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 Post subject: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 1:48 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:55 pm
Posts: 686
Location: Warren, PA
I'll bring up another one.

Timing is everything - particularly when you are operating or even open.

Just came back from a four-state jaunt when I was actually on vacation, and noticed there was a railroad museum in the town I hadn't heard of. They had a brochure, not very well done, but the good photo of the site itself at least got me motivated to find them and stop.

This is in a small community that is NOT a destination, but is a significant interstate stop - all the chain hotels and eateries, well-developed. And the old downtown now has a static depot railroad museum, and it's about the only thing the downtown has going for it. Looked like a HUGE community effort went into opening it. Sound familiar?

But, maybe not incredibly, the HOURS it was open was Noon until 4PM on weekdays. All volunteer. Ah, but checkout times in motels are no later than 11AM. So unless you want to...well, I don't know... you're going to hang around an hour to find an open door. Drove down after checkout to look, nice place, completely empty of people. Or was it? In the time I took to just walk around and look at the outside at 11:15, three more cars just like mine, some with kids, pulled in, looked at the closed sign, drove off.

There just wasn't enough on the outside to justify hanging around, I left as well. I thought about the success of the brochure placement to get me there, and the waste of the effort because with those hours, nobody will ever see it.

So here's a basic question.... do you pay any attention at all with making sure you have anything open during the likely motel departure time range (10-11-maybe as late as 12?) when people are hitting the road for the next day - if you have that motel market handy? Does it work for you?


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 Post subject: Re: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 2:10 am 
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Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 1:15 pm
Posts: 1260
Location: Henderson Nevada
Our Museum (Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City, Nevada) is more tourist train than museum, with train rides offered weekends...

But... our display pavilion is open daily, an open building with two tracks, two static steam locomotives, an RPO and caboose you can go inside, a GE 25 ton from the test site (it glows in the dark) and a 1936 Davenport, with other rotating equipment displays, as well as very clean restrooms, and other equipment (An FM, a 80 ton GE, a WP bay window caboose, and recently an 1888 Wagner private car...) on other tracks... welcomes visitors to explore on their own... officially from 9:00 to 2:00, only because some staff works 6:00 am to 2:00 so they can avoid the heat... but more often open until 4:00...

Staff is currently in the shop, which is not a public space, but we have plans for a new visitor center with staff, to be built soon...

Currently it is an interesting mix of self guided exploration, with paid train rides...

Brochure cards are expensive to place in motel racks... but we do distribute thought the LV Convention and Visitor Commission with great success... as well as through the local chamber of commerce...

Randy

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Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City, Nevada
http://museums.nevadaculture.org/nsrmbc
http://www.nevadasouthern.com/
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 Post subject: Re: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:21 am 

Joined: Sat Apr 01, 2006 5:19 pm
Posts: 390
Location: Bowie, MD
Over the past decade, I've made six 500 mile trips to stay a cabin in some mountains for a family vacation. Each time I've visited a local static RR museum that has a station, steam locomotive and other items on display, but I've never been been able to catch them open. I have trekked across the street to the town's visitor center to pick up a couple of related books that I would have preferred to get from the museum.

Bob


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 Post subject: Re: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:37 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 8:10 am
Posts: 2332
Randy,

Great post. Operating hours are one variable that sets apart hobby groups from museum groups (and to be clear, I am not knocking either). Too often local museums are run via the eyes of the volunteers rather than the visitors. That's also true of some big museums, too.

Nothing (IMHO) is more important to marketing than viewing everything you do (hours, rack cards, the mutant volunteer who hates people) through the lens of your customer or prospect. It is a game changer.

Rob

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The long memory is the most radical idea in this country. It is the loss of that long memory which deprives our people of that connective flow of thoughts and events that clarifies our vision, not of where we're going, but where we want to go. B. Phillips


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 Post subject: Re: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:58 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:42 pm
Posts: 2431
robertjohndavis wrote:
Nothing (IMHO) is more important to marketing than viewing everything you do (hours, rack cards, the mutant volunteer who hates people) through the lens of your customer or prospect. It is a game changer.

