As director of a local historical society in upstate New York with three historic house museums, the simplest thing my staff and I do to gather information about our visitors is to collect zip codes. Guest books are used at two of our sites while at Rose Hill Mansion zip codes are collected along with admission.

Rose Hill Mansion Geneva NY

Rose Hill Mansion

By gathering zip codes we, of course, know where our visitors are coming from but we also discover a few other things. Here’s what we learned last season at Rose Hill.

  • Clusters of visitors are coming from areas in Pennsylvania and Ohio. By stretching my marketing budget I can do a targeted brochure distribution in that area. I can also increase our contact with tour companies that serve the region. We also apparently have quite the following in Israel but I’m still trying to figure what to do with that information.
  • Asking visitors for their zip code is a great conversation starter and often leads to gathering other valuable information. For example, visitors are often coming from or on their way to another historic house museum that is about 21 miles from our Rose Hill Mansion. I plan to pursue a potential partnership with this site (perhaps a joint coupon) that will hopefully benefit both organizations.
  • In 2013, Rose Hill participated for the first time in Smithsonian Magazine Day. This is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian Magazine in which participating museums across the country give free admission to visitors who present a Museum Day ticket. Local residents were more apt to redeem those tickets than out-of-town visitors.
  • Since we’ve been trying to reach more of our local residents, we will offer a few more free admission days this season.

Whether it’s recorded in your guest book, entered with admission data, or pinned on a map with a tack, capture your visitors’ zip codes. It’s one of the simplest audience research techniques and you might be surprised what you learn and where it will lead you.

Are you capturing zip codes? If so, how have you used them for marketing or other purposes?