Cultural Organization Reopening Protocols

As cultural organizations are in the process of planning for reopening their facilities around the country, we have been in communications with a variety of organizations nationally.  Here are some experiences and guidance we are offering as plans are being made to reopen institutions:

  • To date, outdoor facilities are the only institutions that have reopened, although many are in the planning phase
  • Most organizations are planning to reopen with some controlled visitor volume situation
  • Timed ticketing for both members and visitors is a predominant plan – free reserved times for members
  • Some organizations are planning to host soft openings, some for members only, as a way to test opening policies on smaller groups
  • Giving members the first chance to visit or reserve timed visitation slots can be seen as a thank you for their patience during the closure
  • Many organizations have given members a two month extension on their memberships due to their institutions closure; the implementation varies by organization
  • Reopening plans are being directed by governmental entities which differs by location and type of organization
  • Capacity of visitors is anticipated to be lower, perhaps at 25% of what would normally be possible.  Some of this will be directed by governmental policies.
  • Communicating opening plans with members and the public is key.  Informing audiences of the cleaning and safety protocol is important to communicate.
  • Most places are requiring masks for staff and making it a recommendation of masks for members is common. Some are requiring masks for visitors and make them available for sale.
  • Many are making plans for a one -way traffic pattern once inside the facility
  • Any interactive exhibits with a touch component are probably going to be closed for now. Some specific include:
    • Eliminate as many high touch points as possible.  This could include propping open doors to restrooms, cafes, gift shops, etc.  Remove lids from trash/recycle receptacles.
    • Place signage where high touch points exist warning visitors that this is a high touch point. 
    • Additional signage about safe distancing through the venue.
    • Place markings/signage indicating six foot spacing in areas where lines form to ensure safe distancing.  Consider similar markings in special exhibitions or high traffic areas.
    • Additional hand sanitizer stations, especially near high touch points
  • Some places are requiring all admissions be timed tickets and reservations that will minimize personal interaction at entry.  If this is the fact, the opportunities for membership sales at entry could or will be impacted.
  • According to visitor intent research being conducted by IMPACTS and spokesperson Colleen Dilenschneider, a prominent firm in the museum and visitor attraction market, the following data points have been documented:
    • Intent to visit within a particular time period (1 month, 3 months, etc.) is mirroring that of data collected in 2019, suggesting that people are looking forward to visiting their favorite institutions again once they are open
    • The venues that people feel comfortable visiting include outdoor venues first, followed by museums and indoor venues, and lastly by theaters and venues with confined spaces
    • There is greater intent to visit by households with incomes of $100,000 or more
    • An institution that has well defined safety and cleaning practices and communicates that plan will make the returning public feel safer and more likely to visit
    • The ability to avoid lines is a factor that will make people feel safer when they visit

What are you and your organization planning to do to reopen? Let us know in the comments!


Have a question for us about what to do to reopen? Fill out the form here to contact us with your questions!

Stewardship, Fundraising and Advocacy – What’s Working Right Now?

Our very own Dana Hines and Alicia Lifrak joined Mike Fulton of the Asher Group on April 7 to discuss what’s working and what’s not working right now during the global pandemic.

The discussion, which was moderated by Cyndi Greenglass from our sister company Diamond Communication Solutions, explored traditional, online and virtual tactics that can be employed by nonprofits in order to stay engaged with constituents without in-person experiences.

Specific topics included:

  • Helping clients develop innovative, virtual advocacy and communications strategies to reach and motivate elected officials and government regulators during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond in the absence of face-to-face communications.
  • Navigating the “new normal” with an industry roadmap to finding stability and a course to recovery from human services to health care to cultural institutions – the path ahead is riddled with uncertainty, but nonprofits are not totally unprepared to meet the moment for the third largest employment sector in the U.S.
  • Thoughtful strategies and tactics on the way forward for membership departments at visitation-based cultural organizations including planning, communicating and engaging audiences in uncertain times.

Watch the recording here.


Have questions concerning what you should be doing with your membership program right now? Contact us with the form below and we’ll get back to you soon!

Back to Basics: Membership Renewals

All of the hard work that you do to acquire new members is effectively useless without a solid renewal strategy. In this post, we’re going back to basics on membership renewals. Whether you are new to membership or are a seasoned veteran, here are the four T’s to keep in mind when planning and executing your membership renewal strategy.

1. Timing

Questions to ask: Are we sending out renewal reminders early enough? Do we have enough renewal touches in our renewal cycle? Are we sending out the last renewal reminder after members’ expiration dates to remind them to renew?

We all know that timing is everything! We find that successful renewal programs have a four month window during which reminders are sent. These renewal touches generally start about two months prior to expiration with one reminder sent each month through the month after expiration, for a total of four reminders.

