Membership Marketing for Zoos
Zoos hold the key to the future. We don’t have to tell you that the conservation efforts of zoological centers and wildlife parks are among those organizations paving the way towards a better relationship between humans and nature. They have come a long way from the barred spectacles they once were, but remain a favorite pastime where people go to see and learn about the world’s most spectacular animals.
And just like humans need nature in order to survive, zoos need humans, in the form of generous donors, sponsors, and members. Membership programs constitute the majority of revenue for zoos as well as other cultural institutions. Expanding and maintaining this symbiotic relationship between institution and member requires strategic and ongoing marketing that both entices new audiences to join, and encourages veterans to stay on.
The Benefits of a Membership Model: For Zoos and Zoo-Goers
Zoos would not exist without their patrons. Not only would the physical spaces which visitors come to enjoy be extinct, but vital zoological research and conservancy work couldn’t continue or function in the same way that it does today. And members are more than a source of financial gain for these organizations: a passionate audience base educates their community, and provides free brand advocacy for their favorite zoos, furthering the efforts of the institution.
Members do so much for zoos, and it is the responsibility of a zoo’s marketing team to demonstrate to patrons what in turn zoos can do for them. And from mission-driven organizations such as zoos, members need two things: access to facilities, and a way to help make a difference.
The most common perk for members of all income levels is entry to exhibitions — most organizations allow card-holding audiences unlimited visits throughout the year, with higher tier members receiving additional benefits such as exclusive event invitations and private tours. Zoos may allow sustaining and curatorial members to even interact with the animals, an especially enticing advantage for many wildlife enthusiasts.
Whatever the price point, zoo members are investors in animal welfare, and appreciate knowing how their money is being leveraged for the cause. They are happy to learn which specific animals are being helped by their membership and in what ways, and how they are contributing to the advancement of zoological conservation and research. A zoo membership provides members with a sense of action as much as great memories.
New Membership Marketing for Zoos
Especially in light of recent world events, competition for new members is fierce. Zoos must be able to convince audiences that the perks of membership — both for the members and the animals — is worth the investment. Here are a few tips on enticing your audience.
- Up your social media presence. Maintaining an active Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook account for your organization is one of the best ways to contact audiences in the wild and let them know what you have to offer. And it’s easy to do: for example, some zoos post a daily animal bio, introducing audience members to the unique and exciting animals members might meet during their visit.
- Participate in event days. Doable both in person and at a distance, occasions such as Arctic Sea Ice Day, National Wildlife Day, and Zoo and Aquarium Month can be great excuses to hold special events as well as educate your audience. Many of these holidays center around conservation, and aim to demonstrate problems faced by animals in the wild, and what humans can do to help. Show potential members what your organization is doing on these special holidays, and how their membership can help you do it.
- Hold exclusive events. Both online and in-person, give members access to novel experiences with your animals and zoo staff. This might include animal birthday parties, special lectures and demonstrations, and intimate gatherings with other wildlife enthusiasts: additional perks which are only available through membership.
Existing Membership Marketing for Zoos
The goal of every membership-based organization is renewal. Here’s a few steps zoos can take to keep existing members onboard.
- Make it personal. You’ll love something even more if you know its name. Most animals at zoos across the world have names to help audiences identify with and recognize them — sometimes they even earn their own fan bases! Leverage this by letting audiences know how their memberships are benefitting your most beloved zoo residents, and how they will continue to do so.
- Update often. What exciting new exhibits, special events, or baby animals are on their way to the zoo? Or perhaps you’re introducing a new guest lecture series, painting a new mural, or zoo camp is coming up? In addition to your amazing living exhibits, novelty helps to keep the attention of audiences, and encourage them to renew their memberships.
- Do better. As research into wildlife and environmental care advances, so should the way zoos care for and enclose their animals. The best example of this advancement is the move away from restrictive cages and into beautiful enclosures that resemble the animals’ natural habitats. Demonstrate to members that you are as invested in conservation as they are by keeping them up-to-date on renewed and rethought zoo practices.
Last Thoughts: Membership Marketing for Zoos
Zoo membership holds great advantages for all involved — members, the zoo, and the animals themselves. Encouraging new members to join and current members to renew requires that zoos have excellent exhibits, extraordinary animal care practices, and a crafty marketing team. And you can help your marketers do their best work by giving them the advantage of ACME’s advanced zoo software, which makes membership expansion and maintenance easier than ever. Sign up for a free demo today.