How to Setup a Data-Driven Museum Marketing Budget

Your first step in making data-driven museum decisions.

The Traditional Museum Marketing Budget Does Not Work

Worldwide museum attendance keep declining. There’s hope and it’s the data-driven model of museum marketing. The majority of American museums currently follow a traditional museum marketing budget model. This means roughly an 80/20 split with the larger share of funds spent on print, TV and radio ads (80%) and a small slice for social media ads, mostly Facebook (20%). This model made sense until Facebook reached a billion users in 2012. It’s now more cost-effective and easier to plan targeted audience campaigns on social media and digital platforms.

Let’s do a basic comparison between a print ad reach and social media ad reach. A full-page regional magazine or local newspaper ad usually costs around $2,000. Depending on who reads that publication that day or month, you’re limited to a few hundred people on any given day. The print ad does not include any demographic results, audience preferences and there’s no simple way to measure ROI. Now take $1,000 to launch a Facebook campaign. For better or worse, you’ll know deep insights about your audience (demographics, location and preferences.) You just saved $1,000 that can be redirected for another digital campaign (web banner ads, YouTube, Twitter etc.)

The traditional museum marketing model works for traditional audiences. Unfortunately, the law of nature has resulted in a daily decline of senior museum members. The data-driven museum professional understands the importance of relevancy and strives for new audience engagement. Instead of an 80/20 marketing split, the data-driven model is a 60/30/10 marketing split that attracts younger and diverse audiences.

Traditional Model

- 80% (radio, TV, print, promotional items)

- 20% (Facebook, Twitter, web banner ads etc.)

Data-Driven Model

- 60% (Google SEO, ad-buy media agency, social media, web banner ads, promotional items etc.)

- 30% (Radio, TV, print — highly targeted for senior audiences etc.)

- 10% (Innovation Fund — try something inexpensive and new)

Different Museums Need Different Budgets

Let’s create a data-driven museum marketing budget for your upcoming fiscal year. Before we start, please review the disclaimer below:

This budget template focuses on American museums because the financial and operational records of U.S. cultural institutions are publicly available via the 990 Tax Form. Also, there are standard and accepted U.S. frameworks in regards to annual museum budget sizes and museum types, this makes it easy to create and share a museum marketing budget template.

Lastly, there is a difference between marketing and advertising. This template uses the word “marketing” as a general term for advertising, marketing and promotional expenses. The template is solely for data-driven purposes, the figures presented are estimated based on industry research. TravelSee LLC, does not serve as a fiduciary stakeholder for the recommendations listed in this template.

Annual Budget Sizes (based on TravelSee data)

Here are two resource files from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to help sort out where your museum fits on this template:

Small Museums (Annual Budget Range $100,000 — $500,000)

  • Mostly local historic societies, historic homes, children museums and preservation sites etc.
  • Our company research shows that small museums as compared to larger museums often spend more of their annual budget on advertising and marketing purposes. Often these institutions lack the financial resources for new audience growth initiatives yet overspend on traditional methods with little to no change in visitor growth.
  • Average marketing budget expense is about 4% of total annual budget

Small Museums — Data-Driven Museum Marketing Model

  • Small Museum A ($250,000 Annual Budget)
  • Total marketing budget — $10,000
  • $6,000 — seasonal Facebook ads and Google adwords.
  • $3,000 — regional print ads, radio and CVB partnership.
  • $1,000 — promotional items based on large annual events, brand partnerships.

Medium Museums (Annual Budget Range $500,000 — $15,000,000)

  • Art museums, general museums, botanical gardens and nature centers, etc.
  • Average marketing budget expense is about 2% of total annual budget

Medium Museums — Data-Driven Museum Marketing Model

  • Medium Museum A ($8,500,000 Annual Budget)
  • Total marketing budget — $170,000
  • $102,000 — Hire ad-buy agency for seasonal audience re-targeting and strategic ad placements on high traffic websites, streaming platforms such as Pandora/Spotify/YouTube, use a data analytics service, setup seasonal Facebook campaigns, web banner ads and Google SEO.
  • $51,000 — purchase regional tourism magazine ads, radio ads and sponsor CVB tourism sales trips and inbound initiatives.
  • $17,000 — create promotional items and focus on wide public distribution.

Large Museums (Annual Budget Range $15,000,000 — $100,000,000)

  • Science centers, zoos/aquariums, art museums and history museums located in metropolitan areas.
  • Average marketing budget expense is less than 2% of total annual budget

Large Museums— Data-Driven Museum Marketing Model

  • Large Museum A ($30,000,000 Annual Budget)
  • Total marketing budget — $510,000
  • $306,000 — Hire ad-buy agency for year-round national and regional audience re-targeting and strategic ad placements on high traffic websites, streaming platforms such as Pandora/Spotify/YouTube, regularly use a data analytics service for real-time audience growth analysis, setup year-round Facebook campaigns, web banner ads and Google SEO.
  • $153,000 — purchase tourism magazine ads with national circulation, purchase full-page ads in national recognized publications such as National Geographic, regional/national radio ads and serve in lead sponsor group for CVB tourism initiatives.
  • $30,000 — At this point your museum should have its own mascot. Also purchase an outdoor banner on a local freeway route or digital billboard in a metro area, this is an easy outreach tool that boosts brand awareness.

Global Museums (Annual Budget Range $100,000,000 — $500,000,000)

  • The Met, Smithsonian, MoMa, the British Museum, the Louvre etc.
  • Average marketing budget expense is less than 1% of total annual budget

Global Museums— Data-Driven Museum Marketing Model

  • Global Museum A ($150,000,000 Annual Budget)
  • Total marketing budget — $10,950,000
  • $6,570,000 — A full-service in-house ad-buy team with outside support for large annual events, year-round international and national audience re-targeting and strategic ad placements on high traffic websites, streaming platforms such as Pandora/Spotify/Youtube, hire a full-time data analytics team that focuses on audience growth metrics. The combination of ad-buy team and data analytics team should integrate year-round Facebook/Twitter/WeChat/Instagram campaigns, web banner ads and Google SEO/Google Analytics.
  • $3,285,000 — purchase print tourism magazine ads with international and national circulation with a specific focus on airlines that fly to the museum’s metropolitan area, purchase full-page ads in national recognized publications such as National Geographic and Time, regional/national radio ads and serve in lead sponsor group for state/regional or country tourism initiatives.
  • $1,950,000 — use this fund for innovation purposes. Setup a community festival. Celebrate a museum anniversary. Book weekly museum experiences with Museum Hack. Use multiple mission-based influencers for extended campaigns. Host an annual museum professional conference addressing an important topic.

Do you want to grow your museum audience? Sign up for our new data analytics workshop and gain insights to build a data-driven culture.


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