Rob


Amen to that!

I run a railroad links directory, and some of the websites I see are amazingly bad. I categorize the links by state and city. If you have a "brick and mortar" museum, you would think that information would be prominently featured on the website. Far more often than you might expect, it's buried deep in the website, if it's there at all. The webmaster knows where the "Wooden Axle and West Jerkwater Railroad Museum" is, so doesn't everyone? Pro tips: 1) Include the state, and even the country. Remember, it's the WORLDWIDE Web... 2) Provide a map.

I strongly suggest that all tourist railroads do some beta testing. Find somebody's grandmother. Tell her to buy tickets on the website, and also to find out where the train departs from. Then sit her down in front of the computer, give her the url of the main landing page, have an assistant ties your hands and put a gag on you so that all you can do is watch, and see if she can successfully figure out when the trains run, how long the trips are, and actually manage to buy tickets for her and the grand-kids. Remember, you cannot assist her in any way during this exercise, since your customers won't get that assistance. Have her complete the entire process, including actually buying the tickets using a credit card, so you/she can see just how horrid that part of the experience may be. (You'll then cancel the transaction, but it needs to be tested) If she can't do it, your website needs help.


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 Post subject: Re: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:23 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2010 1:57 am
Posts: 151
Bobharbison wrote:
I strongly suggest that all tourist railroads do some beta testing. Find somebody's grandmother. Tell her to buy tickets on the website, and also to find out where the train departs from. Then sit her down in front of the computer, give her the url of the main landing page, have an assistant ties your hands and put a gag on you so that all you can do is watch, and see if she can successfully figure out when the trains run, how long the trips are, and actually manage to buy tickets for her and the grand-kids. Remember, you cannot assist her in any way during this exercise, since your customers won't get that assistance. Have her complete the entire process, including actually buying the tickets using a credit card, so you/she can see just how horrid that part of the experience may be. (You'll then cancel the transaction, but it needs to be tested) If she can't do it, your website needs help.


Just a reminder, torture was outlawed years ago. You're a right sadist for suggesting that!

I'm not saying he's wrong, but my god, if your website was particularly terrible that could be painful.


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 Post subject: Re: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:17 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8356
Location: Baltimore, MD
I'll make the torture worse:

The next, absolutely necessary step is to have a twelve-year-old do all this on a smartphone or iPad/tablet. On both Mac and PC platforms. Look over the shoulder. How does it look and feel?

One professional web developer/coder of my acquaintance, the last time I looked, had twenty-two computers set up around his office(s), specifically to test anything he writes on every reasonably possible platform/OS. You might be amazed the bugs that can be found that way. (He must be doing something right; he was able to put a deposit on a Tesla.....)

Just now I found a bug in a BBS for an upcoming convention (non-RR) where I can only get off the first page of the BBS through convoluted means, not the "next" button.


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 Post subject: Re: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 2:21 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:01 pm
Posts: 1438
Location: SouthEast Pennsylvania
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
Just now I found a bug in a BBS for an upcoming convention (non-RR) where I can only get off the first page of the BBS through convoluted means, not the "next" button.
That's not a bug, you just have an old fashioned computer, a no longer supported operating system, and a non-MicroSoft browser. Even when you buy the software from the manufacturer of the browser and operating system, it may still be optimized for an oriental version of them.


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 Post subject: Re: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 9:15 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:55 pm
Posts: 686
Location: Warren, PA
I've found myself loading both Firefox and Chrome on every machine just as an alternative browser, as I'm having just as many issues with websites just not working with current Win10 and IE as in any prior now-obsolete versions. And it's just as likely to be a hangup in CNN as it is to be in yourrustyrailroad.com Explain that one to Grandma. I had current IE lock up consistently on Trip Advisor! Not exactly an amateur site.

