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Breaking the Fifth Wall (Excerpt) April 12, 2011

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A new book out, called Breaking the Fifth Wall, has emerged on the market.  Although we haven’t read the book here at Social Market Now, the excerpt below is quite good.

If you want to take a chance on the book itself, it is available from Amazon.com

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Breaking the Fifth Wall (Excerpt)

April 2011
Eugene Carr & Michelle Paul

As any actor will tell you, the “fourth wall” refers to the imaginary separation in a theatre between the action on stage and the audience sitting in the dark watching the play. When an actor “breaks the fourth wall,” he turns and speaks directly to the audience, breaking the illusion of the autonomy of the action. The effect is often startling—even a bit jarring—as the imaginary world of the stage is momentarily interrupted.

And when the play or concert is over, the audience passes through another wall: the “Fifth Wall” that separates the cultural experience (and the organization that produced it) from the ongoing life of the audience member. This effect can be equally jarring, as the lights come up and the world of the arts experience fades before the real world of parking lots, bad weather, and the late-night news.

The Fifth Wall separates your patrons both physically and mentally from your organization. Breaking the Fifth Wall is the act of reconnecting with those patrons in a meaningful way after they have left your venue, by creatively and regularly reminding them of the value of the arts experience your organization offers, coaxing them to return, and perhaps ultimately convincing them to donate. In the past, you might have simply called this “marketing,” but today, what’s required is more accurately described as “patron relationship building.”

The world has changed, and so too has the audience. The way arts marketers have gone about building relationships with audiences over the last fifty years is no longer relevant, and no longer works.

Subscription brochures, newspaper ads, and telemarketing calls are not enough anymore to connect to your audience and keep them coming back. The old “butts in seats” paradigm is simply too crude to be an effective goal in this more complex world. Of course, you want to fill your seats. But to address what’s truly ailing arts marketing, you must refocus on a set of new and different goals, and transform your organization’s audience-development efforts.

The arts-going experience is ultimately about a connection between the artist and the audience. Now, because of advances in technology and changes in consumer behavior, the arts experience—and arts marketing as well—is evolving into an interactive relationship that reaches far beyond a physical venue. It’s time to discard the “what we’ve always done” thinking that permeates the industry, and take a new approach that will lead to deeper and more meaningful patron relationships. This approach is what we call breaking the Fifth Wall.

How the World Has Changed

The way arts patrons access information about events and make the decision to attend them has evolved more in the past decade than it had since the invention of the radio or television. These changes are not superficial—they alter the landscape that arts managers must operate in.

• Arts audiences are now living online. As the Internet has become ubiquitous, it’s no longer a question of whether your audience can be reached online. The question is, how, when, and where is it most effective to do so?

• Old media—particularly print newspapers and magazines—are in steep decline, and their audiences are rapidly migrating to the Internet. What we used to call “new media” are no longer new anymore.

• A substantial portion of arts patrons prefer e-mail over direct- mail communications from their favorite arts organizations. Wired for Culture: How E-mail is Revolutionizing Arts Marketing, first published in 2003, suggested that if your patrons signed up for your e-mail list, and if you sent them regular, relevant, compelling, engaging, and useful information, they would respond in dramatic numbers. In 2010, we know this to be true. E-mail marketing works. Response rates for e-mail campaigns are much higher than for direct mail, and the cost to send e-mail is dramatically lower.

• As ticket sales move to the Internet, arts websites have become the most important public face of an organization. In many cases, they have become the point of sale for more than a third of all tickets arts organizations sell each year, superseding the box office and the telephone. Some organizations sell almost 70 percent of their tickets online!1 A poorly designed website, or one that is nothing more than an online version of the season brochure, can cause great damage to the image of the organization.

• The subscription, once the central and most reliable relationship an arts organization had with its core audience, an idea codified thirty years ago in the seminal volume Subscribe Now, by Danny Newman, is under siege. The fixed annual series is being replaced by the make-your-own series, flexible subscription packages, and more last-minute single-ticket sales than ever before. This transformation has led to a dramatic reduction in up-front cash and an unrelenting need to market empty seats until the very last minute.

• Social media has arrived, and it is not going away. What seemed like a fad only a few years ago has evolved into a worldwide phenomenon, with Facebook and Twitter leading the way. Today, if arts managers ignore social media, they do so at their own peril.

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Increasing Traffic & Sales on Etsy February 24, 2011

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Online Selling – Etsy and Beyond                            – Lori Peterson

Lori Peterson of http://www.loribeads.com/ wrote this set of tips on how to sell on Etsy.

Picking a name

Try to pick something that will either identify YOU or what you are selling.  “Your Name Designs” is one that I recommend (i.e. Lori Peterson Designs).  It covers a broad range of products and services, should your focus change.  I chose Loribeads before I really thought about that.  Also, think about what website names are available.  Chances are if you want something like Lampwork.com or FusedGlass.com it is already taken.  Do your research before making a final decision on picking an etsy store name.

Policies & returns

I could load this section up with examples of what not to do.  Put enough info in the policies to inform and protect your interests but not so much that it puts buyers off of doing business with you.  Keep it simple, straightforward and above all else, shopper-friendly.  Don’t gouge customers with shipping charges.  If you want to make more money on the product, price it accordingly.  Returns policies should reassure customers that you want them to be happy with their purchase.  Try to keep that in mind.  Occasionally you will get a difficult customer, that’s just the way it is.  Try not to let those experiences form your policies.  This is my opinion only.

