Happy New Year

Firstly, Happy New Year!

I hadn’t planned to make a post today at all, but suddenly I felt the urge to set a few short words down before bed.

I know many people probably look on New Year as something of an arbitrary date – yes, it changes a bunch of numbers on the calendar, but in terms of turning over a new leaf, setting goals, or making resolutions, these are things that you could decide to do on literally any other day. Yet, something about today did feel like it was pushing me to be productive and feel uplifted (the unexpected sunny weather definitely helped). I went for a run for the first time in a while, and it felt great. Part of the way through, it occurred to me that my new job being in the grounds of a massive country estate opens up all kinds of possibilities for taking running more seriously as a hobby, at least once it starts to get light in the evenings.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m looking into doing a PRINCE2 Project Management qualification in 2019. I haven’t yet picked a week to do it, because I need to start my new job and then sort out time off, so in the meantime I’ve decided to get started using some of the free material available on the website, and two books I found online, PRINCE2 Made Simple and Prince2 for Beginners. I’ll fully admit that I don’t know if these will help yet, as they’ve been delivered to my Kindle which isn’t presently with me, but I’m hoping that they will get me through the basics of project management before I spend a lot of money on doing an examined course.


What happened in 2018

With less than 12 hours to go until the New Year, it seems like this should be the time for a bit of reflection and round-up on the last 12 months.

For the first time in a while, I’ve actually not just word-splurged this post. Or rather, I did, and after the last fifteen minutes of writing I paused to take stock, and deleted the whole thing – it was a good reminder that quantity does not equal quality, and I’ve already done a post detailing some of my achievements this year. I alluded in that post to career changes and I think now I can talk a little bit more about that. In two weeks time, I will be leaving my role marketing concerts for the Hallé Orchestra, and I will be taking up a new marketing role for the National Trust. This is a hugely exciting challenge, and also only a 12 month contract at present. Although the stability of permanent positions has always seemed preferable (and I’m grateful to have had one), it’s also nice to have the element of being a free agent.

I’m broadly happy with the work I did on this blog this year, though I’ll admit that it wasn’t a priority for much of the time. I got through one big Future Learn course – The Museum as a Site and Source for Learning, and I’ve never been more glad that I blogged my notes as I suspect they are going to be very useful very shortly. I’m also particularly proud of the two conferences that I liveblogged, (Arts Marketing Association Conference and Tessitura Europe).

I didn’t make a huge effort with my personal social media as I’ve tried to do in the past, posting curated links and news, or good instagram photos etc., and honestly I don’t think my online presence suffered for it – quality (relatively!) not quantity again perhaps? I would like to do more YouTube videos next year and to that end I’ve finally moved over to a new phone which a hopefully decent battery life. I’m debating buying a new, small camera for videos, but equally I’m aware that I haven’t used my DSLR much lately and it deserves an airing.

Other than that, what is there to cover? Well, I’m definitely finishing 2018 in a better place than I started it, and that’s something to be really proud of. I don’t have any grand resolutions for next year right now, nothing I absolutely must do by December next year, but it would be great if I could say the same thing again on 31 December 2019. We’ll see.

Personalised Ads aren’t actually Complicated

So, after spending a Boxing Day doing things that are very traditional for Boxing Day and mostly involve getting cold and wet along with a large group of other people (followed by lots of food) I’ve decided to put together a quick post on a feature of digital marketing that doesn’t often get talked about.

Recently whilst browsing Twitter, I spotted some comments that stuck in my mind (though frustratingly not well enough for me to remember who said them and exactly when/where I saw them) and the basic gist was this – people are very worried about the amount of data that advertisers have on them, and how they are able to turn this into ads that exactly appeal to their needs. The concept of ads that push some kind of specific psychological buttons is pretty deep-seated in the public consciousness now – as the script for the already infamous Brexit trailer shows.

To tell you the truth, as someone working in marketing this worried me a little too at times, because it made me feel like I was floundering in the dark when it came to audience segmentation. I would read articles like this one and think, ‘yes, but I already segment the audience based on location, age, gender, interests, job type etc. etc. etc. – what else am I missing?’ Which is where the next part of that original Twitter comment came in – which was about how many people see an ad, and actually care about it.

