Trick to Increase Visitation by 10% Quickly

Most of us have a location somewhere in our museums where we ask visitors, ‘How did you hear about us?’ While this is vital information, it only tells us where people that found our museum heard about you.  What about the larger group that searched for a museum or cultural attraction and chose a competing option?  How did they hear about the museum they chose?

For every potential visitor we gain, many others searched for attractions like ours and ultimately chose competing attractions.  When this happens, it’s not always because the other attraction had objectively better marketing.  It’s frequently because the other attraction had better marketing materials at the specific medium the potential visitor used to search for options.

Comparing two organizations marketing efforts based solely on the story elements and design assumes an even playing field in which every potential destination is equally represented high school debate.  In the real world, much of the time, we have done a good job telling our story in some mediums, a mediocre job some mediums, and most painfully, have no presence at all in more mediums that we think exist.

There is gold in finding out how the potential visitors that chose your competition found the information that led to their decision.  We tend to have two biases related to regional prospect search processes.

  1. We overvalue how we search for information and assume other people share our habits.
  2. We overvalue our current marketing efforts. Keep in mind; it may not be that the particular mediums that show up in our “how did you hear about us” tracking are necessarily the most used, it may simply be that our marketing efforts on these particular mediums have been more effective.  At the same time, there are other mediums people are using every day in which our museum is poorly represented or just plain invisible.

A museum in the Northwest conducted an in-person survey of 200 people that had visited museums in their city in the last 60 days but had not visited their museum.  Each of the following sources was mentioned as answers to, “When you decided you were searching for a cultural attraction, what was the first place you searched for options?”

  1. Local newspaper website
  2. Local’ what’s going on’ website
  3. Local influencer recommendations on a blog
  4. Search on typical social media platforms such as Google.
  5. Reddit
  6. Local news “events” page.
  7. Chamber of Commerce events page
  8. TripAdvisor / Yelp
  9. Local wayfinding walk by kiosk in a downtown high traffic park.
  10. Local Facebook Forum

The best way to find out how the prospects that chose competing attractions searched is to conduct a survey.  You can do this survey digitally if you wish, but I find you get better results in person, or at least by phone as the back and forth lends to more meaningful results.

Start by doing a social media regional campaign based on the word ‘museum’ asking people that have attended museums over the last 90 days to participate in a survey.  When they click on the social media ad, it takes them to a landing page explaining that this is a survey asking what tools they use to search when choosing a museum or other cultural attraction to visit.  If you want to do the survey digitally, send them straight to the survey from the landing page.  If you’re going to talk to the participants, ask them to supply their name, email, and phone, and tell them you will get back to them in 72 hours or less.  Either way, make sure to include language explaining that their personal information will only be used for the survey.

The specific questions are not as important as the intent.  The ultimate goal is to understand their decision-making process from beginning to end in as much detail as possible.

  1. What were they searching for?
  2. Where did they search for information first? Second?
  3. What about the attraction they ultimately chose caught their attention?
  4. Did any other attractions catch their attention?
  5. Did they notice your museum? If so, what did it say?

When you complete this process, you will have a treasure trove of information about the behaviors of high-value regional prospects that will quickly enhance the results of your marketing efforts.  As a side benefit, many of the people that participate in the surveys ultimately visit your museum.

I’ll conclude by giving you some homework. Look up an organization called Harvest Hosts.  Their members show up at museums around the United States every day.  If you’re not familiar with them, you should be.

Article by Frank Bennett, originally published at

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