Logos and branding

Pick a look and create a logo, online banners, etc.  Etsy is a good place to look if you want someone to create all that for you.  Some website hosts will have templates you can use and customize.  Branding is so important that unless you are just dabbling in selling, spending time getting this right is really important.  Make sure your logo/banner says something about your aesthetic.

Announcements and artist intro

Here’s the place to announce your grand opening!  You can also announce sales, coupons, new products and even general chit-chat here.  Artist profile is the place for your artist statement, how you came to be an artist, stuff like that.  I don’t like to shop at a store when I don’t know their location so be sure to put where you are, too.

Photos, photos, photos

-lighting and cameras

Honestly, it’s more about the photographer than the camera.  Get a decent camera – no need to spend a bundle – most point and shoot cameras are fine for web photos.  I sell beads so I made sure the camera I picked had a macro setting.

-photo tents and lighting

Light diffusion is pretty important, especially when photographing glass.  I recommend getting some good, bright lights and a photo cube, sized for the product you intend to sell.  Ott lites are a good choice for lighting but other daylight bulbs will work just as well.  Most bad photos are bad because there wasn’t enough light.

-post production

Photoshop, Gimp, Paint Shop Pro, there are many different photo editing programs out there.  Some are free, some are really pricey.  I have tried them all and trust me when I say that none of them can turn a bad photo into a good one.  Pick one that works with your level of photo-editing interest.  Photoshop can be a resource hog on a slower computer and is very expensive and has a pretty big learning curve but it is the industry standard for photo editing so if you get stuck and need help, you’re likely to find someone online who will have an answer to your question.  The bare minimum you will need from a photo editing software is to be able to resize photos.  Out of the camera, they will likely be too big.  Etsy has a 1000×1000 pixel recommendation for your shop photos.

Descriptions / Categories / Tags

-take a look at similar items for keyword/tag/category help

I know this seems like cheating.  But, really, it is the easiest way to make sure you get tags that make sense for your product.  Take a look at a few different products before you pick tags, though.  Some people use tags inappropriately.  Make sure the tags you pick actually make sense for the product you’re selling.  If they don’t, someone might report you and your item may be removed.

-dimensions, materials used, facts

Make sure you give all the pertinent information for the product.  It may seem obvious to you that the item you are selling is teeny-tiny because it’s in front of you.  When you look at macro photos of the item, it may seem MUCH larger.  Let the customer know what to expect so they aren’t surprised when they receive the item.  Same goes for materials used.  If you used sterling silver, let them know.  If you used base metal containing nickel, let them know.  Nothing worse than wearing something that gives you an unexpected rash!

-inspiration and artist stuff

Some artists like to include a story, like how the item was conceived, inspired or stumbled upon during the creative process.  Customers like to catch a glimpse of the artist’s soul.  Remember, you’re selling yourself as much as you’re selling the item!

Listing Strategies

-list a few items a day rather than all at once

The default search result for Etsy is newest first so you probably want to be on the first or second page when someone searches for an item like yours.  If you list frequently, the chances are better you will be easy to find and be seen by more people.  Also, keep in mind that the more items you list, the more items you will sell, generally speaking.  If you only have a couple things in your store and never update it, you won’t be as successful a seller as someone who keeps their store fresh and fully stocked with exciting new items.

-list and promote, list and promote, list and promote

Etsy makes it really easy to promote your items now.  One button push and you can publish your item to your Facebook page!  Same goes for Twitter, too.  You can also send out newsletters to your customer list to let them know when you have new items and sales.

After the sale…

-feedback

If you want feedback (and you do) you need to leave feedback for your buyers.  Thank them for their quick payment or for supporting your art.

-tracking sales/ customer base/ follow up

Keep a list of customers and get a mailing list going.  Make sure you check with them before adding them to the list.  No one wants spam.  There are a lot of free and paid opt-in mailing list generators you can use that will add a form to your website.  Some of those are Bravenet, Constant Comment, Vertical Response.

-packing and shipping

Pack your items securely so that they will arrive at their destination in once piece.  Make sure you include a hand-written thank you on the receipt or even on the back of a business card.  You can personalize your packages by adding special touches like gift boxes, pretty tissue paper or whatever makes you happy and furthers your brand image.  Get creative!  Oh and don’t forget to ship promptly!

Advertising and Promotion

Paid and Targeted

There are tons of advertising opportunities for artists out there but you have to look for them.  If you want to pay for advertising you can sign up for Google Adwords or buy an ad in a magazine that targets your audience.  I like advertising on forums I actively participate in.  It is pretty reasonably priced and super targeted.    It pays to do some online research to see where your customers are gathering.

Blogs / Facebook / Twitter

A blog or posting to Facebook or Twitter is a great way to talk about your creative process, promote your items and let customers know about your latest creations.  If you’re not a good writer, just post photos and links!



Etsy Listings & Sales Comparison February 12, 2011

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A comparison study shows the primetime sales transactions as well as the heavy listing times for Etsy buyers and sellers.

The chart gives a clear indication of when is the best time to list products on Etsy for the best responses and buyer traffic on the market site.

Social Market Now has conducted an independent study of when product listing times better result in buyer responses and sales of any type of market on Etsy and many other similar craft market websites.

We will schedule your renewals for the most optimal viewing time as well as perform your product listing as such to target the primetime sales window so you can spend the time you need to produce your handmade craft and art pieces at a higher rate of completion and without the interruption of sales and management of your Etsy store. 

Call Hannah at 740-739-7054 for more information.