I wish I could tell you how many dull, boring, and generally crappy mobile media tours I’ve taken. Indeed, bad mobile tour experiences are one of the main reasons my partner and I started Q Media and, as it happens, we recently had the opportunity to be inspired all over again. Mike tells the tale here so I won’t go into it other than to say I can’t tell you how much it pains (and in some cases infuriates) me to see thousands of visitors be subjected to an uninspired, unimaginative yet “informative” audio tour. What I find more surprising though is how many museum professionals will point out how great their own tour is by touting its pick-up rate (e.g. “Thousands of people have taken this tour”) or presenting as evidence suspect visitor feedback (“People say they like it.”).
First and foremost, pick-up rates measure the effectiveness of sales and marketing efforts, not quality of content. Second, asking a visitor if they enjoyed a tour does not provide meaningful feedback. In today’s post I’ll cover pick-up rates and the myth of the “volume = quality” phenomenon. In my next post we’ll discover how “lots of people like it” isn’t an evaluation of effectiveness; it’s a measure of politeness. Perhaps more importantly, we’ll discuss how to get past politeness (and its companion: irascibility) and actually measure emotional effectiveness.
First of all, a whole lot of people taking a mobile tour doesn’t mean it’s any good. It doesn’t mean it’s bad either, but the two things are unrelated. Numerous events affect pick-up percentages that have nothing to do with the content; indeed, they occur before the visitor ever hears the first word. Is the tour offered at an additional fee or included with admission? If there is an additional charge, is the purchase point in the same location as ticketing or does the visitor have to pull out his or her wallet twice? Is there an incentive program in place for the staff? If the mobile media tour is included with admission, is the device handed to the visitor as a matter of course or is it only offered as an option?
Depending on the organization, high pick-up numbers could be a legitimate goal, but credit for the numbers should go to a well-executed marketing plan and effective front line sales. In fact, the greatest causal indicators of high pick-up rates are both related to front line staff: incentives and personal belief. If the front line staff has an incentive to proactively “sell” the tour—be it a small financial reward like gift cards or non-financial rewards like personal recognition—the rates will be measurably higher. If the reward is removed or suspended, pick-up rates will go down.
The Coors Brewery distribution desk with staff and visitors
An excellent example of a high volume client. The Coors Golden Brewery Tour was designed to allow a large number of visitors to move through a complex space at their own pace. Docents interact with interested visitors in every room, while guest who prefer a slower or faster experience are free to do so.
Personal belief is also easy to gauge and influences greater or lesser pick-up rates. Does the front line staff believe the tour has value for the visitor and that it will enhance their experience? If management asks a staff member if a visitor should take the tour and why, the response should be positive AND it should reflect the goals and vision of the organization. Anything else, even if generally positive (e.g. “Well, I like it but don’t want to speak for everyone.”) will be reflected in lower rates.
If an organization’s goal is high numbers, which is a legitimate goal, then being aware of and developing policy to support that goal is important. For example, some organizations rely on their tour for additional revenue, while others rely on it for logistics and visitor throughput, such as being able to efficiently move large volumes of people through a space. Some organizations use their tour to reach out to additional markets, such as foreign language or folks with disabilities. Tracking numbers can track success, or lack of it, in these efforts.
But be aware, good content isn’t necessary to produce high volume. Sadly, by emphasizing volume over content, an organization only punishes its visitors. And bad audio tours are perpetuated by presenting a high pick-up rate as evidence of effective communication. It isn’t. What you want to know is are people connecting with your story? Does it move them and if so, how? Are the results what you expected, what you planned, or is something totally unexpected happening in the minds of the people you are trying to reach?
Know your numbers. Devise a distribution process and develop supporting policies that ensures you reach your goals in terms of pick-up rates, revenue, and volume. But don’t confuse success in those areas with having a great tour. If you have a great sales and marketing team, reward them. If you don’t, train them or find them. But before all of that, make sure you have an equally great experience ready for the visitor. Maybe thousands of people do pay good money for and spend precious time listening to poor quality, amateurish, ineffective mobile tours. I hope that’s an unfortunate accident and not a result of poor planning and execution. But if you really want to give offer your visitors a rich, engaging, memorable experience with a mobile media tour, then you need to be able to recognize it. We’ll get into that next time.