Digital advertising, just like newspaper ads and leaflets and massive roadside billboards and stickers on lampposts and just about every other form of advertising that exists, only ever gets the attention (and subsequent sales/sign ups, whatever is being pushed) of a tiny fraction of the people who see it.

A 1% return on leaflets would be considered pretty good (and this is pretty hard to track, even with promo codes or surveys. Clickthrough rates on digital ads isn’t much higher – 3-4% would be good – imagine your ad is seen by 50,000 people. That means 1500 actually clicked through and looked at your website, and hopefully from there actually decided to buy something, or at least signed up on your mailing list so you can send them tempting offers in the future. Maybe a 10th of those 1500 looked through your collection of, let’s say, personalised ethically sourced jewellery and because a few of them bought quite a bit you’ve got an average spend of £20, you have £3000 worth of sales. If your ad cost you around £400, you’ve got a pretty good return on investment there for not a lot of work.

However, that also means 48,500 saw your ad on their screen, scrolled past it, and then probably forgot all about it, just as they probably couldn’t tell you what ads they saw on the front page of the Metro on the train last week. So, exactly how personalised are these ads?

So, you get political ads on Facebook and (unless you have clearly expressed support for a particular political party) if you’re a young person they’re probably left-wing ads and if you’re older they’re probably right-wing, because that’s simply the general trend. But if you got a timeline advert from the Labour party and you’re not at all interested in voting Labour, you’ll probably ignore it. It becomes part of the background noise of social media and/or the internet in general, just vague words and pictures in between more interesting content.

This means that really, marketeers, strategists and consultants don’t know anywhere near as much about you as you might think, but they’ve got enough data to make educated and profitable guesses (and I’m sure they’d like to think that they’ve got more then that, so that companies will employ them on large salaries to tell them how to make more money). In the end, marketing has got slightly more directed and personalised in recent years, but only slightly, and based on the exact same methods and data that marketing has always used. It’s only the medium that is truly different.

Reading for Sunday 16 December 2019 – Management and Self-help

So, to follow straight on from my last post where I mentioned that I’d be studying various  books on marketing, management and strategy to prepare myself for something more formal in 2019, here are my first few written up notes from these books.

Firstly, a confession. I started ‘Strategic Management for Non-Profit Organisations’ before I even got around to putting up that post (I wrote it on Saturday 15 December, and posted it this afternoon, Sunday 16 December) and ended up abandoning it within the first chapter. It is actually quite an old work, and marketing has definitely moved on a lot – the first chapter is basically desperately trying to persuade you that marketing for charities is real marketing too – as that is my current job, I really don’t need to be persuaded. My sister has kindly offered to lend me some of her business studies textbooks over Christmas, so one of those might be a good replacement.

So, leaving the Project Risk Analysis book to one side for the moment, as it is quite specialised and something I would like to talk through with my father, since it’s actually his area of expertise, I’m reading through “The Wizard Book of Management‘ instead.

A lot of the early part of this book is about dealing with work colleagues and particularly about asserting yourself at work in a balanced way, as well as the importance of managing others positively. Really, this is less of a strategy book and more of a self-help book, so rather than taking notes and popping them up here publicly, I’m just going through and quietly thinking about my work, and how to incorporate some of these ideas!

Things to work on in 2019

So, in the last week I took a really, really big step in life that I’ll talk about publicly here in January, and what that step means is that I no longer feel like I’m living in limbo, which has slightly been the case for the past few months. So, with some free evenings over the Christmas period, I’m doing some reading up for 2019 plans.

Firstly, I’ve gone back to a website I used to rely on for tips – Social Media Today. The first post I read on there, about visual ideas for 2019, gave me some really interesting ideas. Companies and organisations that I’ve worked with in the past always want to be bigger – bigger social media numbers all round, often setting KPIs based solely on that, but this suggests it’s really about keeping a niche group of people, which is a much more realistic way of looking at marketing and comms, especially with a limited team, budget and resources.

Elsewhere, I wrote in my last blog post that I’m looking into doing a Project Management course, but first, some studying in order. Expect notes from these and more soon.


Plus, I‘m setting myself a task to read from the Association for Project Management website – it seems like they have a set of really useful videos, which I always find to be a great way to learn.

