Respect the email: The power of email click-through rates and member renewals

Note: this is the third in a series of three blogs exploring member renewals for museums and nonprofits. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 on our Insights Blog.

We all know it: our members are our most invested and passionate audiences. They care about our mission, they know our exhibits and they love to bring friends. But sometimes, it’s a mystery on how to get new members to renew and become those die-hard super fans. How do we guide them along the path to becoming more engaged, supportive, active members of our community?

This week, we’ve been exploring this question using answers from a Member Renewal Model—a predictive tool that uses lifetime member data to identify the most important variables that affect renewal rates—we built for one of our museum clients earlier this year. They have a goal this year to improve first and second year member renewal rates and so we turned to the data to find some powerful, actionable insights on controllable variables for them to test.

Earlier this week, we explored the opportunity of soliciting small donations from members and the relationship between an onsite visit and a member’s expiration date. For our third and final insight, we turned to the world of email marketing to see how that impacts member renewals.

 

Member Renewal Insight #3: Members who click on their emails are more likely to renew

As a former museum email marketing manager, I can personally attest to the challenges of using such a strong communication channel in the best way possible. Between balancing various departments’ needs to promote programs or raise funds along with providing mission-based messaging and educational content to increase audience engagement, email is a perfect storm. Communicating the importance of this channel to museum leadership in an understandable way was important to me, and it’s my own personal goal to help others do the same for their institutions.

Knowing the power of this channel, we explored a wide array of email behaviors to make sure our renewal model truly tested the relationship between member email engagement and renewal as well. The findings give us some solid numbers: Members with a 0% click-through rate renew at 45% while members at the industry average click-through rate (between 25-31+% for most) have renewal rates over 62%.

More importantly, click through rates tell us how much folks are reacting to our emails and the general content as well. The strong relationship between good click through rates and renewal rates indicates a couple immediate actions for us to take: first, it underlines that our email focus needs to be on testing for the best email content – we need to ensure emails are written for the right audience, are engaging, and have the right pieces of content and not just all the content. Second, it gives us a clear KPI to focus on for engagement – click through rate not open rate – and a rationale for why that is our KPI. Finally, it underlines the value of an email to a member and gives a real statistic behind why the email marketing plan should be built on respect and audience-focused messaging.

Museum member renewal rates and visitation: get them in before they expire!

Note: this is the second in a series of three blogs exploring member renewals for museums and nonprofits. The first one explored the relationship between donations and renewals. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for notifications when the last one comes out.

Earlier this week, we kicked off a mini-series exploring some key variables that affect member renewals for one of our clients, a history museum in Michigan, and the overall insights that speak to the nonprofit, museum, and cultural sectors on a whole.

We’ve been working with this museum for over 8 years to use data, analysis, and insights to better understand their members. This year, we have a clear goal: improve first and second year renewal rates. Not surprisingly, we turned to the data to find fact-based solutions and built a Member Renewal Model – a predictive tool that uses lifetime member data to identify the most important variables that we can control to positively change a member’s renewal rate.

While the model overall yielded a lot of really useful results, there were three really powerful variables that emerged that prove some key insights (and for those of us in the museum world, prove some long-rumored hypotheses!) that we can use various channels and tactics to try to control.

On Monday we explored the first insight, proving the power of small donations to member renewal. Today, we look at the relationship between visitation and renewing on time.

Member Renewal Insight #2: Members who visit within 90 days before their renewal date are more likely to renew

Or, to rephrase, the longer it’s been since a member has visited the museum, the less likely they are to renew. Let’s change that!

We investigated this relationship between renewal, visitation, and number of days before expiration date after reading Colleen Dilenschneider’s piece, Why Expired Members Do Not Renew Their Memberships. In short, she noted that one of the reasons lapsed members did not renew was that they planned to renew at their next visit. Which tells a larger story that the lapsed member never came in to visit and a larger action is needed to catch that slip in advance.

We decided to dig into this idea for our client and their members and found some important numbers to back this up on their end:

To start with the obvious, members who only visit near the start of their membership year renew at 21.4%. No one is probably surprised by this, but it’s always good when your data confirms assumptions.

