Put your foot through the door

(Reading time: 3m, 2s)

Yesterday, I left off promising to dig into the nuts and bolts of creating your teeny-tiny, attention-grabbing, hyper-focused survey for new subscribers. I said I’d share tools I use and ideas as to how you can make the interaction more fluid and relatively painless for users.

But I should know better.

I’ve noticed a pattern where I stumble upon a question that interests me — “How are museums thinking about Problem X or Opportunity Y?” — which leads to a series of emails. That series slowly unwinds until I find myself describing design principles or writing tools-and-tips content, which isn't all that interesting.

But do you want to read about taking advantage of progressive disclosure and foot-in-the-door design patterns using Typeform and creating landing pages?

If you want to hear about that, you let me know. I’ll be happy to talk about it if there’s interest. Otherwise, we're moving on.

But Top Tasks Matter

Top Tasks, which I referenced a few days ago, is worth revisiting, though.

Top Tasks is a method for identifying what matters most to your audience. Gerry McGovern developed Top Tasks. Here’s an introductory article and his book on Top Tasks.

I don’t think you can or should really try to run a true Top Tasks survey in your autoresponder. You’d be collecting information from a tiny subset of your audience and you’d need to do considerable work in advance to put together a comprehensive list of tasks. (If you read Top Tasks, you’ll see that the overwhelming number of options is deliberate and effective.)

But I do think it can be interesting to try a top-tasks-esque survey in your autoresponder. You can simply ask new subscribers what’s most important to them when considering your museum. Brainstorm a list with a few colleagues and run the survey. (If you want to do this, let me know and I’ll refer you to some tools that will let you run it more effectively.)

For those of you shaking your head at the fast and loose approach I’m proposing — well, welcome to the real world. Take off that lab coat and join us.

Sometimes you have to gather a little evidence, even if it's incomplete or imperfect, to get the traction you need for a larger investment.

The alternative is to march into your next big staff meeting with a copy of Top Tasks under your arm and suggest a museum-wide initiative to identify visitors’ top tasks.

Should I start listing all the objections you’d run into? The first one will probably be — “We already know what matters to our audience.” It’s the phrase that makes every UX researcher’s skin tighten and catch fire.

What can you say to that? You, with your little book clenched in your sweaty little fist?

“No, you don’t!”

A little evidence goes a long way, and you Have to do whatever it takes to gather that evidence and spark the fire that will burn down those objections and assumptions.

(I guess we kind of wound up talking about foot-in-the-door design after all — though this is more about organizational design than content design, isn’t it?)

Anyway, I’ve run a few of these kinds of surveys in autoresponders for clients since I began studying Top Tasks. Click-through rates average 19% and completion rates hover around 90%. (I know there are lots of apples and oranges in there and some surveys really haven't got enough results in yet, but those stats do give a sense of how an autoresponder can be a good platform for gathering feedback.) The results are always interesting. Even without going on to investigate through other channels and bring in other departments, we can quickly to put to rest any notion of using the newsletter for certain subjects or content types. It’s a helpful way to extinguish some ideas that could have become a major time-suck in an objective way.

I can’t get over the fact that almost no museums are using their welcome emails to try things like this out. Again, only 6.6% of Florida museums send anything beyond a basic/default welcome email. Maybe Florida for some reason doesn’t represent patterns in other parts of the US — here come the Florida jokes — but the margin of error in looking at 400 out 35,0000 museums is just 5% …

I’ve been writing about museum autoresponders for nearly a week.

I know this has made at least a few of you check in on how you’re handling your welcome emails, which has been wonderful to hear.

If you’d like help with this, please let me know. This has all been generalized information — if you’d like to get more specific about using your organization’s content systems to learn from your audience, just hit reply.

Thanks for reading,


Kyle Bowen