Pennsylvania. However, the story I’m going to share is about art that you can’t buy in our gallery. This art is a symbolic manifestation of love, and helps the beholder, and the holder, meditate on their place in our world, and so it’s getting my attention.

The creator is potter Robin Wheeler, one of our PCCA member artists and co-owner of Wheel of Light Studio with her husband, photographer James Wheeler. All pottery is tactile, a part of the earth that we all are connected to, a grounding experience to grasp, a joy to the eye to behold.

Wheeler’s Solidarity Cup helps spread more peace and love in our world. Paraphrasing from their website, the cup’s roundedness is meant to represent the mothers’ womb from which we all grew. The cup has no handle, to allow a universal grip from all directions, by all hands. Its black band is meant to represent an armband, to remind us to mourn those lost to the fight for freedom and equality. This band is not glazed, so that we can stay in touch with our inner clay and be mindful of our inner darkness. The cup is lined in yellow, the color of soft sunlight, to remind us that we all carry a light within us, the Divine Light, and it is our duty and privilege to spill that light out and share it with others. The body of the cup comes in many colors, just like our fellow human beings. Best yet, a quarter of every sale is donated to a local non-profit supporting education in diversity and social justice reform.

Remembering that for many, Art is their church and holy place, we might all take a page from Wheeler’s book and share the lifesaving message … of Art—and create for the benefit of mankind.

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Questions to Begin a Conversation about (Re)Designing Your Organization for Equity

This post is part of our Marketing Equity and Content blog salon.

As we approach the upcoming National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Memphis, I’m excited to enter a new conversation about the possibilities for our sector that can be unlocked by embracing a designer’s mentality (Design Thinking Boot Camp preconference). Indeed, we must first understand—and continually learn—about the people we are not currently engaging if we are to develop a shared organizational strategy that results in the creation of meaningful programs. Designers understand that how we frame a challenge often determines what solutions we deliver, and it is my hope that we can embrace the critical need to diversify our audiences, our leadership, and our organizations as an opportunity to center the arts in every American community.

The following is a list of questions about the language, culture, design, and learning that I believe could lead us to spark important conversations within our organizations that lead to positive change in our work as we seek to shape a more equitable field for our future. By no means is this list all-inclusive or conclusive. In the spirit of partnership, I invite you to join me by sharing your own thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

Questions About Language

1. At what reading level must a visitor be competent in order to understand and appreciate printed programs, web pages, labels, or other public-facing text?
2. What are the most common languages that the people in your community speak, and in what languages must a visitor achieve fluency in order to fully participate or appreciate an experience at your facility?
3. Does your organization have a common practice and expectation that its staff, board, artists, and collaborators will ask for and use an individual’s pronouns?
4. How does your organization hold its staff, board, artists, and collaborators accountable in using trans-positive and culturally-respectful terminology?
5. Does your organization have a representative fluent in American Sign Language, or has it identified solutions to better communicate with a person who is deaf or a person who has a speech impairment?
6. What possibilities exist for your programs if language were not a barrier between your artists and audiences?

Questions About Culture

7. Does your organization have a common definition of cultural equity?
8. Would you still invest in the work of reshaping your organization for equitable outcomes even if it did not produce short-term financial gains (e.g. higher ticket sales in the current season)?
9. Are you looking to build a more diverse audience that might excite new conversations and visions for your organization, or are you seeking new faces to join and behave like your existing audience?
10. Does your organization have methods of evaluating its efforts to become more inclusive and equitable? Do they include qualitative and quantitative benchmarks?
11. Among those who have never visited your facility or attended your programs: how much do they believe is the cost to attend, visit, or participate? How do you know?
12. How do historically-marginalized groups feel about your organization? How do you know?
13. What questions are visitors most frequently asked by those who work for your organization?
14. Are historically marginalized groups represented in your organization’s primary artistic programming?
15. How does your organization ensure that women and people of color are being considered for leadership opportunities?

Questions About Learning

16. If a member of your community were to share a concern or complaint that involved a micro-aggression or offense, does your organization report back to that guest to share how the incident was mediated and what course of action will be taken in the future? Is this process outlined in a way that is easily found and accessible to the public?
17. Are representatives of your organization encouraged or expected to take part in diversity training and educational opportunities, even if they take place during regular office hours?
18. How is audience and public feedback shared and considered by staff and volunteers of your organization?
19. Does your organization provide recommended reading lists or suggested field trips for its staff, board, and collaborators? How often is it updated?
20. How often does your organization provide workshops or invite guest speakers to provide training on inequity?
21. Does your organization embrace growth in a linear/ending or cyclical/continual fashion?

