FYI Blog

Museum Exhibits Are All Eyes

Mona Lisa headcropAre we creeping into Big Brother territory, or is this just another way to ensure you fully enjoy your museum experience? An interesting article by Ellen Gamerman in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “When the Art Is Watching You,” discusses the innovative tracking technology that some museums are using to make marketing, fundraising, and curating decisions.

Gamerman writes about the Dallas Museum of Art’s program, in which frequent visitors can use their smart phones to check in throughout the building and win points toward rewards “like free parking, special-exhibition tickets or private use of the museum’s movie theater. The museum then filters the data to better understand guests’ behavior, like how often they visit, which shows they flock to and what art they ignore.”

According to Gamerman, “Across the country, museums are mining increasingly detailed layers of information about their guests, employing some of the same strategies that companies like Macy’s, Netflix and Wal-Mart have used in recent years to boost sales by tracking customer behavior. Museums are using the visitor data to inform decisions on everything from exhibit design to donor outreach to gift-shop marketing strategies.”

We’re all for knowing your donors’ and visitors’ habits and preferences, and for using this information to determine new ways to engage and excite museum-goers. And what better time to engage them than when they are having a positive on-site experience?

Of course, this cutting-edge technology is outside some venues’ budgets. So in this same vein, but without the Big Brother vibe, we’ve put together a checklist of some of the best ways to ensure that your on-site visitors are receiving your membership message—because there is no better time to convey the need for support than when someone is having a firsthand, positive experience with your organization.

• Prominently display membership materials at your information booths or kiosks.
• Integrate membership messaging into the “Plan Your Visit” section of your website and/or your online advance ticket purchase process.
• Display signage promoting member discounts and current promotions at entrances and exits, points of purchase (e.g., tickets, bookstores), and frequently visited places (e.g., restrooms, parking lots).
• Print membership messages on tickets/passes, will-call envelopes, receipts, and programs.
• Offer complimentary membership bookmarks (or another appropriate giveaway) at gift shops.
• Display membership table tents in bathrooms, lounges, and dining areas.
• Visibly recognize current members via a banner or rolling electronic sign.
• Conduct on-site membership canvassing with mobile devices.

• Train staff and volunteers to talk about membership. Consider including role-play simulations in this training so they can anticipate responses to visitors’ questions.
• Ensure that your staff and volunteers have the information (and therefore the confidence) they need to promote membership and answer visitors’ questions.
• Provide special membership targets and incentives to motivate staff and volunteers to get out and talk to visitors about membership.

Collecting Information
• Collect email addresses, mail addresses, and phone numbers on site.
• Collect information online or by phone as part of the advance ticket purchase process.
• Include tear-off contact cards on membership brochures, membership table tents, and other on-site membership collateral.
• Mention membership at the point of purchase in gift shops (e.g., “Our Members enjoy a ten percent discount at our shop—would you like to join today?”).
• Collect names by asking visitors to register for special raffles (e.g., free memberships, special gift shop items, event tickets).
• Canvass at entrances and exits to gather contact information for future solicitations.

Follow Up
• Design a follow-up conversion email series for names acquired on site. Send the first email within two weeks of the visit to thank the supporter and introduce him or her to the organization. The second email should engage the supporter in some specific way—whether it’s a survey, quiz, or request for feedback. The final solicitation should be a membership ask.
• Plan to integrate on-site names into direct membership solicitations, including email and direct mail.

And, of course, incorporate the visitor experience into your messaging. Be sure that your membership brochure—and all on-site collateral—directly links the visitor’s experience today with opportunities to stay involved over the long term by joining your organization.

Every venue and visitor experience is different, so be creative in thinking about the best ways to solicit and follow up with your visitors—online and offline. And if your budget allows, maybe explore these innovative, new digital tracking strategies.