2. Tracking

Questions to ask: Are we tracking renewal effort results? Are we tracking renewal rates by touch? Are we looking at renewal rates yearly for mature renewal rate?

Tracking your renewal efforts is very important. The first metric to know is your renewal rate. Knowing your renewal rate allows you to plan ahead and create accurate budget forecasts. Additionally, tracking by renewal touch can help you see the efficacy of your renewal reminders. Tracking by touch allows you to see how each renewal touch is performing, and it can show you if you need to add another renewal touch or if you are sending out renewals too early. Finally, you can get a matured renewal rate by seeing how many people still haven’t renewed after a year and comparing those numbers to the original renewal numbers at the start of the cycle.

3. Touches

Question to ask: Are you sending out multichannel touches?

Successful membership renewal programs utilize a multichannel approach. Mailed letters should have accompanying emails that mirror the look and feel of the mailed reminders. These emails are often sent out a week or so before the mailed reminders are sent. Additionally, there are digital marketing opportunities for renewals—such as uploading your list to Facebook and sending targeted renewal reminder ads to your expiring members—this can give your renewal program an added lift!

4. Testing

Question to ask: Are you testing your current strategy to maximize your renewal returns?

Just like we test direct mail letter packages in acquisition, we should also be testing renewals. Do we need a four-color outer envelope or will a two-color design work? Are we sending the right messaging about the support our members give us with their membership renewal, or should we focus more on benefits? Do we need a full letter package for each mailing, or will a postcard work for one or more mailings? Each of these can offer testing opportunities for your renewal packages. And remember: test only one aspect against the control each test for the clearest results!


Do you need help creating the best renewal strategy and implementation for your program? Just fill out the form below to find out how we can assist you in your most successful renewal strategy yet!

Back to Basics: Membership Direct Mail Acquisition

Using direct mail for acquisition is a very viable channel for attracting new members. In this post, we’re going back to basics on direct mail acquisition. Whether you are new to using direct mail or are a seasoned veteran, following are the five key things to keep in mind when executing a direct mail acquisition campaign.

Lists

The purpose of direct mail acquisition is to reach a new audience and ask them to join your organization. You should utilize a mix of three types of lists:

  • In-house non-member prospects, such as camp registrants, event ticket purchasers and special exhibition ticket buyers, as well as lapsed members
  • Traded lists from other like-minded, local cultural organizations
  • Rental lists, often subscribers or buyers of magazines or catalog items

Offer

Successful direct mail acquisition mailings should include an attractive offer. A 10% off discount on the new memberships, premium item offered as part of the membership purchase, additional free months applied to the membership or another exclusive offer are proven options to entice recipients to join.

Package/Creative

Many membership direct mail campaigns are full-color packages and contain a full-color outer envelope, letter, brochure, reply device (often attached to the letter) and return envelope. The envelopes and letter should include attractive images of the organization’s offerings, such as animals or artifacts, as well as images of benefits offered to the prospective member, such as event photos or special access tours.

Analysis

Performing matchback analysis on direct mail campaigns is a great way to show the success of a campaign. A matchback analysis compares the entire mail file to all membership transactions that occurred since the mailing (or since the first mailing when there were multiple mailings in one campaign). Any member that joined or rejoined and received the mailing should be attributed to the success of the campaign—even if they did not reply directly to the mailing or use the provided promo code when purchasing their membership. Since many people that receive a direct mail piece will purchase online or wait until their next visit to your organization to join, you cannot rely on mailed responses and promo codes alone. A successful direct mail acquisition campaign generally has a response rate between 0.5% and 1.5%.

Testing

Finally, continuous testing is crucial to successful direct mail campaigns. Through testing, you can identify what works best for attracting new members to your organization. A/B testing is one of the least complicated ways to test—requiring only a control package and the test package to be mailed, each to a segment of the mail file. Some various testing options include:

  • Full-color (referred to as four-color) versus two-color outer envelopes
  • Package sizes (e.g., a #10 envelope versus a 6×9 envelope)
  • Offer testing (e.g., 10% discount versus $10 off discount or guest passes versus event passes)
  • Imagery on the envelopes and letter (e.g., family images versus artifacts images)
  • Messaging (e.g., value versus experience messaging in the letter)

Testing works best when only one element is being tested so that results are clear. Additional testing can be completed in subsequent mailings. For example, let’s assume that artifact imagery was the “winning package” after testing imagery of families versus imagery of artifacts. The winning artifact package could then be tested against another image or you could choose a different element such as package size to test. Direct mail testing helps you learn about your marketing and helps your team better target your audience.


Direct mail may seem “old school” to some, but it is still the backbone of acquisition programs and is even more powerful when paired with email and digital campaigns with the same messaging and creative as the direct mail campaign.

