Marketing the arts when your budget gets cut

Going Back to Basics and Building for the Future
Or how we increased the return on marketing by 68% and put an opera company back on track

A little while ago, I presented a teleseminar for Opera Volunteers International about marketing on a budget. I talked about the year and a half I spent at the Austin Lyric Opera. I thought it would make an interesting blog post.

The scenario

In the summer of 2011, the Austin Lyric Opera found itself in a situation that was perhaps more dire than most opera companies around the country, but it also found a close family of supporters that—barely a year later—had turned things around.

The board did a tremendous job raising much-needed funds; emergency funds needed beyond regular annual funding to maintain operations. And the opera sold its biggest asset: its headquarters.

Without these drastic measures, the opera wouldn’t be here today. But it was also clear that without making some fundamental changes, the opera wasn’t going to be viable for tomorrow either.

Here are the changes that impacted our marketing most:

  • A renewed focus on traditional repertoire
  • A 25% cut in seating capacity by eliminating one performance night
  • A 35% percent marketing spending budget cut

The prevailing thought was that in order to even have a company, we should be building back the audience it takes to sustain a company that delivers top-notch productions and more adventurous programming. And I know, we can debate programming and audience development until we’re blue in the face, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Eliminating the least attended night from the schedule obviously cut costs. And while we still had the ability to host the existing audience numbers in this reduced capacity, it is important to realize that it’s not as simple as just that. Those last tickets are particularly hard to sell. And it makes sense: if you pay $135 for a top-level ticket, you want the best available, not the last available. In other words, the smaller capacity posed a challenge in managing the pricing and filling the last remaining seats.

The most immediate impact, of course, was the 35% cut in the marketing spending budget. The cut meant that we had to take another look at our marketing expenses and see where we could save. We had to go back to basics.

We had to—as the cliché goes—do more with less. There’s no such thing as giving it 110%. I’ve always hated that phrase (I’m looking at you, sports people). It’s mathematically and physically impossible. What it does mean is working smarter and more efficient. And that’s very possible.

You’ve maybe already read my blog posts on how we revamped the opera’s website and digital strategy. That was a key ingredient to the season’s success. But you haven’t yet read the rest of the story and the full results:


The number of subscriptions sold increased by 22% compared to the previous season. This signified the first increase in the number of subscriptions since the opening of a new performance hall, and only the second increase in a decade. The renewal rate for subscriptions hit a record 84%, and new subscriptions outpaced the past average by more than 25%. How?

  • If real estate has its “Location, location, location,” classical music might recognize something in “Repertoire, repertoire, repertoire.” You don’t have much room to play with just three operas in a given season, and they decided to play it safe. Remember the “proof of the pudding is in the eating?” Well, people at it up.
  • Prior to my arrival, subscription prices were dropped by 30-40%.
  • More than 25% of the renewals came in through in-house telemarketing efforts. While we still had an in-house box office staff, we focused much of their time on active selling. It paid off.

Unfortunately, the entire summer of 2011 was marked by uncertainty and a complete spending freeze, leaving only a small window to sell. We did well in that window, but ultimately, subscription revenue was down 11%. The increase in the number of seats did not offset the decrease in price.

Total revenue, as you’ll see in a little bit, still grew. And the important element here was the increase in the core audience once again. It really was a turning of the tide.

Single Tickets

The number of single tickets sold increased 21% compared to the previous season. It was the fifth best single ticket revenue year in the opera’s history and the best year when considering the reduced seating capacity. Furthermore, the a 46% increase in single ticket revenue offset the subscription revenue decrease; with combined numbers we saw a net 5% revenue increase.

Regular single ticket prices remained unchanged from the previous season, yet we were able to increase our average ticket price by 16%. Monitoring, analyzing, managing and targeting our ticket prices and inventory become crucially important, especially with the decrease in total capacity posing a challenge.


Let me first start with an example of a small change that can have a big impact. The upper balcony section, farthest from the stage, was oddly priced $99, our second highest price point. We changed this to $19, our lowest price point.

