I just saw the results from the first day of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's on-sale for their five week holiday season in NYC. The results were excellent—18% ahead of last year's first day of on-sale.
The success of this, or any on-sale, is a direct result of an organization's ability to capture, communicate with, and delight prospects and turn them into engaged fans. This is called Permission Marketing and is defined by turning strangers into friends, friends into customers, and customers into evangelists. And it all starts with a focus on capturing leads.
I have been writing and talking about how important lead collection is for 8 years and I am happy to say that Ailey, who was Capacity Interactive’s first client, has embraced this philosophy fully. Unfortunately, most arts organizations have not.
Ailey is a dynamic, athletic, and thrilling company to watch and this drives their success. Even Oprah says that every American owes it to themselves to see the company at least once in their lives.
Photo Courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
But I am here to talk about marketing—I attribute Ailey's on-sale success to a year-round focus on three areas:
1. Growing and engaging social followers with top notch social content
Ailey was one of the first dance companies to hire a full-time content creator. This person's job is all about creating content for social, their blog, website, and email. Ailey also focused on one social network. Back when there were really only two major social networks, we realized that the majority of Ailey fans on Facebook were also on Twitter. With limited resources we made a decision to focus 100% on Facebook. Ailey held to that until recently when Instagram was added to the mix. The decision to focus on the network with the most users (close to 80% of all internet users) paid off. Ailey now has over 514,000 Facebook fans. And they are a highly engaged bunch—Liking, commenting, sharing, and buying with fervor.
2. Capturing email leads both online and off
Ailey has been using our website lead generation software, Leadacity, for over 2 years. They have captured more than 27,000 email addresses. At their NYC performances every year, not only do they get the email addresses of online buyers but they also have methods to capture emails from phone buyers and at the box office. Even in the theater for the 50% of the audience that did not purchase the ticket...I've written about this in more detail here.
3. Building a long-term remarketing pool
We implemented remarketing code on the Ailey site years ago. So if you visited the New York City Center page, the calendar, or any other page of the Ailey website even a year ago (and didn't clear your cookies) we can target you this year with relevant ads wherever you are on the web. This pool is now over 100,000 users.
So back to the on-sale. Which organization is going to have a better on-sale? One with 10,000 social followers, 10,000 email addresses and 10,000 pixeled users or one with 100,000 of each of those? It is a no brainer.
With just one email, stellar social posts, and beautiful display ads, all targeted to people who previously raised their hands (by signing up for email, following the company on social, or visiting the Ailey site) they can sell a ton of tickets. Ailey’s on-sale included no mass media -- only display ads targeted primarily to prospects who visited their site, three promoted Facebook posts, and one email (They were also included in City Center’s annual print brochure and the Ailey development department sent a postcard relevant to the on-sale).
Most arts organizations spend boatloads of money screaming to top-of-funnel prospects. These top of funnel ads (like radio, print and outdoor) are scattershot, expensive, and drive people to a website where lead generation is an after-thought. Oh you missed the tiny "Get our newsletter" link on the footer of our site? You didn't click the tiny like button on the top right hand corner?
If you’re going to spend any money on top-of-funnel media you must make lead generation a top conversion priority on your website. Make it big, make it bold, and track your results. Once someone has raised their hand, send them the amazing content they want immediately and frequently. Invest in great photography, beautiful videos, and fun blog content. Push this out to the people who raised their hands and they will reward you with engagement, shares, and sales.
I am surprised that more organizations are not focused on this marketing philosophy. I have seen it work for our clients time and time again. It is not a quick fix. It takes time to reorganize your budgets, teams, and priorities but it pays off in the long run. I am firm believer for not just our clients, but for my company too.
Sy Sperling, the President of Hair Club for Men said in the famous 80’s commercial "I am not only the hair club president, I'm also a client." We practically sold out Digital Marketing Boot Camp for the Arts two months before the event using only remarketing display ads, promoted social posts, email, and one round of postcards (to a very targeted list).
When I started Boot Camp five years ago I sucked at getting leads. I was forced to spend more on marketing because we didn't have anyone in the middle of the funnel. It was all top of funnel advertising. I was begging bloggers to write about us, sending three rounds of postcards, and buying ad space in journals. Since then we’ve worked hard to grow our leads through the tactics outlined above. And now we are going to invest that marketing money into creating a better experience for our conference attendees.
I believe in this so strongly and I want to give anyone who reads this one free month of our Leadacity software so you can start collecting leads on your website today.