Going (Less) Wild
Whereas in the past the zoo realized a loss with its membership appeals, Zahrly says using this mailing for its largest campaign of half a million pieces in March resulted in expenses of $262,000, with revenue at about $320,000.
The response rate on this control, Harrington adds, is holding steady at 1 percent, with an average gift of $60, with which the zoo and Schultz & Williams are pleased.
Messaging and other changes
Aside from the new lists, messaging was the most dramatic change made to the zoo’s direct-mail approach. According to Esposito, the previous control had more of a support message that emphasized helping the zoo grow, change and add new exhibits. Schultz & Williams strengthened the mailing’s message, moving from one that focuses on the need to support the zoo to one that highlights member benefits and exclusive, members-only experiences.
“We shifted the copy toward, ‘Here’s the great value in it for you,’ of spending family time, of spending less than you would spend at other entertainment attractions in Los Angeles, and just really focusing more on what’s in it for the prospective member rather than why you should support the zoo,” Esposito says.
The letter is rife with copy extolling the many membership benefits, which include free, unlimited admission for a year; exclusive members-only viewing of the sea lion cliffs; free guest passes for friends and extended family; a free subscription to Zoo View magazine; and free or discounted admission to more than 130 zoos and aquariums nationwide. These
benefits appear again at the top of the benefits insert.
Focusing on these exclusive experiences and the insider’s view members enjoy is basic, Zahrly says, but people really seem to respond to it.
Schultz & Williams also wanted to make more use of the space on each element in the mailing. The reply displays the ask on one side and an option to order a gift membership on the back. The letter is double-sided, and the lift note promotes a members-only, free, after-hours zoo event on one side and holds a message from the zoo director on the other, telling prospects, “how vital your membership support is during this major surge of growth and improvement.” This message, Esposito says, was added to give the support message a place in the mailing and boost returns.