Onsite Insights | View Topic
E-mail marketing and social media: How important is this, really? My staff is already overworked and I have no room in my marketing budget for additional projects.
In today’s environment, it is foolhardy not to have an informative, up-to-date and easily navigable website that includes online ticket ordering and a comprehensive marketing plan for email messages, Facebook, Twitter, and so on.
E-mail provides several important benefits over other forms of direct marketing:
• E-mail is nearly cost-free. If the e-mail message is created in-house, it costs only staff time for writing copy, uploading images and formatting. If an organization contracts with a professional e-mail service, it typically costs only pennies per patron. Printed and mailed marketing materials, on the other hand, can easily cost thousands of dollars each, averaging more than one dollar per patron. (Of course, e-mail messages cannot substitute fully for direct snail mail in most cases).
• E-mail is an immediate vehicle; it requires negligible lead time in preparation and does not require accommodating the schedule and delays of the postal service. Marketing pieces sent by regular mail, on the other hand, require time for printing, stuffing, labeling, stamping, sorting, and mail delivery. With email messages, the organization can even provide special news to its email patrons before it is announced in the newspapers.
• E-mail messages can be and frequently are forwarded to other prospects. In a patron survey conducted by CultureFinder, more than 60 percent of respondents reported that they had forwarded e-mail to their friends in the previous month. And the forwarding does not necessarily stop there: friends often forward to other friends. This is what is known as viral marketing – what is commonly a word with negative connotations becomes a happy consequence for arts marketers who know that their best resource for spreading news is their interested and loyal patrons, and that e-mail is the ideal medium for accomplishing this.
• Patrons respond more often and much more quickly to e-mail messages than to mailed material. On average, people respond to regular mail marketing pieces in three weeks; they respond to e-mail messages within 48 hours. With such a rapid response, marketing managers can evaluate the effectiveness of their messages and design new messages and offers for different marketing segments, thereby taking advantage of maximum opportunity to spread news and sell tickets.
• E-mail tends to generate a much higher response rate than regular mail marketing. An average response rate for mailed pieces is 1.5 percent. (It is important to note here that this response rate varies widely with the quality of the list. One can expect a significantly higher response from a well-targeted mailing list). CultureFinder reports that 10 percent of its e-mail recipients click through; 25 percent of those patrons purchase tickets. The Florida Grand Opera recently tracked response rates to an e-mail request for updated patron information. Less than 2 days after the message was sent, 27 percent of recipients opened the message and 37 percent of those people responded with the requested information.
• When one considers the higher response rate, the tendency of people to forward messages to others, and the dramatically lower price to create and send messages, it is clear that e-mail marketing is a highly effective and efficient marketing vehicle.
Other high-tech media:
• Blogs: Blogs engage people who desire to be part of a vibrant community of commenters. The manager leads to discussion in a particular direction, posts thought-provoking content, asks open-ended questions, and encourages people to reply back and forth to one another.
• Twitter: Twitter reaches out to young audiences with brief, spontaneous, interactions that emphasize fun and show personality. Twitter messages are necessarily brief and are likely to include links to more extensive information.
• Facebook: Many organizations are inviting their fans to join their Facebook site and get regular updates that may include photos, videos, reviews, breaking news, and links to other sites, including your own website.
Used well, e-mail and the social media are cost-effective and powerful and can be used by all arts organizations, no matter what their budget. However, like all other marketing tools, they require strategic and creative planning. Sending out an occasional e-mail message or blasting patrons with a series of frequent e-mail promotions when, for example, the organization wants to announce a special program or sell a large number of tickets to a production that has not sold well to date, will not sustain interest and loyalty for very long. Repeating the same content with each media will get tiring to patrons before long. Each organization should develop an overall plan for high tech marketing, just as it does for advertising, regular mailings, public relations, and other marketing efforts.
The marketer should always keep in mind the recipient’s perspective. Why would people want to receive this information? How can we ascertain that our messages are relevant and provide value to the recipients? How will they benefit? Furthermore, the marketer needs to consider how benefits provided dovetail with other marketing offers, such as those offered through subscription brochures, “Friends” organizations, and advertisements.
The success of e-mail campaigns is dependent on the nature and quality of the offer itself. E-mail communications can offer value by providing more detailed information than is available to the general public, early notice of events or offers, timely reminders of special programs, and private offers or discounts. E-mail recipients want to feel special. It is up to the marketer to deliver something of special value to the customer in each message.