Lately I have been reading Seth Godin’s blog which is mainly about being honest with yourself so you can run your business more openly and directly (and you will reap the benefits). At least, this is the message that keeps coming to me each time I read one of his posts. He also is a big advocate for being your own leader in life. I also subscribe to this philosophy.
I think it is time to be open and honest about ADS. Many of you think that ADS is a company with several employees, and this is not the case. Instead, ADS is a one person business (me) that collaborates with other consultants to bring you a complete audience development services package. If you need help with audience development, I and my team of consultants can educate and support you to building a better audience.
Instead of a research firm, ADS is a hands on, get in the trenches with you firm. We will help you to discover what you need to build a better audience and teach you about the audience development techniques and philosophy to build that better audience. We are there to help implement as well if needed.
ADS is a small start-up business. This is my 4th year of spreading the word about audience development, and the direction of ADS is still being discovered. I frequently attempt new ways to connect with more people. Some of these ideas work, such as the twitter chat you witnessed in my last blog post, but some of these ideas have not worked, such as my plans for an Audience Development Symposium and my Ideas Contest which could use a ton more votes. I will continue to put myself out there regardless of success or failure.
Some people do think I was a little crazy to start a new business during this economy. I’m certainly feeling the weight of the timing. I do feel though that it was time for someone to start bringing more awareness to audience development since I think the arts are in need of this change, and I thought, why not me. I can at least say, no matter what, that I was a part of the audience development revolution.
During my ADS journey, I have met some wonderfully talented people along the way. I have found that a percentage of others are receptive to attempting something new in order to be successful. Despite the headlines of symphony orchestras going bankrupt and other arts organizations closing their doors due to lack of continued government funding, there are other organizations that are attempting audience development, staying afloat or even thriving in this economy. So how can ADS be a catalyst to get more artists and organizations on a good audience development path?
Part of ADS’ mission is to get the conversation about audience development flowing. I attempt to do this on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn through topic discussions and contests such as the Ideas Contest previously mentioned. One of my Facebook connections asked if this was a conflict of interest since I am selling audience development ideas. My response is, ADS is not in the business of selling ideas, but rather we are in the business of using the good ideas that surround us to educate you about audience development and to create a plan to build you a better audience. I perhaps am one of those people that are constantly open to new ideas, so I frequently am blessed with ideas. I do not claim to own all the ideas surrounding audience development. If the idea is not “mine,” I will always attempt to give credit to whom the idea came from.
I am proud to be one of the louder advocates and educators of audience development. This means that whenever I begin a discussion about audience development, I truly want others to participate. We as an industry need to be more open and sharing of good ideas so all of us can benefit. The competitive mentality has been part of the problem that brought us to this place. Why not try to share the wealth this time around? This is a big part of what ADS is about, sharing the ideas for audience development so we can all become educated. I believe that great ideas are floating all around us and open conversations can help us to be receptive.
Where ADS is headed is not certain. Right now it is a consultant business, a for profit business. Since I am still a start-up, during a bad economy, it has been less profit and more sweat equity. I am happy with all that I have done so far and know that my work with the artists and arts organizations I have been able to serve has resulted in successful increases, yet I feel there is so much more to be done. This means that I too need the resources to continue this journey. I have been thinking about either transitioning into a resource outlet that would require a membership to keep it running or maybe I do need to go nonprofit.
The reason I am posting this open letter was the aforementioned need to let everyone know what ADS is currently. The second reason is to declare this blog post a place to consider what it could be for the future. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts. What type of support do you need at this time to build a better audience? Do you need guidance, a resource house, a consultant team, all of the above? Your thoughts will certainly help me in making some of these important decisions to better serve.
Thank you for taking the time to read my open letter. I am thankful for all the support I have received along this journey, and look forward to continuing the audience development conversations with you.
Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Audience Development Specialists
“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”