Make this powerful medium work for your program!


Need help on your next direct mail acquisition campaign? Just fill out the form below to find out how we can assist you in developing your most successful direct mail campaign yet!

Success Story: Lions, Tigers and Amazing Results for Hogle Zoo!

In 2018, Utah’s Hogle Zoo partnered with Membership Consultants in order to create a fresh approach to their membership initiatives as well as their creative focus and messaging. Their goal was to improve results in their direct mail acquisition and renewal efforts.

In celebration of the Zoo’s new red panda exhibit, we created a fun, animal-focused campaign that invited people to meet the Zoo’s latest additions. The Zoo also identified their “Big Six” animals of focus for their conservation efforts.

This enhanced focus on membership in the creative strategy told the story of Utah’s Hogle Zoo and the animals in their care, resulting in amazing outcomes for the Zoo’s membership program.

The direct mail campaign was sent to 225,000 households and was supported by an email series that helped boost overall results and the bottom line. The campaign results exceeded projections while resulting in …

  • A 1.26% response rate
  • 3,722 new/renewed members
  • A $175 average gift
  • More than $651,000 in membership revenue
  • A $5.22 ROI for every dollar spent

Additionally, the overall net revenue of the program exceeded the prior year’s results by $189,000!


Need help with enhancing your new member acquisition strategy? Contact us for more information on how you can increase your direct mail results!

Do You REALLY Know Your Membership Program?

The Usefulness and Importance of Membership Audits and Strategic Plans

As a membership manager, you live and breathe your membership program.

You know all the weird quirks of your database system.

You know the names of your “problem” members—each direct mail campaign is accompanied by the phrase, “Make sure Mr. Jones does NOT get two letters this time!”

You know all of the basic things like your membership numbers, popularity of your benefits, renewal rates, and annual revenue.

So, you know just how well your program is doing—right? Possibly. Here are a few reporting metrics you should also know. Do you know the answers to these questions about your membership program?

  • What is your first-year renewal rate?
  • What is your cost per member household?
  • What is your net revenue per member household?
  • What are your response rates and revenues of your last direct mail campaign?
  • What are your response rates and revenues of your last direct mail campaign after a matchback analysis? (Have you ever had a matchback analysis performed on your acquisition campaigns?)
  • Do you have the right amount of staff for your membership size?
  • Do your membership benefits match the dues your members pay? Are you doing enough in terms of benefits? Are you spending too much compared to your dues?
  • Have you met your membership projections from last year? (Did you have projections?)
Image Credit: Max Pixel

These questions cover just some of the many caveats of really knowing your membership program. If you don’t know the answer to any of these questions, you should try to find the answers. These answers help to tell you exactly what your program is up to, and they give insight to what your program could be. Knowing these answers also gives you the information you need to construct a well-rounded membership strategic plan.

Developing a well thought-out membership plan will ensure that your membership program is functioning properly, and that you have a course of action put into place to maximize all of your efforts to maintain and grow your membership. A membership plan is a step-by-step guide to success.

Have you ever stepped back and really had a look at your membership program? Have you looked at all of the things you offer, the things you and your staff do on a daily basis, the ways you communicate with your members, and all of the data that your membership program creates? Performing an audit lets you take a critical eye to all of the aspects of your membership program. It shows you your program’s strengths and weaknesses; the things you are doing well and the things you could improve on; and all of the many special quirks and facets of all that you do in your program.

So, why do a strategic plan for membership? Here are a few reasons:

  • Jump start a stagnant membership program
  • New direction when new staff take the reins of the program
  • To take advantage of the excitement of an expansion, new building or remodel of a current building by revamping your membership program

Your plan should cover every aspect of your membership program—from acquisition and renewals, to processes and staffing, marketing and communications, dues and benefits. Your plan should also include a general schedule and projections for the next five years, taking into account anything out of the ordinary, such as…

  • Grand Openings (and closed buildings)
  • Anniversary years of your organization as well as other stakeholders (such as city celebrations)
  • Major events and exhibitions (or lack thereof)
  • Major institutional changes, such as price increases, change in leadership, mission expansion, to name a few.

These could impact your numbers in unique ways. Your projections will give you goals to aim for, as well as a way to see how your program is actually doing compared to what you projected could happen.

Often, we look at the creation of a strategic plan as something that should occur at the beginning of the year. It’s great to get a solid set of data to guide your decisions for the upcoming year. But, let’s face it—the beginning of the year is crammed full already! With all of the added planning for the New Year and processing from end-of-year appeals and gift memberships, you’re busy!

But, truth is, you will always find yourself too busy to do an audit and plan. You’ll always be busy with something.  Even in your slow season, you’ll find other matters more pressing than an audit and plan. But, you just need to find the time and energy to do it NOW. It’ll seem like at pain while you’re pulling everything together, but when you are done, you’ll be very happy that you have a comprehensive plan for your membership program.


