Leadership / 02.25.20
Amy Maiden Shows Her Iron as Chief Strategy Officer of AKA Australia
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program.
Amy Maiden will be celebrating her one-year anniversary as Chief Strategy Officer of AKA Australia, an international arts and entertainment marketing agency whose clients span music, theatre, festivals, museums, galleries and more. From the firm’s offices in Melbourne and Sydney, Maiden and her staff work internationally with teams in the United States and the United Kingdom to “put the entertainment in advertising,” as AKA’s website touts.
But what about those increasing number of patrons who don’t want to be advertised to? There seem to be more and more of them every day — people who fast-forward through TV commercials, barely even glance at print ads, click “Skip Ad” online as soon as their mouse will allow and so forth. Maiden’s job has definitely gotten harder as a result. But to her, it’s a challenge. In her view, there are two keys to marketing events and venues to people who don’t wanted to be marketed to. “Find your ‘Evangelists,’” she says, is the first.
“No matter what it is you are selling or what your venue stands for, you will always have a core group of people who will love you,” she says. “You need to love them back. Surprise and delight them. Create memorable moments that will get them talking. If you get the alchemy right, they’ll become your Evangelists and, in turn, spread your reach and engage a broader audience for you.”
The second key is storytelling. To this end, Maiden says, “You need to connect with your audiences in such a way that you get their dopamine firing. This means you need to get emotional and be remarkable. This can be done via communications that are funny, inspiring, moving or educational. But if all your marketing messages are transactional, your strategy is short term. To build loyalty and a long-term relationship with your audience, you need to connect with them on a much more nuanced and deeper level. Good brands are transactional. Great brands are emotional.”
So, what are some of the basic rules ticketing professionals should follow in reaching out to today’s harder-to-reach consumer? Maiden was quick to answer. “Consider the points of friction and how you can remove them,” she says. “Today’s competitors for our audiences’ time and money aren’t just other venues. They are everything else our audience considers doing in their increasingly limited down time. This could be yoga, walking the dog, baking, going to the cinema, swimming at the beach — it truly is everything.
“Our audiences are spoiled by choice and, as a result, have extremely high expectations. Any moment of friction for them in the journey of consideration, transaction, planning, taking part and reflection could lose them as a customer or, more importantly, as a returning patron. Think through everything that you can improve upon, everything that could help make your patron’s experience as smooth a retail experience as ordering a dress on ASOS.com for same-day delivery. What can you do at every point in their journey to and from your venue or event to surprise them, welcome them, thank them and make them feel special? If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. If your customer engagement isn’t remarkable, chances are you’re losing them to someone else.”
She went on to say that social media and social networking has become “beyond important” in drawing people in; generating buzz; and, ultimately, filling seats. Social media has indeed become so entrenched in our lives that there’s no escaping it. “But, many of the clients I see have become so obsessed with what they’re saying on their own channels, they forget to consider what people are saying about them. The audiences on your channels are already engaged. You need to think about how you can continuously reach beyond them and into the next potential group of ticket buyers. Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool we have, and social media is its great amplifier.”
Maiden cited a recent study she read that shows that audiences’ dopamine receptors fire up to their greatest levels in anticipation of an event, more than at the event itself. “We humans are not very good at staying in the moment, but we are excellent at thinking about the future,” Maiden says. “So, consider running your word of mouth campaigns before the event happens. Tell emotive stories or create moments that ignite and excite an audience when they’re at their most hyped, before they walk through the doors. Before you know it, they’ll be doing the marketing for you.”
There is a lot to be said about building a brand first and trusting that the paying public will come to you. Maiden has always believed that the brand and the programming go hand in hand. “What happens on your stage or in your arena says as much, if not more, about your venue as any style guide ever will,” she says. “But if you can build the audience’s trust and loyalty in your venue above and beyond a campaign-to-campaign approach, you’ll be able to broaden and diversify the programming and, therefore, ultimately reach a bigger audience.”
She uses Dark Mofo in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, as an example. Dark Mofo is a winter festival at the bottom of the world where the next stop is, quite literally, Antarctica. It’s dark, cold and wet. Yet flights and accommodation sell out the moment Dark Mofo’s annual dates are announced.
“They don’t even need to announce their programming,” Maiden says. “The majority of audiences book without knowing who is performing. Why? Because regardless of if they are a first-time attendee or a lifelong loyalist, they know Dark Mofo will offer up an adventure, a good time, something that will surprise and delight them. How do they know this? Word of mouth. The Evangelists I mentioned earlier have been shouting from the rooftop that Dark Mofo is an unforgettable experience. That leads to a strengthened brand, which leads to trust, which leads to stronger brand equity, which leads to ticket sales without having to spend significant amounts of money on marketing. And that leads to more money to deliver a premium experience which gives you more Evangelists.”
Maiden has given talks and presentations in which she has preached the importance of “finding your tribe and loving them hard.” Again, she says, this really speaks to the Evangelists she has made mention of throughout the interview.
“There will always be a segment of audience who truly are your biggest fans,” she says. “So often I see clients solely focused on reaching new audiences and forgetting to look after their current ones. It’s a lot easier to keep a customer than to gain one, so I encourage venues, producers and promoters to really invest in thanking, rewarding and surprising these people. If you look after them well, they’ll become your most powerful marketing tool. Little gestures can go a long way and will return for you at a higher rate. It may take some work to set up the processes or to try a new idea, but I promise you it’s entirely worth spending time and money on these people.”
Maiden says she still gets a thrill out of seeing people come to a venue for the first time and have a great experience. “To see a child or an adult take their seat and watch something they’ve been so excited to see, that they’ve been counting down to, to hear them talking at interval and after the show and to see them lining up for autographs at stage door … I never tire of it!” she says.
On the flipside, she can do without the accelerated world she — and we — find ourselves in these days. “Oh goodness. The market, our media, our audiences, our news cycle … it all moves so incredibly quick,” she says. “I feel like just as I’ve got my head around the latest challenge, a new one comes up. We really must be careful to look after each other and ourselves in such an environment. I’ve seen too many brilliant people burn out, and I think we need to look at more creative and flexible ways of working to sustain and nurture our energy and creativity.”
In her toughest times, she remembers a piece of advice given to her by Adam Kenwright, one of the theatre world’s top marketing gurus. “He used to always tell me: ‘People will never remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.’ That mantra drives how I work with my clients, with staff that I manage, with boards I report to, with my family, even my dog!”
It also informs her advice to young people, especially young women, just starting out in our business. What is her most frequent counsel? “You deserve a seat at the table just as much as anyone else,” she says. “Ask for help, seek out mentors and pitch that great idea. Take good care of yourself and others. And when you see an opportunity? Grab the hand of a woman behind you and take her with you!”
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Tags: Venues , Leadership , Women in Ticketing