Questions About Design

22. Have you ever navigated your facility (including restrooms) using a wheelchair?
23. Was your facility ever segregated?
24. Do your restrooms feature trans-positive signage that encourages guests to use the restroom that they feel best aligns with their gender identity or expression?
25. Where are the nearest public transportation stops to your facility?
26. Does your organization have wayfinding tools that guide visitors from public transportation stops to your facility?
27. Does your organization provide wayfinding information to your facility for multiple means of transportation (e.g. visitors traveling by car, by train, by bike)?
28. If historically marginalized groups are represented in your primary artistic programs, are they also represented in your marketing materials?
29. Could anyone at your organization create a document that reflects your organization’s branding principles or style guide? How do you know?
30. How does your organization frame its values and principles when working with third-party or independent designers?
31. Who is invited to provide feedback on design (e.g. season brochures or facility maps)?
32. From its entrances, does your facility face certain neighborhoods and not others?
33. In what meaningful ways can a visitor participate in your artistic programs?

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Please, Do Your Own Facebook Advertising

This post is part of our Marketing Equity and Content blog salon.

I make a decent amount of my living when advertisers do not follow the advice offered in the title of this blog post. And certainly many advertisers—some even in the arts space—have compelling reasons to contract with individual experts or agencies to make the most of their social media advertising spend. This is especially true when part of a large programmatic advertising campaign. But seriously, take my advice.

[By the way, if the title didn’t give it away, this post is mostly about Facebook and, more generally, where it lands within a broader programmatic advertising space. If any NAMP conference attendees have a compelling and scalable paid advertising success story on another social media platform, please share!]

Facebook continues to make a variety of changes to how it incentivizes advertisers and advertising agencies to spend on their platform. Remember when video was super-cheap (like, almost free) to distribute? Remember when FBX launched, then was long-rumored to be killed, then eventually died just last fall? Remember when Facebook essentially didn’t have mobile ads? That wasn’t long ago; if you took a long vacation or simply stopped paying attention to how you or your social media contractors did things on the platform, you’d barely recognize how campaigns are optimized now versus just a year ago. Take your Facebook spend off auto-pilot and don’t sign any long agreements as to how you will be spending your money on the platform, as it always changes. And, those responsible for your social media spends should be communicating with you about these changes.

Facebook’s changes—many from just the last year—suggest a general direction towards offering incentive for DIY advertising: meaning ads that you or representatives of your organization place directly through the platform. Evidence of this direction can be divined through Facebook’s notoriously secretive algorithm changes and with the FBX shutdown in November of last year. And more concrete evidence is increasingly visible: the launch of intuitive (meaning for untrained, everyday folks like you and me) tools to create compelling ad content, the easy process to create a custom and lookalike audience, and the ability to select from a variety of ads to optimize towards particular goals like clicks, conversions (admittedly, this remains a challenge for many in the space—most are optimizing for clicks and hoping for the best), lead generation, event RSVPs, engagement, etc.

Looking for more compelling evidence than what’s just in the Facebook Ad Manager? Perhaps most importantly, these steps align with Mark Zuckerberg’s general and stated goal to make Facebook more like the churches and social clubs of yesteryear; those don’t work too well if a bunch of professional advertisers pack the pews. Plus, you can jettison “authenticity” (a valuable asset in a social media campaign) when you get a bunch of marketers involved. Lastly, this DIY leaning is aligned with the Internet in general—putting weight on the decentralized but hyper-networked power of the individual.

What does this mean for you? Well, first it means you have no more excuses—especially at NAMP where most of the people around you can help, know someone who can, or can look up your question on Google or Facebook’s support center. Anyone who can send an email, shop on Amazon, or navigate around a basic spreadsheet can learn Facebook advertising basics by launching a campaign in under an hour. And then, of course, optimize from there.

Secondly, once you’ve started advertising on Facebook, you should see what I generally see: your first $500 or even $1000 of a campaign (not just your social spend allocation—your whole advertising campaign) typically sees the highest ROI on that platform. The only thing I’ve seen return better ROI is subscription/membership renewal through direct mail. And with custom audiences, you could even cut down on the direct mail costs for that by advertising on the platform! Assuming you’re targeting the right audience, at the right time and with the right event, the cost per impression to reach this “low hanging fruit” audience is so low (relative to direct mail or other channels) that returns on your spend look fantastic.

