This week I’m teaching a workshop on historic house museum management with George McDaniel for the American Association for State and Local History. It’s great fun working with people from all over the country because we learn so much from each other.
One of the most popular sections is membership (who doesn’t want more supporters?). George uses his experience from Drayton Hall to demonstrate some techniques in the tour for showing “membership dollars at work,” which gets visitors so excited that many join at the end of the tour. With members in more than 7,500 households in all 50 states, Drayton Hall must have one of the nation’s largest membership programs for an historic site, so their techniques work.
I provide a complementary perspective, using profiles to understand member motivations and interests. In an exercise, I have the class combine a mission statement with a member profile to develop a membership program or activity. I’m always surprised by Continue reading →
"To Keep Your Customers, Keep it Simple" by Patrick Spenner and Karen Freeman (Harvard Business Review, May 2012)
The May 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review arrived a little early to my mailbox, but I couldn’t stop from sharing a great article on engaging customers in business world that can easily be translated to engaging visitors and building support for historic sites and museums. In “To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple,” Patrick Spenner and Karen Freeman note the paradox of today’s promotional techniques:
Companies have ramped up their messaging, expecting that the more interaction and information they provide, the better the chances of holding on to these increasingly distracted and disloyal customers. But for many consumers, the rising volume of marketing messages isn’t empowering–it’s overwhelming. Rather than pulling customers into the fold, marketers are pushing them away with relentless and ill-conceived efforts to engage.
This conclusion is based on multiple surveys of more than 7,000 consumers which were then compared to interviews with 200 marketing executives representing 125 brands. Their pointed out that what consumers what and what companies think consumers want didn’t correspond to each other, or in biz speak, it’s a Continue reading →
Engaging people is one of the primary responsibilities of an historic site, although we might call it membership, attendance, advocacy, support, fundraising, or “resources development” (yup, that’s what it was called at one place I worked). Expanding and growing engagement is usually focused on direct and simple efforts, such as working on individuals to give increasingly greater sums or putting out more announcements to increase attendance. Results are usually sporadic, rough, and unpredictable.
Engagement Pyramid by Gideon Rosenblatt.
I recently learned of a thoughtful strategy from Gideon Rosenblatt, the former executive director of Groundwire, a company that helps environmental organizations connect, inspire, and mobilize their communities. He lays out engagement in a spectrum of six stages from Observers to Leaders and each has a decreasing number of people involved. This is best illustrated as a pyramid, with the large group of Observers at the bottom and the small group of Leaders at the top. He’s found that each group has a specific mindset and communication preference, and therefore, organizations can effectively engage Continue reading →
As part of my year-end giving, I decided to join four different history organizations (one historic site, three historic preservation organizations). I support the mission of every organization I joined–there’s no attempt to embarrass them here–but I also wanted to see how a new member and unsolicited gift was received. In this tight economy, every organization seems to placing a great emphasis on growing membership and support, so it’s useful to learn what others are doing. Admittedly, this is just a limited experiment, but for each one I downloaded their membership forms from their websites, filled it out, and then sent it in with a check for the basic individual membership level all on the same day in mid December. So far, I received responses from three of the four organizations (and they arrived about a day apart) and here’s how they compared: Continue reading →