Let me explain with simple math: $99×0=$0 and $19×273=$5,187. And that’s per performance! We previously hardly sold any tickets in upper balcony; we sold close to 99% of the tickets after the price change. Common sense, right?

And don’t underestimate the side effect of being able to claim that “Tickets start at just $19” in marketing collateral.

You’ve probably heard a thing or two about dynamic pricing. But in order to implement dynamic pricing well, you have to have a strong foundation of reliable data and a ticketing system that can handle it. We weren’t quite there yet, but we were able to implement some of the principles.

We monitored the seating map closely and on a daily basis. We learned how the house filled up, or where it didn’t. And we then offered targeted, specific discounts for those areas that did not sell well.

Contrast that with daily deal sites. In the two seasons prior to and partly after my arrival, the opera had done one of those popular daily deals every single production of the season. People were actually calling our box office with the question: “when will you have another deal?”

As you may know, you don’t keep much of the revenue by selling tickets through these sites. At its peak, we sold 1,000 daily deal tickets for a single production, which was a third of the total single tickets for that show! It sank our average ticket prices and trained our audiences to buy discounted and buy late.

We knew we had to move away from this practice, and a season with blockbuster operas proved to be our best shot. By segmenting wisely and targeting relevantly, we were able to send tailored messages, including to past daily deal buyers. We got them back in the door, and this time we kept all of the revenue.

With each production, we lowered the ratio of discounted tickets versus regular tickets, and we moved from offering last-minute discounts to offering early bird discounts. It worked.

Don’t sacrifice long term results for short-term gains.

Lastly, we cut the number of complimentary tickets by 32%. We got it down to the bare minimum: media, corporate sponsors, and some box office holds to solve problems. This increased the value perception. People couldn’t just wait for a last-minute free ride to fill those last seats; we created an environment where you had to buy a ticket, or lose out.


We realized we had to go for the low hanging fruit and go where the low hanging fruit hangs out. Previously, our resources were spread thin across many channels, but we could no longer afford it.

Advertising is always a balance between reach, frequency and budget. We didn’t want to sacrifice frequency, we knew we had to limit budget, so what we had to do was focus on reach. Narrow the reach, but, again, reach the low hanging fruit, not a broad metropolitan populace.

Don’t get me wrong, it is important for an arts organization to reach out to new audiences. But to do so through advertising, in a cash-strapped environment, misses the point.

You cast a wide net, but catch few fish. And those fish you do catch will likely buy the lower-end or discounted tickets. You don’t want to spend a ton of money to get a small pool of $10 ticket buyers. When times get tough, you have to put your money where the results are.

And as we’ve seen in the Wyman study, contrary to popular belief, classical music organizations actually do a very good job at bringing in new audiences. We saw this very same trend in the ALO numbers. In previous seasons, more than half the single tickets were bought by people who weren’t in the system before.

So these “Unconverted Trialists,” as the study dubbed this group, are the low hanging fruit we should aim to get back. The Wyman study explained the importance of the entire customer experience. At the ALO, we put a lot of emphasis on customer service, from proactively working out gnarly traffic and parking situations to box office functions that were being outsourced for the first time to using social media as a customer service tool. We wanted to make sure a patron’s experience was nothing but extraordinary.

The other advice from the Wyman study was to target relevant messages and offers to these trialists. As we’ve seen in the daily deal example and the semi-dynamic pricing example, we were able to segment wisely and target relevantly and get results.

We also brought this kind of focus to our other marketing efforts. We cut the places we advertised in half and kept the staple outlets where our low-hanging fruit could be found: major print, classical and public radio, public TV. Because we narrowed, but specified the reach, we were able to keep the frequency, and even increase the size of our ads in those places. In other words, more visibility in a targeted, more concentrated market.

Another area of focus, one where I received tremendous benefit from working with a consultant, was messaging. Working with this consultant improved the ad copy and the sales messages, and made sure we had a sales message or a call to action in all our efforts. Everyone needs an editor, and everyone can use a coach to keep them on track.

