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by • 12 Mar, 2012 • PeopleComments (2)3321

What I learned from Tate Members – preview of Kom Je Ook?

Tate Modern members room art4
Photo by Sara Richards on Flickr.

Few presentations have made as much an impact on me as Martin Barden’s presentation about Tate Members at MuseumNext 2011. I retell his story at least once a week, and in my head (and stories) both Martin and Tate Members have taken immense proportions. As if nearly one fifth of a million paying members isn’t impressive enough already… You can imagine I’m happy the people behind Kom Je Ook? have decided listen to my endless begging and bring Martin over to Amsterdam for their conference on March 29th (for which I can’t help but make some promotion…).

What I like about Tate Members is how they have carefully designed the process from occasional passer-by to patron. This process is as much about getting new people to join the membership programme, as it is about retaining existing members and encouraging them to “grow” into more exclusive relationships with the institution.

I guess there’s a lot we can learn from a programme like Tate Members when we’re talking about (online) community building, growing a Facebook page, and all other activities where we want people to get together in an organised way around a cause. Here’s what I take away from repeating the Tate Members story at least 50 times*:

  • Have clear benefits. Free entrance to special exhibitions, a cool welcome gift, no queues… Joining should always have explicit benefits, even if it’s just liking a Facebook page. I fear “stay up to date” isn’t always enough. Exclusive contents, early registration and last-minute deals are examples of online benefits.
  • Keep repeating why people should join. You cannot interact with Tate without hearing about Tate Members, and that’s the way it should be. I once (when I was like 14) asked the marketing team at Coca Cola why they still promoted the drinks even though everybody must know about them. “Because there are always new people being born that need to know as well,” was their answer.
  • Outreach versus engagement. Tate Members is as much about finding new members as keeping the old ones happy. This requires two different approaches which I call outreach and engagement. Outreach is about going out of your comfort zone and targeting new audiences, engagement is about developing the existing ones into advocates for your cause.
  • Treat different people differently. Not everybody joins for the same benefits, so figure out why people are part of your group and treat them accordingly. New members need different attention than the ones that have been a member since forever. Simply repeating your marketing message all the time might scare members away that have grown past being a member for the benefits.
  • Build a tribe. The best thing about Tate Members is the welcome package, and the best thing from that package the Oyster Card holder with which you can show – every time when you check into the underground, pay for groceries, etc. – that you are part of Tate. These things are gold.
  • Be very, very serious about it. The moment people get together magic happens, and the moment they are invited to get together and the host isn’t in it for 120%, the party is ruined (you remember such parties).

I’m pretty sure there are many others who have fallen in love with Tate Members or a similar programme, or have taken ideas away about memberships elsewhere. I’m curious to hear your thoughts in the comments. Thanks already!

* Disclaimer: As I said, the story might have grown beyond reality in my head. To hear the true story check out Martin’s slides from MuseumNext or come to Kom Je Ook? later this month. There are various options to get a discount for Kom Je Ook?, for instance by supporting a voordekunst project, or joining the Erfgoed 2.0 community.

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  • Interesting post. I agree when you say “Outreach is about going out of your comfort zone and targeting new audiences…”

    This is exactly what I’m doing with my (art) practice. Or at least, attempting to do. I find that the default behaviour is to revert to existing audience members, rather than reaching new people.

  • Thanks Anthony! I’d be interested to hear more about how you try to reach out to new people in your practice.

    In most of my current workshops I make a clear distinction between engaging our existing audience, and reaching out to new ones. Using some simple tools we force institutions (far) out of their comfort zone and you know what: the best ideas come from these exercises!