Guest post by Laura Beussman, Blackbaud’s Sr. Product Marketing Manager for Arts and Cultural Solutions. Laura’s experience working at and serving on the board of multiple arts organizations around the country shape her insights into the nonprofit community. For more insights, follow her on Twitter @laurabeussman.

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In 2009, Tropicana OJ decided they needed a cooler, trendier juice carton. They invested massive amounts of time and money into the rebrand, hiring the very best designers and brand managers to help them redesign their image. They threw out the simple logo of the orange with the straw and replaced it with a picture of a cup of the juice.

Tropicana launched the newly designed carton and logo, and sat back to watch the results of their hard work.

Sales dropped 20% in two weeks.

Tropicana recalled their new, cooler cartons and brought back the orange with a straw.

So what went wrong?

Have you ever walked into a store and grabbed something off the shelf, no comparison shopping necessary, simply because that’s what you always buy? We all do it. We buy from the brands we trust. Tropicana took for granted the value of a recognizable brand – their loyal customers no longer familiar with or connected to the new design- and found themselves positioned as the new guy on the shelf, focused now on new customer acquisition rather than retention.

You don’t have to reinvent yourself to acquire more support.

Members, like loyal OJ shoppers, bring reliable, consistent revenue into your organization. But where do you find more of these coveted people? The most fertile ground for member acquisition is your current visitor base. These visitors already have a relationship with you. Like Tropicana, these are people that may not buy your OJ weekly, but they’ve purchased before and certainly recognize the carton. For you, these people are already familiar with your organization (first hurdle cleared), have figured out your parking structure (second hurdle cleared) and have actually visited an exhibit (third hurdle cleared). Maybe they’ve even been visiting your organization several times a year for the past number of years (bonus).

But now it’s time to clear that next hurdle.

Use these 4 tips to turn your visitors into loyal members:

1.       Don’t get Ahead of Yourself

Asking a new member who’s only visited your organization a few times to join your board is a little presumptuous. So is asking a one-time visitor to become a member.

When you have a visitor that’s attended one blockbuster exhibit, they most likely enter your doors unsure of if they’ll ever return. Your first priority is finding a convincing reason for them to come back.

Which brings us to tip #2…

 2.       Follow up Immediately

It’s too soon to ask a first time visitor to become a member. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow up with them immediately and ask for that next step: a return visit. Once someone has visited your organization, you (should) have some valuable information about them: their name, contact information and, based on what they came to see, a peak into what they’re interested in.

Use that valuable data to engage with them using the Amazon model:

“If you like X, you might also like Y.”

That might be…

“If you liked the Rainforest iMax, you might also like our permanent exhibit on Costa Rica”

OR

“If your family enjoyed learning about wooly mammoths, they might also enjoy our new exhibit on cavemen.”

You can send this via a  targeted automated email, vs. individually crafted or stamped snail mail, saving your organization very time and money.

3.       Act like a Church: Build a Connection

If there’s an organization that has spent serious energy learning how to turn a one-time visitor into a member, it’s your local church. Attendance doubles or triples for religious holidays and churches have one opportunity to convince the newcomers to come back.

How do they do it?

They build a connection. A visitor at your organization, just like at your local church, must feel welcome and that they belong. Good signage can help with this (no one enjoys feeling confused or lost), but nothing is more important than an easy and pleasant experience at the front desk.

Also like a church, you want to make sure your visitor feels aligned to your larger goals. So put your mission statement front and center, this way they can see it while they purchase their tickets.

4.       Explain the Value

You now have visitors that have been treated well, appreciate your mission and realize that there you offer multiple exhibits/events of interest. Now it’s time to explain the value of becoming a member. When you run reports on your visitors, there’s most likely a group of people that would have saved money by becoming a member. Let them know! Send an appeal that pulls in their ticketing data and compares it to the cost of a membership, as well as lays out everything else they have to gain.

 Even if a membership would have been a larger financial investment, lay out the targeted benefits they could have been enjoying during the last events they attended. Could they have bought tickets sooner to that blockbuster exhibit? Could they have parked for free? Met the artist? Let them know! Slice your visitor lists so that each visitor only gets the email that applies to the event they attended.

Your marketing and admissions departments have already done the work of raising awareness and bringing people through the doors. When you convert these visitors to members, you turn potential revenue into sustainable, consistent revenue. And not only that, you’re building a fertile ground for your development department to cultivate new donors…but we’ll save that topic for next time!

What other ways are you and your organization turning your visitors into members?

Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below or on twitter @laurabeussman.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

From time to time, a guest blogger will appear on npENGAGE. Guest bloggers are industry experts contributing useful, relevant content to the conversation on npENGAGE. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, contact the editor.

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