That leads to my third point: the returns on this kind of advertising are SO good that it’s no wonder agencies and consultants take credit for this spend when really anyone in arts marketing can do it for you—or, better yet, you can do it yourself—at a very low cost. We aren’t being evil or anything … we, like most humans, are susceptible to a more elevated opinion of ourselves. This probably explains why we got into marketing in the first place!

That leads to my fourth point—a BIG caveat: There is value in getting help. Sometimes that comes in working with consultants that help increase the capacity of your internal staff so social media learnings can be internalized by an organization. Also, as your spend on Facebook specifically approaches five-figures on a campaign, there are some efficiencies and synergies with other elements of a specific programmatic campaign that, again, would make me disregard my own general advice.

So, how would I spend your $500 on Facebook? I’d buy each of us a cup of coffee, ask you to log into your Facebook account, and spend 15 minutes talking you through how to spend your remaining $494.

Joseph will be presenting on “Maximizing This Year’s Social Media Stream with the Right Content” at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Memphis, Tennessee. Be sure not to miss his presentation on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 11:00 a.m.

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A Perspective on Accessibility

This post is part of our Marketing Equity and Content blog salon.

I’ve worked in the “accessibility field” for many years. When I thought about writing a blog for the National Arts Marketing Project, a topic of “3 ways to look at accessibility” was offered up. That made me start to think—how do I look at accessibility? I provide accessibility, so I don’t often think about what accessibility means to me. Which, of course, led me to other thoughts not only about accessibility but disability, diversity, and inclusion on a larger scale. Since those ideas are way too grand for a short blog post, I thought I’d use this opportunity as a starting point to a much larger and deeper conversation—hopefully at the NAMP Conference in Memphis? I’d like to throw out some ideas I’ve been kicking around that will hopefully get the field thinking about diversity and disability and how this can be part of a larger discussion on diversity—we might all start to think and approach diversity in a different way, and then who knows!

A little about me—my field is not arts marketing per se. By trade, I’m a sign language interpreter and have worked as an administrator in the “deafness” field for more than 30 years. I’m also an arts service provider, running a small nonprofit organization, Hands On, which provides accessibility services to theaters, primarily through sign interpreted performances for deaf audiences in New York City. Oh, and I’m disabled.

I’ve long held that audiences with disabilities, including deaf audiences, would benefit from being considered from a marketing perspective—to understand disability from a multi-cultural standpoint, rather than a strictly legal requirement/service perspective. For most of us, when we think about accessibility, we think about what we do that a disabled person can’t do—we think about the barriers that exist to prevent a disabled person from getting in, from understanding—whether by not hearing or not seeing but generally not being able to “access” what we offer. From there we think about how to accommodate, how to adjust or adapt what we do to allow a disabled person in.

I wanted to start this conversation this way to allow for some reflection and intentional thought into how we think about disability and accessibility. We think about disabled people and inclusion because we’ve created structures and programs that don’t allow for everyone’s inclusion.

We’ve all seen the marketing field take the view that this work is more than just trying to put more “butts in seats.” We’re now looking at audience engagement—the audience experience as a large part of what we need to examine. But I haven’t seen those ideas and this approach necessarily transfer to the area of disability. For disability, I think we’re still relegated to looking at programming and the issues of accessibility often at the expense of trying to achieve a greater understanding of the individual and the community we serve. With all the conversations about diversity and inclusion, disability is often forgotten. For other constituencies, we look at the community, we look at the experiences—but do we really think about people with disabilities beyond the accommodations we must provide?

We think about providing an equivalent experience—but is any experience the same for any two people, and why should it be? We’re all different. We bring our backgrounds, our histories, our experiences to everything we do—and we want that difference, that diverse perspective—so why not that from disabled people?

I hope I’ve given you pause to think—or rethink—how we approach disability, diversity, and accessibility. I know that the more I consider these issues, I’m thinking differently as well.

We in the disability community need allies—we need people to keep us in the conversation about new audiences. We need to work together. I offer these ideas to get the conversations started. 

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Engaging a Mid-Size Community with Digital Content

This post is part of our Marketing Equity and Content blog salon.