If you are still sure you don’t have time to perform your audit and plan, we can help! Just fill out the form below to find out how we take the burden off of your shoulders by performing your membership audit and creating your strategic plan for you!

Telemarketing – How to Make it Work for You!

A brief one on one conversation with a current or lapsed member offers a customized and personal touch that you can’t get with direct mail and email. Believe it or not – even in 2016, a well-planned Telemarketing Campaign remains one of the best methods of growing your membership program.

Have you ever utilized or considered telemarketing for your nonprofit?

Follow these simple “Do’s and Don’ts” to make your next telemarketing campaign a success!

telemarketing_image

DO: Utilize telemarketing for renewals and lapsed recaptures

A personalized contact with members is sometimes more successful than direct mail. Renewal and Lapsed telemarketing is not a “cold call” and is often more successful than other campaigns. In some cases, a brief phone conversation serves as a welcomed reminder of membership expiration and will prompt the member to renew.  Telemarketing campaigns can be implemented very quickly—with proper planning, campaigns can be up and running in 2 to 3 weeks, if needed.]. Adding this personal touch to your renewal cycle or a “welcome back” to lapsed members can provide a boost in revenue and renewal rates.

DON’T: Think telemarketing is outdated or unwanted

A telephone conversation is the next best thing to being there in person and individuals are more likely to answer a call from an organization they already support. A brief call to thank members for their participation, update them on upcoming events or exhibitions or just ask for feedback about membership can all be positive ways to use telemarketing to make your members feel appreciated.  Members who feel appreciated are more likely to renew and encourage their friends to join, visit or support your organization.

DO: Train and retrain

An effective telemarketing campaign will take place over a period of several months. As exhibitions open and close or events and seasons pass, your telemarketing team needs to be kept up-to-date. Evaluate and refresh your script monthly to be certain that the most recent and important information is being shared with your members. Be certain to have ongoing conversations with the team to address any questions, concerns, or member feedback.

DON’T: Be afraid to change it up

With telemarketing, it is very easy to change messaging and offers in real time. If something doesn’t appear to be working – switch it up. Update your script to lead with a different ice breaker. Change the offer to something more appealing. Schedule a monitoring session to evaluate individual callers to see if a switch needs to be made. Flexibility is key!

DO: Offer an incentive

A special and exclusive offer will sweeten the deal, encourage upgrading to higher levels of membership and entice people to join over the phone. Incentives don’t have to be costly. Discounts, free guest passes, parking passes, event tickets, exclusive tours, scooter and stroller rentals, ride passes – be creative. Remember that members want to feel special – so make sure your offer feels exclusive. Bonus – offer an additional incentive for upgrading to a higher level as well!

DON’T: Leave it up to volunteers to make calls

To maximize the success of a telemarketing campaign it is essential to have a professional firm who has been trained as direct representatives of your organization and is familiar with the climate and intricacies of phone campaigns. It’s important to ensure the firm has the ability and capacity to efficiently manage the call volume.

While volunteers can be a wonderful way to spread the mission of your organization, they are not always the best choice when it comes to phone campaigns. Many volunteers feel uncomfortable making a financial ask and often the volume of people who need to be reached is far too large for volunteers to effectively manage.

Volunteer phonathons and calling sessions can often be time consuming and labor intensive for staff. In the long run, bringing in a professional firm will be more cost effective as it both increases revenue and frees the staff and volunteers to use their time more effectively in other ways.

DO: Track member feedback

Telemarketing campaigns can be a wonderful way to informally survey current, renewing and lapsed members. Utilize a calling strategy that leads with a conversational ice breaker about your organization and membership. Ask leading questions about recent events, membership benefits, favorite part of your facility, etc. and briefly capture the responses. Professional calling firms can capture brief notes and reasons for non-renewals in reports and transaction files.

There is so much to be learned from a simple phone conversation that increases the value of a Telemarketing Campaign to an organization. What events do your members love? What member benefits are used the most? What is the reason for not renewing? Having these answers at your fingertips will help you structure and build your membership program for the future!

When and how to conduct a telemarketing campaign

Telemarketing can be a part of your renewal cycle, a way to recapture lapsed members, before a major event or exhibition, as part of first year renewal strategy or a “preemptive strike” to get blockbuster members to renew. Also, the phone is excellent for upgrading members or the Annual Fund Campaign for donor gifts.

Multi-channel campaigns perform best!

By coordinating Direct Mail, Email and Telemarketing timing and messaging, it will keep your museum, garden, zoo or science center at the top of your members’ minds increasing the likelihood that they will renew or rejoin!

