Securing visitation comes down to increasing reputation offsite and satisfaction onsite. Here’s how it works.
If your organization aims to increase onsite visitation (and whose doesn’t?), then its important to understand the basics of the visitor engagement cycle. This week’s Know Your Own Bone Fast Facts video is a brief overview of the cycle. At IMPACTS, we have a lot of data that inform this cycle – and nearly every article on KYOB applies somewhere in the cycle. While I have shared aspects of the cycle before, it occurs to me that I have not shared its overview on Know Your Own Bone. With that in mind, here we are!
For those of you who aren’t into videos, I’ve included a brief write up below. That said, I suggest watching the video as it gives an animated overview that I think summarizes the cycle quite nicely.
There are two primary aspects of the engagement cycle: offsite connection and onsite relevance. The cycle is just that - a cycle. Here’s how it goes, folks!
1) Offsite connection increases reputation
(which motivates a visit)
We could start anywhere in the cycle, but it seems to make the most sense to start from the point of view of somebody considering a visit to a cultural organization. I’ve written (and even made a video) about this part of the cycle several times before – particularly because it underscores why social media is so dang important for securing visitation.
In order to get someone in the door, then we need to know what motivates the visitation decision-making process. With help from IMPACTS and the discretionary decision-making model informed by the National Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Study, its clear to see that reputation is a top-five motivator for visitation. This is true among the US composite market, but also among high-propensity visitors (i.e. those folks who profile as our target audiences). In fact, for high-propensity visitors, reputation is second only to schedule as a factor in their decision-making process.
As a fun fact: In Western Europe, reputation is the top driver of visitation by a long shot. This implies that folks in Western Europe would be willing (and do) make time to visit organizations that they’d like to attend. Here in the US, we’re more likely to take the day off work and then fill it with an activity or two that is of interest rather than taking a day off specifically to visit a cultural organization.
Great! Reputation is a top motivator for visitation. Now you may be wondering, ”What goes into reputation?” It’s a good question. According to the model of diffusion, two things feed into reputation: The first is called the coefficient of innovation (or, things that you pay to say about yourself). The second thing that goes into reputation is called the coefficient of imitation (or, things that others say about you). This includes word of mouth endorsements, social media, earned media, and peer review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.
What others say about you is 12.85x more important in driving your reputation than things that you pay to say about yourself. Yes, organizations need to market, but, more than that, they benefit by communicating and facilitating the sharing of others’ positive experience and perceptions.
When we connect with audiences offsite, we increase our reputation, and, as we now know, reputation is a top motivator for visitation.
2) Onsite relevance increases visitor satisfaction
(which motivates endorsement)
Now let’s say that we’ve secured a visit. (Woohoo!) Now what? The goal now is to increase visitor satisfaction. It may seem obvious, but high onsite satisfaction values correlate with a greater intent to revisit within a shorter duration, as you can see in this data from IMPACTS:
If you’re wondering what aspects of the visitor experience contribute to higher levels of satisfaction, there’s a breakdown here. (Yes, we math-ed it. Because data.) Hint: Education it not unimportant, but entertainment value matters most when it comes to onsite engagement.
We also uncovered the single most reliable way to increase onsite visitor satisfaction – and it has nothing to do with fancy new wings. Within cultural organizations, we often forget our greatest superpower: The power of “with.” Who people are with is often more important than what they see (with > what). After all, cultural organizations really are all about people. I could keep going on data-informed ways to increase onsite satisfaction, but my point here is that increasing satisfaction is the goal of onsite engagement.
When visitors have an onsite experience that feels relevant to them, it increases satisfaction, and, thus, their likelihood to provide positive endorsements. And we just covered the importance of positive endorsements! They fuel offsite connection, which increases reputation and leads to a visit, which increases satisfaction and leads to endorsement.
3) Offsite connection increases reputation again
(which motivates revisitation and/or a visit from a friend)
Its a lovely little cycle and it looks like the above image. To get the cycle right, organizations must aim for connective communications that increase their reputations, and relevant onsite experiences that increase satisfaction.
Offsite connection is every bit as important as onsite relevance - and we need them both to feed the fire for ongoing visitation. It is difficult – if not impossible – to discuss getting people in the door without acknowledging the realities of this cycle. This concept is a critical driver of conversations for me and my colleagues at IMPACTS, and I hope that it is helpful to you and your organization as well.