When you work for a non-profit arts organization outside of a metropolitan area, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that what works for the big organizations won’t work for you. Big city arts orgs have more access to funding, bigger populations to draw from, and the capacity to put on shows and exhibits for which your local audience is willing to travel. It’s easy to feel “small,” even when you know your mission is BIG.

For five years, I have been employed at the Renaissance Performing Arts Association in Mansfield, Ohio. In the heart of the Rust Belt, Mansfield and its surrounding areas have a population of nearly 124,000. It is still recovering from the recession and the exodus of industry, and is in the center of the opioid crisis going on in our country. Mansfield itself is considered a city, but its population is at once urban, rural, and suburban. The cost of living in our region is among the lowest in the country, which is great for artists, but is also representative of the local economy. It’s best known for being the filming location of “The Shawshank Redemption,” which premiered at our theatre.

Like many arts orgs, the Renaissance’s marketing budget is limited, challenging me as Director of Marketing to strategize ways to build meaningful relationships with our audience, while having very limited funds to support our endeavors. We’ve been lucky to have incredible support from our local media, but we’ve noticed that all of our traditional advertising is only as good as the amount of press coverage we can get. The day the local newspaper publishes an article on one of our shows is the day we see a spike in sales, without fail.

Too many times, we’ve wished for more coverage, better coverage, stories on side-projects and interesting elements happening behind the scenes. As many local papers succumb to editorial limits imposed by the corporations that own them, these types of unique yet atypical stories can be hard to pitch to our local reporters. So, we decided last year to take control of our content, using the resources we already had internally.

We started a bi-weekly podcast and a weekly blog in November 2016, mostly as an experiment. I grabbed our tech staff and had them set me up with a makeshift recording studio and installed Audacity on my laptop; we already owned the hardware just because we’re a theatre. We purchased a subscription to Podbean, and we added the blog to our website. Then, I created a list of people that I wish everyone could talk to, and I started asking them the questions that I thought everyone would ask.

I was way, way outside of my comfort zone with the podcast—the written word is definitely more my wheelhouse. But, I love to listen to podcasts, so I just emulated the style of a few of my favorites and edited out my less-than-awesome-sounding moments. Our tech director showed me what he would do to master the audio, and that’s what I did, and before you know it, we had a decent-sounding podcast …  and people were listening.

Last December, I was curious who really was listening, so I experimented. We had only a few episodes released by that point, and we decided to make a very big announcement about a building restoration project we were undertaking: the announcement would be made first on the podcast, and a week later on the blog. I intended to follow those up with a news release, but in a day I had reporters calling and sending me email about the story saying, “I listened to your podcast and we want to cover this. When can we do an interview and take a tour?”

I was flabbergasted. This inexpensive experiment was actually working, and it wasn’t just reporters listening. To date, our small town has downloaded our podcast over 5,000 times since its inception less than a year ago, and the visits to our website have doubled thanks to our blog. But, far beyond that, our reputation is soaring—our citizens know what’s happening here, stopping me everywhere I go to talk about recent episodes, interesting interviews, and off-the-beaten-path stories we’ve been able to tell through these new media opportunities.

With our podcast, we’ve been able to showcase our actors and musicians, student performers, directors, educators, major funders, community figures, and our staff in the past year. It’s like having the best brochure, ever, and it takes a minimal amount of time to record, edit, and post. Above all, it’s so much fun—some of my favorite days in the office are podcast recording days, because you simply can’t be in an intentional conversation with someone without loving them a little more at the end.

Our digital content has given us control of our story by extending the impact of our traditional advertising and drawing people into our organization with every new post. It is engaging our community in exciting new ways each day, and I encourage you to give it a chance, too.

Colleen will be presenting on “Using Your Art to Make a Splash in the Digital Space” at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Memphis, Tennessee. Be sure not to miss her presentation on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 4:15 p.m.

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This is Not Your Grandmother’s Arts Scene.

Or maybe it is? Or maybe it isn’t. The challenge that arts marketers face is navigating the changing landscape and being mindful of the identity and personality of the organization balancing against welcoming the whole community and making sure to get butts in seats continues to bite at their heels.

New technologies, new platforms, and new distractions making it ever more challenging to connect with new audiences while maintaining relationships with existing audiences. The way that arts marketers are stretched takes a toll on the effectiveness of marketing and communications, but also eventually takes a toll on the professional themselves.

