A newsletter on progress-space research and audience development for cultural leaders. One reader calls it, "sometimes funny"

Let’s assume we accept that demographics are a less-than-ideal way to understand an audience.

If we aren’t going to segment by demographics (or demographics alone), why not use some visitor typology like Falk’s types or MHM’s culture segments? Why go to the trouble of segmenting by distinguishing behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and tasks?

Wouldn’t those typologies provide a shortcut?

I don’t think so.

These typologies have always made uneasy. I’ve struggled to understand exactly why, but I think I’m getting closer to understanding why.

Consider yesterday’s example of the Aspiring Artist. If you missed it, I was talking about a fictional college art student and that their JTBD or life goal was to become a successful artist — not simply visit the museum to complete some homework.

How would Falk classify the aspiring artist? Using Falk’s model, we’d probably classify the student as a “professional/hobbyist”. But the category is still so broad. Think about our aspiring artist — During their visit they’re hoping to be able to immerse themselves in studying or drawing from some work of art. How different is that from an amateur art historian who wants to practice leading a discussion around a particular theme?

And that’s just thinking about end goals — not life goals.

What sort of programming would support someone who wants to become a successful artist versus someone who wants to become an authority on art history?

Maybe what troubles me about the idea that using a typology to evaluate a museum’s offerings is that typologies are too general — they don’t speak to the future desired state of the individual.

Let’s look at another example: A father who visits the museum to strengthen their connection with his pre-teen daughter. Daughter is growing bored with movie night; Dad is looking for ways they can maintain a strong relationship as she grows more and more interested in spending time with her friends… Under Falk’s model, Dad might be considered a “facilitator” — his goals are of a social nature. But so would the parent who visited the museum who is hoping to help their child learn and ultimately become a better student to help ensure their future financial success (life goal). Those are two very different goals — social and educational — but we’d view both of them as a single type: “facilitator”.

Moreover, these typologies don’t account for the priorities or expertise of the individual institution. They don’t help or encourage organizations to make choices about who they’re most suited to serve. And I know that may be an unfair expectation — I don’t think these different typologies were developed with that promise in mind, but how are they used?

How are they meant to be used? Are they meant to be sort of like checklists — some sort of diagnostic? “Do we have content to support Facilitators? Check. Explorers? Check…”

If that’s the case, what are we measuring or trying to achieve?

Are you trying to help Facilitators “facilitate” or Explorers “explore”?’

How different does that feel compared to trying to help someone become a successful artist or a more connected father?

Imagine a restaurant reviewing its menu to make sure there is meat, vegetables, fruit, fish, and bread available. “Looks good — We’ve covered all the bases here!”

More and more, I believe there are no shortcuts to segmenting an organization’s audience. And there is a better way, and that’s why I’m planning a short workshop series on JTBD and audience segmentation in the coming weeks.

If you’d like to participate, reply with a thumbs-up, and I’ll be sure to share details in the coming days so you can decide whether you’d like to participate.

As always, reply to this email to let me know your thoughts or leave a comment below.



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