Museum Patron LTV

Picture the last time you visited a museum, whether in your city or on a recent vacation. You probably went online to check opening hours, exhibitions, and ticket prices. You arrive at the museum, wait in line to purchase your tickets, spend a few hours viewing the collection, and stop by the museum store on your way out. You might find there’s so much left to see, you join as a member so you can come back again soon.

Every little interaction that day – from browsing the website to purchasing a souvenir at the end of your visit – impacts whether or not you had a positive experience, and will consider visiting again.

As a patron, this might seem obvious to you – so it is perhaps surprising that many museums remain quite siloed in managing the patron experience across departments. Marketing is responsible for overall attendance and website experience; Front of House manages the admissions experience; Membership is responsible for acquiring and stewarding the membership base, while Advancement cultivates prospective individuals for donations. Oftentimes, these departments do not communicate enough or share initiatives with each other – or worse yet, compete for budget and resources.

Museum leaders need to remember that patrons do not see these departments as distinct units. How patrons feel about their overall experience is a culmination of every touch point in their journey with the organization.

To tackle these siloes, a best-in-class approach is to align the entire museum around the objective of driving patron lifetime value (i.e., focusing on lifetime spend across the organization, instead of approaching only the revenue potential for a single department). This assigns each division a role to play in growing lifetime value, and rewards collaboration and cross-organizational planning.

Not only does this make for a more cohesive patron experience, but it also helps various museum departments achieve their objectives:

A Lifetime view perspective helps museums plan around a holistic patron journey

A lifetime value approach allows museums to think about the patron experience holistically – from what an individual learns when he or she first hears about the museum, to what they should experience on their first visit, become a member, and ultimately make a major gift. This helps each department focus their efforts thematically, and optimize conversions as a hand-off to the next stage of a patron’s journey with the museum.

It aligns departments around common Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Museum divisions can occasionally have counteractive goals with each other; Front of House may have different objectives and challenges to what Membership or Advancement would prefer. Aligning all divisions around the goal of growing patron lifetime value makes cross-organizational collaboration easier. For example, we know that members spend on average 10-30% more than other customers at a museum store. Therefore, a lifetime value approach would incentivize the Retail team to also promote Membership, since members ultimately benefit the Retail team’s objectives.

A lifetime value perspective encourages departments to plan for long-term success

Aligning the museum around lifetime values keeps all departments focused on long-term success – bringing about improved patron experiences through more careful and thoughtful planning.

Instead of a flash marketing campaign that drives a large number of one-time visits, Marketing is encouraged instead to create campaigns that attract patrons who will make multiple visits, become members, and attend museum events. Membership teams will be encouraged to find opportunities to upgrade members into the next membership level and to work with Advancement on cultivating long-term donors.

This alignment of the patron experience, from initial awareness of the museum through to making a major donation, ultimately enables museums to drive greater revenue, engagement, and satisfaction with its patrons.

To provide just one example, David Geffen cited his lunchtime visits to the Museum of Modern Art as a young adult as the driving force behind his $100 million donation to MoMA in 2016. Time and time again, there are stories of major donors whose first touch point with a museum was joining as an individual member many years ago. Now there’s a patron journey worth optimizing.