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!


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!


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!



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!

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.

Spring Break, Busy Summers and other Tales of On-Site Sales

Are you ready for gung ho! Membership sales? Do you have a smiling team ready to greet and sell memberships to your visitors in your busiest seasons? If you answer yes, than check off everything that you are already doing that is listed below. If your answer is “NO” then get busy!

• Do you have a team that is ready and willing to sell membership?
• Can they give you their membership sales elevator speeches? One that is benefits based? One that is mission based?
• Are they armed with membership “cheat sheets” that do the math for visitors based on group size?
• Do you have goals for membership sales? Sales goals per month, per week, per day or sales per hour per person?
• Do you have people from other departments on the membership band wagon ready to help with sales? Gift shop, visitor services, finance, HR?
• Have you streamlined the processing piece of the membership transactions?
• Do you have pre-stuffed packets that new members can walk away with?
• Do you have a desirable premium to tip the prospect’s decision in your favor?
• Do you have traffic estimates so that you can adequately staff each day of the week?
• Do you have signage that says “Join Here. Enter FREE?”
• Have you trained your staff in classroom and on the floor settings?
• Are you and your salespeople pumped up and ready to go?

If you answered YES to most or all of these questions then go out and SELL! If not, get busy and get prepared for bang up sales this season.
The Membership Consultants sales and training team is in the midst of a successful spring season. To date, working two venues this spring break, they have sold 2,764 memberships and raised $352,235! Thanks to a great team, clients committed to maximizing their sales potential and wonderful institutions with excellent products worthy of members’ support!

What If?

You are at the end of the year, the end of your wits, and just a little bit delirious. The Membership Fairy makes an appearance, handing you a magic wand. So why not believe in what “could be” in the new year?

What if….everyone at your organization made you the Membership Queen, or King? They let you have anything you want for a whole year, when it comes to your membership program, of course?

What if…. Everyone listened to you about what membership had been able to achieve this past year (without everything you needed to have a robust program) and what you COULD attain in the new year with all the tools, budget, staff support you needed?

What if….you got to set your own goals for membership in the new year? Rather than someone in the finance department assigning a certain percent of increase in your revenue expectations without your input or without giving you additional budget to make that increase a reality?

What if….your members were totally delighted with the turnaround time on receiving their membership cards, and with all of your member events and communications?
What if….you could make all of this happen in the new year?

Maybe you can! Here’s how. Wrap up the numbers from 2014 and then create a “State of Membership” report. Tell your story – how did renewals do? What about new member acquisition? What worked the best? Where were your challenges? How was attendance at members’ events?

Then, pick at least one doable thing you can do to improve each of those areas. Some of your additions can be done without additional budget, some will require investment.

Renewals. Ideas such as adding email to the snail mail renewal reminders if you are not already doing, adding a phone contact for first year members who are the most vulnerable, adding a Facebook renewal contact to people up for renewal using Facebook retargeting.

Acquisition. Adding direct mail or new lists to your direct mail. Or a backend analysis to more fully understand exactly how many of your new members were touched by the mail that you are already doing, adding an online campaign that uses email to your audiences and outside audiences as well, to simultaneously conduct a Facebook campaign.

Engagement. Getting members engaged in your conservation mission, getting members to become your social media advocates, to recognize members when they visit, get members to give memberships as gifts or to involve them in a member get a member campaign.

Pick ideas to help tick up your renewal, acquisition and engagement numbers, commit to it in writing, make that new year membership plan part of your “State of Membership” and then share your report and plan with your boss, the marketing department, with your Director. Then put your plan into action! Catch everyone’s attention with these new efforts, and then report back. You will be a proactive Membership Manager who is not willing to accept the status quo. Hopefully you will grab attention and be more likely to make the ‘What if’s” come true for you and your program in 2015!