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One of the issues in data collection is how we use it. I have always prescribed that data is used as an aid to decision making, but all too often is used as a method of control and apportioning blame.

A recent report on the use of, and future direction for, data in the US cultural industry (don’t let that put you off, there’s a lot to learn from it even for commercial organisations) identified 6 factors that influence the gathering and collection if data and provide some preliminary suggestions for making better use of data. All make sense, but, as you might expect, the one that grabbed my attention was:

“Shift the conversation from data’s value as an accountability tool to data’s value as a decision-making tool.”

But As Barry Hessenius comments in his blog on the report:

“The question that always looms is “how”? How do you refocus all the data, research, information and input that is out there from being merely a tool to prove, after the fact, that a given program, project or approach has met its objective to information that informs decision making in the first place?”

An excellent question indeed.

I’d be interested in hearing how you approach this in your organisation, leave a comment.

Read Barry’s blog post.

The report can be downloaded here.

Cover of JAM May 2012“By the end of 2012 there will be more connected devices than people on Earth”: the first sentence of Heather Maitland‘s article really kicks off The latest edition of JAM is a very timely look at mobile marketing. A host of excellent articles that build up to the final one (well it’s in the middle really) by Roger Tomlinson, which is the most poignant: the impact that social media development has had on how people buy. But more of that later.

Heather has done an excellent job on summarising where we are and where it seems to be heading- smart phones, tablets, Facebook, twitter, shopping …it’s big business and one we can’t avoid. After all the mind blowing stats, comes the little one, and for us the key one, basically you’ve got three chances before people give up on your mobile site.

So what makes for a good user experience? Well Heather starts us off with a good checklist ( if you want it, then buy a copy of JAM!) and the following articles start to put flesh on it.

Loic Tallon in an interview with Helen Bolt, talks us through how to create a good mobile experience. Same hymn sheet as me I think : talk in terms of the experience and the technology comes later; be specific about objectives…spot on.

Amy Clarke tells us not to neglect our email – for most it is still a bigger pool than our Facebook fans ( and it has less distractions ), but remember that more and more people are reading it on their phones, so follow Amy’s advice and make your email mobile ready.

Jim Richardson talks about apps or website optimisation, otherwise called responsive websites (these scale and change their layout depending on the device they are viewed on – have a look at Masque-Arts and change the width of your browser). Faced with the cost of app development and fragmented smartphone platforms, he thinks that arts organisations should take step back from apps and consider how their website performs on smaller screens.

Chris Unitt then looks at some latest stats and follows on from Jim’s article in comparing responsive sites to mobile specific sites.

Then we step into the world of the app! Vicky Lee gives us the background to developing the amazing StreetMuseum app from the Museum of London (what do you mean you haven’t installed it? Do it now and be inspired). And Allegra Burnette discusses integrating mobile into the mix at MoMA.

To this point the articles have given us an insight of what to do, how to do it and some fascinating peeks into what has been done. Roger‘s article is the key as it is really the why. Marketing had changed, it is more intrusive than ever before. Social media pushed it down this path and the mobile world has consolidated this – marketing really has become a brand in your hand. As Roger says it is up close and personal. By taking our marketing into the social media world we are butting into conversations among friends. We must be careful here as the potential for rejection is very high. Roger‘s observation is that we are now helping people to buy not selling. Of course that is what the best selling had always done, an no matter how we approach it selling is the end goal. So it’s marketing Jim, but not how we know it.

The Journal of Arts Marketing is published by The Arts Marketing Association

We all know the old adadge that selling to new customers costs a lot more than selling to existing ones, so perhaps we should just stop chasing new ones – in these austere times that might make sense.

However, as I’ve mentioned here before (Customer Acquisition vs Customer Retention), it does seem that going after these expensive new customers is much more attractive than some boring direct marketing to exisiting ones. However, this blog is not about urging you to spend more time on your existing customer marketing (I’ll leave that for another day – as Chad Bauman says, “Want to get into trouble? Concentrate on new audiences” – so we’ll come back to that), but about how you should approach your new customer acquisition.

Just marketing to exisiting customers is a non starter – old customers go away or die and if you didn’t replenish the existing customer pot, you will soon run out of people to sell to. Remember, your existing customers were new customers once.

Part of the problem is that we think of marketing as a cost, something we have to spend money on and as such something to cut when times get tough. Marketing, done properly, is an investment. You are using some of today’s money to generate an income stream in the future. And that is the key and like all investments it needs analysis and decisions.

It is not enough to compare the cost of a sale to an existing customer to one to a new one. On a campaign basis that is always going to lose. What we need to look at is the lifetime value of a customer and use that information to identify the best source of future exsiting customers.and what ongoing activity is going to maximise the return. So get out those spreadsheets and start looking at your best existing customers and where to get more like them.

Lifetime Value is the key to good new customer marketing.
… oh, so I was talking about marketing to existing customers after all

Social media is finding it’s feet. As I have mentioned in previous blogs it takes a long time, years, for something to establish its own identity and not just be a fancier (and maybe more useful) copy of something that has gone before. Social media is perhaps the start of the web moving into it’s own personality.

The growth of social media has been as unexpected as it has been fast. Each day the scope changes as more and  more people move the platform into areas others haven’t even considered.

From a marketeer’s point view this is both exciting and frightening – more opportunities, but a very different way of approaching the concept of marketing.

From the consumers’ perspective (or those on line at least) all this interactivity has become a new adjunct to, if not a new way, of life. It is now so much easier to keep in contact with friends and family, share news, photos and film. To keep up to date with what is going on in areas of interest – as it happens, no longer waiting for the newsletter or even email newsletter – is that a change or what? The email newsletter was a step forward but it is already looking antiquated.

And all this for free? Surely not.

Birmingham Royal Ballet published their planned productions for the Birmingham Hippodrome today and you can find the listing here.

What is great, for us, about this is that it shows some of the new features in Masque Repertoire (our content management system for the performing arts), allowing all the information about a production to appear on one page together with links to the booking pages on the theatres web site. Take a look at the Romeo and Juliet page to get the idea.
This is just the first phase in our redevelopment with lots more features being added. We have worked closely with BRB for several years to develop a system that is easy to use and quick to update when you have more information to impart.
From a technical point it has been a fascinating challenge to get the underlying database structure correct and then to build the web program to bring this all together into the web pages – depending on what’s coming up performance wise this might generate 1,500 pages or more – and is handling about 5,000 page views a day.