If you’re not sure whether your organization’s visitors are getting the membership message, try asking yourself these five questions:
Question #1: Is the membership message visible and accessible to visitors?
If membership materials are displayed at your information booths or kiosks, give yourself a gold star. You’d be surprised by how many organizations don’t even do this.
But there are also many other not-so-obvious places you might want to think about promoting membership. For example:
- Integrate membership messaging in the “plan your visit” section of your website and/or your online advanced ticket purchase process.
- Display visible signage at entrances and exits and at points of purchase (tickets, bookstores, etc.) promoting member discounts
- Print membership messages on tickets/passes and will-call envelopes
- Offer complimentary membership bookmarks (or other appropriate take-away) at gift shops
- Display membership table tents in cafeterias
- Find ways to recognize current members in a visible way
In addition to the usual interaction points with the public (ticket sales, information desks, gift shops, etc.), many organizations have also added on-site membership canvassing at entrances or exits. Armed with iPads or other portable devices, staff or volunteers can register new members and process donations right on the spot.
Another effective strategy for shining a light on membership is to promote “Membership Months” two or three times a year with visible signage, volunteer tables, and special on-site premium incentives for joining. You can even tie this in with an online campaign with specific new member goals and a deadline.
Of course every venue and visitor experience is different—so, be creative in thinking about the online and offline opportunities to engage visitors.
Question #2: Do your on-site membership materials speak to visitors?
Most organizations have at some point developed a generic membership brochure. And certainly that’s better than having nothing.
But just as we develop direct mail packages that make a personal connection, on-site membership collateral should ideally make a direct link between the visitor’s experience today and how he or she can stay involved through membership over the long term.
So, like any gracious host, make sure your on-site collateral recognizes the visitor and thanks him or her for her visit. Then be sure to extend an invitation to be a part of your organization in a bigger way through membership.
Question #3: Are your on-site staff and volunteers trained to talk about membership?
Staff and volunteers who have daily interaction with visitors are natural ambassadors for membership. But many are simply not comfortable with the idea of talking about membership. For some, it’s because they equate such discussions with asking for money, which they are not at ease doing. For others, it’s because they don’t have the information or the confidence they need to explain the details of membership or answer questions about it.
Training can make all the difference. By giving your on-site staff and volunteers the foundational knowledge they need about membership—and overcoming their inhibitions about approaching visitors about membership—you’ll see immediate improvement in on-site sales. Special membership targets and incentives can further motivate staff and volunteers to get out and talk to visitors.
Once equipped, many staff and volunteers discover that they actually enjoy this additional opportunity to share their passion and get people excited about supporting the organization.
Question #4: Are you collecting visitor contact information?
Every year, organizations spend substantial sums of money on external prospect lists for new member acquisition campaigns. For “destination-based” organizations, your best natural prospects are right under your nose: visitors.
The challenge is to find the right touch points for gathering contact information—email addresses, mailing addresses and, if possible, phone numbers—from visitors. Here are a few ideas:
- Online (or on the phone) as part of the advanced ticket purchase process
- Tear-off contact cards on membership brochures, membership table tents, and other on-site membership collateral
- At the point of purchase in gift shops (e.g., ask if they’d like to sign up to receive your e-newsletter or other publications)
- Registration for special raffles (e.g., free membership, special gift shop items, event tickets, etc.)
And, as mentioned earlier, on-site membership canvassing at entrances or exits can be an effective way to gather contact information. Even if a visitor doesn’t sign up for membership, he or she may be interested in receiving your e-newsletter or staying involved in other ways.
Collecting visitor data so that it can be used in your direct marketing membership campaigns does require a certain amount of diligence and investment. But the payoff comes in having a highly qualified list of membership prospects who already know who you are and support what you do.
Question #5: Do you have a follow-up plan for visitors?
Now that you have visitor contact information, what are you going to do with it? You need a follow-up plan.
For visitors who provided email addresses, you have the opportunity to reconnect with them while the visit experience is still fresh in their minds. Consider developing a cultivation-oriented email series that commences within two weeks of the visit. Your first email contact might thank them again for visiting and ask them to complete a visitor survey about their experience. Follow that up with your e-newsletter, a virtual tour of your organization via your website, or additional information about your organization.
Did you notice these emails aren’t focused on membership? That’s because you’re first focus is on developing a relationship and cultivating the visitor with information and education.
Once you’ve established this foundation, you can begin to integrate more direct membership solicitations into the mix. Try starting with an email invitation to join your monthly giving program. And, of course, be sure to include visitor contacts with mailing addresses in your next direct mail acquisition campaign.