Too many organizations treat their members uniformly throughout the year. In broad brush strokes, it typically looks something like this. Upon visiting the organization or shortly thereafter, the individual decides to become a member. Once this decision is made, the visitor is placed in a generic membership bucket where he or she receives regular communication around the programmatic activities of the organization and the occasional philanthropic solicitation. With approximately six weeks remaining in the annual membership, the communication shifts to membership renewal and upgrade focused collateral. This cycle either ends with an upgraded member, retained member or lapsed member.
This approach treats a diverse population in a homogenous manner and misses multiple opportunities to further engage the community of members. With a brief consideration of what motivates visitors to become members and the subsequent behavior of members over the year, we can quickly see how diverse the member population is.
The Decision to Become a Member:
A visitor’s decision to become a member can be motivated by vastly different factors. These impulses range from a desire to avoid the long general admission line, a less expensive option to bringing a family of five, a specific interest in a special exhibition, discounted parking or the intention to visit multiple times throughout the year. These represent just a subset of the universe of factors, but they highlight the diversity of what drives the purchasing decision and provides a signal for how the member should be engaged.
The Behavior of the Member:
As the list of motivations indicated, the behavior of members is all over the map. There are the members that every institution cherishes, because they love everything the organization does and are its strongest advocates (at least verbally) in the community. And there are the members that visited one additional time after signing up to be a member and just haven’t had the interest or found the time to visit again. In between, there are the members that are passionate about limited aspects of the institution’s programs, but disengaged from the rest.
As these examples illustrate, every institution has a diverse population, even if it is just through a diversity of behaviors or interests. The key then becomes identifying these different groups and engaging them in a tailored manner that will have the greatest likelihood of resonating. The identification of these groups requires two data processes – the capture of information and the recording and reporting of information (a subsequent blog will offer recommendations for managing and implementing membership data).
The key questions for you and your organization today are: What information do you capture from members at the point of purchase? Do you or can you record what motivated the individual to become a member? Do you record when a member visits your organization? Are you segmenting your membership population for customized messaging?
As we all know, one of the best predictors of whether a member will renew or upgrade is how many times he or she has visited the institution in the past year. Once the member is actively engaged with the institution, the programs or services will sell themselves. Members can’t be sold if they’re not engaged. Accordingly, a core objective of any membership department has to be to drive attendance or visits among the membership base. The best way to do this is to entice members to visit by communicating with them in a targeted fashion and then rewarding them for their behavior.
Customize your messaging so empty nesters that are 65 years old receive different collateral than 40 year olds that have 3 children under the age of 15. Shine a light on the contemporary programming you’re delivering to the more progressive element of your constituency and focus on the traditional aspects to the more conservative population. As you communicate more effectively, your members will feel inspired and compelled to become more engaged. As they become more engaged, do not fall into the complacency trap and be sure to reward them for their behavior. This will necessarily vary institution to institution, but some thoughts are to offer a complimentary ticket for a friend, discounted pricing on parking, pre-opening viewing or behind the scenes access after a threshold number of visits.
Irrespective of how sophisticated or simple your approach is, the most critical component in your rewards program is that it is dynamic and responsive throughout the year. Your members will feel better served and your organization will benefit financially with increased retention rates and upgrades, and as important, programmatically from an invigorated and highly engaged community of members.
Let us know the innovative ways you’re building or implementing rewards programs.