Tag Archives: Get Out of the Building

You Can’t Do a Show for an Audience You Don’t Know

In one of my other classes, we have spent the past month or so developing the framework for a new work.  In my group, we are adapting the bestselling book The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  We have a designated director, costume designer, lighting designer, media designer, and two “managers” (members of the Arts Entrepreneurship and Management MFA program).  The very first week, we identified a target audience of families with children ages 7-12.  And then the director moved forward with his concept, the designers built the world of the show, the managers assembled the budget and tour schedule and a marketing plan all without thinking much about our audience ever again.

I was working on this project at the same time as I was “getting out of the building” for this entrepreneurship class, and I couldn’t help wishing I could take my group out for the same sort of research, talking to the people we think our product is for, testing our hypotheses.   We were building up this rich world of our story, without ever talking to the people that this story was for.  We didn’t talk to kids ages 7-12 to find out what they want to see on stage, we didn’t talk to their parents about what they think is important in educational entertainment.

As I was writing the marketing plan, I realized that I was just making a whole lot of untested guesses.  Guesses about who this was for, about what the people with the purchasing power want, about how to reach these people.  My entire marketing plan was one giant guess, based on my very first hypotheses.  I thought about our very first guesses about our arts venture, and how much we have pivoted our thinking in just two rounds of getting out of the building and talking to people.  Just this weekend, two of the hypotheses that I had absolute faith in were not only proven incorrect, but were unanimously proven incorrect.  In light of this entrepreneurship process, these guesses make me feel like this misguided marketing director:

If we had taken even five or ten minutes to really think about, and then talk about as a group, what our potential audience behaves in their daily life, how they think and feel, what they see and hear, what they say and do, we may have kept our audience as the driver of our artistic creation, rather than as an afterthought.  If we had taken this empathy map out, and tested our guesses by talking to kids, their parents, and their school administrators and teachers, we may have created a very different world for this story to live in, and I may have tried to bring this story to them in a very different way.

My goal is to be a successful artist…or, rather, make it possible for an arts organization or individual artists to be successful, and make a living doing it.  In order to be successful, I have to create (or ensure that the artists create) work that audiences really want.  I have to figure out what will bring new audiences to this art.  The best way to figure this out is not by making guesses sitting safely in my office, and testing those guesses once the product is complete and large quantities of time and money have been spent.  If our goal is to connect with a larger audience, then we must be testing our initial guesses by talking to people, talking to our current audience, and people we think are our potential audience, and then refining our guesses and talking to people again.  This idea of getting out of the building, of empathy mapping, should not just apply to creating a new venture, but trying something new (like an organization presenting a piece of work for the first time), or even just trying to expand a current audience.

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No Pain, No Gain

Let’s talk about customer bases, shall we?

We came together last week after “getting out of the building” for the first time to survey our community. While we reached a decent amount of individuals, we discovered that if you don’t ask the right questions then you’re going to end up with even more hypothesis to test. We have more data, but it wasn’t focused enough for us to really understand who we’re trying to reach.

For the purpose of this arts venture, I’ll be substituting “audience” for “customer” from here on out. We had a lot of discussion last week. A lot of talking, theorizing and assuming. I’m finding it challenging to stop make assumptions. I’m a girl who likes to take risks. I like to listen to my instincts and trust my gut reactions. More often than not, it has served me very well in my life and in my artistic endeavors.

One week of surveying potential audiences, and I’m realizing the importance of gathering data before drawing any conclusions. We need to ensure that whichever venture we decide to move forward with, it fits the needs of our market. Before we left class, we agreed that this week we had to gather more qualitative data. It’s not enough to know that someone is interested in attending an arts market. We need to know why they’re interested. As entrepreneurs we need to discover what our audience’s pains, gains and fears are, and how they affect our product market fit.

What gains are we providing the audience by offering our product? What makes them happy? What goes beyond their expectations? What would make their life easier or better?

What pains/barriers would keep the audience from purchasing our product? What are their big issues, concerns and worries? What do they find too costly? How are their current solutions underperforming?

What does our audience fear? What basic needs are you helping your customers satisfy?

It was fascinating to see how a line questioning would change as I asked who the final decision maker in the household was. For most of the teens surveyed, it was a parental figure. The undergraduate students that I spoke with considered themselves to be the final decision maker. (For some freshmen, this was a role that they were still adjusting to.) Regardless of the answer, it made me realize that we will have to tailor our marketing plan to fit the needs of multiple audiences.

See that? We have so many more questions to answer than we did last week, and I hypothesize that they’ll keep coming as we share our findings tomorrow. My biggest takeaway from this week’s adventures (while getting out of the building and talking to people) is that regardless of which venture we move forward with, we’re going to be dealing with a multi-sided market.

Preparing to Pivot

Over the past few weeks, I have heard the phrase “get out of the building” countless times.  I heard this phrase from my laptop speakers as I watched Steve Blank’s How To Build A Startup series on Udacity, from Linda as she talks about our next steps, from Courtney Klein, founder and CEO of Seed Spot, as she gave a workshop to a group of arts entrepreneurs over the weekend.  This week it was actually finally time for us to do this thing that we have been hearing over and over, this getting out of the building.

Over the past week, the five of us have tested our first two value propositions: a holiday craft fair and what we are calling customizable performance based telegrams.  After class, we created a quick web based survey to nail down what exactly we were testing, and also to create a quick and easy way to send it out.  We also identified a bunch of target groups and physical locations to physically get out of the building and talk to people: staff and patrons at a nearby bar that has a parking lot we are eyeing for our craft fair, staff and patrons at the coffee shop next to this bar, local artists, student artists, farmers markets, people who work in cubicles, and anyone else that would stand still long enough for us to talk to them.  I have been administrating the online survey, so have been able to watch all week long as the results come in.  We present our findings tomorrow in class, but for now (spoiler alert) I am preparing to do some major pivoting tomorrow and in the weeks that follow.  Turns out, most people (33 out of 65 respondents to the online survey) would not want to receive a customized performance based telegram.  And, there are already about 47 holiday craft fairs (this is not an exact number, but based on my wild estimation), and local farmers markets all already have too many arts and crafts booths.  We were hoping to focus specifically on ASU artists, and it does seem like there are not enough outlets for student artists to sell their wares.

Shelby and I visited ASU’s Tempe campus farmers market today, held 4 times each semester.  While we are waiting on more information from the group that organizes the market, we learned that you need to be either a student or a member of the Arizona Community Farmers Market Association.  The market is mainly composed of the booth version of food trucks, quick, hot food that would be good for lunch (I was eyeing the Hatch green chile empanadas).  There were only 2 produce booths of the kind you find at other farmers markets, along with a booth by the ASU Arboretum, selling dates grown on campus.  There were 2 honey vendors, and 2 or 3 packaged food vendors.  Nestled in among the tamales, pita chips and vegetables was one lone booth that could be considered a craft: a local soap maker.  While the representative from the farmers market that we talked to said that any student can have an arts or craft booth (after contacting the organization and setting everything up) at the markets, the official website says that only registered student organizations or members of the Association can have a booth, and arts and crafts are only allowed at specific holiday markets (the November market, Valentine’s and Earth Day).

I am really looking forward to hearing what everyone else found out.  While we kept in communication throughout the week about where we had been and who we were talking to, we haven’t talked (much) about our discoveries.  I am curious to see what pivots we make tomorrow, and what new hypotheses we will be testing next week.  Maybe we’ll go back to the very first sticky note on our wall on ideation day: cricket traps.  I guess it depends on how loud the resident cricket in our classroom is tomorrow.