How Innovative Cultural Organizations Disrupt Tradition to Attract More Visitors
Demographic shifts and continual technological transformations unsettle every initiative in an organization’s path including marketplace expansion, operational intuitiveness and customer relationship management. All types of enterprises feel the reverberating impacts of these disruptions, not the least of which are cultural institutions.
No longer can traditional marketing strategies such as ‘free membership’ be expected to spur sustainable commitment to cultural institutions. “If people don’t want to visit in the first place, then it may not matter if admission is free. People report that their time is more valuable than their money,” according to Colleen Dilenschneider, publisher of Know Your Own Bone website and Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development, in her article, Do Museums Attract Lower Income Visitors?
“As the populations they serve grow more diverse, and they have to compete for attention in a digital age, museums are having to reinvent their business models and how they engage with their communities,” according to EY Global in, Can a Cultural Institution Institute a Culture of Disruption?
Following are two key areas on which to focus as you continue to modernize and reinforce your membership, marketing and operational strategies:
1. Leverage Technology to Link the Old with the New
Nurture Deeper Connections
For example, to bridge the “empathy deficit” between people that has resulted from dependency on digital interaction (versus more traditional communication methods), the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) actually does something that may sound counterintuitive: they embrace technology.
According to Hunter Wright, Mia’s Venture Innovation Director in the same EY Global article, Mia leverages technology to nurture “deeper connections and (improved) experiences,” to help stimulate “dialogue within and far beyond the museum’s physical walls.” Mia’s responsive, relevant exhibitions are communicated through multiple communication channels that customers expect in our digital age.
Create Digital Visual Displays
User-generated content (UGC) further deepens connections. According to CrowdRiff, “User-generated content refers to any content that is voluntarily created and shared by individuals, fans or consumers of a brand who are not associated with that brand. This could be anything from social media posts to a review on a third-party website.”
In the article, Museum Marketing: Top Trends and Strategies for Success, Julia Manoukian, CrowdRiff’s Senior Content Marketing Manager suggests telling a story using UGC. By designing UGC website galleries that enable prospective visitors to preview the exhibits, you entice ticket purchasing. By owning the storied website platform upon which the UGC resides, you preserve the cultural institution’s mandate and mission and overall brand reputation.
Another example is to create UGC digital displays near the museum entrance. Or, follow the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) strategy. They use “UGC to shape their visual marketing strategy around their community. The ROM curates UGC for a number of creative uses, including on-site digital displays and photo walls, as well as their online and social presence,” says Manoukian.
Moreover, the value of UGC is measurable. According to Manoukian, “85 percent of consumers say they find UGC more influential than brand videos or photos. Millennials say they trust information from UGC content 50 percent more than information from TV, newspapers and magazines.”
Promote Digital Technology to the C-Suite
Elevating digital technology to the role of ‘strategic imperative’ vs. just a tool, is crucial to an organization’s sustainability. This includes “creating senior executive roles, such as the chief digital officer,” suggests Laurie L. Nash, Katherine Armstrong, Maike Von Heymann and Clara Dessaint in The Emergence of the Chief Digital Officer in Cultural Institutions.
The article goes on to explain that digital usage is still in its infancy applying a “narrowly defined” approach focused primarily on digital marketing and customer experience. Instead, explain Nash, et al, digital technologies should be approached holistically, with a chief digital officer at the helm, interacting collaboratively and cross-departmentally as they traverse the institutional enterprise.
This chief executive would “plan, oversee and ease the adoption of digital tools throughout the organization. To permeate the organization, the chief digital officer would sit on the senior executive team, be a key advisor to the executive director and relevant department heads, and seek innovative ways to use digital technologies as strategic tools to advance the organization’s mission and strategy.”
2. Meld Membership With Marketing
“Membership has historically been a standalone division or housed within the Development department,” according to an interview by Karla Raines with Rosie Siemer, Founder and CEO of FIVESEED, an organization specializing in museum audience development and member innovation.
Eradicate Cultural Institution Silos
Siemer believes that housing membership under marketing or a division with guest services would enable long-term customer cultivation opportunities, while eradicating current silos. “I’m seeing that organizational structures are changing; they are becoming more integrated and holistic in how they steward the customer journey and member lifecycle,” explains Siemer.
This is because member expectations have climbed as a result of members’ online retailer relationships with Amazon Prime, et al. Arts organizations are implementing a distributed management approach to member engagement, disrupting organizational structures, according to Siemer.
Meeting Multigenerational Customer Needs
As well, the generational needs of customers are starting to merge, demanding more from both the membership and marketing arenas. “In many ways millennials are exhibiting the early indicators of what older generations want, too. It is a lifestyle issue, and membership is increasingly about convenience, cost and customizations,” notes Siemer. This trend is expected to continue.
Moreover, Siemer points out the evolution of a more sophisticated social media experience that has increasingly bogged down the marketing department, where social media is typically managed. This creates a middle-man challenge, whereby marketing as the sole responder or filter through which every interaction funnels, may unintentionally throttle responsiveness between membership and the member.
By building a more integrated approach between membership and marketing, cultural institutions may better satiate and serve members’ expectations in our click-of-a-button, get-it-now world. In turn, the institution may expect increased satisfaction, referrals and most of all, membership and revenue growth.
Disrupt tradition and provide 3-click ticket sells while streamlining guest communications; contact ACME today.