Have you ever walked into a bar, or a restaurant, or a shop, or even into a friends house and experienced a feeling of being unwelcome? You know the one, when everybody at the bar looks at you kinda suspicious like and you know they’re all thinking “you’re not from around here, are you”. Nearly every single time that happens we close the door and head on down the street, or we make our excuses to our friend and get the hell out of their house as soon as possible and make arrangements to meet them somewhere “neutral” next time. Why is that? It’s simple, if I open a door and I don’t see me or my people staring back at me, then there’s no way I’m staying. Truth be told I didn’t come here to meet you, I came here to meet me. Think about this the next time you look at your website, or your print material. People don’t want to see you, they want to see themselves.
The great Portugese Theatre director Augusto Boal once wrote that for an audience to be engaged in a show they needed to have one of three reactions to the characters: That’s me up there; that’s not me but I know someone just like that, that’s not me and i hope never to be like that. Like all pieces of genius its deceptively simple and should be at the front of every arts management and marketing text book. I had a chat with a new client recently and I compared his website to his big competition. The difference was simple: his website was all about him, his competitors website was all about the experience their audience were looking for. His website was the equivalent of the old guy at the bar staring back at me, his competitors looked just like what I was looking for and invited me in immediately. One made me welcome and one sent me away. One stared back at me and one reflected me back to myself.
Think about the websites you’ve looked at for small businesses, galleries, theatres, artists, actors, freelancers (hell, look at my website which is need of serious work) and ask yourself do you feel welcome? Or are you being asked to admire? Do you feel like you belong, like this is your place and your people or are you being bombarded with how good they are at the how and the what? When people look at your website and your other marketing material what do they see? Because if they don’t see themselves then they are not going to “convert” – buy, sign up or visit. And the purpose of a website (or a poster, or a flyer or a press photo, or an email or any marketing tool) is to convert somebody; to make sure that they close the door behind them and sit down with you. It has no other purpose.
Sure, I can hear you say, but the audience isn’t a singularity, there are different kinds of people, different groups, different segments. Yes there are and that’s why landing pages are so important.
Carry this psychology a stage further and think about the uniforms and the attitudes on the front of house staff in the theatres and the galleries and the arts centres you visit. Because if they don’t reflect you in some way the chances of you speaking well of the experience and becoming a repeat customer will decline.
When we present our art online or through any other channel its important to remember that if the public does not see themselves (from whatever angle) then they will not engage. Happy to talk about this .