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  • ninaksimon 6:50 pm on February 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    My thoughts post-Loyalty Lab Workshop:

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  • ninaksimon 3:58 pm on January 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Your Thoughts Post-Loyalty Lab Workshop? 

    Thanks to everyone who participated in the Loyalty Lab workshop both onsite at MAH and online via Google Hangout. We learned, played, schemed, and hopefully came up with some great ideas to deepen engagement with visitors at our respective institutions.

    I wanted to create this simple post as an “open thread” for you to share your reflections on the afternoon. Just add a comment below this post in whatever format you choose. If you would like to write something more lengthy or use images, links, etc., I encourage you to contact me (Nina) about setting up an account on the site so you can post something yourself. It is a painless experience.

    Thanks again for joining and inspiring us!

    • Ava Ferguson 11:26 pm on January 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Nina,

      Many thanks for inviting me to participate in Loyalty Lab. My favorite idea from the workshop came at the end of the day when our group was brainstorming ways to conclude your monthly First-Friday events in a way that encouraged loyalty among your visitors, made them feel they were part of a larger community and prompted them to want to visit the museum again. I thought having the museum’s signature red ball drop from the ceiling at the end of the night (like the ball in Times Square does on New Year’s Eve) was terrific. I also liked the idea of encouraging visitors to do a countdown or sing the equivalent of “Auld Lang Syne” as the ball dropped. There are many other celebratory customs the museum could initiate to foster loyalty among its fans (like the end-zone dances football players do when they score a touchdown). It may sound silly, but these types of customs help people bond with each other, which is why so many clubs and sports teams capitalize on them. Museums should too!

      On a more serious note, I think your museum would do itself a service by taking more time to fully articulate and document what increasing loyalty actually looks like for your museum. Is it increasing the number and/or frequency of visits? Is it moving visitors to a deeper level of engagement? Is it prompting favorable word of mouth among visitors? Is it increasing the number of memberships purchased or donations received? These definitions of loyalty will be essential if the museum hopes to measure the success of this great experiement. They will also help to focus your staff and make sure that the experiments you try aren’t just about having fun (although, I suppose fun could become a definition of loyalty, as well).

      In the meantime, I wish you well as you embark on this great adventure. Please keep the rest of us informed about your progress. I’m looking forward to seeing that ball drop at a future museum event!

      Best regards,

      Ava Ferguson
      Visitor Research Manager
      Monterey Bay Aquarium

    • Joni Hess 8:18 pm on February 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Hi All,
      I really appreciated the chance to learn about the project you are working on as well as what the Chicago Children’s Museum is doing. It was wonderful to participate in the break out sessions and hear everyone’s ideas.

      Some of the ideas were wonderful and I have brought them back to our team- specifically the punch card. We are currently working on a way to create loyalty and learn about our visitors (as they learn about us) to our Friday Nights Program. We have partnered with Off The Grid to have food trucks here EVERY Friday night. It has been a challenge for staff to determine if we have the same group of people coming back each week and what they do when they are here. We have thrown the idea of a punch card for a while and it was very helpful to talk to you and your team about your experiences. I am specifically interested in how we collect data, and what we do with it later on to continue the relationship. I have some ideas and will keep you all posted on our progress.

      I am also very excited about how we can introduce some of the game theory concepts into our programming, and how that will impact the experience we are able to provide for our visitors.

      Thank you again for putting this together, sorry for posting so long after the fact!

  • ninaksimon 10:27 pm on December 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    We’re now planning the January Loyalty Lab public workshop in earnest. This will be a three-hour workshop on January 29 at 2pm, held at the MAH in Santa Cruz. The workshop will include:
    –short presentations from MAH staff about our projects thus far
    –short presentations from outsiders about projects to encourage deep engagement in surprising ways
    –brainstorming, sharing, and developing plans for the future

    We already have confirmed participation from museum practitioners in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Oakland, and Minneapolis. Please contact me at if you would like to participate. We welcome anyone in the museum/arts/culture world who has an interest.

  • dianakapsner 2:06 am on December 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    For years MAH’s way of encouraging repeat visitation… 

    For years, MAH’s way of encouraging repeat visitation and membership registration was a lonely membership table at events. Stocked with a raffle box & a scattering of brochures, we had 1 volunteer staff the table to promote the MAH. This technique had its ups and downs:
    – People saw it as a place to get information about that night’s activities (not its intended purpose).
    – Some people avidly avoided the table, not wanting to be asked for money.
    – We would gain 1-3 new members out of the 500-700 visitors in attendance.