 

WE CAN HELP!

Membership Consultants offers the professional telemarketing campaigns that can add to your program’s success. Let’s talk! Email us to schedule a chat or request a proposal!

AMMC 2016 – Chicago Recap

We just got back from our weeklong trip to Chicago, IL for AMMC 2016 and we had a great time! The American Museum Membership Conference is always one of our favorite conferences to attend. We were very excited for Membership Consultants to be a lead sponsor. At the Premier level of sponsorship, we are always happy to help out by making this and other conference possible for all to enjoy!

Every AMMC is not only filled with loads of information on membership programs of all shapes and sizes, but also great fun at our host museums, and, of course, meaningful conversations all throughout. The sessions were fantastic and filled the rooms with information and inspiration for the future, while the roundtables offered a chance to have some in-depth conversations on a particular topic, such as membership and loyalty or multi-channel acquisition efforts. The evening events offered opportunities to experience Chicago’s incredible museums and connect with colleagues outside of the conference rooms.

ammc_chicago_2016

From left to right: Karen E. Meyer, Tabetha Debo, Karen Mariani, Dana Hines, John Keefe, and Rosie Siemer at the Adler Planetarium.

While we enjoyed all the sessions at AMMC 2016, we thought we’d share some highlights of our favorites.

“Oh! Your museum has this problem, too?!”

So many first-time attendees come to AMMC thinking that their museum’s membership program is filled with issues and “pain-points” (that was a definite buzzword of this conference) that it could not possibly stack up against any other program. But, then you get to the conference and you find out that institutions big and small have all the same issues you face at your museum—lack of cooperation with other departments (silos anyone?), small budgets (has anyone ever had enough budget?), and high demands from your director (“We need to triple membership revenue in the next six months. I don’t care how—just do it!”) are just a few of these issues. AMMC is such an important resource for membership professionals because it facilitates truly honest conversations about the challenges that all museums face, as well as the emerging trends and best practices in every facet of membership.

Keynotes

This year’s keynotes were exceptional! While most come from backgrounds outside of the museum world, they shared insightful information on trends that are relevant to our cultural institutions. Beyond being wonderful speakers, each keynote presenter offered great takeaways and food-for-thought for everyone that attended. In John List’s Let’s Get to the Why of the Matter, he opened our minds to the science behind what makes people do what they do and the incentives that work.  Wednesday’s keynote speaker, Nandika Suri, gave us the ins-and-outs of United Airlines Mileage Plus Rewards Program—a loyalty program serving more than 2 million members—in her presentation, Member Engagement Strategies that Really Take-off. In the final keynote presentation, Influence is Behavior Change, by Art Markman, we learned how we can change our behavior to influence the behavior of others. Listening to each of these keynotes got our wheels turning on how we can make changes in our own museums.

Membership Consultants’ Sessions

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in three sessions at this year’s AMMC.

In Making Email, Online Advertising, and Social Media Work for Membership, Rosie shared the options for incorporating digital marketing and online advertising into membership campaigns. With help from the membership managers at Baltimore Museum of Art, Desert Botanical Garden, San Antonio Zoo, and Phoenix Art Museum, Rosie’s live Q&A style presentation allowed the audience to gain a multitude of perspectives on how digital strategies can be used for membership acquisition and retention.

rosies_session

From left to right: Rosie Siemer with Membership Consultants, Lauren Stachowiak with the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Halee Lynch with Desert Botanical Garden.

In the session, Loyalty and Membership: Love, Passion and Long-Term Relationship, Rosie facilitated a dynamic Q&A-style panel on how loyalty programs can boost the member experience, increase membership totals and revenues, and raise all ships across departments. With perspectives from the Royal Academy of the Arts represented by Annie Wong, Head of Loyalty & Partnership Development, Membership Consultants (with our own Dana Hines on the panel), and John Keefe with SKIDATA. This session covered the critical need-to-knows of loyalty and membership—explaining how it could work, addressing misconceptions, and emphasizing the need for loyalty to compliment,rather than compete with, membership.

Our last session was On-site Late Night: On the Couch with On-site Sales Experts. Our Manager of On-Site Sales Karen Mariani moderated a panel of membership managers that oversee on-site membership sales. We were lucky to have three very different organizations offer their perspectives and experiences in this session. On the panel were the membership managers from Monterey Bay Aquarium, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and The Trustees of Reservations. Each panelist shared their perspective on hiring and training on-site membership sales staff, the relationship needed with the visitor services department, and the metrics used to judge the efficacy of the on-site membership sales team.

