Generating Income at Museums

Generating income at museums – admission sales will always be a key income stream however with less public funding and an increasingly competitive marketplace, museums cannot afford to rely exclusively on admissions income.

Revenue streams are becoming more varied and versatile. Surpluses in revenues at museums are usually ploughed back into the running of the operation and care of its collections, adding to the visitor experience and promoting the offer and brand.

Taking the time to identify and develop an institution’s assets provides a deeper level of understanding of where to focus resources and efforts.

  • Audience research and segmenting gives visitor experience and marketing teams an invaluable insights into visitor behaviour, this is essential when developing the visitor offer to create a museum experience people want to visit and revisit.
  • Events can drive additional sales but require careful budgeting and consideration before committing time and resources. Investing in bigger, more memorable events can be more effective if the museum has the skills and capacity to deliver a quality experience on a larger scale. Venues are exploring opportunities to diversify into the arts, licensing venues for evening music, gastronomy and theatre events. Some events may only just break even, but with the objective of attracting new audiences to see a future benefit. In our experience developing a successful annual calendar of events takes a number of years to establish. Also, to de-risk the event, partnership opportunities should be explored in terms of delivery, marketing and ticket sales.  There are also considerations in terms of marketing the events and impact on the day-to-day operation of the museum itself.
  • The expectations of visitors are also changing. Museums (and other attractions) are becoming a destination for segments of visitors seeking a social visit, enhanced by a superior catering service. Having the right catering offer in the right place is key, encouraging visitors to increase their dwell time and secondary spend. Themed restaurants create experiential dining, with visitors often prepared to increase their expenditure for interesting or sustainably sourced, local produce.  Catering can be managed in-house or by a third party specialist provider.  Partnership with celebrity brands can also drive footfall, for example the River Cottage Deli and Botanical Bar at the Imperial War Museum on HMS Belfast.
  • A quality catering offer also creates greater demand for private and corporate hire. Exclusive site hire for weddings and private parties can be a fantastic way to increase revenue but a clear understanding is needed of how any secondary business will impact on the core operations of the museum.
  • The development of a bespoke retail offer can be a significant investment but with the right design team, it can complement the brand, reinforcing its values and boosting spend per head. Creating product ranges around current exhibitions reduces seasonal fluctuations in demand and generates continued interest. It is also important to consider online sales to engage with audiences who may not necessarily visit the museum in person.
  • Filming creates significant income for organisations such as The National Trust. The revenue from costume dramas and films can bring substantial revenues. For other venues, hosting television programmes like The Antiques Roadshow can boost revenue and visitor numbers (and help to raise the profile of the destination).
  • There are other revenue streams such as corporate and social functions through to membership schemes (one for another blog post)!  Find out more about some of the things we have been working on with the team at the National Brewery Centre (formerly the Bass Museum).

Focusing on developing income generation streams takes time and resources. It’s sometimes tempting to try and do everything at once which can lead to teams feeling stretched and never truly reaching their potential. Have a look at some of the generating income at museums and other visitor experience projects we have worked on.  If you are interested in finding out more about how we have helped other organisations please contact Richard Linington by email or phone on 023 9248 1999.