The Economic Downturn: How Museums Can Respond A presentation to the Canadian Museums Association, March 2009by Gail Dexter LordPresident, Lord Cultural Resources
Museums Have Been Adversely Affected by the Current Economic Downturn Lower attendance levels Reduced admissions, retail, membership, and other visitor-generated income Fewer functions have meant lower rentals income Endowments tied to investments have lost value Corporate and other donations have been cut back Governments may not be able to keep grants in line with museum needs Lower revenues have resulted in reductions of services, hours, events and major exhibitions.
Service Reductions not the Best Response …Greater Focus on the Museum Visitor And … Strengthening the institution Are the better way
A Particular Focus on Resident Markets In tough economic times people are more cautious about taking expensive vacations… …Museums may therefore benefit from the phenomenon of substitution as people seek out things to do, including attending museums, closer to home.
Increase Resident Market Attendance Add value to the admission price. • collaborate to introduce “value added” admission ticketing structure to lead to customer sharing • Add value to admission charge by offering opportunity to "keep your ticket stub for a discount at the following participating museums.” • Offer incentives – free gift with every family visit (Gift to be picked up at the gift shop) • Discount on parking for every visit between certain hours • EVERYONE IS SUFFERING – PARTNERSHIPS ARE EASIER
Create incentives for repeat visitation, e.g. ”keep ticket stub for half-price (or free) second visit within 60 days.” Exposes visitors to retail opportunities and other revenue centers and adds value internally to admission charges without lowering them. Challenge to communicate these opportunities during tough economic times when marketing budgets are limited. One answer to seek news coverage by actually writing and submitting news stories to media outlets which themselves are facing tough economic times and have fewer writers. Don’t worry if ticket shared with someone else. What is important is getting people in the door! Seek to Boost Repeat Visitation by Residents
Members are primarily residents and are repeat visitors. Find ways to add value to membership. People are making decisions about whether or not to maintain their memberships. It is tougher and more costly to have a membership restored after it has lapsed than to strategize ways and means to maintain memberships during tough economic times. One way to do so is to offer two-year memberships that have a substantial discount on the second year. Another is to increase the benefits of membership such as more exclusive members- only periods. Membership as a Way to Increase Repeat Visitation
Art galleries and museums are seeking to attract more family visitors not just on family Sundays but on a daily basis. Military, transportation and other museums with difficulty attracting women are seeking to focus on social history and emphasize the important role and accomplishments of women. All museums are seeking to increase appeal to diversity -- by being relevant Co-produce programs your community needs – Anything goes from Yoga to Choir practice Using Public Programming to Increase Appeal to Less Traditional Market Segments
One art museum has publicized its permanent collection by a campaign of reproductions in a subway station. Another invited visitors to select from photos posted on Flickr which were used in an advertising campaign. Some museums are rotating their permanent collection three or four times per year – with dynamic themes that “feel like” special exhibitions Marketing Strategies in Tough Times Marketing permanent exhibitions:
Marketing Strategies in Tough Times But many museums have had to substantially reduce advertising budgets so have sought other ways to get the message out. For example: Younger people are less likely to turn to newspapers and other traditional forms of communication some museums have their own pages on social networking sites The best and also least expensive form of marketing is word of mouth. This means finding ways and means to get people into the museum so they can tell their friends and relatives about it.
Bad News: We are likely in the worst economic downturn since the 1930’s. Good News: Museums have survived recessions before New museums were built in the Great Depression The museums that will emerge in the best shape will not be those that have cut the most staff, exhibitions, programs and other public services. It will be those museums that maintained existing audiences and grew new ones Museums are candidates for Government recovery money and infrastructure money – get your capital projects “shovel ready” starting tomorrow. BAD News / GOOD News
Someone must lead The leader must have a plan You cannot save your way to health Focus on today and tomorrow not yesterday Extend Programming Marketing is not brochures There is only one spokesman and the message must be positive The Board must allow itself to be restructured -- from “The Art of the Turnaround” by Michael M. Kaiser (Brandeis University Press, 2008) Prepare for the Future -- Institutionally