Our Marketing Toolkit will help you with your marketing activity. It includes information on knowing your audiences, where and how to market, developing your branding, and improving your photography.
Know your audience
The key to effective marketing is knowing your audience.
- Who are they?
- Where are they from?
- What are their motivations to visit?
- How can you reach them?
Consider what might be the barriers to your target audience(s) and ensure your messaging addresses this. Also be aware that your target audience’s motivations to visit will need to be constantly reviewed as consumers’ circumstances change. Keep up a dialogue with your audience, learn from them, and make sure you are in a position to address any of their issues through your messaging.
Digital Pathways has more resources and information on identifying audience, including a free tool to help you gather audience insights.
A marketing strategy is your overall game plan for reaching prospective visitors and your marketing action plan is how you are going to get there. It’s worth creating a SWOT analysis to help you understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, by yourself or as a team. It will help you to reflect and build on what you do well, to address what you’re lacking, to minimise risks, and increase chances for success. Mind Tools has an explanation and an example of a SWOT analysis.
It’s also worth revisiting your marketing objectives. Do these need to change at all? Consider your visitors; have their motivations changed? Look at other museums, what are they doing? What seems to be working?
You can then create your marketing goals, and from that your action plan (the fun stuff), that will help you achieve your objectives. Do you need to look at new communication channels to reach your audience, or do you just need to change the messaging slightly? Maybe you’ll need to do both.
Where and How to Market
There are a number of different ways (sometimes known as channels) through which to get your marketing and promotion out there.
Your choice of how and where to market will be based on your target audience. Different channels attract different audiences, and it is important to use a variety of channels to attract a range of people. Audiences using a channel can change so it is good practice to evaluate if a channel is still relevant to your target audience. For example, Facebook originally attracted a younger audience, but now in the UK it is increasingly attracting an older audience.
Your message should be consistent across different channels, but different audiences need slightly tailored marketing approaches.
A website is an essential marketing channel for your museum. Information on it should be clear, up to date, and easy to find. Read our top tips for a visitor friendly website.
Social media is a free marketing channel that can be very effective, but it does take time and planning to create engaging content and to post regularly. Choose a social media platform that your target audience uses rather than trying to be on all platforms.
Read our guide to social media.
A Google Business Listing is an essential marketing tool. It is free and simple to create. It is important to keep the opening hours information on it up to date as many visitors will find opening times here rather than looking at your website. Watch a video on how to claim your google listing.
Visitor review websites such as TripAdvisor and Google Reviews are a free channel, and it is recommended that your museum has an account for at least one of them. Keep the information on it up to date and positively reply to both good and bad reviews. Information on how to sign up to Google reviews.
Advertising takes many different forms and costs for it vary greatly. Before spending budget on advertising, it is important to know your audience and their behaviours, including the media they consume, how they travel, and the places they regularly visit. This will allow you to choose the most effective place to advertise.
- Digital advertising can be a low-cost approach and includes social media advertising, Google ad words, and website banners such as this example of a banner on The List homepage.
- Print advertising such as in magazines and newspapers can be costly, so check your target audience is a reader of it beforehand.
- Billboard and outdoor advertising costs vary greatly but advertising outdoors such as in bus shelters can have a high impact as many people will see it.
- Broadcast advertising includes radio and TV, which can be an effective way of reaching a wide audience if budgets allow for this approach.
Influencers are people who have a large audience on social media and/or blogs. They can be paid to create social media/blog content. It’s important to find influencers who are read/ watched by your target audience. The cost and process of working with influencers vary with the individual. This information can normally be found on their website or social media bio.
VisitScotland have produced useful guidance on working with influencers on their website.
Public relations (PR) can be a useful way of highlighting news and events. Read our top tips for effective PR.
This is sending information to your audience via email. It is a low- cost option but takes time to do effectively.
- Use an email management tool such as MailChimp to track opens, reads, click throughs etc, all of which will track effectiveness
- Target with relevant information – not everything. Event information works particularly well as email content.
- Make sure you make it clear why someone is receiving the email (‘you’re receiving this as you indicated you were interested in news about xxx museum’) and include an unsubscribe option. Email management tools will do this for you.