It’s December – somehow…

So, we’re into the darkest part of the year, which means that I’m spending more time sat inside and less time out and about, so until it gets a little warmer I’m determined to spend a bit more time writing for this blog, even if it’s not anything deep or exciting. So we’ll start with as much of a life update and reflection on the year as I can put on here.

Most excitingly, I bought an apartment of my own this year. I realised back in January that this was something I could afford to do, but unlike renting actually buying property is a complicated business. Several offers fell through, several estate agents messed up and some places turned out to be extremely not as advertised… and once I had an offer accepted it was a further five long confusing months before I had the keys to the place. It has been a huge step in life, and one that I know I’m very privileged to have been able to make in the current economy while still in my twenties.

To be honest, other things I’ve done pale a bit in comparison to that, though I’ve made some exciting career steps and been to some important networking events. I haven’t made as much time this year for personal study, though I’m keeping up with French lessons on Duolingo, and got to do a great Futurelearn course on museums that I’m hoping will stand me in good stead to things to come. I’m planning to change that next year, and look at some more formal courses including possibly a PRINCE2 course in Project Management.

Elsewhere, I’m going to put aside some time in 2019 to do more videos for Manchester Canoe Club and for myself, which will also mean more travelling, and more effort to document those travels either through video, photography or the written word. In recent years I’ve shied away a little from putting too much of my life out online, but I can’t deny that it gives me a lot of opportunities to do creative work. Even little edits like this skiing video (which came out in July…) are a source of enjoyment, and since I’m not in any way interested in viewer numbers, I know I’m putting them up for myself plus family and friends, rather than some kind of Internet Points.

Sorry, that went rather off-topic! I’ll think we’ll leave it here for today, and see where we’re at next week.

Tessitura European Conference – Session Notes Day Two

These are my notes from day two of TEC2018, you can find day one notes here and my takeaways from the conference post here.

Session One: Wordfly – Send it Smarter

Data that comes back from emails is immediate and actionable – people need to get out of the mind-set of ‘just send’ and focus on behaviour and motivation.

Open/Clicks/Shares – important to compare campaigns to each other. Labels are important – you should label all emails in one campaign together for direct comparison.

Wordfly has joined up with a service called ‘Behaviour Infuser’, (it’s a paid service of course!) that you can use to send triggered emails based on web behaviour.

  • Measuring Metrics
  • Choose your baseline metrics – ticket sales? RSVPs?

In Wordfly settings, can choose Google Analytics to track.

Tessitura Source ID number is another metric (this one probably doesn’t work for us- going to our own website breaks that link).

A+B testing – what is your strategy behind it?

You can create surveys in Wordfly too via Pages (also a paid-for service) which passes info back to Tessitura. This can inform you on what works/doesn’t work in marketing copy. Pages works like the Wordfly email editor but edits a webpage.

  • Email Marketing can often be the place where people rediscover you.
  • You need to appeal to the ‘unique-ness’ in people’s mind – they don’t want to feel like they are part of a mass campaign.

This is where dynamic tags save a lot of time – can you create one email but replace a lot of parts with custom options.

In the subscriber list, you can segment in Wordfly within that list based on behaviour.
It’s more and more important that customers get a good experience via the inbox or you risk losing them completely. 30% of customers go elsewhere after just one bad experience.

Recent Design Additions

  • Gradients
  • Background images
  • Video (note: to work on systems like iOS, would need to embed video as mp4 in website and work from there.)
  • Animated GIFs (this could be really useful!)

Popular designs right now are laid-out grid-style, Instagram-like.

GIFs are often placed in the lower right corner, under the thumb for right-handed people on mobile view.

Less text, more image. More dynamic colour.

If you have to add a lot of text, make it easy to read, make it bigger.

Upcoming Wordfly Features

  • Layers, fonts, overlays and shapes added to Image Editor. You can also change image size and quality to fit.
  • Unlimited sign-up forms with customisation and preferences.

Session Two: Dynamic Pricing – From Digonex

Dynamic pricing is often seen as gouging the customers – but actually it’s about adjusting based on supply and demand, both up and down according to the market. So the more data you have on market demand, the better.