Data and Customer Driven

In the end, when times get tough, there’s always a bigger sense and urgency for the need to account for dollars spent. Any marketer, whether they’re on a budget or not, should know how their dollars are performing.

Today’s arts marketing is decisively not like a Mad Men episode where every decision is based on gut and intuition; today’s arts marketing is based on data, and it is customer driven.

We were able to use data to direct our actions, from pricing to messaging, and we were able to enhance our data influx to better inform future efforts.

In just one season, despite some significant challenges, we were able to increase the return on marketing dollars spent by 68% and put an opera company back on track.

Marketing Automation in Performing Arts

I’m in a new industry, which means I come across different marketing approaches. I always like seeing how these new perspectives translate to the performing arts. My current industry is heavy on lead generation and marketing automation. Skip forward a little to this week, when I came across an interesting post from the TRG Arts folks.

The post, “Too Many Tryers to Sustain the Arts,” echoes the Orchestra Churn study I have written about in the past:

In our firm’s decade of arts consumer research, Tryers are the most prevalent type of patron behavior.  They are households that have infrequent, one-time, or long-ago transactions with your organization. Right now your database–like those of most arts and entertainment organizations–is likely comprised of 90% Tryers.  And most of them are patrons you’ve allowed to lapse.

In my Take A Friend to the Orchestra post about flipping the funnel, I cover a strategy on how to market to these “Tryers,” or “Unconverted Trialists” as the Churn study calls them. In particular, how you follow up with them after an experience is crucial.

A November 2011 post by PatronTechnology CEO Eugene Carr eloquently and anecdotally explains it in different words:

Often as arts patrons we are thanked personally for our contributions. But when buying a ticket, is a generic “Thank You” screen enough after a completed transaction? Actions speak louder than words. If patrons receive a “thank you” email after they buy their ticket, it registers. If they receive a reminder before the show, they are impressed. If you send them a message after the performance asking if they enjoyed it, or if you provide them with an invitation (or discount) to future productions you’ve proven to those patrons that you not only appreciate their business, but you appreciate them. In the end, individual attention is worth its weight in gold.

Speaking of emails, I’m always happy to know if an event I’m interested in is coming to town. On the other hand, I’m not terribly happy when I receive emails that have nothing to do with me. For example, if I bought tickets to see The Messiah, do I want to know when the Megadeth tour is coming to town? Keeping all correspondence relevant to a patron is not only a responsible marketing approach, but a respectful one.

Enter marketing automation. Marketing automation is all about a follow up sequence, or rather sequences, on leads you captured in some form or another.

Capturing leads

You may well consider these “Tryers” and “Unconverted Trialists” to be very hot leads for future performances (although technically, they would be repeat buyers). In addition, there are many ways for generating leads and capturing those leads. You likely already do so in a very basic form with a simple “Sign Up for Our Newsletter” page on your website.

Generally, the more information you can get the better (not just name, phone number, address and email, but also what performances interests them, what performance day they prefer), but the more information you ask the less likely a lead capture form gets filled out. The all-important question becomes: how do you segment your lists? Followed logically by what information do you need for your segmentation?

Looking at industries other than performing arts, we can learn a little about lead capturing. Usually, companies offer a white paper or a webinar or other content in exchange for contact information. Interestingly, I have not seen any performing arts organizations use their content for lead generation. Free downloads of music files, when offered, are often just openly available on a website. And what about that behind-the-scenes video you created? And why not generate a white paper from a lecture on a particular opera or symphony?

Nurturing and converting leads

When you’ve captured your leads and you’ve tagged them appropriately, you can start the nurturing process. Tagging is important, because a tag will determine how you’ll follow up with your lead.  Some examples:

  • Tag based on: money spent (Can we put them in a sequence for an up sell?)
  • Based on: repertoire (Indicated interest in what? Previously attended what?)
  • Based on: [insert tag that makes sense for your segmentation]

The tags determine in what marketing sequence your leads will be placed. Simplistically, it goes something like this: “If patron has A tag, then they’re in A marketing sequence” or “If patron has B tag, then they’re in B marketing sequence.”