Session Highlight

In the session, Beyond the Free Pass: Members and Art as Cause, Jon Alexander from the New Citizenship Project and Rob Halkyard, Head of Membership & Audience Engagement, Tate discussed the theory, framework, and research for engaging members as participants in art as cause, not just consumers of art as product. The session was very interesting, and opened up a discussion into building deeper relationships with members and modeling retention strategies based on visitation behavior. The presenters discussed opportunities for “priming” messaging and the importance of data capture to better personalize the member experience and enrich the visit.

Awesome Museums!

This year we were lucky to have the conference in the Chicago—and the AMMC Board and host committee did a wonderful job with this conference. We had the chance to visit and spend some time at three great museums—The Art Institute of Chicago, the Adler Planetarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

The opening night dinner was amazing at the Art Institute of Chicago, with the opportunity to see the Van Gogh exhibit. Tuesday’s evening reception at the Adler was very interesting (oh, and the view of the lake and the city skyline was breathtaking!). Here’s the Membership Consultants team on the moon!

karens_and_tab_on_the_moon

From left to right: Karen E. Meyer, Tabetha Debo, and Karen Mariani.

Wednesday night’s trip to the Museum of Science and Industry was so much fun! It made us feel like kids again—looking at Legos, creating tornados, getting lost in a hall of mirrors, and seeing how avalanches work were all very fun!

FOOD

We couldn’t possibly visit Chicago and not go out of our way to try some tasty food! We were able to enjoy exceptional treats, including Chicago-style pizza, delicious paella, and even took a break for High Tea!

high_tea

From left to right: Dana Hines with Membership Consultants, John Keefe with SKIDATA, Christopher Panek with CZS/Brookfield Zoo, and Rosie Siemer with Membership Consultants.

Conference Takeaways

Key takeaways from the conference were the need for better data capture and systems integration, the need for more investment in membership marketing, and the opportunity for building deeper relationships with members. A common theme throughout was the need to get to know our members better to deliver more personalized experiences.

What was your favorite part of AMMC 2016? Please share your biggest takeaways, best memories, and favorite experiences below!

2016 New Year’s Resolution: Healthy Habits for Your Membership Program

berriesIt’s the New Year, and we are all looking to start off on the right foot. We’re promising ourselves that we’ll exercise more and eat healthier. We resolve to keep better organized and get to those projects that we never seem to get to. While you’re getting organized and starting those fresh and healthy habits, we’d like to offer a few good habits to keep your membership program fit and focused throughout the year.

Reporting.

Do it and do it often. Membership software programs hold a lot of data about your program. However, some don’t give you the reporting you need in the way you’d like it. The best option is to do monthly reporting and compile your own data. This way you, you’ll have accurate data for your program that you can use for benchmarking, projections, and goals—both short- and long-term.

Benchmarking.

Do you know how much more (or less) successful your program is from last year? What about how your program stacks up to other membership organizations of similar type, size, and budget? Do you know how you compare to your “competitor” organizations in your area? These are all very useful figures to know. Knowing each of these benchmarks gives you a good and data-backed way to measure the success of your program.

Keeping Up on New Trends and Membership Options.

Did you know you can remind your members to renew though Facebook retargeting? Have you ever conducted a back-end analysis on your direct mail or email campaigns to see how successful they really were? How about using mobile strategies and other member-focused social media posts as a way to communicate with your members? Have you thought about implementing a loyalty rewards program that will compliment your membership program? These trends and more will become the membership waves of the future. You need to know what’s out there to know what you could be doing with your program, and keeping your membership program relevant in today’s world of ever-changing technology.

Communicating.

Make 2016 the year of communication between you and your members. While the means and frequency of your communications are not always in your control, you’ve got to try! Work with your communications or marketing team to make sure you get membership messaging into your organization’s email, social media, and print communications. A new year is an excellent time to get membership needs on your institution’s communications calendar. Being proactive with your communication and promotional needs for the whole year heads off push back at busy times. Email, social media, and other channels can be utilized to communicate with members.

Planning.

Departmental and institutional planning are very important tasks. Get all of your acquisition, renewal, and member events on everyone’s calendars NOW! Make sure membership is everyone’s priority. Members are your organization’s most loyal audience and stable revenue stream!

If you have any membership questions, please feel free to contact us at any time!

Questions and Answers from our Digital and Social Media Webinar

The following Q&A is from our recent Digital and Social Media for Membership webinar, originally aired on July 23, 2015

Social Media ImgeMembership Consultants recently hosted a webinar entitled Digital and Social Media for Membership, with some great tips on how you can utilize digital and social media for your membership programs. This webinar was very well attended, with great participation and some very specific questions from our attendees. Here are a list of those questions and answers. Feel free to listen to a recording of that webinar and send us any questions that you might have. You can find an on-demand recording of the webinar on our website.

Let us hear from you if you have digital projects that we might be able to help with. For more information about our digital marketing services, please click here to send us a request.

