It's no secret that museums of all kinds are facing the challenge of trying to regain the visitation levels they once saw pre-pandemic.  Now, with a recession looming, potential patrons are evaluating how they want to allocate their likely lessened budget for entertainment. 

While museums serve a vital role in their communities as arts and culture institutions as well as visitor attractions, driving a loyal returning visitor and membership base becomes trickier during times like these. Oftentimes, the perception of ticket buyers is that a museum is a place they only need to visit once because they've seen it all. This is a challenge that has the potential to seriously impact revenue. 

Art, science, and history museums must have retention strategies in place that are innovative and clearly communicate the value of membership for patrons. To reduce churn, museums need to be asking themselves what they are doing to not only demonstrate but continually grow value for their members.

Read on for ways membership leaders can demonstrate more and better value for their members, and how a loyalty and rewards program can turn more ticket buyers into loyal members for years to come.

Why do people want to become members of your museum?

Having a clear and defined answer to this question is the first vital step in communicating the value of membership.

Tourists love visiting museums while traveling,  and while this is great for visitation numbers, the amount of engagement that comes from these guests is limited. Instead, hone in on your local community members: families, students and educators, young adults, and more. Every museum will have a different answer for what about their museum has the potential to keep locals across all demographics coming back, but understanding what motivates visitors should be at the heart of your membership marketing strategy. 

Once you've identified the primary driver, your messaging should reflect that both in your digital marketing and in how your staff promotes membership verbally. Developing a data-backed model for member behavior will help you craft value messaging for everyone from your leadership team to ticket desk associates to communicate membership value to ticket buyers. Whether it's a message of community, fun, education, activity planning, savings, or special access, your message should speak to the big WHY.

Examples of this are:

  • Become a member and save
  • Memories are made here
  • Explore the unexpected
  • You belong here
  • Connect with fellow members

When you listen to members and connect with potential customers, you can uncover new membership potential and drive greater loyalty. 

Do you have a plan in place to convert ticket buyers into members? 

Once you understand the key motivations current members have for maintaining their membership at your museum, you can plug this into your customer journey to help you better understand how to retain active members, win back former ones, and attract new loyal members. 

Just like businesses, museums can adopt a customer journey strategy to identify good candidates for membership and set them on an engagement track to foster that relationship. A customer journey refers to the path of (both direct and indirect) interactions an individual has with your organization. It's important that your membership team map out this track to capture hat's truly important to potential members and craft appropriate messaging to move them along the path to goal completion. 

No two museums will have an identical customer journey map, but here are some suggestions on how to build it out. Start with overarching verbiage to describe each stage of the member journey such as: 

  1. Awareness
  2. Aquisition
  3. Engagement
  4. Retention
  5. Loyalty

Once your main membership marketing goals are in place, you can create steps under each stage. Initial steps to generate awareness would include online/SEO, social media, ads, and referrals. To acquire members there will need to be an onboarding process, formal acknowledgement, surveying, and cards issued. To further engage members, providing events, special content, connection opportunities, promotions, and communications is essential. Just as critical as converting new members is retaining them. Retention and loyalty steps should include data collection, a good renewal strategy, value messaging, and a proper rewards program.

The right way to reward members to increase retention.

Regardless of your value messaging, all members want to see that, through membership, they're getting more bang for their buck, increased convenience, and they also want to know that each time they visit they'll experience something new. 

The easiest way to tackle all of these desires is by giving them a strong loyalty program aimed to increase foot traffic and clearly communicate your membership's value. 

Introducing PassPlay: The Digital Pass and Loyalty Solution You've Been Waiting For

Enter Speak Creative’s new digital membership and loyalty solution that encourages people to become members and keeps them engaged and coming back. PassPlay is not the first digital membership solution out there, but it is the most unique in that its offerings go far beyond just a digital card. So how does PassPlay meet each of these member needs? Check it out below: 

The Convenience of a Digital Pass: By offering members a digital membership card, you're giving them the ease of a pass that's always on hand, doesn't crowd their wallet, won't ever get lost, and the best part? It's linked to their new loyalty and rewards program, so every time they scan their pass at the gates, they're able to earn points toward freebies, special experiences, discounts, and more. Every membership includes the option for members to load their digital passes into Apple Wallet or Google Wallet as well, making membership even more of a breeze.

Do members have to have the digital membership card? Not unless you say so, but by introducing the option, you're helping both you and your members reduce your plastic footprint while communicating a message of convenience. 

Value Beyond the Pass: With the PassPlay app on their phone encasing their new membership card, members will also have access to a wayfinding map of your attraction, real-time upcoming and daily events, and their loyalty rewards. 

Automated Renewal Notifications: Automated push notifications remind your members when it's time to renew their membership. All they have to do is tap the notification that comes straight to their phone to step right into a renewal purchase, and their pass will automatically update once the renewal is completed.

Loyalty Program: With PassPlay, members earn points every time they visit, explore special points of interest that you set up on site, attend events - the power is in your hands to set how many points members can earn and for what. 

Just like the Starbucks rewards app, for example, members' loyalty points are visible right when they open PassPlay, so they feel incentivized to earn more and your museum stays top-of-mind. 

Offering Custom Rewards: Perhaps the best way to keep members engaged and excited is by offering rewards in exchange for the loyalty points they rack up. This is easy and seamlessly manageable by your team with PassPlay. Offer a special one-on-one experience, select event tickets, free parking, a food item at concessions, or even exclusive discount codes. Your rewards are 100% in your control so you can swap them out or add to them any time you want, keeping the rewards program continually new and exciting for members! 

By integrating PassPlay with an existing membership system, museums drive engagement among their visitors, members, and donors all while saving staff resources and streamlining operations. Digital cards reduce costs and free up time and budget for enhanced membership programs that members can learn about all in the same app. 

Innovative initiatives like PassPlay also foster a sense of community and loyalty among members, providing exclusive access to events, additional activities on site, discounts, and other perks. By embracing technology and digital transformation, your museum will provide a new and exciting experience for your members and become a must-visit organization for visitors and locals alike. 

Ready to get started with PassPlay?

PassPlay integrates seamlessly with all the major membership systems, including Altru, Centaman, Gateway, ACME Ticketing, Tessitura, Accesso, and many more, and it can be up and running for your organization in a matter of days. 

Learn more at or schedule a demo today to see why cultural attractions across the nation are making the switch to digital membership and loyalty. Ready to take your membership program to the next level? Let's chat!


Speak Creative is a proud supporter of the American Alliance of Museums


Posted by Leigh Moring at 10:48