Often organisations only run dynamic pricing based rules about capacity (e.g. increase by x amount when reaching y capacity) and often based on educated guesses.

Also can miss market changes by doing this.

Digonex work with agolrithmic pricing which can take advantage of all factors, though it is important to view this as customisation – can set an approval system so the algorithm only recommends rather than act, for example.


Look at your discounting system – is it gowing your business or are your full prices actually wrong?
For attractions in particular, they can price day-by-day based on attendance, weather and many other factors etc. If you are totally transparent about why the price changes and set rules (for example, prices don’t go down so early bookers aren’t disadvantaged) – there won’t be a backlash from the public.

Examples inputs for Digonex are based on data from Tessitura, as well as marketing spend, Google Analytics, internal performance/show reports, weather, fuel prices, economic conditions, competitor pricing.

Also keep an eye on the substitution effect – if one show has a special price, how does that affect other show’s revenue?

Session Three: Business Intelligence Face-Off

Wales Millennium Centre Case Study – Dynamic Pricing

They tried dynamic pricing a high-value show, and had obvious high-value areas not sell. So they created a heat map of the entire run to identify small zones which were individually priced.

They used an excel spreadsheet to track the capacity of each zone, then once one zone hit a capacity target, box office could percentage price up (by 5%. then 10% depending on demand.)

The issue is that using T-stats for data means that the data is always out by one day.

Also, manual changes are time-consuming, especially at the start of the process.

National Theatre Case Study – Key Targets

Their three key organisation targets are

  • First timers
  • Under 35s
  • BAME audiences

Used a mix of Tessitura and Survey Monkey data – the issue with surveys is that not everyone answers. Therefore, the survey is weighted, in their case by membership because their members are more likely to answer.

Metrics on their own don’t always look so great, especially year-on-year, but can be much more interesting when compared against each other – how many first timers are also under 35, for example? Processes like these give you much more varied data.

Session Four: Accessibility Ticketing

  • Legally in the UK, you have to provide equal access.
  • Also, if you have international patrons, you may need to be aware of how they might view their rights and what to expect.

Remember that models of disability shouldn’t put the onus on people.

Not all issues are obvious – is the website designed with disabilities in mind, for example.
Booking in particular can be an issue

If you can show a clear commitment to accessibility, this leads to trust that access needs will be carried out – especially when trying to break down the barriers of getting people to/into your venues

Tessitura allows you to put a line on the online booking form/process that creates a CSI report of accessibility – allows people to give very specific instructions.

Can use the info given not just for the event at the time, but also marketing in future – because you know who is coming/not coming to your events and how to cater to them.

Session Five: Digital Comms

Need to spend time doing short, focused campaigns across multiple digital platforms – can be resistant to this if it looks like you’re missing groups.

Audience data builds better comms, which equals better loyalty.

Case Study: Science Museum

The hardest thing (as a museum) is data capture – to increase it means changes of behaviour in FOH staff and visitors.

They didn’t give a script to FOH, but create a flow chart to guide visitors through data capture.

Then, need to sort BOH process to ensure data is handled well. Create a data hierachy to develop more emails to shorter lists. For Science Museum, this resulted in more tickets, also more online booking.

Pre- and post- visit emails increase customer satisfaction.

They looked at membership at Science Museum – the entry point for membership is quite low, so they created a membership e-newsletter to increase loyalty, and segmented data based on number of visits per year and geographical proximity.

Case Study: Royal Danish Theatre – Online Ads

Relevance = better
More relevance = smaller audience for the ad

They used Facebook and Google Ads with an automated feed, using the Facebook pixel – sends data automatically to both spaces from the website. All productions are automatically added, and changes automatically update with prices/images etc. So all you need to do is manage the update.

Future of Owned Media is Email

GDPR – people are much more aware of their rights.

Emails is not splashy, viral, sexy etc. but it can be your most powerful tool, and also most cost-effective.

Social is more for the audience you don’t already have!

You do need to invest in email – there’s a point of data collection, which is making sure you know who your audience are and what they are.

Make sure you give people good content as an incentive to stay subscribed.

End of the Conference!

So, those are all of my notes – saved here so they’ll always be available to me, and perhaps useful for any arts marketers, whether using Tessitura or not!