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How the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver Boosted Their Email Performance

MCA Denver uses Mailchimp’s premium email templates and integrations to simplify their marketing.


Industry: Arts & Culture
Location: Denver, CO
Year founded: 1996

Published: March 11, 2022

With over 100 programs and events a year, a growing list of supporters, and a store to manage, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver always has something to share. With so many goings-on, keeping their audience engaged and invested is paramount to their success.

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Kelly O’Connell, Senior Design & Marketing Manager at MCA Denver, joined the team almost 6 years ago. MCA Denver already had a Mailchimp account, but up until that point their email marketing efforts had been sporadic. Kelly immediately saw an opportunity to establish an email strategy that created a deep connection between the museum and its patrons. “I think what really drew me to [Mailchimp] was its simplicity,” she shared. “Like the reporting tools—it’s simple to learn what's doing well and what's not.”

The challenge: Improving their owned channels

Kelly’s first focus was getting her weekly email series to her main audience established and thriving. In June of 2021, she attended some of Mailchimp’s webinars on best practices and realized she needed to clean inactive subscribers from her list. It became clear through Mailchimp reporting that MCA Denver’s marketing shined in its owned channels. Kelly decided to shift their primary marketing communications from their social media channels to direct emails. “There's a huge opportunity for growth in our email list,” she said. “It works, and we have control over it.” With their open rates on the rise, she decided to make more improvements.

The tools: The right integrations and templates for their audience

Kelly delved into Mailchimp Marketplace to look for ideas on what to do next. There, she discovered the premium email templates and integrations that would prove to be game-changers for MCA Denver. “The move to the templates made us able to focus more on the content itself,” she shared. “Knowing that we were going to have a beautifully branded email was kind of just a load-off.” With the templates in place, Kelly saved time and focused her energy on the content of the emails themselves. The switch also enabled her to pass off some of her work to her growing team, freeing her to develop other initiatives and their overarching strategy.

With their regular communications in a good place, MCA Denver’s marketing team looked for opportunities to help the museum grow. Like many businesses adapting during the pandemic, Kelly’s team felt the need to create an online presence for their museum store. They also needed to shift some events that had traditionally been in-person to a digital space and find new ways to engage with their donor base throughout the year.

After some evaluation, they decided to use Shopify to launch the e-commerce arm of their in-person museum store. “It was the right move for us,” Kelly said. “One of the reasons we went with it was the integration with Mailchimp.” They also set up welcome automations through Mailchimp for new online customers.

After integrating their Shopify store with Mailchimp, they managed their events with Shopify too. With event-goers and museum shoppers synced to Mailchimp, MCA Denver had a holistic view of their audience and an opportunity to market strategically. “Since it’s an owned channel, we can send all of our traffic to sites that we know we can capitalize on,” Kelly said.

Automations and integrations also benefited their donor-base and membership efforts. The team set up automations 60 and 30 days before a membership’s expiration to help drive renewals. As they continue to look for ways to expand their reach, Kelly and her team make sure to focus on tools and apps that integrate with Mailchimp, including Textedly for SMS marketing and Social Good for donor outreach.

The result: Growth across the board

The combination of all MCA Denver’s efforts paid off. Their email list experienced measurable growth between June 2021 and January 2022, their average open rate increased from 35% to 50%. The increase in readership had other benefits too—more folks clicked on the links within their emails, and MCA Denver reported that their Google Analytics data from that same period showed a 25% increase, on average, in web traffic.

  • 50%

    average open rate

  • 25%

    average increase in web traffic

  • 3x

    average increase in email revenue

The integrations made their events more accessible for broader audiences the world over. “It’s been pretty awesome for the museum because we've gotten to reach so many more people than we ever thought was possible,” explains Kelly. “It allows us to create content that is timely and interesting and has worldwide appeal that can drive our programming and expand our audience.”

Their online museum store is getting into its own rhythm too. “With our online shop, we can see people are converting,” Kelly says. “We're going to continue to build our shop email list and communicate more with them.”

As they look forward, hard statistics and data continue to inform MCA Denver’s marketing strategy. “I can say we earned [approximately] $52,000 on email [in 2021],” she said. “Having that hard stat has been so easy for me to prove why email is so vital for the museum.” They even tripled their email-earned revenue.

Looking ahead: Building a new audience for the museum’s new space

With their marketing efforts in a healthy place, the team is looking toward the museum’s future. In April of 2022, MCA Denver has plans to open a second location in north Denver’s historic Holiday Theater. Along with being a venue for museum events, the new location will have another branch of the museum shop and a place for patrons to grab a drink or bite to eat.

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For this satellite facility, MCA Denver is deliberating how to put its best foot forward with its existing audience while establishing a new one. “It's gonna be really interesting,” says Kelly. “We're talking about whether we’re building an entirely new audience for this branch. If so, is that a whole different email segment? Is it a different Instagram channel? So right now we're deciding.”

“Because Mailchimp has so many integrations and APIs, we really have a lot of freedom to choose tools that make sense. It’s really helped us grow.”

No matter what approach they take, the team is confident that they have the right tools in place as they expand. “Because Mailchimp has so many integrations and APIs, we really have a lot of freedom to choose tools that make sense. It’s really helped us grow.”

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