Monthly Archives: February 2014

Mara Vlatkovic: My Take On

Company:Be Smart About Art; London

The biggest influence in my life has been my family. Growing up in a large family (we’re 6 kids!) means that you know you can always rely on someone to have your back, regardless in how much trouble you are.

One of the most important life lessons my parents taught me was to always follow my dreams and make them reality. I’m still well on my way but they will never consider any idea or undertaking stupid.

I would love to live in New York City without a doubt. Probably not forever though. A couple of years in the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps would be a dream.

To unwind I go for a run along the Regent’s Canal where I live in London. It’s me-time, the time of day to listen to great music, get some oxygen flowing and wonder at the great characters walking along the towpath.

All the artists out there inspire me, from musicians to sculptors, who know that the only thing they need to do in life to be happy is practice their art. I find it fascinating, brave and inspiring.

I’ve loved the arts for as long as I can remember and was always surrounded by it, having grown up in a musician’s family. The big realisation was when I figured out I will always have to work in a field connected to the arts.

Working in the arts has taught me that you can get immense enjoyment and fulfilment simply from seeing something being created. It has taught me that money and appreciation are only one tiny part of the process at the very end of the ‘list of importance’.

It’s satisfying seeing people being affected by a performance or an artwork. It needn’t even be a positive reaction. Just the fact an artwork has moved you and stirred up feelings already means it’s worked its magic.

“Music is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. And people need it like the air they breathe and the water they drink.” – Sir Simon Rattle

Social media has had a significant impact on the arts, as it made the arts more accessible to anyone interested. It has also broken down standard barriers of distribution and communication. Everyone can publish a book, release a movie and sell artwork online. Social media powers that on. I personally still believe social media’s full potential for the arts has not yet been reached though.

After a morning run (in the summer) or meditation (in the winter), a shower and breakfast, I commute to work on the bus. I check whether any important emails have come in that need immediate attention and then spend the rest of the commute catching up on the news and creating updates for various Twitter accounts. Once in the office I make myself a nice cuppa tea and get started with the largest task first usually.

Since I have started doing the 1-2-1 digital training called “Empowering you Digitally”, I love seeing people put things into place from our training sessions and through that getting a wider audience, more visits or actually selling artworks.

At Be Smart About Art I am the Communications and Events Manager, meaning that I am in charge of our communications with our clients as well as partner organisations and suppliers. I also run the day-to-day event planning and manage all our guest speakers, external events and attendees.

Apart from developing even more interesting professional development events for Be Smart About Art and making them happen, I would also like to take on more classical musicians to expand my artist management business.

I learned that a lot depends on how it is being portrayed and re-told. You might have an incredible talent, but if no one knows about it and you don’t know how to convey it, people will not be interested.

Not sure it counts as technology, but within the last year I have come to use a lot of new software for various parts of the business such as Xero for accounting, Salesforce for project management and Stilios for gallery management. On the techie side, after my stint in Salzburg with the wonderful Re-Rite project of the Philharmonia Orchestra, I now certainly know how to work a projector and cables!

I couldn’t live without my smartphone and laptop! As they allow me to be so flexible in my work schedule and location. Without Dropbox and great email systems this wouldn’t work either. And lastly, Tweetdeck and Bufferapp have changed the way I use social media to become great resources of information.


About Mara: Mara currently works in London at Be Smart About Art, a business offering a programme of talks, workshops, webinars and mentoring for the arts and artists. Mara is a Marketing & Business Development Professional, and New Media Trainer for Art Professionals.  Get more from Mara on Twitter.

Don’t Make This Silly Mistake With Your Agency…

Have you ever come out of a meeting with one of your agencies, and wondered what value they added?  Is there any way you can get the last hour of your life back?  Why did we both agree a month ago they’d build your whole campaign, and nothing has happened?

What do you have to do in order to get the results you want?   Why is their campaign creative so repeatedly off-brief? What can you do to maximise their input?  Is there a silly mistake you’re making?

We think there is:

You aren’t measuring them.

It’s easy to turn this mistake around with these 3 tips.

Tip 1. Make them accountable.

Accountability can come in many shapes or sizes.  Primarily, accountability comes down to responsibility.  When you first engage with an agency, be sure to outline what your set of requirements is that they must deliver.

You may have one set of requirements, or you may have several that you need delivered.  Whatever the case may be, outlining these early in a written brief or initial meetings, should ensure that nothing unexpected rears up mid-campaign.

 Tip 2. Clear Objectives

Probably the worst thing you can do, is engage with any agency and not have a clear set of objectives that both of you are working towards.

Whether it’s a small run of printed flyers, an outdoor branding message, or experiential piece of marketing, be sure to have a clear set of objectives and agreed ‘measures of success’.  By setting clear goals from the beginning, both parties can agree on what their responsibilities are, and provide a clear direction for all further activity

By setting clear objectives, your agency will have a clearer idea of the role they are to play in the marketing or promotion of your pending campaign, and can tailor and adjust their communications and strategy around those goals, rather than assuming they are on the right track.

