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Last-Minute Arts Marketing Campaign Ideas for the Holidays

Girl eating cupcake next to holiday gifts.

Many a theatre marketer has been there: The holidays are just around the corner and despite all of the planning they have done, they still need to finalize a holiday campaign.

The holidays are a crucial time of year for the arts community. As families come together from near and far, they use this time to see shows together. Donors are especially charitable during the holidays. While theaters typically see their seats and box office drawers filling up, they could be missing out on extra revenue potential. Adding in some theatre marketing tactics can help with that, and thankfully, there are many quick-win approaches.

Here are seven simple campaign ideas to maximize holiday revenue and keep the organization top-of-mind for patrons in the new year. (For a more in-depth look at approaching holiday campaigns, check out this seasonal marketing guide.)

1. Drive up asks as the year ends

When patrons feel merry, they give: 34% of charitable gifts are made during the last three months of the year. It’s a chance for marketing and development teams to work together to craft donation asks that increase individual contributions.

Two River Theater did this by adding small donation asks to the end of the online checkout. They saw great success in a $15 holiday ask to sponsor student tickets during the new year.

2. Send an end-of-year wrap newsletter

Show off all that’s happened at the organization by creating a year-end newsletter. These can help bring attention to milestones that happened throughout the year. Include a personalized note from someone at the organization — but feel free to get creative with who that is. If board members and executive leaders are too slammed with year-end appeals, tapping into beloved staff member and artist voices can also make the content feel special.

3. Flex your segmentation muscles to grow purchases

Marketers can use this busy time of year as a chance to show how much they know about their audiences, and CRM segmentation is the key to that. Leverage pre- and post- show emails to create targeted follow-ups with language that’s personalized for different patron groups. Use these emails to nudge them toward upsells like the following:

Pre-show emails:

  • Purchasing their intermission drinks ahead of time (the lines get long in December!).
  • Use their time at the venue as a chance to get last-minute gifts (trade your ticket for 10% off at the gift shop).
  • Tips and tricks for a great visit during a full holiday matinee (when to arrive, where to park; where to eat with the family after) to leave them feeling merry about the theater’s customer service.

Post-show emails:

  • Thank new patrons for coming and tell them about all they can see in the next year.
  • For patrons who have attended multiple times in the year, use the holidays as a chance to tell them about loyalty programs to drive retention.
  • On that note: Memberships don’t always have to last a standard year. Try a seasonal or starter membership, and point out they’re a great gift option.
  • Tie post-show emails to targeted donation asks for loyal patrons.

4. A/B Test Your Emails

As holiday messages crowd consumers’ inboxes, it’s more important than ever for marketers to A/B test their campaign content to maximize opens, clicks, and ticket sales. Test imagery, subject lines, and different call-to-action options. Once the campaign is live, leverage data to optimize email performance and increase conversions. Lastly, remember to test only one variable at a time. 

5. Get visual with content

Emotions drive purchases and donations, especially during the holidays. Lean on family-oriented content to connect with patrons’ nostalgia and excitement. See where that imagery can pair with showcasing the organization’s programming and create a “fear of missing out” (FOMO) feeling for patrons.

6. Optimize for mobile

Patrons are on-the-go during this busy season, and 95% of mobile phone users look up information on their phones before calling or visiting a business. Make it easy for them to buy tickets and see marketing content by optimizing campaigns and the theater’s website for mobile. 

Focus on small changes that can improve the patron experience easier on mobile. The 2019 Insights Report’s chapter on optimizing the online arts experience provides tips and examples on how to do this.

7. Keep up momentum going into next year

The festive season can feel like a push to end, but that doesn’t mean all of the work organizations do for the holidays has to end there. As marketers plan their campaigns and pre- and post-show communications, make sure to have an eye on the year ahead. 

Arts marketers can leverage the data from their holiday campaigns to measure opportunities for engagement during the year. Using CRM, track opens, clicks and resulting ticket sales or donations from the holidays on each customer’s record and measure that engagement against their activity during the rest of the year. Create warm-up campaigns to encourage those patrons to see a show during the wider season. Time these campaigns so they’re close enough after the holidays to channel excitement from that time into the year ahead. 

Plan early-year campaigns around what patrons will be geared toward seeing in 2020. “New year, new year” campaigns can get them thinking about actually meeting their goal of consuming more art, or giving back to their community by becoming a year-round subscriber or sustainer. They are listening now that the time is ripe for celebration; show them that the good times do not have to stop there.

Even if the holidays are here, there is still time to earn some extra patron business and to position the organization to stay top-of-mind for patrons now and in the new year.