More excitingly, there is a sweet spot in the data: a member who visits within the last 90 days before renewal sees a solid renewal rate between 60-67%. Within the last 30 days, we also know that front of house staff are trained to engage and remind members that their membership is about to expire to help accelerate any renewals right on the spot, but overall this tells us that a visit close to the membership expiration date really helps a member’s likelihood to renew.

We also checked overall frequency of visitation to see if we could find any other data trends that could help our goal to improve renewals. One other key point we found was: members who visit the institution three times in first five months have an average 67.5% renewal rate (a little higher than our group visiting 90 days before their expiration date). However, there are significantly more members (almost three times more) who visit in the last 90 days rather than those who visit three times in the first five months. If our overall goal is to identify actions that can improve the overall renewal rates for the most members, in terms on messaging, staff time, and member time it appears that driving a member to visit within the last 90 days before their renewal date will positively affect more people and ask less of everyone: it’s one ask (rather than three), it lets the museum team focus their messaging, and is the more likely behavior for more members.

Again, for those of us in the museum and cultural organizations sphere, it’s not too surprising that members who visit the museum are more likely to renew. They like you! Of course they’re going to come back! What this data does tell us is that there is a sweet spot and an opportunity to put it to use. It lets the museum focus visitation messaging on a smaller window to streamline communications, better segment their member base, and drive an overall better result from their members for all.

One last note: we can’t not mention the 49% renewal rate for a batch identified as “no visit.” The majority of this group are Year 3 and up members who are more invested in the museum overall. Since we’re focusing on raising the renewal rate for first and second year members, we wanted to look at actions and engagements that can help those groups.

Yes, small donations are huge for nonprofit member renewals

Note: this is the first in a series of three blogs exploring member renewals for museums and nonprofits. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for notifications when the other two come out.

For the past 8 years, we have had the honor to work with a history museum in the Midwest with great audience goals and a robust membership program. In that time, we have used data, analysis, and insights to better understand their members and find the best ways to deliver audience-focused messaging to drive action and grow their relationship with this institution. From behavioral segments, to event engagement, to direct digital marketing, it has genuinely been some of our team’s favorite work.

Most recently, we’ve been tackling the goal to improve first and second year member renewal rates. We turned to data to help us find fact-based solutions to this challenge and we built a Member Renewal Model – a predictive tool that uses extensive member data to identify the key variables that we can control to improve their likelihood to renew.

As a former museum professional myself, there are plenty of hypotheses and trends in this sphere when it comes to improving membership engagement and renewal. What was so powerful about this model, however, is that we were able to prove some key factors that affect how members are renewing and put real data behind a plan to move forward.

This week I’ll be sharing three of those key variables, because they are essential to making a positive change, but also because they’re valuable enough that we hope other institutions might be able to put them to use too. Enjoy!

Member Renewal Insight #1: Members who donate even small amounts ($1-$100) are more likely to renew

It is not at all a surprising concept that members who support and donate to the museum, beyond the cost of their membership, are more likely to renew. For those of us in the nonprofit or cultural sectors, it’s why we focus giving campaigns and special events on members, as we know they’re just overall more likely to support the organization.

What was so powerful to prove for this institution, though, was the importance of small donations. When we turned to the data, we discovered a gigantic jump between members who donate $0 as compared to members who donate just $1 to $100. In short, we see a lift from a 52% renewal rate to a 77% renewal rate. That’s huge!

While small gifts might not make a huge difference to a museum’s overall budget over the course of a year, if it means that soliciting small gifts from members could improve renewal rates by 47%, those small gifts suddenly seem so much more powerful.

This ties in with the increasingly popular concept that folks become members at their preferred organizations primarily to support the organization (and not just for the access or financial benefits that come along with being a member). We’re in an era where an invested member understands the importance of their individual support and sees themselves as a part of the museum’s success, making those small gifts easier to attain and strengthen the relationship between member and organization.