This tagging and segmentation is key, because as Carr writes you need to keep “all correspondence relevant to a patron.” The Churn study too showed that offering a relevant “killer deal” will get those Tryers and Trialists back in the door.

And once they’re back in the door—once the lead is converted—they’ll be put in another marketing sequence. Perhaps you can put them on a path toward subscriptions.

If they don’t respond to a marketing sequence, tag them accordingly so you don’t keep bombarding them with messages or abandon the lead altogether. If, let’s say a marketing sequence consists of 8 email messages (or better yet, a mix between online and offline messages) and they haven’t responded by the time the eighth message appears in their inbox, you can put them on in a sequence that nurtures them more slowly, keeping the lead warm, but not annoyed.

Sample sequence where the patron is moved into another sequence if not converted by the campaign’s end, keeping the lead warm, but not annoyed.


Of course, marketing automation does not mean impersonal. In your sequence, one or more of the touch points can and should be a phone call or personal conversation. If a patron with tag A is in stage 4 of the sequence, you can flag your box office or sales team to call them, for example. And not all messages in the sequence have to be a hard sell; let’s say the purchase of a show is the entrance into a sequence, then that thank you note after a show should be part of the sequence.

You cannot execute a well-structured marketing automation campaign without accurate analytics. I’ve written before how I set up e-commerce tracking for the Austin Lyric Opera. This becomes key. One of the most important elements of marketing automation is testing and configuring the optimal messaging. This should be an ongoing process.

I admit, setting up a marketing automation campaign is complex (a lot of “if this, then that” scenarios). Even more so for organizations that do not have the resources to work with the software or vendors specialized in automation. In fact, I’m not even sure how well most ticketing solutions are set up for this. I suspect very few to none.

The point is also not to completely automate all your marketing, push a button and sit back. There should always be room for flexibility. You should take elements and apply them where you can and where you know they make sense. Perhaps you just want to test the concept with lapsed subscribers and put them in a nurturing sequence.

Start small, segment well and keep testing. Then, rinse and repeat and scale up.

If you have any examples of marketing automation in performing arts, leave a comment below!

ALO: final round up (complete presentation)

This concludes a brief overview of what went into a new website and new digital strategy for a performing arts organization. At the start of the season, the opera was in a precarious position. I had to work with a 35% overall marketing budget cut, so I knew I had to be more efficient with the marketing dollars I had to my disposal.

Because many parts of the digital strategy were outsourced, the opera had spent a little more than $40,000 on all things online in the previous season. This season, the number barely reached $15,000, yet we were able to significantly increase the effectiveness.

Aided by a new ticketing solution launched simultaneously, we increased online single ticket sales from 28% to 55% of total single ticket sales while delivering a greater ability to analyze patron behaviors, track conversions and account for advertising spending.

Going into the future, the next steps should include eliminating those points that skew data in Google Analytics. In the course of the season, I identified a handful of these issues and we need to find fixes so that the data is more accurate. You won’t want to make decisions on flawed or incomplete data. So even though certain banner ads didn’t seem to perform very well, I wouldn’t want to make radical decisions just yet.

Furthermore, we only started collecting e-commerce and conversion data for one production. As all arts marketers know, no opera or symphony concert or ballet sells in the same manner. What are the noticeable differences we can detect in the conversion data and what can we learn from these differences?

In addition to making the data stream more accurate by eliminating points that skew data, we should make sure we add certain elements in the strategy. We started testing this in Google AdWords already, and we can apply what we learn there in other areas. How does different marketing content perform in identical groups? Next steps must definitely include small scale A/B testing, in either email messages or landing pages, where one (random) half of the gets one message and the other (random) half gets another message.

But what becomes very clear is that if you have the human resources, and a knowledgeable staff, you can bring much of your digital strategy in-house. A company like Venture and tools like Google Analytics and Google Grants offer free or low-cost alternatives to expensive agencies.

