This week Shannon Gilliam of The Children's Museum of Houston posted a question about reaching parents on-line. We thought it was a great question, and deserving of its own post. So here goes.
First, there just are not that many museum-going parents in their 20s compared to the numbers of museum-going parents in their 30s and 40s. Gen Y (up to age 28) really has not started settling down and having children in large numbers, at least among those with college degrees that comprise the vast majority of the museum audience. And since 75% of elementary school children today have Gen X parents (age 28 - 42 in 2007), so I will concentrate on the Gen X parent, particularly mom, for this post.
Now Gen X moms are very different than the Baby Boomer moms that preceded them. Gen X women are 70% more likely to have attained a college degree than the earliest wave of Boomer women, and this has far-reaching implications for her behavior. She is more likely to:
- leave her hometown
- establish a career
- marry later
- and have children later
And while more than half of Gen X moms are in the workplace, the percentage of moms returning to work after having a child has been decreasing ever since Gen X starting hitting their peak years of childbirth. But these moms are not checking out either. They are working from home, starting their own businesses or consulting firms, and they are being coached by their graduate schools on how to keep their business and networking skills sharp in preparation for re-entry when the time comes. (And this could mean some terrific volunteer opportunities for museums who can attract these sharp women for special projects).
These moms, and dads too, are less likely to adore the concept of "quality time" (have you noticed that term has pretty much disappeared?) to make up for lost time with their kids, but instead are seeking family time - measured by the amount of time spent with the kids. They are seeking programs and events that the family can attend together, and that help the family create closer bonds with one another. The kind of programming that museums can do really well.
So how do you reach these moms? And why are we focusing on moms specifically? Well, mom is the primary decision maker when it comes to what the family is going to do on Saturday morning. She is the one enrolling her children in programs (we've found that moms enroll their kids 85% to 98% of the time at museums). And if she is not happy, she is not going to come back (and will, in fact, probably tell others, see below).
Reaching the Gen X mom is not challenging, but it does require different promotional tools than for older generations.
Gen X moms are huge readers of local, community papers (think of your small-town weekly, for me it is the Quincy Sun, not the Boston Globe). These papers follow a "local names and local faces" strategy to sell papers, so sending them copy and photos with those local names and faces will make a huge difference in turning your event from a calendar listing to a feature article.
Gen X moms are also big e-mailers. Nearly half e-mail news and events to their friends. They want to hear from you by e-mail, so keep those e-newsletter lists up-to-date and timely. The Old Stone House in Brooklyn does a terrific job with this, but their primary tactic is posting events to the Park Slope Parents e-list. There are probably parent lists like this one in your community as well, and they often welcome postings from museums.
Finally, word-of-mouth is a tremendous promotion tool for Gen X moms. We've found that only teenage girls outpace the 35-40 year old mom when it comes to word-of-mouth marketing. They are talking - a lot - and hopefully they are saying great things about your museum. Fortunately, word-of-mouth marketing is something you can manage and control - and for more on that keep an eye out for our January e-newsletter, which will have an article on the topic (if you want to receive our e-newsletter, e-mail me at susie at reachadvisors dot com).
Now this is all well and good for Gen X moms, but do not get complacent. Remember Gen Y? While they are not having children in large numbers now, this is a huge generation of young adults who are just entering their peak child-bearing years. And their methods of communications are completely different than Gen X. E-mail? An antiquated communications vehicle used primarily for communicating with adults. It will be a whole new ballgame promoting to Gen Y moms in the next few years, so stay tuned.
We would love to hear from you about your successes marketing to Gen X (and Gen Y, if you are starting to see them coming in with their children!). Simply click on "comments" below to share with the field what you are doing.