This week’s arts marketing blog salon is intended to inspire, educate and motivate. We’re so excited to share the insights of field leaders who are pushing and forging paths ahead to find better ways to promote and market the arts across America.

I encourage you to comment and question along the way—and I can’t wait to see those of you that will be joining us in Memphis for the National Arts Marketing Project Conference (psst, for those of that haven’t registered yet … there’s still time).


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Send your constituents to NAMPC

In 2014, the St. Johns Cultural Council in St. Augustine, Florida noticed that most organizations have “underutilized capacity” in the form of unsold tickets, slow times during exhibitions, or performances that occur midweek or in other “off season” periods. Therefore, the cultural council created a business plan to enhance earned revenue for festivals, exhibitions, performances, and other events through cultural tourism by creating a “NAMP [National Arts Marketing Project] Team.”

The Council is fortunate to have a contract with the County Tourist Development Council to manage bed tax (aka transient occupancy tax) dollars designated to arts, culture, and heritage programming. The funds from the bed tax are allocated to a Cultural Tourism Grant Program. Through the grant program, the council is able to increase the marketing and advertising skill levels of grantees (NAMP Team), which will serve to attract and entertain more visitors and residents alike.

The increased attendance gained from the funds the council allocates to market and advertise to “out-of-county” visitors, in conjunction with the increased marketing and advertising skills from the NAMP Team, should create a cycle of increased revenue through the bed tax, which goes back to institutions for more program funding.

The Council sees the bed tax dollars as a source to build new audiences, generate increased revenue, and enhance organizational brand. But, we can’t do it alone, which is why we created the NAMP Team:

The Cultural Council will again offer this “co-op” funding for up to 6 representatives of the arts, culture, and heritage field to attend the NAMP Conference. Funds will support conference registration fees with each representative responsible for travel and lodging. Following the conference, the representatives will be required to share the learning with the field through one or more workshops and distribution of conference materials. Attendees will be selected through a questionnaire that asks: why is this conference important to your position in your organization; what are your learning objectives; and how will this improve your organization’s cultural tourism marketing program.

Below is our Business Plan Section on why Cultural Tourism is important for the economy of the County and why the arts, culture and heritage field needs to participate.

Cultural tourism gives visitors the opportunity to understand and appreciate the essential character of a place and its culture as a whole, including its:

  • History and archaeology
  • People and their lifestyle (including the ways in which they earn a living and their leisure)
  • Cultural diversity

What is Cultural Tourism?

  • Arts and architecture
  • Food, wine, and other local produce
  • Social, economic, and political structures
  • Landscape

It gives access to information, experience, and activities that can help the visitor feel involved with a place, its people, and their heritage. Creating a relationship between the visitor and the host community is an important feature of cultural tourism. Concepts of sustainability, authenticity, integrity, and education are as central to cultural tourism as they are to ecotourism.

Cultural tourism puts emphasis on the content of what people do when they’re traveling, rather than how they actually get there and where they stay while they are there.

Cultural Tourism:

  • builds on and markets cultural strengths
  • emphasizes the quality and authenticity of the visitor’s experience contexts
  • needs personal contact and specialist knowledge so that it:
  • meets the visitor’s demand for knowledge
  • conveys the richness and diversity of a place or culture
  • is active and involving for both visitors and host communities
  • creates new tourism product from people—it does not depend on high levels of  new capital investment
  • recognizes the dynamic and changing nature of culture
  • develops visitor and site management programs
  • develops interpretation programs designed to inform, educate and interest visitors
  • minimizes the environmental degradation and cultural exploitation which accompany some forms of tourism
  • is carefully targeted to meet the interests of particular market segments

The section above is our guiding principle for growing the cultural economy and the capacity of the arts, culture, and heritage field. But don’t take our word for it:

I was lucky to have the opportunity to attend the NAMP Conference in Atlanta [in 2014]. I must say that I was quite impressed with the caliber of not only the presenters but also the participants. Meeting and networking with professionals from around the country, learning first hand of their challenges and successes was truly priceless. I particularly appreciated learning about prospects for new fundraising ideas through social media outlets and how others were reaching younger and more diverse customers. It is so easy to fall into doing the same thing because it is comfortable and known, but to have the chance to listen to how others are growing their organizations by trying innovative, progressive tactics is worth the trip.

