University of Calgary

Haskayne program helps arts groups negotiate slippery world of marketing

UToday HomeJuly 4, 2013

Haskayne School of BusinessDebi Andrus and the students from her directed study program at the 2013 Rozsa Awards for Excellence in Arts Management.Research conducted by Haskayne School of Business marketing professor Debi Andrus shows that marketing audits are an important tool for arts organizations to help them improve their marketing efforts. Andrus says the audit is a timely tool as well, as more and more arts organizations look to better management and administration to ensure viability.

Arts organizations face a growing number of challenges today, from limited financial and human resources, aging audiences and unpredictable consumers, to finite leisure time and the communication challenges of rapid-fire social media. This, combined with Rozsa Foundation findings that only 30 per cent of employees working in marketing positions for arts organizations have formal marketing training, makes tackling strategic marketing challenges exceptionally daunting.

For the past six years, Andrus and students in her directed study program at Haskayne have conducted marketing audits for arts organizations as part of a prize package awarded to the winner of the coveted Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management. Through the course of the work, Andrus discovered the importance of the tool for improving marketing performance and that formed the basis for her latest research study, Connecting Communities Through the Market Audit – A Valuable Tool for Arts Organizations.

“There is actually very little research that examines the effectiveness of a marketing audit in arts organizations. This is one of the few studies that now exists,” explains Andrus.

What is a marketing audit?

A marketing audit is a comprehensive, third-party strategic review and analysis of the marketing function of an organization. The process begins with an in-depth analysis of each aspect of the marketing function and processes including: marketing strategy and planning, advertising campaigns and collateral materials, market positioning, target audience and the competition, trends in the market and pricing strategies, the ticketing process, fundraising initiatives and supplier relationships. The results and recommendations stemming from a marketing audit provide organizations with the valuable information needed to move forward and make positive changes.

Benefits of the marketing audit

The audit works for arts organizations for a couple of key reasons. “First, it is a comprehensive review of the organization's marketing programs and processes. Most arts organizations don't have the money or the time to assess where they are and where they could make improvements,” says Andrus. “The audit provides the arts organization with a road map to future success.”

The second benefit of the marketing audit is two-pronged: Haskayne students have the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of marketing strategy development through an experiential project; and arts organizations, looking to attract younger audiences, gain valuable insight by working with the students on the audit process.

Implementing changes, learning from students

The student-based marketing audit was offered to organizations ranging from an art gallery to museums and theatres. According to Andrus’ research, after the audit was completed, all six organizations reported that they had implemented more than one recommendation.

  • Two organizations reported making cultural shifts, with one organization stating that they “became familiar with analytical tools and making the time for them contributed to that. The audit process gave people more confidence to look at an analytical approach on their own.”
  • One organization improved its communication and planning processes.
  • Three other organizations took advantage of social media recommendations made by the students, improving their audience touch points as a result.

According to Andrus, “The most valuable part of the marketing audit often lies not … in the auditor’s specific recommendations but in the process that the managers … begin to go through to assimilate, debate and develop their own concept of the needed marketing action.”

Based on interviews with the recipients, the student-based marketing audit is deemed a success in terms of improving marketing performance for the arts organizations involved. When asked if they would do an audit again, all organizations agreed.


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