Heritage Attractions Must Nail Their Marketing Now

September 15th, 2023

Heritage Attractions Must Nail Their Marketing Now

Many UK heritage attractions will now be entering the last few weeks of their season – perhaps one that has not been as successful as they may have wanted, whether that be down to the weather or the cost of living crisis. The problem is that many stately homes, museums and heritage visitor attractions will be guessing as to why things didn’t go as planned.

Rather than simply closing the doors and breathing a sigh of relief that all, or the bulk of the hard work has been done for 2023, this is precisely the time when heritage visitor attractions, of all kinds, should be analysing what has happened to visitor numbers in 2023 and assessing what lessons can be learned.

Heritage attractions on a marketing hamster wheel

Unfortunately, far too many heritage attractions, museums and historic homes and gardens are stuck on a hamster wheel, repeating the same mistakes year after year and simply spinning around on the spot, rather than progressing.

Some lessons should be learned from the marketing tactics that were employed in 2023, or the money that was frittered away on being part of marketing schemes that delivered very little. Other learning should be derived from the data that exists in the market and which suggests what is influencing visitor decision-making. The problem is that museums, stately homes and gardens, historic houses and even some of the bigger heritage organisations out there simply do not have the statistics at their fingertips.

Furthermore, too many heritage attractions display too much loyalty to marketing schemes and agencies that are simply under-delivering for them.

Research commissioned to assist heritage attractions’ marketing

Knowing that autumn 2023 is precisely when heritage attractions should be ironing out the wrinkles in their marketing, focusing on their strategies and really opting for what’s going to deliver payback in 2024, Catapult PR and our specialist heritage marketing division, Heritage Buzz, have done the research for them, commissioning independent YouGov surveys.

We, therefore, fully recognise the impacts that the cost of living crisis has had on visitors and the way that this has eaten into the average heritage attraction and museum’s drivetime audience.

We also know, via the data, that the same pressures will not have magically gone away by the time stately homes reopen in spring 2024.

What we also fear, however, is that the typical ‘rubber stamping’ strategy will have been deployed with regard to the marketing of historic homes and gardens, museums and heritage visitor attractions by that date. Too many marketing campaigns simply roll over from year to year, with nobody questioning why no great gains are being made, or why visitor numbers are actually going into reverse.

The simple fact is that too many of those in the heritage and cultural sectors are not aligned with their visitors’ thinking, largely because they have no idea what it is. They hear words like ‘social media’ banded around. and have an unswerving commitment to leaflets, but do not appreciate how little either of these are being used by their visitors. It’s all just a bandwagon and, because everyone else is doing it, the “we should too” attitude prevails.

Many are signing up for membership schemes that supposedly offer benefits for 7 months a year but surprisingly only show signs of any form of activity when the membership fees are up for renewal. Even then, it is all very low-key marketing and hardly inspiring.

How heritage attractions should be marketing in 2024

Now is the time that heritage attractions need to be not just really focusing on strategies and what they deliver, but also looking at new product development for the 2024 season. This is something with which we have contributed massively to our clients’ growth, being far more than just an agency that takes instruction and does as instructed. We guide our clients all the way, coming up with new concepts and experiences that tick the box of target audiences and contribute to extra business through the door. Just check out our recent case study, if you are in any doubt about that.

Just because this case study is focused on Cumbria, does not mean we could not do the same for you. After all, we are not based in Cumbria – we just have 30 years’ of expertise under our belt and all of the insight at our fingertips as to what the 2023/4 visitor wants of a heritage attraction.

Key marketing data for historic houses, museums and heritage attractions 2023/4

If we haven’t yet convinced you that there is no time to waste when it comes to doing things better and more effectively in 2024, here are some statistics to give you food for thought.

– 85% of people say the cost of living crisis is affecting their ability to visit heritage attractions; in some regions, this is as high as 96%. What are you doing to try to make a visit a must-do?

– More than a quarter of people will only visit heritage attractions that demonstrate good value for money. In areas like the SW, this is the view of four-in-ten people. What value-added are you providing to your experience, to tick this box?

– A tenth of your prospective visitors will only visit you if there is a special offer available. Where is your flexibility to provide this, within your marketing plan?

– 57% predict the cost of living crisis will lead to drops in visits to heritage attractions; in general; 22% say it will personally lead to them making fewer visits, having already made that decision. How are you going to make your attraction the one that becomes visited? How do you do that through your marketing and differentiate yourself, to make your attraction a number one choice?

– The drivetime market is being greatly affected by petrol prices. This should lead you to question what the benefit of out-of-area leaflets really is. Do leaflets get used anyway? What could you be doing better, to make a better (and greener) use of your budget?

Heritage marketing: free resources for your use

Our heritage booklet download gives you much more insight and many more answers. Why not download it for free, here.

Having done that, why not book a time for a one-to-one session with us, to discover what we could do to help you, on either a packaged or bespoke basis?

Time is of the essence. This should not be your heritage marketing downtime but the time in which you really get geared up to hit the ground running, in the right way, the minute the 2024 season kicks off. Make use of it wisely, access our help, appreciate how helpful we are and let’s make your season a much better one next year, by taking the right steps, together.

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