Outsourcing can typically get you all the fish you want, at a cost. It’s much better, however, to teach yourself, or even have someone teach you, how to fish.

I am proud to have built a strong digital foundation and by collecting and analyzing data we will be able to fine-tune this foundation to become ever more efficient.

ALO: Mobile site

Approximately 20% of the traffic to the ALO website comes from mobile devices. This has been steadily on the increase and will continue to increase into the future. The new website displays well on mobile devices and touch screen devices.

What we wanted to build then was something to complement, not replace the new website. There is no auto detect for mobile browsers on the main institutional site, to redirect mobile device users to a mobile site. In the future, if the mobile site proves more effective in delivering mobile sales, auto detect can be enabled.

The core concept for a complementary mobile site was easily accessible program notes and pertinent event information readily available for patrons on the go. This is how the idea for was born. There are no extra costs and no considerable extra work involved; it’s a simple, straightforward WordPress installation with mobile specific content.

Traffic is directed specifically to mobile site where deemed appropriate: a Facebook post for production notes on the go; or promote accessibility and information at your fingertips in email marketing.

While mobile traffic accounts for 20% of total traffic, it only delivers less than 10% of the revenue. As mobile traffic will become more and more important, we need to bridge this gap in conversions. We will need to monitor how ALO on the Go converts to sales compared to the main institutional site. What can we learn?

Paciolan recently launched mobile specific box office sites. Auto detect for mobile browsers is enabled. So no matter how you arrive to the ticketing site, via ALO on the Go or the main site, if you arrive on a mobile device, you will see the mobile box office site. Will this mobile specific site improve conversion rates? As the site just launched, it is too early to tell at this point.


ALO: Social media

In my 2010 TAFTO contribution, this is what I wrote:

Over the past decade, the Internet has moved toward becoming a social medium with more participation (encouraging contributions), openness (no barriers to content and feedback), connectedness (networked relationships and sharing content), community (gathering around a common interest), and, of course, conversation (a two-way street).

The Cluetrain Manifesto, still pertinent after more than 10 years, tells us that “conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.” And that means being authentic.

And that sentiment has been the driving force in the social media efforts of the Austin Lyric Opera: messaging for engagement in status updates and tweets; no barriers to behind-the-scenes content; sharing content across channels; fostering an opera fan community; and not shying away from conversations and responding to customer service issues rapidly and personally.

In just one season, we increased the number of Facebook fans by more than 60%, but more importantly, we increased engagement and viral reach. Facebook is now the second largest referral source to the ALO website. By integrating YouTube into other marketing channels, such as event landing pages and email campaigns, we increased channel views by 60%.

Perhaps my proudest social media moment was turning a negative customer experience into a positive outcome by transparently responding and following up and following through with customer service. This patron now regularly “likes” and positively comments on the opera’s status updates.


ALO: Online advertising

One of the first things I did was to pull our online advertising in-house. Previously, it was not uncommon to spend $8,000 per production on an agency booking interactive banner ads and placing search engine ads on Google, Yahoo and Bing.

First, I applied for Google Grants. It’s a simple process for nonprofits, but it took a couple of months to be approved. Google Grants allows nonprofits to set up Google AdWords campaigns at no cost. It’s all in-kind advertising. There are a few limiting factors, but the biggest is perhaps the maximum cost-per-click (CPC) of $1.00, which makes you miss out on some popular keywords. Monthly “ad spend” will be capped at $10,000, but that won’t be a problem for 99% of the nonprofits.

Pulling Google AdWords in-house through Google Grants obviously saved money. But the biggest benefit is that you can use it as your own testing playground for ad content, especially if you can tie it in with Google Analytics e-commerce tracking. It was certainly interesting to see some ad content delivering more traffic than other ad content. But delivering more traffic doesn’t necessarily mean the ads are more effective, as you can see in the slides below.

