Discount Debate

“We don’t discount.  It devalues the brand we have worked so hard to establish.  We prefer to offer value-added service rather than discount our quality product.”

Does that sound like a membership manager talking?  Actually, those words came from a franchise restaurant manager interviewed on Undercover Boss! 

Personally, I would have given that woman a promotion and a raise right on the spot!  Those words succinctly mirror my own opinions on discounting.

However, we find ourselves deep in a discounting world these days.  From the “Great Recession” to the popularity of Groupon, discounts do seem to rule.

Making any discount decision should be very well thought out.  Go through all the “what ifs” and worst case scenarios – they might come true!  If you think you can survive the worst case and you aren’t afraid of the big unknown, then maybe you have the stomach for what may lie ahead.  Being prepared is the most important factor.

Here are a couple of discounting stories to consider….

A zoo direct mail client wanted to break out of the “No Discount” mode that had always ruled their thinking.  A $5 discount on all categories was offered to half of the people receiving the mailing – the other half were offered an affordable backpack with the zoo’s logo.  The backpack group produces a .94% response!  However, the discount group received a 1.89%!  And the discount offer kept winning.  So here is an example that a modest discount could produce amazing results, without breaking the bank.

The other is a Groupon story – everyone has who’s been involved in Groupon has a story!  However, this one has the answer that everyone wonders about.  This organization was one of the first membership organizations to perform a Groupon offer.  They signed up 5,000 new members.  They saw a new demographic joining as a result of the offer.  They were prepared to do all things possible to get people to renew – mail, phone, e-mail.  Drum roll, please……the renewal rate, 6 months post expiration is 12%.  This organization’s normal first year renewal rate is 40% to 44%.  This is only one example, but it is a good example of what to expect from your Groupon renewals if you are prepared to be aggressive with renewal efforts.

Would these organizations do it again?   The answer to the first story is yes, absolutely.   The answer to the second story is…  what do you think?  Let us hear your thoughts, and share your discounting stories, too!

Clients Win Top Honors in Second Annual MC Awards

Clients Win Top Honors in Second Annual MC Awards

It’s the Awards season, and Membership Consultants is rolling out the red carpet to its clients with exceptional performance in 2010!

Membership Consultants celebrates the achievements of all its clients and is delighted to announce the second annual MC Awards.  In a field demanding so many hats and with relatively so little accolades, our hats are off to you!


Direct Mail – The New York Botanical Garden

Membership Consultants was pleased to serve The New York Botanical Garden with direct mail and membership planning services in 2010.  Both projects achieved noteworthy results with the direct mail campaigns producing significant results worthy of praise and accolade!

Direct mail was utilized for a series of spring acquisition campaigns, a first-ever dedicated membership upgrade campaign, and a three-pronged approach to the calendar year-end annual appeal campaign.  In each instance, the campaigns were successful in attracting more gifts and more dollars than the previous year’s efforts.

The acquisition campaigns featured a return to a full letter package from a self-mailer.  The upgrade campaign focused on the Garden’s important mission of understanding and preserving our natural world and asking members to increase their commitment to the garden.  A total of 58 members accepted that challenge, moving into the upper levels of membership support.  Finally, the year-end appeal used a three mail drop strategy with increased personalization, more targeted segmentation, and increased asks to significantly increase the dollars raised and the numbers of gifts generated.

Congrats to the Garden staff for this wonderful year of direct mail success!


On-Site Sales – Saint Louis Art Museum

The magnificent Saint Louis Art Museum will soon be even more so! It is in the midst of a 200,000+ square foot expansion designed by world renowned architect, David Chipperfield.  But even during a construction year, the museum’s membership staff remained committed to aggressive membership sales through the use of professional membership sales staff supplied by Membership Consultants.  Working only weekends during two major exhibits, a total of 969 memberships were sold, generating more than $63,000 in membership revenues.  All at a free museum!

The Saint Louis Art Museum continues its on-site sales success, with an 8 year history of 9,975 memberships sold and $621,217 of membership revenues from selling memberships in a personal, face to face fashion that highlights the benefits of membership and the benefits of supporting a wonderful art venue.

Our congratulations and best wishes to the Museum and staff as membership support grows right along with the new expansion!


Progress Award – St. Louis County Library Foundation

Progress comes to organizations of all sizes and ilk.  Consider the St. Louis County Library Foundation.  The Foundation supports the library system that serves all of suburban St. Louis.  Funds raised provide for teen centers, promotes literacy and hosts the best collection of live author events in the country!

With just 300 members two years ago, the Foundation has more than tripled the size of its membership program to 1,094 members currently.  By developing wonderful benefits and events, creating great offers to new members and by utilizing the on-site sales staff of Membership Consultants at its author events, the progress has been amazing!

Congratulations to the Library Foundation and its small, hard working staff on their impressive membership progress and growth!


Membership Audit and Planning Award – Happy Hollow Park and Zoo

In 2008 the staff of the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo embarked upon a membership audit and planning session with Membership Consultants in preparation for the closing, renovation and reopening of the beloved Park and Zoo.  Happy Hollow holds a special place is the hearts of generations of San Jose residents, so the staff’s top priority was to careful plan how to keep its 8,500 loyal members occupied, entertained and belonging during the 9 month closure – a major challenge.

Fast forward to the fall of 2010 and the grand reopening of the new Happy Hollow Park and Zoo… not only did the “Bridge Membership” keep people on the membership rolls, the grand reopening of the fabulous new animal exhibits and child oriented fun park managed to pack in a whopping 25,000 members!

The moral of this story is that planning pays. And so does creativity, perseverance, sleepless nights and long work days.  Congrats to the staff of the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo for one of the best membership plan implementation efforts ever!


Telemarketing Award – Woodland Park Zoo

Some people think telemarketing is a dirty word… but the folks at Woodland Park Zoo know better, because using the phone is a special opportunity for two-way, personal dialogue with members that traditional mail and e-mail can not provide.

Incorporating a telemarketing campaign in 2010 resulted in improved lapsed recapture and renewal rates, and a thriving annual fund campaign, all with exceptionally high credit card rates that translate to 100% fulfillment and increased profitability.  With this success over the phone, it was apparent the Zoo has earned a great level of member loyalty and satisfaction.  The conversations held during this campaign helped to strengthen it!

From the standpoints of both membership revenue and relations, these campaigns reached new heights, thanks to the strategic use and personal touch of the telemarketing services provided by Membership Consultants.  Congrats to the savvy membership team at Woodland Park Zoo!

We’re giving a standing ovation to all of the award winners for these successful efforts and we applaud our clients everywhere who deliver amazing performances, day in and day out, to keep the membership world going ‘round!

Your Friends at Membership Consultants,

Dana, Debbie, Karen, Michelle, Toni, Stephen & Doris

Here are the awardees from 2009:

2009 Performance Award:

Forest Park Forever


2009 Progress Award: 

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation


2009 Benchmark Award: 

The Art Institute of Chicago


2009 Planning Award: 

Old Salem Museums & Gardens


2009 Upgrade Award: 

Santa Barbara Zoo


2009 On-site Sales Award: 

The Field Museum


2009 Direct Mail Award: 

Denver Zoo