How Visitor Verdict helps – income, marketing, fundraising and visitor experience

A Visitor Verdict Results Workshop was held recently to help museums and heritage sites get even more out of their membership of the free, AIM Visitor Verdict benchmarking and visitor research programme.

During the session Steve Mills of BDRC Continental explained about four areas where Visitor Verdict can help museums and the workshop participants then used the data from their own sites to explore further how Visitor Verdict can help them improve their offer to visitors and be more profitable, with Steve and his team on hand to provide expert guidance. To find out more about the workshop click here.

Here is some of what they learnt:

  1. Income Generation

The key Visitor Verdict reports here are the financial benchmarks for ticket pricing, catering and retail spending. It was useful to look at the benchmarks compared to similar types of museums and also your own museum’s value for money scores, compared to benchmarks in looking at whether there was flexibitily to increase prices. Either indicator on its own doesn’t tell you much but together they provide useful insight. If your current prices are lower than similar museums and your value for money scores are higher than similar museums, then there may be flexibility to increase prices.

The retail and catering spends are supported by details about how visitors find the quality, range of products and value for money, which can help pinpoint areas to be addressed. It also identifies the percentage of visitors who don’t visit retail, who browse but don’t buy and who make a purchase.

My looking at the results by types of visitor or by their motivation for visiting, it was possible to see that in some cases the retail offer was appealing to those with a strong interest in the subject of the museum but not to those who came for more general interest reasons, for instance.

  1. Marketing and Communications

There were lots of Visitor Verdict reports which helped museums understand how they could make their marketing and communications messages more effective including demographic information about visitors, understanding the motivations for their visits and therefore thinking about whether marketing messages are appealing to those motivations, the communications channels which have been most effective in triggering a visit, spend on marketing and use of social media and websites. All of these indicators are much more powerful because of the benchmarking element.

Steve emphasised the important difference between motivations for visiting (e.g. child engagement, topic interest, broadening horizons – some of the Visitor Verdict motivational segments) and triggers for a specific visit (the marketing channel which prompted a visit, e.g. leaflet, advertising, word of mouth recommendation).

  1. Improving the visitor experience

Visitor Verdict has 24 measures for visitor experience divided into three sections: service delivery (or customer service), content (linked to your interpretation) and emotional (how visitors feel about your museum and their visit). By looking at the content (interpretation) scores for different visitor  segments, you can see whether you are meeting the needs of all types of visitor and this can indicate where you might be able to adapt your content to meet the requirements of a wider range of people.

For instance visitors whose motivation is ‘topic interest’ (interest in the particular subject of your museum) may want quite detailed content, but this detailed content won’t appeal so much to those who are ‘tick box’ visitors (those visiting because they see your museum as a ‘must-see’ destination). Those whose motivation is ‘child engagment’ will be interested in how child-friendly your content is and may rate their experience very differently from those with ‘topic interest’ because of their different reason for visiting. Visitor Verdict also measures how well your museum or site delivers against different visitors’ primary motive for visiting, which also helps identify areas for improvement, for different types of visitors that you may wish to target.

  1. Funding

By understanding and being able to evidence in more detail how your interpretation could be improved to meet the needs of wider audiences or new types of visitors, you can make a better case to funders like the Heritage Lottery Fund about why investment is needed and the benefits it could bring. It can also underpin your evaluation strategy to show funders how their grants have made a difference. The information in Visitor Verdict gives you the information you need to answer the HLF application questions (and Activity Plan section) about who your visitors are, why they visit and what they gain from visiting. You can then track this over time to see the impact of the improvements made through a grant.

Visitor Verdict can also help you prove who is visiting and who is not visiting, how broad a socio-demographic profile you are reaching and how this compares to other similar museums, which can be useful for advocacy.  It can help you identify areas for large of small investments such as an under-performing shop or café.

The team at BDRC are always happy to answer any questions about getting set up with Visitor Verdict or about what results mean. Contact amy.randle@bdrc-continental.com

Please also email Amy if you would be interested in attending a future Visitor Verdict Workshop, if you’d like to host one in your area or if you would be interested in joining a webinar.

If you haven’t signed up for Visitor Verdict yet, you still can – go to www.AIMVisitorVerdict.com

If you aren’t a member of AIM it costs between £40 and £95 depending on the size of your museum, and Visitor Verdict is then free to use. Joining information can be found on www.aim-museums.co.uk

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