    Since Loyalty Lab, we’ve started to experiment a couple new ideas:

    1. “Goodbye” Volunteers. We’ve always had greeters: volunteers who handed out information, welcoming people as they come in, etc. However, we discovered that the missing connection is when our visitors leave. We had no one to invite them back, no one to ask how their experience was, to see them off and thank them for coming. So now we have at least 1 person at each entrance specifically there to say goodbye and listen to visitors reflections and suggestions.

    2. Keeping visitors in the loop. Visitors would come to a certain event, but would leave not knowing about other MAH programs. One way we’ve been trying to bridge that gap is to collect email addresses so visitors receive our weekly e-blast about upcoming events and activities. We’ve had one wonderful volunteer, Janaki Rao, test the reigns. She found the perfect spot to ask and she now collects 50-80 visitor’s contact information.

    3. Five Friday Challenge. As Nina has already reported, MAH produced a Five Friday Challenge where visitors are encouraged to come to 5 Fridays in the 2 months before the end of the year. Visitors who submit their finished cards get a free individual membership. Last week we got 3 finished cards back with 3 Fridays left until the end of the year!

    We’ve made some notable changes to how we can encourage repeat visitation and membership registration. I’m excited for January’s workshop where we can discuss the results of the Five Friday Challenge and more forward from there!

    • ninaksimon 3:14 am on December 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for sharing this, Diana!
      I’m pretty impressed that we’ve already had 5 Five Friday cards come back – that’s a 1% return rate, which I think of as pretty damn high given this kind of project.

    • dianakapsner 4:47 am on December 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Actually, we just got 7 back today. That’s 12 cards back with 2 more Fridays left.

  • ninaksimon 10:20 pm on October 30, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    An interesting research finding about how visitors of different ages respond to the question, “What are the primary benefits of membership?”

    Under 35s skew towards supporting mission, over 35s to exclusive perks.

    • gasstationwithoutpumps 11:22 pm on October 30, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting result. I wonder if it is a robust finding or unique to the particular group surveyed. Will MAH be asking similar questions of its members?

    • ninaksimon 4:32 pm on October 31, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Sort of. Our membership is changing rapidly as we grow – more families, as well as a new set of higher-level donors who are excited about our innovative approach. In some ways, who buys when in is an indicator of what people perceive as valuable–maybe even more so than what they self-report in a survey. I do think we’ll get there, but probably not with this question. With Loyalty Lab, we’re asking lots of people questions like: “What would motivate you to get more involved?” “How do you connect one experience here with another?” “How can the museum help you in your creative and social pursuits?”

  • ninaksimon 9:06 pm on October 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    The Fridays cards are here and they are beautiful! I look forward to updating you on the results.

  • ninaksimon 12:34 am on October 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Based on our recent C3 meeting and a meeting today with our membership, visitor services, and programs managers, we decided to focus on the following experiments through the end of 2012:
    1. Tracking repeat/new visitors. We’re going to ask all visitors who attend during the day whether they are here for the first time or not, and track how many are in each category.
    2. MAH Friday Challenge. We are making a folded-over business card that challenges people to come to 5 Fridays before the end of the year to earn a free individual MAH membership. This will allow us to both advertise Friday programs and to see if this kind of game-like habit-forming activity is appealing. See attached designs for the front and back of the cards.
    3. Continue focusing at evening events on collecting visitors’ email addresses for the email list. Diana has switched with volunteers to focusing on this based on our mapping activity, and it seems to be successful at bringing new people to the list.

    We will plan a January half-day workshop with creative thinkers and museum people from the region to share our findings from this round of tests and evaluate next steps.

    Fridays card front:
    Fridays card back:

  • ninaksimon 9:20 pm on October 8, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    We had a good Creative Community Committee meeting about Loyalty lab a couple weeks back. In it, we came up with at least two related but different punchcard concepts to test:

    1. Frequent Fridays card. Come to the MAH on Friday night five times in the next two months and earn a free annual membership.
    RATIONALE: we have a lot going on on Friday nights. If someone makes it a habit over a short time window, they are much more likely to stay involved for the long term.
    ALSO: easy to implement just on Fridays and not worry about other days of the week. Easy to hand out and mention at Friday events, when we already have volunteers with clipboards getting email addresses etc.

