“We were planning to spend thousands of dollars to create an orientation video but Visitors Count! helped us understand that’s not what our visitors want. Participating in the Visitors Count Survey! was a smart move for us.” – Sarah Whiting, Executive Director, St. John’s Church Foundation
“Visitors Count helped us launch a very successful collaboration between our programming and exhibits departments to better understand what our visitors want. It changed the way we approach temporary exhibits.” – Melissa Tyer, Museum Educator, First Division Museum at Cantigny Park
“Fort Ticonderoga began working with Visitors Count in 2011 and we’ve repeated our visitor survey four times since then. Survey results have influenced our strategic plan, annual goals, and daily work. One area we were particularly interested in was addressing was “value.” Because we are perceived as a military site, our guests often assume we are a National Park and expect free or steeply discounted admission cost. Fort Ticonderoga is owned and operated by a nonprofit educational organization. We now inform our visitors how admission fees support our operational costs. Additionally, we have invested heavily in programs and product development to significantly expand our visitor experience across the 2000-acre site and onto the waters of Lake Champlain offering more than 14 tours a day and experiences for diverse audiences of all ages and backgrounds. The increased investment in programs and experiences as well as our ability to articulate the value of the experience and who we are as an organization has greatly impacted our overall rating in “value” for our guests. In fact, guests who spend the most money with us, with a boat and admission combination ticket, rate their experience overall the highest. Visitors Count! has been a key partner in Fort Ticonderoga’s success. We’ve used the program five times since 2011 and recommend it!” – Beth L. Hill, President and CEO, Fort Ticonderoga Association
“From simple to complex decisions, such as including a museum map in a new brochure to deepening our programming and exhibits for military audiences, the insights received through our Visitors Count! report were used immediately at the USS Constitution Museum.” – Jennifer K. Zanolli, Manager of Interpretation & Visitor Services, USS Constitution Museum
“From our first Visitors Count! survey, we learned that wayfinding was an issue for visitors. So we enhanced our gallery entrances and exits, enlarged directional signage, added an easy-to-follow map to our brochure, and posted docents in areas identified as confusing. When we repeated the Visitors Count! program, visitors’ comments were glowing. They were impressed with our galleries and the ease with which they were able to travel among them. Visitors Count! helped us quantify wayfinding problems and justify the resources needed to solve them.” – Lin Ezell, (former) Director, National Museum of the Marine Corps
“Naper Settlement participated in Visitors Count! so we could get to know those people who so often remain silent in our planning processes—our visitors. Through the program, we heard what we are doing right, what meets expectations and what needs work. When resources are tight, as they certainly are right now, this is critical information. We need to put our time, money and resources into the things that are most important to our customer base. This program is helping us to do that.” – Donna Sack, Vice-President, Chief Program Officer, Naper Settlement
Roanoke Island Festival Park (RIFP) Manteo, North Carolina
With Visitors Count! RIFP learned that its Key Drivers were all about offering visitors an experience that was fun, family-oriented, and focused on the mystery of Roanoke being the first colony before Jamestown. After completing the program, RIFP concluded that its branding and publicity material did not accurately convey those Key Drivers.
Using the scientific and comprehensive data that supported this claim, RIFP was able to secure several grants to rebrand all publicity material. They hired an outside consultant to create a new public face for the site and a strategic marketing campaign that included new advertising, publicity materials, corporate collateral, way-finding signage, and even a new tag line.
Once RIFP visitor numbers increased they could demonstrate strong community support and engagement with the public. With these successes, RIFP was able to receive $3 million from the State of North Carolina to overhaul existing exhibitions spaces and create new ones.
Again, RIFP turned to the results of the Visitors Count survey for guidance on what topics, subjects, and types of experiences visitors were looking for. From the survey, RIFP:
- Created a new living history experience on Native Americans
- Overhauled the Visitor Center
- Updated the Roanoke Adventure Museum
By using the results from the Visitors Count survey program, RIFP was able to learn what its visitors were looking for and then develop an advertising campaign and eventually new exhibition spaces to meet those expectations. RIFP created a thriving history site and continues to enjoy high visitor numbers which translates to stability and increased revenue for the organization.
The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee used the Visitors Count! program to help with a major strategic planning initiative involving the renovation of their permanent exhibitions and a new master interpretive plan. In 2008, NCRM was beginning the reinterpretation and redesign of their primary exhibition space. As they prepared to select a design firm, staff needed more information about who their visitors were and what they expected and wanted from their museum experience.
In their first survey from 2008, NCRM determined exactly what visitors were looking for:
- A chronological approach to the Civil Rights Movement instead of a thematic one
- More artifacts and film footage
- Increased attention to the Lorraine Motel’s significance as the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination
This was crucial information because staff were contemplating moving to a thematic approach of teaching the history of the Civil Rights Movement. The survey also identified that the Lorraine Motel was a Key Driver for visitors and a major association for the physical location of the museum and its connection to the Civil Rights Movement. Knowing this, the NCRM began using the Lorraine Motel more prominently in their marketing material. For example, on the website they refer to themselves now as The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel.
In 2010 NCRM had finished with its new strategic interpretation plan for the permanent space. They conducted their second Visitors Count! program to test how visitors responded to their interpretive plan in the current space (pre-renovation). They were able to use these results as a baseline for how to plan the new space. The newly designed space will open in Spring 2014. NCRM plans to use Visitors Count! a third time after the grand opening to again measure visitors’ experiences and compare the data with the 2010 results.
Visitors Count! also helped NCRM create, for the first time, a visitor demographic matrix. Now, NCRM knows the exact demographics of its visitors, what they are looking for, and how they change throughout the year. This information can be used for strategic planning to ensure high and consistent attendance.
NCRM staff were also able to establish their economic footprint on the community. This data, along with the visitor demographic matrix, allows for better fundraising and gives development staff solid information when making local requests for support. When fundraising for the renovation, NCRM was able to use this data to secure not only local sources of revenue, but national funding as well.