3 Ways to Get to Know Your Customers

Today, online purchases and order forms are rapidly replacing the face-to-face or voice-to-voice interactions that drove business and relationships in the past. However, computer-based interactions have also opened up new methods of understanding your customers, and have highlighted the need for a solid customer database. Key data provides crucial information to B2B companies about key traits, including purchasing style, to help you further engage, market to, and acquire more customers. Here are 3 data sources to help you better understand your customer:

1. Understand Customer Transactions

Ask yourself: what types of trends do you see when you look at your transactional data? Are your sales up or down from last year? What are the common products/services that are being purchased?

Simple questions like these can typically be answered using transactional data. Before you dive in too deep, try to understand the big picture of what is being sold and purchased as a whole.

Reflecting on the past helps better us in the present and look ahead to the future.

Your company may be tracking customers through Facebook with digital efforts such as retargeting.

2. Know Your Customers

It’s great to know what products or services your customers are purchasing, but being able to identify individual customers may be the single most useful tool available to the analytic marketer. For some companies, this is easy; their transactional data has the customer information by nature. For others, they rely on loyalty programs or survey data to make generalizations about the purchases their customers are making. In both cases, identifying new and returning customers will help your company understand current trends in their business.

Unsure how your company is tracking customer activity? Ask your sales team what information is being kept in a CRM; you may find that the information is already available.

3. Who’s Who – Tracking New vs. Returning?

Once the identity of the customer is known, you can begin to understand who is a new vs. returning as well as begin learning about the types of customers who might be interested in purchasing from your company. This is important data that can be found by bringing in outside data sources with demographic or firmographic information. Once you can identify key customer traits, you can create customer profiles for those who are likely to become new, those who are likely to leave, or those who are the most profitable.

Five Customer Relationship Stages for Full Engagement

Want to learn more about the end benefit we deliver to our clients?

For years, we’ve described what we do as a means to improve the marketing ROI for our clients. As our clients juggle new channels, new technology and new media, we realize that their relationships with their customers and prospects have to be 24/7 and “always on.” How we help them with analytics, strategy and marketing technology today goes beyond just the marketing process, and allows them to deliver a consistent and relevant brand experience across the entire consumer relationship.

Beyond acquisition and retention, we think about how to optimize every stage of the customer relationship to improve the overall value of the customer. The methodology is the same – analyze the customer, use insights to fine tune strategy and then use technology to streamline the interactions. Utilize this methodology with the following five stage approach and you can effectively manage the “always on” relationship:

  1. Share. Before your prospects ever make a purchase, they are likely talking about you with their friends or researching your products online. Ensure a strong social presence that shares often and links to content that is applicable to all potential clients. When any could-be-client is researching your brand they will inevitably stumble across a relevant blog, case study, or eBook etc.
  2. Attract. Understand the source of each prospect: how customers heard about you and what drove them to your brand isn’t nice to know – it’s something you need to know! Evaluate each source to inform the most relevant content to share and, in so doing, attract the prospect to your company’s brand.
  3. Convert. Know the cost of the sale and the lost opportunity when prospects fall out of your pipeline without finding what they were looking for. Be ready with automated messaging and outbound support as soon as this happens. Finding your conversion problems and fixing them with automated communications can often deliver an excellent return on investment.
  4. Retain. Understanding your retention or attrition rates can be the highest revenue generating research you can do. Try to think about retention in terms of cohorts – many companies lose first-year customers at much higher rates than customers who have stuck around for longer. If you understand what the triggers are in the first year, you can make much better decisions about what’s worth investing in to turn a one-year customer into a two-year customer.
  5. Grow. Some of your customers will happily grow their relationship with you and others will deliver less opportunity. Use the same kind of analytics to find growth opportunity as used in the initial sales opportunity; the payback may be much higher.

Each of these five stages deserves smart, targeted and personalized strategies to deliver a consistent, satisfying relationship for your customers. If you want to truly create an always-on relationship, stop focusing just on acquisition and retention and discover the terrific return on investment opportunity across relationship stages.