Retargeting was introduced to me via our ticketing solution Paciolan. They helped set up a campaign for Turandot where we targeted consumers based on their previous Internet actions, in situations where these actions did not result in a sale or conversion. Basically, you visit the ALO website but don’t buy a ticket? Next time you visit Time magazine online, or any other media outlet in the network, and you might get served a Turandot ad. Compared to banner ads on local media websites, retargeting seemed to do much better. Paciolan reported a ROAS of $16 (the slides below only report what can be learned from Google Analytics, hence the significantly lower ROAS).

Facebook Ads are an interesting story. The CPM (cost per thousand impressions) is impressive for the campaign we ran. However, I didn’t see a positive return for advertising spending as reported in Google Analytics. This is somewhat understandable when you realize none of the ads drove traffic directly to the ALO website. Facebook ads seem to work best with a higher social reach (delivering the ad content to the social circles of your Page’s fans). Advertising is about frequency and reach and Facebook certainly delivers on that at a low cost. I certainly see value in that.

If we should believe Google Analytics, banner ads in local media seemed to perform far below the other channels. However, there are two reasons for not completely discarding them: 1) they are part of a print and online package negotiation; and 2) they do deliver a decent reach with prominent placement in media outlets that are frequented by the opera’s patrons (and Google Analytics will not have measured all the impact of that).


ALO: Tracking conversions

Data collection, measurement and analysis are of the utmost importance for any marketer. Arts organizations across the country are dealing with budget cutbacks, so it becomes increasingly important to put your marketing dollars in the most effective channels and efforts. Without data, you simply can’t do your job as a marketer.

After launching the website, we started collecting Google Analytics data. Both from the institutional site as well as the third party ticketing solution hosted on another server. The problem was the traffic between the institutional site and the ticketing site; we could track conversions, but they were always sourced from the institutional site. We needed cross-domain tracking to really get into the roots of conversion traffic. This is somewhat complicated and tricky to set up, but Paciolan, the ticketing solution, was helpful and knowledgeable. The client services team set up the appropriate code on the ticketing site and delivered documentation for the institutional site.

E-commerce, cross-domain tracking was now enabled. Just in time for bulk of the single ticket sales would come in for the final performance of the season. What follows here is a look inside a specific one-time offer delivered via email marketing.

All links in the email were tagged with campaign parameters through Google’s URL Builder tool. This enables a marketer to see in one glance how an email performed. What was the conversion rate and how does it compare to another email? Is there a bigger story to tell? As you will see below, an email can do much more than simply deliver a certain number of discounted ticket sales.

Next steps include eliminating those points that skew data, such as links on the institutional site that caused a distorted number of referrals from “” In addition, small scale A/B testing should be done in landing pages and/or email messages. And this also includes using the “campaign content” field in Google’s URL Builder to differentiate between several links in an email message that point to the same page (what button or link in the email was most effective driving conversion traffic? Use this to determine the best placement for these links and buttons!)

A new website and digital strategy for the opera

When I started my job as marketing director for Austin Lyric Opera, I knew I wanted to put my stamp on its digital marketing efforts. I wanted to put all that I have written about and all that I have learned over the past years to action. What follows is a brief overview of what I did and how I did it:

A new website
Tracking conversions
Online advertising
Social media
Mobile site
Final round up

A new website

Coming in, the opera was stuck with an all Flash-based website: it was complicated and time consuming to make even the smallest of updates; mobile devices could not load the site; and no data could be collected. The first priority was to change this. You simply cannot build a working digital strategy without the foundation of a solid institutional website that can drive ticket sales.

In redesigning the website, from architecture to graphic design, these were the four key development concepts:

Driving conversions

  • All roads should lead to a conversion. The ticket buying process needs to be straightforward, simple and seamless; from campaign source to order confirmation.

Data collection

  • How do patrons get to our website? What do they do when they arrive? We need to track the entirety of the sales funnel.

Highly customizable

  • A responsive website that can handle breaking news, custom landing pages and continuously revolving sales and institutional messages.

Easily manageable

  • Staff with little technology skills should be able to make basic website updates and embed multimedia elements.

