The arts, leisure and entertainment sectors have always operated on a different playing field to most other commercial organisations.
While the financial and operational fundamentals remain the same for these weekend wonders, they differ from their more workaday business cousins by having an army of paid and unpaid reviewers ready to review their sights, sounds, smells and tastes – which in turn can stimulate a torrent of social media chatter.
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Whether you are an exotic restaurant, a barnstorming sports organisation, a provocative theatre company or a camp comedian, the web will have opened up promotional and communication opportunities a publicist would only have dreamed of just a few years previously.
The two key drivers of this phenomenon are disintermediation and community.
A direct connection with fans (and enemies)
Whereas in the past, purveyors in this space relied heavily on third-party media outlets as their promotional bread and butter, the web has allowed end-users (the audience) the opportunity to comment and pass on the comments like no medium before it.
Then when these people are smitten enough, they can form their own community to review, discuss and share ideas about the provider in question and in turn create even greater viral promotion effects.
If providers want to they can bypass traditional intermediaries altogether and sell their own tickets and other product directly to the public.
Listed below are the key eMarketing techniques with a rating of how effective the technique is likely to be to operators of arts, leisure and entertainment organisations. High = high effectiveness, Low = low effectiveness and so on.
Selling online: HIGH
Whether it’s a ticket to a concert, a t-shirt or in the case of the copyright owner, the music, photograph or book itself, the ability to sell online moves the sector out of weekend markets and into a brilliant revenue generator.
While care needs to be taken to not bite the hand of traditional intermediaries which may still play a vital role in providing ongoing sales channels, the low cost of selling online means that providers can keep the valuable retail margin for themselves.
Search engine optimisation: LOW
This sector is one of the few that relies on search engines for abundant traffic. Because web browsers tend not to conduct a category search for providers in this space, search engine traffic is of less importance.
For example, lovers of reggae music are unlikely to use a search engine to find providers of the same. Instead they will use an online entertainment guide or seek out a performer they know and tap into the myriad of ‘you may also like’… facilities or search for the specific name of the performer.
Search engine advertising: MEDIUM
While search engine advertising generally suffers the same lack of importance as search engine optimisation for this sector, it can benefit those who use it strategically and cleverly.
For example, the aforementioned reggae act may have a new recording on the market. To help promote this, they may take out a search engine advertising campaign for keywords including not only their own name, but for similar (and often significantly more popular) acts in the hope of attracting attention and interest.
Email marketing: HIGH
Like membership organisations, email marketing is golden for those in this sector. Whereas in the past providers had to invest heavily in the relevant advertising media to promote a product or public display, nowadays email provides an extraordinarily low cost means of communicating with willing recipients.
And because by their nature they play on the passions and emotions of recipients, the rate of ‘opt-in’ to recipient lists is comparatively massive.
Online directories and portals: HIGH
Whereas other business sectors rely heavily on search engines for ‘directional’ (supplier candidates on demand) media like search engines, this sector relies on various edited listing services to appeal to new audiences.
To take the previous example of the reggae act, those who enjoy the style but don’t know where to enjoy it for that evening would consult an entertainment website like CitySearch or YourGigs.com.au rather than the less relevant and informative search engines.
Banner advertising: HIGH
Banner advertising is a great way to promote a product or event due to its high visibility, high targeting and affordable capabilities.
If the major websites are out of reach providers can attain excellent results with a banner advertisement on a more specialised website or eNewsletter.
Social networking: (VERY) HIGH
This is the only sector where the rating of ‘High’ isn’t sufficient to adequately describe the ensuing benefit. Social networking is to this sector what television is to beer – a mainstay of its promotion.
Because online communities tend to form around an arts, leisure or entertainment provider, social networking will automatically ensue as fans develop and spread the word. Providers not cognisant and pro-active about this reality are simply wasting a brilliant opportunity to connect with – and sell to, this influential audience.
Affiliate marketing: MEDIUM
Again, because this technique is so affordable and is a direct cost of sale rather than unquantifiable expense, it becomes a very cost-effective means of getting the word out in this sector.
The arts, leisure and entertainment sector was one of the first to realise the brilliant promotional and operational capabilities of the web. As a result, any organisation in the sector that isn’t already tapping into these benefits is sadly out of touch with the way their audiences communicate, buy and tell their friends.
Do you agree or disagree with these ratings? Either way, tell us why below. We’d especially love to hear from organisations in this sector that have tried the techniques described.
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Craig Reardon is a leading eBusiness educator and founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which provide the gamut of ‘pre-built’ website solutions, technologies and services to SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.