Thinking back on some of the highlights of 2023, one of the most energizing weeks our team had was at the Tessitura Learning & Community Conference back in August in Kissimmee, FL. It was a warm and thought-provoking week, and Situation was thrilled to sponsor the North American leg of the conference, something we were very proud to be able to do to show our support for this amazing company that builds the technology that powers so many Arts & Culture organizations around the world.
The most impressive thing about the annual week-long gathering is the permission it gives the attendees to shift gears from the immediate fires of the day-to-day to focus on longer-term goals and initiatives. If you don’t make intentional space to look at how your business operates, whether you’re a ballet company, museum, performing arts center, marketing agency or “other,” it’s just too easy to always push those conversations downstream.
At Situation, we started an initiative called the Hatch Program to help us do just that. The program is designed to create space for our agency and our clients to actively investigate the possibilities of new technologies in a freeform capacity and far away from the conversations of the short-term realities. Topics include how AI can help maximize the ways we identify new patrons and the ways new CRM technologies can strengthen our patron relationships.
One of the topics that we are bullish to discuss in 2024 surrounds the continued innovation of the official websites for arts and cultural institutions. What is often the most engaged touch point with patrons is often also one of the most forgotten (and underinvested) areas in arts organizations. With that in mind, as we start 2024, here’s the checklist we are working towards with our clients as they reevaluate their websites on the Tessitura platform (and beyond).
1. Don’t forget the storytelling.
Be careful not to fall into the trap of assuming your audience has all the information they need to make a decision before they come to your website. The #1 thing people want to know before buying a ticket to a performance (or season) is who’s in it and what it’s about. It’s a long-held belief that the ticketing engine is just the cash register… but are we underestimating the requirement to tell a motivational story that drives that purchase and removes obstacles from the purchase path?
2. Value matters more than price.
If I was trying to sell you a new car and told you it would cost you $30,000 but then turned around after you agreed and said the tires would be an extra $1,000 each, your reaction would be a heck of a lot different if I just told you the car costs $34,000. Assigning value to what you are charging matters – it shows respect, honesty, and transparency. Are we listening?
3. Accessibility makes you money (and, yes, does some good along the way).
Building digital experiences with accessibility baked in from the ground up (both in design choices and code) just makes them work better for more people, as well as being the morally right choice to make. Things that load faster, are easy to read and translate and are logically coded to be well rendered by screen readers make organizations more money – full stop. They also make it easier to syndicate your content to other devices and platforms. It’s a win/win – are we taking advantage of this?
4. Open-source thinking amplifies your reach: sharing is caring.
The world is moving way too quickly for any one organization to go it alone. When you build with an open-source mindset and leverage the power of smart partners who are focused on building in the same ecosystem, you stand on the shoulders of giants. Drawing on the strength of partners is really the only way to be efficient in a world where new tools become obsolete as soon as they are production-ready. How are we nurturing this spirit in our organization?
5. First-party data is currency and comes with a responsibility.
If you are not going to use consumer data in a way that brings value, don’t ask for it. If you do ask for it, you have a responsibility to use it to improve the customer experience. This applies to how you present options to website users (don’t push memberships to people who are already members) as well as email recipients (make sure you treat those who open every email and click through on your CTAs like a VIP). Are we thinking this way?
Here’s hoping some of these ideas help inspire you to carve out space with your own team to chart your organization’s course for the year ahead. We’d love to hear what big ideas you’re batting around. Use our contact form to let us know how we can help make them a reality. And for those headed to TLCC 24 in DC in August, we’ll see you there!
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