Two critical SCRM traits – enthusiasm for engagement and a lack of excuses – as embodied by… a maritime museum?

By Chris Bucholtz

Back in March I presented a webinar on the topic of customer service and social media and how the two were converging to become both more important and more capable. While that’s a great topic, the best part of the webinar was the question and answer period. I had several really great questions thrown at me by one attendee, who later emailed me about his situation.

Bill Eickelberg is an adjunct at the Dorr County Maritime Museum  in Wisconsin. The museum includes the Cana Island Lighthouse, the tug boat John Purves, and museums at Gills Rock and Sturgeon Bay. Bill worked in sales for Caterpillar, and began working with the museum after he retired. “The application of museum issues are the same as my product days with Caterpillar product,” he wrote. “I did a lot of cold calling, but that was the way it was before tools that exist today.”

Bill listened to the webinar, which emphasized the importance of collecting data, social and otherwise, and putting it to use to serve the customer. The better you can do that, the more likely you are to have a loyal customer – or a loyal member and donor, in the case of a museum.

“The collection of data is right on,” wrote Bill, “and I’m not sure that we do a good job with that. We have 1700 visitors to the Lighthouse Festival  each year; I’m not sure how we get the demographics from attendance, but certainly we could use modern collection methods to transform that information into membership, attendance, and, above all, donorship.”

The Dorr County Maritime Museum was updating its website, and had a staff member enrolled in a social media class. “I am the volunteer that will be doing the Social Media, but am behind the curve, so I will have to play catch up,” Bill wrote. “Hopefully I will be able to do that. This certainly is fun.”

The museum’s site looks very good now – and the Lighthouse Festival is this weekend! – but that’s not why I’m writing about Bill. It’s because he and the museum embody the kind of people and organizations that will excel in using social media and social CRM ideas.

Exhibit A: the museum is not allowing its non-profit status and relative small size as an excuse to avoid these trends. Instead, it’s investing in social media and training for its employees.

Exhibit B: Bill is not just amenable to the idea of using social media to help the museum – he’s actually having fun at it. About two years ago, Esteban Kolsky and I had an extremely pointless (but friendly!) argument about the make-up of employees dedicated to social media; Esteban emphasized experience, while I emphasized familiarity with social media. We were both right, of course: the ideal person is someone like Bill, who has business experience and fully grasps the potential and the nuances of social media.

Exhibit C: Bill fully understands that data collection and data utilization is the objective, once you’re beyond your initial experience with a visitor. Once a visitor has taken the first step an come to the museum, it’s up to the museum to make the next step by reaching out in a meaningful way to build loyalty and to encourage involvement. If you recognize this, you don’t stop at collecting data – you start looking for ways to use it. And if you keep your eye on the ball here, your only limitation is your creativity.

Content is a great way to collect data and then keep connected to people. For the organizations I like to call “elective attendance non-profits” – museums, associations, etc. – the key to data collection is content. A nice .pdf newsletter with some calls to action clearly spelled out and linked is a really effective way of getting people’s contact information and then keeping them connected to the organization in a way that they actually look forward to. For example, the D-Day Museum sends me a regular email (although my only real-life contact with the museum came in helping with a black tie fund-raiser in San Francisco about five years ago). It’s a newsletter and an opportunity to buy new stuff from the museum store.

Then, it’s a matter of making sure visitors know about the newsletter and how they can sign up to get it. That’s a sort of “point of purchase” activity for in-person visitors, and it should be a prominently featured item on your home page, and on a Facebook page, too. Once you have subscribers, you then have to publish regularly – and why not encourage visitors to contribute content to the newsletter? The idea of the photo of the month is a good one – the best photo taken by a visitor gets prominent placement in the newsletter

That’s one really basic way to be “social” in pursuit of “customer” engagement. I like it because it accomplishes so many things – builds engagement, communicates about events and opportunities, explains the need for donations, helps keep contact lists current, and on and on. You can also show it to potential donors, too, as a bit of evidence about how effectively the museum works to communicate its mission.

There are a few differences in the CRM approaches taken by companies in buyer-seller relationships and organizations in relationships with donors, supporters and members – but the essentials are still the same. One of the most important elements is still an excited, motivated, customer-focused person at the heart of the strategy – a person like Bill. Another critically important element is an organizational ability to avoid making excuses for not trying something new – and if any organization seems likely to fail to look to the future, it would be a museum that deals with the past. It looks like the Dorr County Maritime Museum is not one of those organizations – and I look forward to seeing what they develop as they evolve their efforts to connect with customers.