Database schema diagram for MediaWiki 1.10Image via Wikipedia

We know databases aren’t very sexy. But we also know they are integral to the smooth running of an arts organisation. And a good database can make the difference between a very successful arts organisation and one that’s struggling to make ends meet. You might be asking how a load of information on a database could make such a difference. It’s just a load of names and numbers isn’t it? Wrong. Your data is your gold. It’s where you store the names of customers who’ve bought tickets – so you know what you can target them with when you’ve got a new production or event. It contains your membership list so you can see when people are coming up for renewals.

But many organisations don’t have one central database. Instead they have the information they need spread across different access databases, excel spreadsheets and email accounts. Often different people are responsible for updating different bits of information (or where they are held). This usually leads to a huge amount of duplication, both of information and effort and leaves the door wide open for inconsistency and mistakes.

  • What are the benefits to have one properly maintained and centrally controlled database?
  • Your information is more secure – you don’t have to worry about the security of data across different locations. And you can do central backups regularly.
  • Your staff can share information – you can make notes on each piece of data so all your staff have the same information when they access the database. You’ll avoid mistakes like one staff member asking for a donation of £100 when last year the patron donated £100,000! You’ll also vastly reduce duplication of records.
  • You can produce one report that focuses on different areas of your arts organisation – membership sign ups, ticket sales – helping you identify which customers need chasing up for renewals or a good sales opportunity.
  • You can easily share information with customers, members and partners via your website. Your website can pull information directly from your central database when a visitor needs it. You can also link your database to other systems which will allow you to contact customers, for example an email system so you can contact potential customers about an upcoming show.

In the current climate with many arts organisations facing cuts the way you fundraise and deal with customers will become integral to your future. A good central database can bring together your fundraising, membership and patron management with your ticket sales and ongoing customer contact. If you’d like to know more about bringing all your information into one central database contact Masque Arts on +44 (0)20 7100 6010 or email us for further information.

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2011 has been a difficult year for arts organisations. Early this year 206 organisations found out they had had their applications for funding rejected by the Arts Council.

The impact of these funding cuts will depend to some extent on the size of the arts organisation you work in. If you are a larger organisation, you may have other sources of revenue and therefore be able to withstand the worst of harsh cuts. If you are a smaller organisation or have been heavily or entirely dependent on Arts Council funding you may suddenly find yourself in the position of trying to find a viable way forward.

So now is the time the way you deal with your customers becomes incredibly important. It’s the one thing that can make the difference between your future security or disappearing off the arts scene forever. You need to explore how you currently manage your customer relationships – do you have a reliable customer relationship management system that can give you the information you need on customers and patrons at the click of a button? Do you know what marketing campaigns you are running and if they are working? Do you have good mailing lists that you can quickly target if you need to promote an event (and bring sales in)? If the answer is no then now is definitely the time to invest more in your customer relationship marketing (CRM) system.

It might seem counterintuitive to invest in a software system when you are facing funding cuts. But that’s exactly the reason you need to do it now. If there is a chance your sources of revenue are going to dry up then you need new ways to bring money into your organisation. And that money comes from customers. If you aren’t talking and marketing to them effectively then you are missing out on the chance to sell to them. A good customer relationship management tool will allow you to:

  • control communication with your customers at both an individual and campaign level
  • pull all your lists and databases together in one place
  • update information for everyone in one place
  • manage memberships, collect donations, produce targeted mail shots and email newsletter
  • take bookings and sell merchandise.

Start by looking for a CRM system that integrates with your existing website, this will give you customers a simple way to interact with you and easily make purchases. Masque is designed specifically to work with your website to provide a seamless experience from sending a letter to a customer to them purchasing their ticket.

If you’d like to know more about CRM systems for your arts organisation call Masque Arts on +44 (0)20 7100 6010 or email us for further information.

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A person navigating through a Chilean bank web...Image via Wikipedia

Because it makes you money. It’s quite simple really. If your website is really working for you then it will bring in more visitors. Not lots of random visitors, but exactly the right kind of visitors for your arts organisation.

They’ll be looking to buy from you. And if your website works well and you can boost conversion rates then they’ll become customers. You need a website which is visible so people know about your organisation and are driven there. Then you want to make it an easy and pleasurable experience for them to buy from you. If they have a great experience from the moment they deal with you then they are likely to become repeat customers.

Your first step is to develop a marketing plan for your website – get that end objective clear in your mind and then work towards developing a profit-centre website that will take your organisation to the next level.

If you’d like to know more about turning your cost-centre website into a profit-centre website then call Masque Arts on +44 (0)20 7100 6010 or email us for further information.

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You probably already have a website. You might quite like your website. It looks nice and you seem to get plenty of visitors. So it’s doing its job, right?

When you first had your website built did you have a clear objective, did you know what you wanted to achieve once the website was up and running? Maybe you wanted more customers to buy tickets online? Maybe you wanted more membership sign ups? Maybe you didn’t even think about it.

And if you didn’t think about it you wouldn’t be alone. Lots of organisations set up their website without any clear idea of why they are doing it and it ends up costing them money rather than doing what it should be doing, which is making them money.

Stop and think about your website.

  • What does it do for your organisation?
  • Does it make your organisation more profitable?
  • How are you measuring the success of your website?
  • Is your website vital to how profitable your organisation is?
  • Is your website effective?
  • Does it work for your target market?

Can you answer each of these questions? You should be able to and it should be easy to see whether your website is as effective as it should be. If you can’t answer these questions or it becomes clear that your website isn’t working as hard as it should then it’s time to change the status quo.

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First let’s wish a Happy Birthday to JAM (Journal of Arts Marketing) which has just celebrated its 10th birthday! And is it still jamming at 10? I think so, with this excellent issue dedicated to Friends and Membership schemes in the Arts.

Very timely this, it arrived the day after I went to the excellent AMA “Best of Friends” workshop hosted by Liz Hill – if you get the chance, take the opportunity. In fact JAM has a nice extract from her book “The Complete Membership Handbook” (with Brian Whitehead) on page 6, just to get you started. Go through the checklist, if it’s right for you then read teh rest of the article, then buy the book then start your scheme! Couldn’t be easier.

Actually if you are thinking of starting a scheme, or already have one then a good read of this JAM is a must. Heather Maitland first poses the question of whteher you really should have a friends scheme dipping into lots of statistics (Did you know that The Friends of Norwich Theatre Royal Scheme had a return of 460%!) and drawing on articles and case studies to help you answer the question.

Of course not all schemes are effective so Sarah Gee’s article “Friends or foes” takes you through what to do if it all stops adding up. This could be making no financial return, the objectives of the Friends (if an external organsiation) might not be the same as yours, plus a number of other pitfalls.

Roger Tomlinson takes us back to the starting point, posing the question “what relationships should we seek?” in Fans not fiends. Are fans of an arts organisation analgous to football fans? Can we have fans? An interesting question and it changes the way we might look at the competition – fans don’t switch sides on a whim. And how does social media affect this?

In addition, there are a couple of excellent case studies, by Jennifer Faure Francis of the Royal Academy of Arts, Sarah Chambers of the National Theatre, and there is an extract of Nina Simon’s interview with Kristen Denner about the new scheme at the Whitney Musuem of American Art, to put it all into the context of real organisations.

Finally, get to know Sam Eaves, marketing manager of Birminham Royal Ballet in the “Just a minute” column.

As I always say, if you don’t get JAM – sign up today.