I am in the process of considering marketing as part of my ongoing series on mainstreaming community engagement–figuring out how to be engaged without adding a lot of new “stuff” to do. Here, I want to discuss how the sales process can be “engaging.”
(NB: In posts on mainstreaming engagement, I am addressing only those individuals or organizations that want broader and deeper relationships with their communities but are uncertain how to begin or even whether it is possible to do so without completely reinventing the organization.)
I guess since I am writing about marketing, it’s only natural that I refer to Katya Andresen again. (Engaged Marketing: Research) In Message isn’t working? Here’s a three-point diagnosis. she says (like so many marketing experts are saying these days) that it doesn’t matter what we think. “The messages that appeal to us aren’t the ones that necessarily resonate with others. . . . We must think like the people we want to reach if we want to succeed.” And, as I have said before, how do we get to where we can think like them? Shut up and listen. Form a relationship. In order to create effective sales messages we need the deep understanding of those we seek to reach that can be gained through balanced (reciprocal) relationships with them. Community engagement can form the basis for constructing effective marketing messages.
For ticket-sale-based arts organizations, point of sale interactions are vital. A friend of mine, who used to run a presenting hall, had a great rant about how the most direct contacts with the public–box office personnel–were often the lowest paid. When he did consulting work, he would often arrive a day ahead, go to the box office, and make a scene (pitch a hissy fit as some of us in the South might say) to see how the staff was trained to treat customers.
The point here is that these interactions (and, of course, today many of them are online rather than face to face) are happening anyway. How might they be made to promote relationships with the purchasers rather than being mere sales transactions? The answers will come only after we ask the question. That’s the point of “mainstreaming engagement”–asking how engagement might be fostered through things we are doing anyway. In this instance, the gathering and presentation of information (two-way) about relationship-building options might be a simple add-on to the sales processes.