Q: What is a “Dark Post”?

A: A “dark post” is an unpublished status update, link, video, or photo that is hidden from showing up on the organization’s Facebook page as an organic post. Rather, this type of post is only displayed as an ad.

Q: Is the Facebook ad in the timeline an additional fee?

A: Yes. Any ad on Facebook requires a fee. That said, an ad displayed in the timeline is not necessarily more expensive than an ad displayed on the right hand sidebar. Facebook has two ways to bid for ads: (1) cost per click (CPC) or (2) cost per 1,000 ad views (CPM).

Q: Can you explain a little more about “Call-to-Action” overlay? Is it a free service from Google? What is the actual name of it?

A: Yes! This feature is available through the free YouTube for Nonprofits program (part of Google for Nonprofits) that allows qualified nonprofits the opportunity to place a call-to-action overlay on any of your videos. A call-to-action overlay is sort of like a pop-up text ad that can include a headline, description, clickable URL, and thumbnail image.

Q: When on social media, what kind of voice/tone is recommended when addressing your audience? Fun? Formal?

A: This is a tricky question because it really depends on the voice and tone that is appropriate for your organization’s specific brand. Generally speaking, the voice and tone used on social media should be less formal, more conversational, and more concise than other communications channels.

Q: How do you define Mobile Marketing?

A: We define mobile marketing as any type of marketing or communications strategy that is displayed or accessed via a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. This can include text messaging, social media (e.g. Instagram), mobile apps, mobile ads, geofencing, near field communication (NFC) and beacons, and more.

Q: Do you find that organizations are deferring traditional direct mail acquisition towards social media campaigns by hiring experts to develop and launch campaigns?

A: No. And we don’t recommend abandoning traditional direct mail in favor of digital and social media campaigns for acquisition. Rather, we advocate for additional budget to support layering digital campaigns into the acquisition strategy to support and enhance direct mail.

Just for perspective, In a recent comprehensive campaign for a full service type client where we were doing robust direct mail and social and digital marketing, the client attracted 4,000 new members through a year’s worth of direct mail, and 500 new members from digital.  So at this point, direct mail still provides more volume of memberships sold.

Additionally, due to the complexity and need for real-time optimization of online and mobile strategies, we recommend organizations engage with an experienced agency partner to execute digital marketing campaigns. Without this type of expertise, digital marketing efforts can end up being all-consuming for staff while not maximizing limited dollars.

Q: For an organization that has not had much of a membership presence in social media – what kind of a budget would be a starting point?

A: This is a difficult question as every situation is unique. Social media campaign budgets can be affected by many factors such as platform, duration, goals, ad spend, graphic design and programming costs, testing, prizes, etc. For a very small campaign, a budget of a few thousand dollars may be adequate to get some traction. For a more aggressive and comprehensive campaign, an organization should be prepared to invest in the $10k to $30k range.

Q: Can you send too many emails for communication? We send more than 48 per year. Should we be concerned?

A: No! Too often, we find organizations are afraid of sending too many emails without the proper data to support this fear. As a general rule, it’s always better to err on the side of over communicating when it comes to email. While every situation and institution is different, we recommend an email frequency of between 24 to 48 emails per year. Remember, email helps maintain a connection with members and visitors and keeps the organization top of mind.

Q: The frequency recommendations – are these number of times in contact with members for any reasons or just membership related reasons?

A: As a general rule, our recommendations for email frequency include all types of communication both membership and non-membership related. The key takeaway here is not to withhold or delay sending timely and relevant information (membership related or not) because of an arbitrary limit to the number of emails members or visitors can receive in a given week or month.

Q: Do you have a recommendation for the best way to administer a mobile member card? What are options for providing members with digital membership cards? Would you do that through an app or a weblink?

A: Sure! While every organization and situation is unique, at a minimum, a mobile member card should be easily accessed via an app or mobile optimized webpage, and should be scannable for quick entry. There are many ways to accomplish this using various mobile technologies such as QR codes and bar codes.

Q: Are there any options for creating and sending blast emails inhouse where click-through rate reports will be generated without needing to pay an outside entity for these services?

A: Yes. Any legitimate email marketing platform such as MailChimp or Constant Contact will include reporting at no additional charge.

Q: Can you tell us more about the expanded email acquisition – were these emails from a house list or were they rented, etc…? If rented, what regulations should you be aware of?

A: An expanded email acquisition program is a marketing strategy that to reach a targeted list of prospective members who have opted-in to receive special offers from organizations just like yours! Targeting criteria can include demographic and lifestyle selects such as geography, gender, presence of children in the household, affinity, hobbies, and more. This process is similar to renting an email list; however, the campaigns are deployed by a third party to ensure CAN-SPAM compliance. As a best practice, current members and previously unsubscribed email addresses are scrubbed from the list prior to deployment.