- Make sure the subject line is interesting and reflects what’s in the email
- Include any ‘calls to action’ (things you would like the reader to do) prominently – as a colourful button or text – as many will skim read emails
- Add a sign-up form to your website and make sure that any information or mailing lists you are keeping comply with the GDPR guidelines. Find GDPR information on the Information Commissioner’s Office website.
Some museums use distribution services to provide leaflets to tourist leaflet racks and in hotel and B&B bedroom packs. There is a cost attached to this service. Alternatively, local community services, visitor attractions, and museums may be happy to take your leaflets in exchange for hosting theirs.
Joint marketing between other museums or visitor attractions in your area can be a cost-effective way of encouraging the local community or visitors to explore multiple sites in an area. We would also advise looking at where you might be able to piggyback onto existing campaigns or initiatives, with fellow museums in your area, or with your Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO). Find your local Destination Marketing Organisation.
Branding is much more than a logo. It creates recognition. It’s how a museum of gallery is perceived by its audience including visitors, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders. It’s a sum of experiences that is not only gained through interacting with your website and other marketing materials, but right through to how you answer your phone, respond to online enquiries, and the visitor experience. A clear and considered brand will help you to develop brand loyalty with your visitors and stakeholders and set you apart.
So, how do you develop a strong brand?
- It’s important to know who you are, what you do and what your vision, values, and any USPs (unique selling points) are. Does your current brand represent who you are and what you aspire to be?
- You also need to know who your target audience is: what motivates them? How and where should you talk to them?
- From this, you can then build on the essence of your brand which includes tone of voice, choice of imagery, and a brand style that can be taken across all your communication channels.
Case study: St Andrew’s Heritage Museum and Garden took the opportunity as a team to reflect on their brand, including the name of their organisation. In this case study read about undertaking a rebrand, which included the development of a new visitor website.
Photography is a powerful method of communication. It can capture the personality of your museum or gallery and promote it as an attraction. It can grab the attention of diverse audiences and convey complex ideas.
What to photograph
- Photos of people, interesting objects, and beautiful locations perform well on social media. Your aim when sharing images online is to encourage engagement and inspire visits. Get people to stop scrolling by stirring emotions, sparking questions, and sharing photos which stand out from the crowd.
- Attract visitors by using images of people enjoying your museum. Try to include a range of ages, ethnicities, and genders in your photos, as this helps visitors to feel represented and welcome.
- Get inspired by looking at photos taken by other museums and galleries. Try to identify what you like about the photos: is it the use of colour? The angle? The way the subject is arranged?
How to take photographs
- You don’t need an expensive camera to take good photos. Smartphones can take high-quality photos which are suitable for sharing over social media.
- Make sure that the photos you take are bright and in-focus.
- Aim to avoid clutter in the background of your photos. This will help the subject of the photo to stand out.
- Take advantage of natural light where possible, as it is often softer and more even than artificial light.
- Be careful when using your camera’s flash function, as it can create harsh and over-exposed images.
- High light levels can damage some museum objects. When photographing museum objects, note the light levels of your environment and consider whether to disable your camera’s flash function.
- Experiment with light and composition by taking photos from several different angles.
- If you don’t have the confidence or capacity to take photos, consider hiring a professional photographer or creating a new volunteer role.
How to edit and share photographs
- Simple adjustments to the saturation, light levels, and straightness of your photos can be made using free tools such as Pixlr.
- Use cropping to remove distractions and draw attention towards the subject of your photo.
- Consider the dimensions of a photo when sharing it over social media. Take up more space on Facebook and Instagram feeds by sharing photos with square or portrait dimensions.
- When sharing a photo online, make sure it’s an appropriate size. If it’s too big, it may take a long time to load; if it’s too small, it may look fuzzy. Aim for online files to be around 300kb to 1mb in size, and resize if they’re too large.
- When posting on social media, always try to include a photo. A post with a photo will always perform much better than a post with no visual content.
Arts Marketing Association– A membership body that runs comprehensive training and events in marketing that are open to all.
VisitScotland– Provide access to tourism research and insights, including to the UK Consumer Sentiment Tracker.
Scottish Heritage Social Media Group offer peer-to–peer support for social media within the Scottish heritage sector.