How to Sell Out Your Museum’s Next Event (Case Study: Florida Museum of Natural History)

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Museums host a wide range of events and programs, but many struggle to sell out events.  This challenge is especially true for museums trying to draw in millennials and young professionals.  Millennials want something that the traditional museum experience often lacks: highly social, interactive adventures that make guests feel like VIPs. 

The Florida Museum of Natural History was facing a similar challenge.  As the state’s official natural history museum, they are one of the largest and fastest-growing natural history museums in America.  In addition, the museum works in collaboration with many top scientific researchers to uncover and present our planet’s immense history.  While the Florida Museum of Natural History attracts a wide range of students and families, they were unsure how to appeal to young professionals and millennials in their community. 

So Florida Museum of Natural History called the experts in millennial events: Museum Hack!  We worked with Florida Museum of Natural History to produce, market, and present an exclusive one-night event that would attract and jumpstart long-term relationships with the next generation of museum patrons in Gainesville.  Read on to find out how we successfully sold out this event – and left audiences wanting more.

Hackology marketing banner created by Museum Hack

Step 1: Concept

We started with a question: What do millennials want most from a science museum? 

Adventure! Dinosaurs! Beer!

Brainstorming with Florida Museum of Natural History staff, we designed a VIP after-hours event to appeal to these needs: HACKOLOGY was born.  Combining science with pop culture, HACKOLOGY featured exclusive Museum Hack style tours of the Florida Museum of Natural History, complete with wild stories and top-secret missions designed to engage audiences with the museum’s collections and each other. 

To encourage socialization, we also designed a prize-filled trivia challenge that would test guests’ knowledge of the museum while encouraging friendly competition.  With beer, wine, food, and prizes, we knew we’d attract young professionals who wanted a fun mid-week break from the grind.  

But…how were we going to let our target audience know this adventure was waiting for them?

Dustin whispering to a dinosaur
The secret to success? Make the event a top-secret VIP adventure!

Step 2: Market

Cue our Audience Development Agency, ready to up the ante and promote HACKOLOGY.  We worked with Florida Museum of Natural History to discuss and develop a target audience, based on known demographics for millennials in the Gainesville area.  With help from Florida Museum of Natural History’s marketing staff, we identified and developed a list of stand-out community influencers and companies that cater to the guests we wanted to attract – including tech companies, local celebrities, and social media influencers.   We also identified opportunities for free marketing – including posting HACKOLOGY to local event calendars and conducting direct outreach to influencers via email and social media.

Armed with details about Florida Museum of Natural History’s target demographic, our experienced marketers utilized Facebook and Twitter to deliver hyper-targeted ads that encouraged Gainesville’s young professionals to RSVP to Florida Museum of Natural History’s Facebook Event Page and buy tickets.  These ads adhered to our best practices for engaging, successful advertising – including using fun images and upbeat language that appealed to millennials’ need for interactive, social adventures.

Ad created by Museum Hack for Florida Museum of Natural History HACKOLOGY

 

Our team monitored these marketing efforts on a daily basis, in order to ensure that the best performing ads were given as much of our budget as possible.  This monitoring also allowed us to refine our methods and dedicate our efforts to connecting with audiences who were most receptive to the event.  We also worked with Florida Museum of Natural History to regularly post to their Facebook event page, giving respondents sneak peeks at what to expect during HACKOLOGY and reminding them to buy tickets in advance. 

Within three weeks, the event had sold out!  It was time to create new experiences at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Step 3: Show Time!

With the event sold out, it was time to bring HACKOLOGY to life.  Our VIP Guides Dustin Growick, Diana Montano, Zak Martellucci, and Kelly Reidy traveled to Gainesville to make HACKOLOGY a one-of-a-kind museum experience.

Diana, Kelly, Zak, and Dustin get their HACKOLOGY spirit going with fun costumes at the Florida Museum of Natural History
Diana, Kelly, Zak, and Dustin get their HACKOLOGY spirit going with fun costumes at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Prior to arrival, we had discussed the event in detail with Florida Museum of Natural History.  Having brainstormed potential activities and tour ideas for their space, our team dove right into translating those ideas into an awesome event program.  We worked with the museum’s staff to finalize event details as well as clarify goals and how we would achieve them.  We also developed fun games and activities, including awesome trivia inspired by their collections!

The day of HACKOLOGY dawned and it was time to show off the Florida Museum of Natural History in our signature style.  But before the event could start, we were already blown away.  Not only had we sold out the event – there was a line of eager millennials hoping for more space to open up so they could join!

Zak with a bear skull at FMNH
Zak Martellucci gets ready to kill it (the event, not the bear) at HACKOLOGY.

The event was awesome.  We had lots of fun activities – including team-based photo scavenger hunts and a tableau vivant challenge. Check out these photos to see all the crazy fun visitors had at HACKOLOGY:

Guests at HACKOLOGY
“Team Snaggletooth Rex had a blast! Thanks @FloridaMuseum @MuseumHack for an awesome event. We’ll be back! #hackology”
tableau vivant game at HACKOLOGY
Instagram user katie_m_o and friends recreating a photo for HACKOLOGY during our tableau vivant game.
Guests at HACKOLOGY debate challenge
“It’s not every day you contemplate how to best mimic a dead dinosaur #nightatthemuseum @MuseumHack @FloridaMuseum” Image by Kaitlin Kovacs.
HACKOLOGY Museum Hack team
The Museum Hack team with Nadia and Jude Alcide at HACKOLOGY.
Selfie with the crowd at HACKOLOGY
Yay for museums!

“HACKOLOGY, a night of trivia, games, fun and food at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, was one of the most fun events we’ve run in a long time. We spent 2 hours with people from all walks of life and had an amazing time highlighting the museum’s fantastic collection and crazy facts from the natural (and not-so-natural) world.

Basically, the night was amazing, everyone was so excited to be there and to be having fun in such an amazing place, and the staff was incredibly warm-hearted and passionate about making the museum as irresistible as possible. We even got heckled for forgetting about one animal-themed mascot from the list of Florida teams rooted on by a creature – which just goes to show you how much this event mattered to them!” – Zak Martellucci, Museum Hack VIP Guide + Creative Associate

We were honored to have been invited to the Florida Museum of Natural History to present HACKOLOGY.  Special thanks to all the museum staff and the entire Gainesville community for making this event a sold-out success!  We can’t wait to visit again.

 

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