With social media adoption at an all-time high, the lure of digital marketing is hard to resist. The international reach, affordable ad options and easy to track metrics are just a few of the alluring aspects of marketing via digital means. Virtually marketing to arts and culture enthusiasts on a global scale can easily sneak to the forefront in many museums’ communications strategies. However, it’s important to remember to engage local communities and continue to market to them alongside broader digital campaigns.
In recognising the importance of local communities to museums, ICOM stated in 2019 that “Museums have the power to contribute to the economy, social capital and the well-being of a local community.” With this power, comes the responsibility to engage museum locals and make sure that exhibitions, programmes, tickets and even hours are accessible. Spreading the word about what your museum has to offer within your community isn’t difficult, but it does require time, effort, and the usage of time-honoured marketing methods.
Traditional, or non-digital marketing approaches are still effective techniques and have a surprisingly high return on investment. In this article, we’ll discuss the merits of direct mail, print advertisements and face to face marketing alongside suggestions on how to weave these methods into your current marketing plan.
There is something palpably exciting about receiving mail. There are certain thrilling textile elements like crisp envelopes and weighted paper that can’t quite be replicated in the form of an email. Marketing via direct mail offers the opportunity to put your museum’s brand straight into peoples’ hands. The physical and authentic nature of direct mail is still appreciated by many, especially older generations who didn’t grow up in the digital age. Therefore, if your target audience is 45+, you may want to consider a direct mail campaign to appeal to them more effectively. Consider adding personal touches like the recipient’s first name or a hand-written signature to show that your organisation goes the extra mile and values them as a patron.
When it comes to direct mail, size matters. Digital marketing is often restricted by size and pixels, but direct mail has a lot more flexibility in terms of size, colour, feel, even smell! Get creative with your campaigns and think about how to tie in unexpected elements while staying true to your brand and message. The staying power of direct mail is another added bonus as the average lifespan of a direct mailer is 8.3 days according to a JICMAIL 2020 report. This means extra opportunities for your marketing message to get across and motivate the recipient to act.
During the pandemic, there was a considerable decrease in the need for print advertising as many museums around the world were closed. However, as we begin to come out on the other side it’s evident that print advertising is still relevant. Print advertisements are considered trustworthy by readers adding a valued layer of credibility to your museum and marketing message. They also typically have a longer shelf-life than digital ads which provides additional exposure opportunities for your campaign messaging. Furthermore, a 2019 neuromarketing study by the Office of Inspector General at the USPS and Temple University study found that older adults (aged 45+) responded more quickly and effectively to print advertisements than digital.
The internet is noisy, with pop-up ads, burgeoning email inboxes and targeted ads on social media. Print advertising cuts through all of that and meets people in a different sphere entirely, the seemingly more credible world of paper and ink. As your local community is bound to have individuals from various age groups, it’s best to keep your marketing diverse with output in both the print and digital realms.
Face to face
This tactic is perhaps the oldest marketing method known to mankind. Before paper, before the internet, there existed two marketing methods, word of mouth and face to face. Putting in the “face time” means that you are meeting potential visitors on their own terms and crafting a convincing pitch to entice them to visit.
Go out into your community by hosting a pop-up museum that can serve as both an interactive feature and advertising opportunity. Meet with activity planners at local care homes and schoolteachers to provide them with information about your museum and available programming. Yes, it can be time consuming to put in the effort to meet individually with organisers to pitch your museum, but this is where virtual meeting platforms can really help to save time. Be sure to do your research and reach out to contacts that have the most potential for a return on your investment like special interest groups and travel planners. Going the extra mile to market your museum via face-to-face methods conveys a sense of authenticity and offers a level of personalisation that no other marketing mode can match.
Making your mark
Have you heard of the rule of seven? Simply put, it states that a consumer must hear a marketing message seven times before acting on it. In the context of marketing to your local community, this means that it will take time and effort to become the museum that springs to mind when locals are looking for an arts and culture destination. Building this relationship can be time consuming, but very worthwhile as it can create bonds that last for generations.
Different age groups respond best to various types of marketing. Millennials and Gen Z tend to respond best to influencer marketing while Gen X and Baby Boomers are best marketed to via emails and older generations swayed by print advertisements and word of mouth. Keeping your marketing approaches varied is crucial for engaging the entirety of your local community and casting the widest net possible.
As museums operate as spaces for education, entertainment, social change, and human interaction, they must be open, welcoming, and accessible to everyone. Harness the power of museum marketing to inform potential visitors about your space and empower them to come visit. Your local community is the backbone of your museum. Don’t forget to keep the relationship with those closest to your organisation alive, well and thriving.
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