Sunday, May 29, 2016

Museum Musings on Competition

The Competitors article prompted me to consider who our competitors truly are – which further prompted me to consider exactly what my product is and who my customers are. 

Generally when thinking about non-profits, donors can be considered our customers.  Non-profit funding comes from government subsidies, grants, cash donations or estate bequests.  And the reality is, in any given location, there are many other worthwhile organizations competing for the same pool of customers. 

My organization has the luxury of being largely self-supporting through earned income primarily through renting out various facilities on our property.  This luxury was a ‘road block’ to teasing out who our competitors are.  I ultimately broke my organization into 4 income-producing silos: Museum, Distillery, Facility Rental, and Village shops.

I’m able to list out product(s) and competitor(s) for each of the 4 silos, but the main product is more gestalt theory-esque:  That the value of the whole is greater that the sum of the parts.  The entire story, space, and range of experiences offered at our organization outshines our regional competitors (especially if we look primarily at organizational budget size within our industry).
But that doesn’t buy us a free pass to not think about competitors:  By treating each silo as an independent industry, we can strategically grow underperforming sources of income, as well as identify the target audience and competitors of each.

Museum: disseminating information via tours, research (of our collections and archives), educational programming, and “edu-tainment”. A quick browse through Guidestar.org shows 124 Pennsylvania museums within the same income bracket as my organization.   And considering I view our geographic scope to include more of a tri-state radius, that number grows higher.  

Distillery:  Whiskey is the product.  We’re reviving the historic whiskey recipe distilled onsite throughout the 19th century using grain grown in the fields neighboring the museum.  There’s a huge boom in the craft distilling industry now, with strong Pittsburgh region distillers, but there’s only one other ‘whiskey museum’ in the country currently. 

Facility Rental: As this is our primary income generator and though it’s my first though when it comes to identifying competitors, it’s not the main focus of our site.  The big questions I have for this silo are: a) How do we diversify the types of events we cater towards: the specific caterers we work with consistently; and the days and seasons we book?   b) How to convert the 15,000 visitors that come for the special event to come back to experience the other aspects of the site?
This is my top concern for competitors: there are many competitors with old barns that are perfect for that “Pinterest worthy wedding”, in addition to the more typical substitutes (e.g., country clubs, hotel ballrooms, and fire halls).

Village Shops:  We lease out the various family and worker houses located in our historic village to private businesses.   The rental income is helpful, especially in the lean months, but the total income generated through the leases pales in comparison to the facility rental fees. 



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