Anatomy of an email

Earlier this fall, the Minnesota Orchestra moved from MailChimp to a new email marketing platform, Prospect2. The main attraction of Prospect2 is that it talks to Tessitura, our ticketing and data system.

This move has allowed us to launch customized content in email, and we are getting more complex with each weekly newsletter we send. Here’s a recent example of a newsletter to illustrate what I mean:

At the top, we have customized reminders. Each week, data is pulled into Prospect2 via an automation to tag accounts with data about how many banked tickets or easy passes a person might have on their account, what their account balance might be, and whether the last gift they made was a year ago this month.

If any of those conditions apply, we mention the person by name in the gray header at the top: “Jennifer, Don’t Forget.” Some of these things–like banked tickets–have expiration dates, so we want people to use them.

We also have events to which we invite certain patrons, such as the Annual Review. For invitations like that we send out an individualized “standalone” email but then also remind them for several weeks at the top of the newsletter. All of these reminders add a ton of value for the patrons who regularly open these emails, and they cost us nothing now that we’ve set them up as automations.

It looks like a lot of reminders when set up like this, but most patrons who have reminders see one or two at the most.

We’ve also started targeting content to people based on attributes. We want to thank our donors as often as possible, and remind non-donors of how important donations are to the orchestra. With custom content we can easily accomplish this.

We now target donors, non-donors, subscribers, and non-subscribers so often that we have the tags and automations built and ready to access at any time.

These strategies are helping keep our weekly newsletter fresh and our open rate strong.

 

Signal to Noise for Season Tickets

The marketing team at the orchestra has been talking about updating the UI of our Subscriptions landing page for quite some time now. The old page was very utilitarian, and had links to ALL THE THINGS that people could by, and had lots of useful information. Trouble was, it felt underwhelming and had signal-to-noise issues:

The hierarchy was almost non-existent, and the benefits to subscribing were actually hidden behind little expanding menus. Full disclosure: this was my idea! In trying to reduce the amount of text on the page, I hid important selling points.

The new design is much more streamlined and looks great on mobile:

One of the nice features of the new design is that we’ll have added flexibility to feature certain packages with a nice large image at the top when we’re running promotions.

I also liked my co-worker’s idea of just consolidating all the benefits at the top and calling out the one benefit that is different for each type of subscription package.

Additionally, we can easily update the images used to promote each type of package, helping the page feel more fresh and timely.

See the page live on the website.

New email templates

I designed two new templates for a brand new email program launched this spring at the Minnesota Orchestra. The templates look simple, but the process for getting here was anything but:

 

Many arts organizations operate in silos—with marketing and fundraising departments communicating separately with patrons. We are working towards a unified email communications strategy, and the results have been promising, both for internal stakeholders and patrons as well.

Recent samples of the weekly newsletter: June 19, 2018 | July 3, 2018 | July 10, 2018

My role in these emails was to design and build the templates; additionally I build, route, edit and send them every week. I usually write the subject lines and do the final data testing before sending—targeted segments of our patrons receive reminders about everything from banked tickets donor benefits.

I also designed a monthly event calendar template:

This is sent to a larger audience every month. View the July 2018 email.

These are driving a major increase in website traffic every time they’re sent; what’s more, we’re sending fewer overall campaigns and getting more bang for our buck. It’s been really gratifying to see this program get off the ground.

404

Minnesota Orchestra's new 404 page

 

I first had the idea for this 404 page back in 2011. But I thought there was no way that our musicians would agree to it, so I kept putting off asking them. Then we had a long period of time where the musicians were locked out in a labor dispute, so of course lots of things got put on hold.

I finally worked up the courage to ask this summer, and the trombones loved the idea. I knew I wanted a video of #sadtrombone, but I didn’t really plan much beyond that.

The day I shot this video, I came back to my desk, sat down, and suddenly the copy just came to me and I quickly built the page. This was such a fun project and has been very well-received by orchestra fans. Special thanks to the Minnesota Orchestra trombone section for agreeing to do this!

Online ticketing system

In January of this year I was finally able to launch a project I’ve dreamed about since I started, five years ago: a redesign of the ticketing system. The simple reason this project took so long was that we lacked the internal resources to pull it off. When I got permission to hire the Orchestra’s very first web developer one year ago, this was the very first priority I had in mind.

My developer, a freelance designer, and I brainstormed what would be the best possible user experience for selecting seats for an orchestra concert and purchasing them, and then whittled down our list to what was actually possible within our existing ticketing system.

I art directed mockups and oversaw the project that brought us to a completely new and much more tablet-optimized ticketing experience (full mobile optimization is still forthcoming), launching just 7 months after our developer first started. For the full experience, visit minnesotaorchestra.org and click on any “BUY” button for a concert.

Read more “Online ticketing system”