Driving Memberships in the Fall
It is already the end of August, so we all should have our marketing plans in place for our fall membership drives, right? So let’s talk about what to do moving forward. We know what promotion we are running and we have already developed some marketing collaterals to get the job done. What else can we do to support these collaterals? We all know that marketing is not doing just one thing, like a direct mail piece or a print ad campaign. Marketing is the combination of all the things that you do to communicate your message that will get you a result.
So let’s list many of the possibilities that we can use to market a fall membership campaign. These are listed in no particular order, because in each demographic any one of these can be of higher importance than in another.
Newspaper and magazine print advertising campaign
Newspaper or magazine website advertising campaign
Online magazine or blog advertising
Cable TV campaign
Free community listings for special programs of events
E-mail marketing to members
In house signage, fliers and brochures
In house TV ads
Member and employee referral programs
Obviously it is overkill to utilize each and every one of these for all of your campaigns, but you should be trying to include some items from each category; outside advertising, inside advertising, publicity and social media.
I believe that the best way to make a point is with an example. This example is of a fall membership drive — the offer is to join with a strong promotion, which in this case is “Join by October 31st and receive 4 months free when you make a 2-year commitment and 1 month free when you make a 1-year commitment.” In addition, when you join you will be entered to win a grand prize of a 2-year lease on a car, a vacation and an iPad. This prize will be awarded at a member party at the end of the promotion. In addition, we created an aggressive member and employee referral bonus program. This program offered a monetary reward for any referrals ($150 for members and $100 for employees per membership) as well as an entry (members only) for every referral into the grand prize drawing for the car and other prizes.
Our major push was a direct mail postcard to the market area (all households in a 7-mile radius around the club) approximately 30,000 pieces that were sent out the first week of September. (The art pictured was designed by my Creative Director, Jeanne Black.) We also pushed it out through two local micro-marketing channels online, Patch.com and another site called Buckshappening.com. These sites are online magazines and blogs that target our immediate geographic area.
Member and Employee Referral Promotion:
We sent a direct mailing to all our members, which included a letter of explanation with (10) 10-day guest passes inserted into the envelope. This way, the members had the passes in their hands automatically with the knowledge that they could make money and become eligible for prizes. As for the employees, we put the guest passes and program explanation in with their paychecks, so there was no chance that they didn’t get them. A huge part of the success of this program was recognition given to those who referred members on posters within the club and via e-mail blasts listing the new members and referrals. We also did this for the employees as well. We noticed that people were almost more excited to see their name in print than to receive the money.
Throughout the club we posted 6-foot vertical banners explaining the referral program along with ads on our in-house TV system. On almost every service desk, there were signs with referral cards in pockets attached for members to take. When new members joined they were automatically given new referral cards to give out as well.
We posted everything about the promotion on our Facebook page, and often. We especially focused on posting the recognition pieces that gave our members credit for referring new members. We also posted the winners of the prizes so people could vicariously enjoy their good fortune.
The overarching message here is that the marketing plan consisted of at least a dozen different elements designed to communicate the same message over and over. As I list them, I am probably leaving some out, but I cannot tell you that any one of them alone would have made the promotion successful. It is the combination of them that brought success. The result of this comprehensive marketing along with a tremendous sales staff garnered membership numbers in the months of September and October that were 35 percent higher than the previous year.
So think outside the box and remember to include something from every aspect of your marketing arsenal to get stellar results.
Linda Mitchell is the director of marketing, public relations and charitable giving for Newtown Athletic Club in Newtown, Penn. She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.