10 Arts Marketing Tips to Fuel Change In Your Nonprofit

(Photo Courtesy of    Americans for the Arts   )

(Photo Courtesy of Americans for the Arts)

This year’s National Arts Marketing Project Conference (NAMPC) was inspiring and thought-provoking. Arts leaders live in a constant state of revolution, where they have learned to not merely accept the continuous shifting trends in arts marketing and audience engagement, but also to take an active role in embracing them. From November 11 to November 14, hundreds of arts marketers from all around the nation gathered together in Austin, Texas to discuss how arts organizations can capitalize on changes to fuel inventive thinking and a desire to experiment. Among all the innovative presentations and workshops at NAMPC, here are the top 10 takeaways every arts marketer needs to know:

1. "You should be drawing authentic connections with your audience by conveying the sense of play in art."

- Adam Lerner, Director of Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

When you face your audience, you don't always need to be so “professional.” Engage your audience by drawing authentic connections through the languages we speak, food we eat, and so on. Think about “why art” first, and then consider if there is anything beyond the art we can deliver to our audience.

2. "Creativity, first and foremost, is about shedding convention."

- Adam Lerner, Director of Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

Creativity is essential in the arts world. When we are trying to do something creative, it is not about reaching to do something entirely different, but more about thinking of the arts and the world beyond the arts in a creative way. The Failure Lab created by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is a great example. In the belief that failure is an integral element of creativity, a select group of high school students are encouraged to try out wild ideas with the guidance of and advice from museum professionals.

3. Don’t have a Google Grant? Get on it.

According to the 2015 Arts Industry Digital Marketing Benchmark Study, 70% of arts organizations have Google Grants. To put it simple, Google Grants are free money for non-profits to use on Google AdWords to display your message to people who are searching for nonprofits like yours.

Erik Gensler, President of Capacity Interactive, spoke of how Google is now your homepage, not your website. People are searching for stuff on your website through Google because it is faster than browsing through your website. Considering the fact that 77% of people who use a search engine in their research end up buying tickets to a performance, it is very important to use your Google Grant to optimize search results related to your organization.

4.  "You should take advantage of free tools such as Google Web Designer."

- Grace Geller, American Repertory Theater; Karyn LeSuer, Mark Morris Dance Company; Anita Merk, Flyleaf Creative; Bill Updegraff, Grapeseed Media

Google Web Designer is a free HTML5 (HyperText Markup Language) authoring tool. Arts marketers should pay attention to HTML5 for two major reasons – online video creation and SEO. Old rich media such as Flash and GIF have powered a lot of videos and animations viewed on the web today. However, for people who watch web video on iPads, iPhones and other mobile devices, new rich media – HMTL5 is the best solution.

First off, HTML5 makes the video a native browser experience for viewers. Second, it provides marketers with new ways to tell search engines about their content. In HTML5, a new tag known as the “section” will help site owners explain the video topic to search engines. Free HMTL5 builder tools such as the Rich Media Gallery can help arts marketers embark on using HTML5 painlessly.

5. Use social media monitoring and analytic tools to tell stories about user behavior.

The key to making the most of online marketing is listening to what your audience has to say about you, your competitors, and the market in general. Analytic tools such as the Google Campaign URL Builder allows you to easily add campaign parameters to URLs so you can track custom campaigns in Google Analytics. Social media listening tools such as Hootsuite and TweetReach allow you to get insights about your audience and adjust your marketing strategies accordingly.

6. "Stop saying the phrase 'email blast'. Be targeted."

- Erik Gensler, President of Capacity Interactive

Segmentation is key in email marketing. You can use data to create target segments according to previous engagement; or RFM (Recency, Frequency and Monetary value), which is a method used for analyzing customer value; or even create target personas based on interests, purchases or demographics. The most important thing is to remember that your message must match your targeted segment.

7. "Quality of content is important in email marketing."

- Brandon Biggs, dotmailer Inc.; Ceci Dadisman, Cardinal Company

It is crucial to focus on the quality of your email content. Start by keeping your graphics in check. Choose images that are impactful and a reasonable size. Free graphic design software such as Canva and streamlined image resizing tool Landscape can be helpful. Use only necessary text. Remember the point of sending an email is to get the reader’s further action. Links such as “Read more…” can arouse readers’ curiosity. Remember that quality is better than quantity when it comes to images and text.

8. "Emerging technologies are transforming art experiences."

- Brett Ashley Crawford, Carnegie Mellon University; Jess Bergson, Kate Martin, Anne Marie Padleford, and Mandy Ding, Arts Management and Technology Lab

Augmented Reality (AR), Beacons, RFID, and other emerging technologies are transforming the way we view and experience art. Many arts organizations have embarked on using emerging technologies. For instance, Cleveland Museum of Art’s ArtLens 2.0 app combines the most current technology (AR, Beacons and GPS) and innovative design with a wealth of interpretive content provided by the museum’s curatorial and interpretation teams. Some museums have used free AR apps developed by technology companies. For example, Blanton Museum of Art has used the free Layar AR app in one of their exhibitions to provide interpretive content for visitors.

9. "Using psychographic segmentation can help you grow your brand, audience and income."

- Howard Levine, 92nd Street Y; Andrew McIntyre, Morris Hargreaves McIntyre

Past performance does not always predict future returns. To grow your brand, audience and income, you can also use psychographic segmentation, a new approach to campaigns that has seen a marked increase in response rate, sales and donations for arts organizations. Psychographic segmentation involves dividing your market into segments based on different personality traits, values, interests, attitudes and lifestyles of consumers. It allows you to engage in product design and marketing in a very focused manner.

10. "Your graying audience can be an asset to be embraced, rather than a problem to be solved."

- Desmond Davis, Verb Ballets; Christy Farnbauch, Ohio Arts Council; Greg Finch, National Center for Creative Aging

Try to replace “ageism” with “age wisdom” in your head. As the number of millennials just surpassed the number of baby boomers and we are facing perpetual aging waves, reimagining older adult engagement is important for arts organizations. Ways of breaking the “old” mold including integrated placemaking, such as the Road Theatre Company partnering with the NOHO Senior Arts Colony to engage with active adult artists’ communities; and caregiving projects such as the MoMA Alzheimer's Project.


Facing the continuous shifting trends in the landscape of arts marketing, we need to not only embrace these changes, but also "desire change, seek it out, work for it, and invest in it". By exploring the creative approaches of arts marketing, we are connecting with audiences, deepening relationships with our communities, broadening perspectives, and injecting vitality and vibrancy to our cities.