Has anybody come up with a good, simple way to track or identify those visitors that show up and you simply miss? Anything as unsophisticated as a suggestion box response note tablet or as sophisticated as a game camera tracking system or security system camera? I mean, I'm thinking something as stupid simple as 'sorry we missed you - what time where you here?' tablet by the door with a box. You need something to prove to the organization that they are literally missing people.


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 Post subject: Re: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 9:17 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8356
Location: Baltimore, MD
JimBoylan wrote:
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
Just now I found a bug in a BBS for an upcoming convention (non-RR) where I can only get off the first page of the BBS through convoluted means, not the "next" button.
That's not a bug, you just have an old fashioned computer, a no longer supported operating system, and a non-MicroSoft browser. Even when you buy the software from the manufacturer of the browser and operating system, it may still be optimized for an oriental version of them.

Wrong.
Windows 7 Pro, still being updated in spite of MS scare tactics, and it did that on Firefox, Chrome, AND Internet Exploder (which I opened up for the first time on this year-or-so-old box just to check whether that was the problem).

And those buttons HAD worked a week or so earlier.

And if you're setting up a website where you are absolutely, positively required to have the absolute latest OS and browser to use it functionally, then you're locking out a substantial portion of your potential audience. who will be ticked off and say "screw these guys....."


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 Post subject: Re: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 1:43 am 

Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2015 5:55 pm
Posts: 331
I thought of this post when I saw that the Old Colony & Fall River railroad museum is closing for good: https://www.facebook.com/oldcolonyandFR ... m/?fref=nf

They say attendance is down 1000% and volunteers are becoming harder to find, not really possible or useful to stay around if that is true even if you started with Smithsonian levels of attendance. However, their website says 'under construction" and has zero else, and they are only open on Saturday and Sunday from 12-3 pm, meaning a a lot of potential visitors probably give up.


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 Post subject: Re: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 1:35 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:57 pm
Posts: 162
Location: Eastampton, NJ
When I visited Battleship Cove a few years ago, the Old Colony & Fall River Railroad Museum was closed. The entrances of the two museums were opposite each other. At that time there was no sign telling a potential visitor when the RR museum would actually be open. I realize a volunteer organization may not be able to be open every day in the summer, but at least tell people when they could visit another day.

If they were open more frequently, that might help attract more volunteers too. Restricted hours can make it harder for volunteers as well as visitors.

-Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Along with the brochure card....TIMING
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 2:18 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:55 pm
Posts: 686
Location: Warren, PA
I wish this weren't such an easy target on the time issue. But it's probably more common than any of us would like to admit, particularly in the 'depot class' of static railroad museums with a handful of volunteers. You know the type, a railroad building, lots of timetables and lanterns, maps, a repainted caboose or two out front and (maybe) a locomotive. Not really an equipment collection to look at, nothing moving on the site.

The only ones of those that I know that seem to be working well have incorporated themselves in with the community in a larger mission - they are a functioning regional visitor welcome center, or the office of the Chamber of Commerce, or something like that that allows them to get funding to keep the lights on and a person on-site most of the time if they have a full station. They find a role for themselves bigger than just the train attic.

I'd never heard of a railroad museum in Fall River. They are listed in the 'Kalmbach guide' though. Looking at the web page, and closer via Google Streetview..... wow. That's even smaller than I expected to see. The battleship museum across the street is open 9-5 7 days a week, and seems to be doing well in numbers if you look at this article: http://www.heraldnews.com/article/20150 ... /150928085 In this case, they seem to throw a big shadow.

From what I can see they have a caboose, a boxcar, a coach, and an RDC shell, a small depot structure and a truck trailer. The exhibits must be in the cars as there's no real building there. It's got to be pretty hard to compete against the USS Massachusetts across the street for visitor attention, and it looks like the State Docks are busy enough that they couldn't expand anyplace or move around on-site. If you're going to spend your time volunteering, well... you've got competition there too.


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