—Mollie Malloy, Director of Outreach, St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, Inc.

If your organization would like more information on implementing a Cultural Tourism Program or why your organization should form your own “NAMP Team,” we’d be happy to talk with you.

Andrew M. Witt is a member of Americans for the Arts.

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For the Love of Community

“Collaboration Over Competition” was the theme at Create & Cultivate’s New York City event in May, which gathered creative women for a day of networking and encouragement. Since seeing this phrase on Instagram, I’ve spotted this statement (and various renditions of it) on numerous social channels. Even organizations, such as the American Alliance of Museums and the Nonprofit Learning Lab, are incorporating sessions at their conferences revolving around this topic. This seems to be the statement of the year, as more influencers and groups are being created to promote collaboration … and I couldn’t agree more! As creatives, we need to shift our focus from seeing each other as competitors to seeing each other as our greatest source of inspiration.

Photo by Becki Smith for Create & Cultivate’s event in New York City on May 10, 2017.


From a surface perspective, it’s hard to spot the difference between inspiration and imitation, but take a closer look and they couldn’t be farther apart. To imitate someone would be to take their ideas and mirror them on your platforms as if they were your own. To be inspired by someone would be to use a concept they’re implementing on their platforms and mold it into a way that still feels like your brand and not theirs.

To find sources of inspiration is simple. Take an hour out of your day to just go online and find similar organizations or influencers that have marketing techniques that stand out to you, and follow them, subscribe to their newsletters, and maybe even go to one of their events! Get inspired by what they’re doing and find a way to use this inspiration in your next campaign. See how multiple organizations are using social media at their events and create a combination of your favorite methods to try out at your next event. This concept isn’t hard to start incorporating into your routine—just keep yourself in check so it doesn’t turn into envy or a race to be the first.

Some of my favorite sources of Instagram inspiration come from Miami City Ballet, Chameleon Cold Brew, Prism Creative Group, and WeWork.

Quote by Robert Ingersoll. Image found on Pinterest.


Whether you’re new to the game or have been in it for years, you can never stop learning, and one of the best ways is to ask someone you admire out to coffee. Shoot them an email, find an amazing coffee shop near them, and just sit down with a notepad (or iPad, for the tech savvy folks) and have a conversation with them—but make sure you do your research prior to your meeting! Knowing about their career shows you respect the time they’re having with you. Plus, it gives you a head start with talking points so you can avoid possible awkward silent sips of coffee while you think of a new topic.

One tip I received from someone is to not go at it expecting something. This means, don’t ask them to meet up and expect an internship, job, or immediate connection to the person. Just approach them as a new source of inspiration. And if it goes terribly, at least you went for it and added someone new to your network.

If you’re heading to the 2017 NAMP Conference in Memphis, consider having your coffee meeting(s) at one of my favorites—City & State, 387 Pantry, or Café Keough.

Photo by City & State. Posted on April 19, 2017 on Facebook.


Being a part of a group of influencers in your field can be extremely beneficial not just to your work, but to your spirit. If you’re stuck on an idea and need some help to move forward, you can count on each other for advice with the unspoken trust that they won’t bring you down so that they can rise above. They also know the trials you might be facing and can offer encouragement to lift you back up.

There are some great organizations that provide resources in this spirit. The first is Creative Mornings, which is a free monthly morning lecture series for creatives that happens in about 165 locations across the globe. Each month they have a new theme and speaker to share their story. These series are a great opportunity to meet people who work in the creative field while enjoying some local treats and getting encouraged to start your day off on the best foot. Another organization is Create & Cultivate. This one focuses on empowering and enriching women in the creative industry through their blog and themed meet-ups in cities around the U.S. If neither of these organizations come to your area … start your own! Put those coffee meetings to the test and see the community you create!

Photo by Jasmine Hirt. Taken on June 21, 2017 at The Butcher’s Daughter in New York City.

So, let’s make a vow to continuously encourage each other, because it’s hard out there for an arts marketer, and the last thing we need are more obstacles bringing us down.

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True Influence Isn’t About Follower Counts

On this episode of Marketing Smarts, Adobe's Mark Boothe (Head of Social Media, Adobe Experience Cloud) and Joe Martin (Head of Social Insights) focus on the topic of influencers. Hear how they know an influencer is a good match for the brand, how they measure the success of their influencer marketing efforts, and how they maintain a relationship with their influencer group all year round.

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