I knew I wanted a website built on WordPress and having watched the development of Venture Industries by Drew McManus, I was surely impressed by the proprietary elements on top of the standard WordPress installation that Venture offers. Doing due diligence, I talked to and received several proposals from other web development agencies. One proposed Drupal despite my insistence on WordPress, and all proposed a budget in the $15,000-20,000 range. I knew I could do better. I went with Venture and I set a $10,000 budget.

Drew McManus’ Venture brought together the opera’s in-house strengths and Drew’s strengths in the performing arts and online user experiences. The work broke down like this:

In-House Resources (Client)

  • Planning: entirely redesigned site architecture and navigation
  • Content: content migration, creation and population; and integration with third party box office
  • Design: custom graphic design template along with home page and interior page layouts.
  • Development: basic custom CSS changes.

Custom Work (Venture)

  • Adapt client’s graphic design into custom PHP templates.
  • Designed custom admin interface.
  • Designed custom search bar that appears in the top, right hand corner of every page.
  • Removed slider overlay for unobstructed full width image while maintaining use of standard action button.

Work was completed in a 3 month time frame. That’s fast. The actual money spent came in far under budget, totaling $6,500, and broke down in two components: $1,500 for the custom work; $4,000 for the annual Venture license.

A quick note about the $4,000 annual license fee. This includes hosting, support, updates and a myriad of other benefits and services. In a way, Venture is like purchasing a Photoshop license for your organization. Having Photoshop doesn’t automatically guarantee you beautiful design; you have the best tool at your disposal, but you still need a graphic designer. Having Venture doesn’t automatically guarantee you a great website; you still need someone in-house.

However, the support and the best practice / brainstorming you get with Venture are superb. Other agencies would bill hourly. Furthermore, if your in-house resources are not as strong, you can outsource more of the work. I was impressed by the custom work we received for the money we spent. You can do as much or as little custom work as you’d like or as your budget allows.

The end result was a beautiful, highly effective new website that met all the criteria outlined in the four key development concepts: driving conversions; data collection; highly customizable; and easily manageable.

Aided by a new ticketing solution launched simultaneously, and a new digital strategy, we increased online single ticket sales from 28% to 55% of total single ticket sales while delivering a greater ability to analyze patron behaviors, track conversions and account for advertising spending.


Evaluating Social Media: Final Word

In the last nine steps, I have walked through Are We There Yet? A Communications Evaluation Guide by the Communications Network. It started with figuring out what to evaluate and establishing an overarching goal. The central question was: how are your communications efforts creating a change; more specifically, a change in behavior. The central message was: measure outcomes, not outputs. It ended with figuring out specific tools and establishing a evaluation budget.

Evaluating communications in social media, focused on creating change, is one aspect. I have occasionally offered a brief perspective on evaluating marketing efforts, focused on sales and commerce. And while I wholeheartedly believe social media should be used for sales and commerce purposes—as long as you play by the new rules of social media—and that those efforts should be measured, the first and foremost reason for engaging in social media should come from a mission statement-inspired goal.

I hope the walk through was helpful and insightful. Perhaps you have suggestions or improvements. If so, don’t hesitate to let me know. Likewise, leave a comment if you have an evaluation story to share or if you have any questions on your own evaluation efforts. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Happy evaluating!

Evaluating Social Media: Step 9. Estimate your budget

This is not an estimation of you complete communications plan budget. That said, you should budget for evaluation within your communications plan. The authors advise that a good rule of thumb is that “the evaluation budget should be at least five to seven percent of the total budget of your communication program.”

You should consider: staff time (evaluating does cost time!), external consultant fees (you might need an expert for certain elements), evaluation techniques (are you using any specialized software of service to measure your results?), and dissemination costs (you should share your evaluation with your colleagues, board, and peers in the industry).

You must spend time and money to evaluate your communications efforts. How else can you improve the effectiveness? How else can you allocate your resources sensibly? How else can you respond to a change in the environment?

Tomorrow, a quick final word on the evaluation process.

(Source: Are We There Yet? A Communications Evaluation Guide)