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It’s no secret that ticket sales are an essential revenue stream for many museums. In fact, earned income can make up anywhere from 40% to 70% of a museum’s annual budget. Although admissions revenue is just one type of income that falls into this category, it has an important secondary purpose: the first step in attracting new visitors and deepening their involvement with your museum is getting them to buy a ticket.

To boost ticket sales and experience the accompanying engagement benefits, your museum needs to take a strategic approach. Your end goal should be to cultivate repeat visitors who you can convert into donors, members, and regular participants in your events and programs.

In this guide, we’ll walk through five tips to help your museum boost its revenue through strategic ticketing, including how to:

  1. Implement Timed-Entry Mobile Ticketing
  2. Create a Tiered Admissions Pricing Model
  3. Offer Upsell Opportunities With Ticket Purchases
  4. Ensure Member Benefits Are Applied to All Sales
  5. Leverage Specialized Museum Software

Before you get started, take a look at your admissions revenue numbers from past years. Also, analyze any additional ticket purchase data you have stored and whether those visitors returned to your organization or made any other purchases while they were there. Once you know where you currently stand with ticketing, you can nail down your goals and develop an action plan to achieve them. Let’s dive in!

1. Implement Timed-Entry Mobile Ticketing

Timed-entry ticketing has existed for several years, but it took off when museums began to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns were lifted. There was an increased need to focus on capacity management at that time, which is just one benefit of this type of system.

Timed ticketing is also convenient for visitors since they can reserve their spots on your museum’s website in advance of their visit. Then, they receive their mobile tickets via email or text, so they can simply pull them up on their smartphones and scan them when they enter your facility. In addition to reducing wait times, this process cuts down on your museum’s paper usage so you can sell more tickets at a lower upfront cost (and make less of an impact on the environment in the process!).

Set up your timed-entry ticketing system in such a way that supporters can reschedule their visit or receive a refund if they can’t make their time slot. This capability improves their experience with your museum, making them more likely to purchase tickets again in the future.

2. Create a Tiered Admissions Pricing Model

To attract and engage as many visitors as possible, it’s important to foster an inclusive museum community. Develop admissions pricing tiers that provide discounts for various groups to encourage individuals from a wide range of demographics to visit your museum. As a result, you’ll also increase your overall ticket sales numbers.

Consider creating special pricing tiers for the following groups:

  • Children under a certain age (often 10 or 12)
  • College students with a valid ID
  • Military members and their families with valid IDs
  • Senior citizens age 65 and up

Additionally, publicize the fact that members receive free or discounted admission. This way, you can encourage repeat visitors to sign up for your program and contribute even more through their membership fees and other onsite purchases.

3. Offer Upsell Opportunities With Ticket Purchases

As previously stated, general admission is only one aspect of the earned income that makes up 40-70% of your museum’s budgeted revenue. Plus, while individual donations fall into the other 30-60% that also includes grants and endowments, bringing them in still depends on your ability to engage visitors.

Right before a visitor completes an online ticket purchase—either in advance or at your facility—direct them to a screen where they can add other items to their transaction, such as:

  • Tickets to a special exhibition or show on the day of their visit
  • Merchandise from your gift shop
  • Paid educational resources to enhance the visitor experience
  • A small donation to your museum

Once the visitor has checked out, prompt them to learn more about your membership program or other upcoming events to increase your chances of an upsell that results in a more engaged visitor and extra revenue for your organization.

4. Ensure Member Benefits Are Applied to All Sales

Members tend to be among the most engaged and valuable visitors to museums. Not only do they pay annual membership fees and visit more often than non-members, but their passion for your museum also makes them more likely to participate in the other events and educational programs you offer.

According to NXUnite, one of the best membership benefits that museums and similar organizations can offer is significant discounts on tickets, merchandise, and registration fees. No matter what type of transaction a member makes, ensure their benefits are automatically applied within your system. Seeing the wide range of savings they can experience will keep them coming back and renewing their memberships year after year.

5. Leverage Specialized Museum Software

A strategic approach to admissions involves more than simply selling tickets. It also touches on areas of membership management, fundraising, event planning, and more. To keep all of these elements in order, it’s important to leverage the right tools.

Doubleknot’s museum software guide recommends investing in an integrated management solution that includes the following features:

This checklist shows four features of museum management software that help with strategic ticketing, which are discussed below.

  • Cloud-based tools for timed ticketing, merchandise sales, and donation processing.
  • A robust database to securely store visitor, member, and donor information.
  • A user-friendly interface that you can customize to support your museum’s unique pricing and membership structure.
  • Complete analytics and reporting systems so you can pull data on all of your museum’s activities.

With the right tools, you can enhance the visitor, member, and donor experience to boost your revenue and be more strategic in your admissions approach.

As you incorporate the tips above into your organization’s approach to ticketing, know that it’s normal to experience some trial and error as you figure out the best way to achieve your goals. Additionally, make sure to review your data so you can see what is working and where you could better leverage the available resources and tools to maximize your museum’s revenue.

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