Last week I listened to a podcast, which is neatly summarized in this article. In it, social media strategist Mark Schaefer talks about his new book, Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins. I’m just starting the book, but here’s the biggest takeaway from the article: marketing isn’t controlled by marketing anymore.
In 2009, we had already been through decades of a shift away from traditional media and marketing tactics. Even at that time, 66% of all marketing was happening through customer-to-customer interactions beyond the control of the company, like social media and user reviews and such. Today, only 13% of customers are entering the sales funnel through marketing materials generated by corporate marketing departments. As the article says, “Trust in brands and advertising has declined for 10 years in a row. It’s at an all-time low. Now consumers trust each other—their friends, neighbors, and even influencers.”
So if your traditional approach to marketing, and the corresponding dollars spent, are only driving 13% of your audience, what can you do to reach the other 87%? And more specifically, what does this mean for arts organizations for whom marketing dollars are extremely hard to come by?
We’ve talked frequently about the Patron Journey on this blog, and we’ve led dozens of workshops and conference sessions outlining the benefits of a marketing strategy that leads your ticket buyers and donors on a step-by-step customer path. The goal of those exercises — the “final” destination in your shared journey — is not a static location, but a greater, more noble ideal: evangelism. Sure, you want first-time buyers to become repeat buyers and repeat buyers to become subscribers, and members, and donors, but if you set your sights on evangelism, those humans will hit those spots along the way anyway. And as they do, they’ll be doing your marketing for you.
Marketers know that it’s not just good products (programming) that brings customers back time and time again powering them along their journey. We know it’s the conversations that happen in-between, more specifically, the conversations and interactions that set you apart from your competition. I believe these are the very things arts marketers should focus on: the random acts of kindness that we offer at each stage in the journey. The personal greetings by name at the box office, the in-seat visits, the public and personal acknowledgments of support and loyalty, the card and candy left on your seat, the personal recommendations, etc. These moments make the experience more memorable, and it’s precisely those moments that humans like to share with other humans: on social media, on review sites, and through word of mouth.
In his book, Schaefer talks about human-centered marketing in the form of five “constant human truths:”
- People want to belong.
- People want to be respected.
- People want to be loved.
- People want to protect their self-interests.
- People want to find meaning in their lives.
Here’s the best part of this. Non-profit marketers and fundraisers have known this for years! We fully understand that the basis of our appeal lies in the “humanity” inherent in our work (the humanities!) So while connecting on an emotional human level might be difficult nuts for automakers or insurance companies to crack, we already have a built-in connection. We only have to think about what ELSE we can do to satisfy these basic human needs at each stop in the Patron Journey.
So consider the ways that random acts of kindness might create the kind of satisfaction our patrons seek. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it creates exactly the kind of experience that they will want to share with their friends and family. And no matter how or where they share it, word-of-mouth is still the very best marketing there is, and today we call it Facebook, Google, and Yelp.