Q: What if an institution doesn’t have an in-house list for ticket buyers? (We’re in the dark ages – no online ticket sales here.)

A: Without the benefit of an in-house ticket buyer list, one way to extend the reach of your membership marketing efforts is to institute an intentional email list building strategy. We find the “give-to-get” model works well to encourage visitors, website users, and social media followers to provide their email address in exchange for something of value. In this context, value could mean anything from a chance to win free tickets to a personalized Facebook cover photo.

Q: What about frequency for Facebook posts?

A: Go crazy! Seriously, due to Facebook’s recent algorithm changes, organic post reach has significantly declined. This means Facebook will limit the number of organic posts your fans will see in their News Feed on any given day. Some industry analysts have speculated that organic reach has declined by upwards of 97%. Why the change? Facebook has stated that the “…News Feed is already a competitive place — as more people and Pages are posting content, competition to appear in News Feed has increased.” To combat this flood of content, organic post reach and referral traffic will decline if there are limited interactions (e.g. likes, comments, shares, etc). Additionally, in 2015 Facebook began limiting the reach of organic posts, specifically organic posts deemed as “promotional.” In short, there is no need to be worried about posting too frequently on Facebook. Rather, organizations will need to focus on posting highly engaging content often, and allocating budget toward Facebook ads to ensure fans see important posts.

Q: Can you review again the response times that are expected for Facebook, Twitter, etc?

A: Research has shown that in general social media users expect a response to questions and comments within 30 minutes to an hour regardless of the time of day/night or day of the week.

Q: Does it make sense to cut back direct mail communications (ie museum monthly calendars, newsletters) and convert this to email communication or should we keep both? We are doing both for our membership renewal campaigns but are considering converting our marketing/communication pieces to email communication only.

A:  They key Answer to this question is Communications vs Transactional!

It may make sense to transition to an electronic newsletter and/or calendar of events; however, it really depends on your audience and whether or not this change would be appropriate given the type of information and how members prefer to receive it. In general, email is a more cost effective, timely, and user-friendly communicationschannel for day-to-day news and updates. That said, we don’t recommend abandoning traditional direct mail for transactional notices such as renewals or special announcements such as invitations to major events.

Additionally, members may feel disappointed if a benefit such as a nice annual calendar or glossy newsletter is retired. A best practice is to conduct a member survey to determine the appropriate course of action. The other question to ask yourself with communications going electronic is:  How many members are going to be left out if we only communicate via electronic methods?   Often times these are the longest tenured, potentially most well-heeled members for whom we have no email address.  If that is the case, be sure that this audience is still hearing from your organization

Q: When will the new book be published? This fall???? Which month? 😉

A: Glad you asked! Our new book, Membership Marketing in the Digital Age will be published in November 2015. Membership Marketing in the Digital Age provides all the tools you need to implement a membership program that is healthy and growing. Written specifically for all those who are involved with membership, this comprehensive “how to” book includes traditional techniques, plus social and digital media trends and tactics for growing membership.

Q: What are some easy ways to increase your email click-through rate? This is something that we struggle with, even though our average open rate is quite high. Our constituents seem to be receptive to email marketing from a Development and Membership standpoint, so we’re constantly trying to figure out what we could be doing better.

A: Test, test, test! Images, text links, call-to-action, button color and placement, layout, and content are all possible aspects that can impact click-through rate. To ensure accurate results, only test one thing at a time. For example, you might test the words “click here to learn more” against an in-text hyperlink such as “our tiger conservation program…” Additionally, marketing automation is quickly becoming a game changer for tailoring content and increasing engagement metrics such as click-through rate. This type of software allows an organization to personalize email communications based on an individual’s unique behavior and interests.

Q: Do you recommend any organizations for mobile campaigns?

A: Yes, Membership Consultants! We offer mobile marketing capabilities including text campaigns, mobile advertising, mobile apps, and more!

Q: Another department controls social media and they are hesitant to post items that would not appeal to the whole Facebook audience (i.e., we have fans from all over the world). So membership is one thing they won’t post. What are your thoughts on this?

A: This is a shortsighted view in our opinion. Facebook and similar platforms will always serve a multitude of audiences just like a website. Prioritizing membership messaging on social media, including Facebook is a best practice for leading institutions. Indeed, not leveraging such a powerful channel to acquire new members is a far greater risk to the long-term sustainability of the organization than the risk of posting content that does not appeal to all fans. In our experience, Facebook users will simply disregard content that is not immediately relevant to them. If there is still extreme concern that membership messaging will alienate Facebook fans, then a discrete budget should be allocated to implement dark posts and Facebook advertising to reach a more targeted audience with membership promotions.