Tip 3. Quantifiable Metrics

By providing quantifiable metrics, you are able to accurately measure the impact that your agency is having.  If you provide ‘fluffy’ or broad metrics, you will receive fluffy and broad work.

If your marketing campaign is designed to increase pre-sales of theatre shows, the marketing campaign should be measured on this.  If the communications are increasing awareness of your theatre company, the campaign should measure pre & post-campaign awareness.

Marketing budgets in the arts are usually limited, and the best way to ensure that you are getting the best return on your investment is to measure what return you are getting.

The Good News: Agencies Want To Be Measured

Whether you have used an agency for many years across multiple campaigns, or if you are thinking of engaging with one for the first time, there could be any number of silly mistakes each party may make.

There’s one mistake you should avoid at all costs that will in turn save you lots of time and money.  You need to make sure that your agency is being measured.

If you have an agency working with you and they aren’t being measured, you need to take control and fix this situation.

If they don’t want to be measured, they’re making a very big mistake, and you should probably start shopping around.

What kind of mistakes have you had with your agencies and what have you done to fix them?


If Your Arts Organisation Only Has One Marketing Metric – Make It This…

Do you ever get overwhelmed by the number of marketing metrics you have to report on?  Is your frustration not just the number of reports you look at on a weekly basis, but finding it hard to know the ones that really matter?

Sure, we all manage various marketing channels, but what are they all delivering?  What should you be looking at to see where your marketing needs to improve, or where you’re doing well?

You need a barometer.  Something to tell you when your marketing is swaying too much in one direction.  Just one measurement that shows you whether your marketing is working or whether you need to change your strategy.

It doesn’t have to be frustrating, I’m about to tell you the one measurement in arts marketing, you should be looking at, why you should you look at it, and what you should do about it.


Introducing the ‘RAR’

I hear you suddenly sigh. Great you think, another acronym I can put down alongside ROI, KPI, PPC and FBI.  Just bear with me…

RAR stands for: ‘Return Audience Ratio’.

What is it?  Simply put, it’s the percentage of past or returning audience members that come to your latest production measured against the total audience members.

No matter what you’re presenting, there will be new audience members, or people who have seen your work before.

Let’s say you have 100 audience members at a theatre, a gallery exhibition, or even a live concert.  If 50 people present are audience members that have been to a previous show, and 50 are new, your RAR is 50%.  If though, you only have 10 audience members that have been to one of your previous performances, your RAR is suddenly only 10%.

Extremes of any sort are not great.

What if I have low RAR?

Only by measuring over time and developing a benchmark score will you know the extremities of your particular art.  However, in order for longevity and success, you will always need to be capturing new audience members and retaining some of the tried and tested loyal fans you have built up over time.

If you suddenly find yourself in a position where your RAR is extremely low, for example less than 15%, you’re faced with a  situation where audience members who have seen a previous performance, are not returning to see your latest production.

This could be due to any number of factors.  Perhaps your previous production wasn’t great?  Did you price the tickets and entry too high?  Was it promoted well, and was it targeted enough?  What was your communications strategy with past audience members?  Were you even talking to them in the lead up to your latest show?

If you have a low RAR you need to ensure that you are communicating to your audience.  Use your mailing list and database to have regular updates and communications.  There are any number of email clients out there these days such as mailchimp who can help manage your email database.

You can also provide incentive for past audience members to come back by offering something additional for their ticket.  A discounted offering on pre-purchased tickets, discounted merchandise – a free program, or drink upon entry, a backstage pass after the show to meet the cast and crew, or even a Q&A with audience members as a one-off if you want to open something only for past members.

What if I have high RAR?

This is probably a more fortunate scenario to be in as your productions are seen as quality affairs, and your audience had a great time last time so are coming again.  The problem you have, is that to ensure longevity, you need to be attracting new audience members.

This problem is due to your communications.  How are you promoting the show, where are you promoting it, and what media channels are you using?

You need to discover what drew your existing audience members to your show, and either target a similar market with refreshed comms, or discover why your target market isn’t attending.

You can promote your production to new audience members by utilising your existing base and offering a ‘word of mouth’ incentive for them to bring new people to discover your art.  This incentive could be any of the ideas mentioned above.

Alternatively, you could also provide incentives for new audience members to come such as offering one night with reduced prices as a ‘discovery’ night.

What you don’t want to do, is make sure that you offer your new audience members more than audience members that come and visit you often.  That will just annoy your trusted patrons and increase the chance they won’t come back.

No problem is unsolvable

By understanding one important metric that is easily measurable, as a marketer you’re well on your way to understanding the why, how and what type(s) of marketing.

You don’t want to be jammed with reports.  You don’t need to understand the granular details behind every piece of collateral you distribute.

What you do need, is a simple guiding light to show you where improvement and opportunity is.

If you want to understand what marketing levers need to be pulled, and to ensure that you’re attracting the right type of audience, I would start by ensuring you have ways setup in your marketing to measure your RAR.

Go on.  Do it.  Add another acronym to your list…


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