In this down economy, cultural groups are struggling to fill seats and attract new audiences. Many are using outdated ways of communicating with their patrons, and don't realize how much a systematic, scientific application of arts marketing technology can help them.
The arts marketing consulting startup GroupOfMinds.com plans to change that, by applying Silicon Valley technology know-how to theater stages, orchestra pits, and beyond.
"There's a perception that the use of technology by arts and cultural organizations is about five years behind the for-profit world," says Ron Evans, GroupOfMinds.com's founder and CEO. "There is so much happening in the world of technology, but many groups feel that they don't have the bandwidth or time to market themselves in new ways."
GroupOfMinds.com consultants have designed a unique two-tiered approach to arts marketing and audience development. First, consultants use a new software program designed by the company to analyze how well an arts group is using technology to market itself, compared to other groups.
"It's a sort of marketing report card. The ability to see how you rate among your peer organizations helps groups to understand missed opportunities in ticket sales and audience attendance," Evans says.
Once the analysis is complete, GroupOfMinds.com consultants assist the arts group in setting up and using new audience development tools such as social networking, interactive video, and patron loyalty programs. If manpower is scarce, GroupOfMinds.com runs viral marketing campaigns on behalf of the arts organization, as a sort of "white label" marketing department.
"Arts groups have an exceptionally high turnover rate of mostly volunteer staff who are burning the candle at both ends, and that can negatively affect the message to the patron," Evans says. "By-the-hour marketing manpower is an affordable way for nonprofits to benefit from a steady, consistent marketing voice, without needing to hire a full-time marketing director."
Evans is no stranger to technology. Prior to starting GroupOfMinds.com, he became known to the arts community as one of the original designers of the Artsopolis.com online arts calendaring system. Artsopolis.com helps Silicon Valley audiences find local arts and cultural events and interact with other arts enthusiasts in the area. It was the first place some arts groups had seen the impact of social technology in the creation of an online arts community, where they could use new media tools to market themselves. Other cities wanted their own sites, and now the Artsopolis.com technology has been licensed to 17 other cities to date.
Evans is a frequent speaker at national arts conferences and regional summits, including Americans for the Arts, the National Arts Marketing Project, and Arts Reach. His primary area of interest is the development of new technology that breaks down barriers and helps audience members connect with the experience of attending an arts event. Through a series of arts marketing articles on the GroupOfMinds.com website, Evans keeps subscribers aware of new developments in audience development.
"Creating new ways to connect arts audiences to arts organizations through technology is one of my passions," Evans says. "I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it."
Can arts groups get wired (or wireless) with their audiences? "Absolutely," Evans says. "Arts groups need to embrace new trends if they want to prosper. A down economy is a great time to look at your technology structure. We want groups to feel secure that their marketing technology is being taken care of by an experienced team. Artists should be free to do what they want to be doing -- creating arts experiences that define us, enrich us, and help us to understand our connections to each other as human beings."