Before you start developing your visitor experience product
The first question asks you to evaluate your product concept against your heritage destination’s essence of place. Why on earth should that program, exhibit, facility, viewpoint, whatever be here? How does it honour this place and bring it to life?
We are in the business of connecting people to place. We are not in the business of slapping products on a setting where they don’t belong. Paint balling in a historic site? A glistening chrome sculpture in a fur-trade fort? Lovely ideas, but sweet jesus why here?
Closely related to “why here” is “why us?” Why our agency? How is this idea part of our mission? Are we the right people to be taking this on? Do we have the money, time, expertise, passion, leadership to be pulling this off? Is there somebody—a partner, perhaps—who is better placed to take it on?
A pop concert in the park? Great idea… but why us? Why are we suddenly in the business of producing concerts? Where does this live in our mission or mandate? Is it on-brand for us? Do our public really see us as the kind of people who produce music? How does it enhance our relationship with our public, and advance our goals?
An art exhibit in our nature centre? Good idea, but what do we know about art exhibits? Have we ever done one? Can we really say we understand the risks and costs? Or is there perhaps an expert partner who can take this on with us? Or, alternately, can we let this idea slide for now?
By them, we’re talking about our visitors. Is there a good match between our concept and our audiences? Or does this great new idea require a great new audience to go with it? Because that, my friends, is risky and expensive territory.
How does your idea meet the needs and interests of your market? How does it fit in with what you know about their tastes, their patterns of visitation, their group dynamics? Is it a natural fit? Or is it a stretch?
An escape room in your historic home? Great idea… but if your clientele are all empty nesters, think again. A spa getaway weekend in your park? Fantastic, but your families with school-age children probably won’t be available, or interested.
A truly great visitor experience sits at the confluence of organization, essence of place, audience, and moment in time. What is happening in your world—culturally, economically, politically—that makes your idea resonate?
Zeitgeist refers to the spirit of the time: the convergence of cultural and historical forces that define a moment in history. What is happening around you that you can capitalize on with a great visitor experience? To answer that question, you have to take a good look at your heritage destination’s general relevance. Why is our your site important today? Answer that question, and “why now” becomes a whole lot easier to address for any given product.
Road-kill taxidermy at the nature centre, with a DJ and a cash bar? Awe. Some. Why now? Because millennials.
Early morning parent/stroller yoga in the park, with coffee in the gallery afterward? Yes. Now. (If your audiences are at that lifestage.)
Why here? Why us? Why them? Why now?
Take a cold, hard look at those questions—and if you’re still excited about the possibilities of your idea, you may have a winner on your hands.
Many thanks to my friend and colleague Bill Quayle who turned my infographic into an animation. So cool. Thanks, Bill.
Download the infographic, here.
(And feel free to share.)