    2. Passport to MAH. A punchcard with different “missions” on it – “take a workshop,” “talk to a stranger about an exhibit,” etc. Complete 8 missions and earn a membership. The idea here is not about intensity in a short time but diversity of experiences at the museum.
    RATIONALE: if people see they can use the museum for different things, they are more likely to find things they want to be invested in. We hear from visitors that they are often unaware of the range of activities offered.
    ALSO: more flexible for visitors, but also harder (potentially) to manage. We don’t want to be in the officiating business. We’d only want to give one stamp per visit.

  • ninaksimon 3:30 pm on September 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    We have transformed our zillions of stickies into a map of the event experience here at MAH that accentuates the (hopefully) cyclic nature of visiting, in which one experience inspires the next. All of the language on here was taken directly from the workshop participants. Our challenge now is to figure out how to capitalize on the many glimpses of opportunity here and fill the gap between one visit and the next. Here is the pdf version: of the image if you want higher resolution.

    • Michael Skelly 10:00 pm on September 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Nina, Thanks for the graphic view of the cycle. You might consider ways to include “learn about an event” and “tell neighbors & friends”/ “posting photos online”as part of what happens in the “engagement” part of the “experience”. I see a possible parallel between Museums and the geocaching “experience” (, where part of the experience is telling others and being publicly recognized for going to geocache site.

  • emilyhopedobkin 6:09 pm on August 25, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Some thoughts/moments/things that made sparks fly in my mind during and post-Loyalty Lab:

    1.) When visitors give, they also receive. I am learning people really do like creating and giving to a larger project during events. It makes them feel part of something greater. I’ve been somewhat stuck in this mind set that people want or need a take away item, but I am realizing this does not have to be tangible. It can simply be the mere satisfaction of contributing to a collaborative piece. After really thinking about the events I have experienced thus far at the MAH, it is the collaborative projects that are propelled by a different kind of energy that sustains beyond the time of the event. And naturally, a greater sense of community is established with these particular collaborations.

    2.) The before and after experience must be considered. I never really thought about how the who/what/where/when/why/how of the before and after should be factored into the actual museum visitor experience. The mentality of a group of visitors is certainly different if they start their evening at the MAH, followed by dinner downtown, where as another visitor might be across town coming from some kind of work environment, and the MAH experience will be their main source of social interaction for the evening. There are several different scenarios that could be happening before and after this experience at the MAH; what it comes down to is how can we make this experience stand out as the one they were able to connect to people, places and things on a deeper and more engaging level? How can this experience be absorbed in such a way that leaves not only visitors wanting to come back for more events and exhibitions, but also indicate that these experiences were, and continue to be, absorbed by the museum as well?

    An idea: Perhaps we can have a visitor installation piece that visitors can add onto each time they visit. Either a box (“MAH Box”) or a cup (“How are you filling your MAH cup?”), or garden pot (“Visitors making MAH grow…” a “visitor garden?”)or something along those lines. Something in which visitors can personalize, be creative with, but also allows the museum to track experiences. Each box/or cup would be numbered, and at the time when a visitor receives one of these, we would get their e-mail, contact info, etc. That way we would not only have their info on file, but also have their specific number documented so the next time they visited, we could easily direct them in case they forgot what their piece looks like. Each event, we would only have certain materials pertaining to that specific event to contribute to the piece; for example, during “Experience Metal” we would have had little metal pieces made available, during 1st Friday in August we would have had more paper cranes, …that way museum staff could take time examining these after events and see who has been taking part, and who is coming back.

    3.) Being good at goodbyes. There has always been such an emphasis on the greeter, that first impression, but I agree that some kind of “goodbyer” would be beneficial to the visitor experience as well.

    Another idea: There has been interest in a teen volunteer program at the MAH, and I’ve been thinking about different ways young teens can volunteer at the museum in a way that creates opportunities for them during high energy events, like 3rd Fridays. I’ve thought designing some kind of postcard that visitors can walk away with that says the title of event, and where they can find follow up to the event, i.e. “You’ve just experienced August 3rd Friday at the MAH. Follow us here (link to FB), and check out photos from the evening here (link to flickr) and feel free to take a survey of this event here (link to survey). For more on the MAH explore our website here (link to web).” This would all be on one side. The other side is where the teen volunteers would creatively design, live at the event. So, there might be a table set up by the doors with a few teen volunteers with their stack of postcards that they would be crafting on, and as a visitor leaves, the teen could personalize the front of the postcard, and give this to a visitor exiting. This provides a personal experience on both ends, an authentic one-of-a-kind take-away, active engagement for the teen volunteer, as well as information and more knowledge for the visitor to explore after the event is over.

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