Applications that harness the power of the Internet hold great potential for all staff in arts organisations. Jessica Kosmack explains.
Arts organisations are getting web savvy. In an increasingly web-dependent society, the way for organisations to get ahead is to stay ahead or at the very least, on track with technology and the web. And were not just talking about online ticketing. For many years now, a steadily rising number of arts patrons have been using the web to purchase tickets. While most of us would agree that online ticketing is the new norm, there are many other ways the arts can use web-based technologies to not only improve ticket sales, but also enhance overall operations, efficiency, and growth. The benefits for arts organisations using web-based systems vary from user to user, but all organisations should consider two main features when exploring a web-based system for their organisation: a single database and real time capabilities.
A web-based application equipped with a single database means that all ticket sales, membership information, and fundraising data can be quickly and easily extracted and configured all in real time and from anywhere. Also, everything from online and kiosk sales, payment processing and access controls, to donation records are available to all members of an administrative team in real time. Lets explore the advantages of web-based applications from the perspective of five different users within an arts organisation: the IT Administrator, Box Office Manager, Director of Development, Director of Marketing, and a Managing Executive.
With a web-based system, administrators should have access to knowledgeable help and support. These systems also offer more flexibility on security. Other advantages include the ability to easily configure the look and feel of the application to the specific organisation, and the need to only install the system once in one place. The database system will no longer have to undergo major hardware and software upgrades when it requires updating, which means the organisation can continue to manage daily operations without major interruptions. The software may be hosted either on the suppliers server or installed directly on an organisations own servers.
Box office manager
Box office staff need quick, effective training and tools to maximise the efficiency of their department. Web-based systems use graphic interfaces that make learning the system easy for new users. A graphic set-up, instead of text, allows for dynamic options that allow staff to sell the same tickets in a variety of ways, helping to tailor a sale to the individual customer. Another advantage of a web-based, single database, real time system is the ability to see all of a customers information quickly, and even give them the ability to create and change their profiles. The Ordway Performing Arts Center in Minnesota, for example, uses a web-based solution not only for online ticket sales, but also for account management, allowing customers to create and update their accounts online, with the capacity to enable requests for special seating or specific email newsletters and brochures.
Director of development
When leading fundraising and related campaigns, development staff can use web-based systems to access all donor information regardless of where they are, or when. Up-to-the-minute information allows staff to see whether customers have purchased tickets, what their preferences are for being contacted, and any special requests they might have. Again, the Ordway Center collects donations online at the time of ticket purchase, taking advantage of the internet as one of the fastest growing sales channels. Sending out personalised messages of thanks, rewarding long-time contributors, or giving special login access to preferred donors are all options to better connect with a customer base. Fundraisers are always looking at the up-sell, sometimes referred to as loyalty marketing, or move management. You can improve fundraising results by analysing customer lifetime value, knowing who your loyal customers are and applying move management (upgrading) strategies to them.
The most effective marketers have access to all necessary customer information, across all levels of the organisation. Using a web-based application to gather and make this information available in useable and intelligent ways opens the door for marketers to maximise their customer contact points. Some systems are open-architected, making data extraction simple. They can also integrate easily with reporting tools like Microsofts Excel and Access. Sheffield Theatres, use a single database web-based solution to sell tickets online, and for their customers to create accounts online. Understanding the customer is extremely important for an organisation like this, with a network of venues, each with diverse needs, selling more than 1.7 million tickets annually. Real time information means marketing departments can strategically target new customers and ensure personalised, targeted communication with existing ones. With marketing and fundraising becoming more and more reliant on one another for support, its imperative to consider a web-based system that consolidates all customer and donor information into a single unified database of demographic and historical data. The result is that every ticket sale or donation begins to tell a story, and this information can be leveraged to increase ticket sales or fundraising opportunities.
Effectively managing an organisation can only work when the executives have access to relevant, up-to-date data across the entire company. The real time capabilities of a web-based application allow executives to access sales figures, fundraising totals, ticket sales, web sales, and much more from anywhere, at anytime. They are able to make decisions about adjusting ongoing marketing efforts for maximum success, or generate custom reports to assist in planning and decision making in nearly every aspect of venue operations.
Web-based technologies are here to stay and the strength of this shift will rest with the webs ability to do more with less. The flexibility that web-based systems offer means that as new revenue channels open up, organisations dont need to re-architect their technology platforms, and they will be ready to meet their customers needs with a powerful, personalised solution.
Jessica Kosmack is Manager, Marketing and Communications at AudienceView Software Corporation, providers of integrated, web-based ticketing, CRM, and fundraising software solutions for the arts, sports, and entertainment industries.