Asking Around an Event
The Philadelphia Flower Show, produced by The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), is the largest indoor flower show in the world, attracting more than 250,000 visitors to its 10 acres of floral designs and presentations.
The flower show is also the perfect fundraising opportunity for PHS, which has been marketing its membership on the coattails of this event for the past 10 years. Using flower show tickets and behind-the-scenes passes as membership premiums, PHS has seen a good response in the past to its direct mail efforts surrounding this event.
In January, PHS dropped a newly designed package to 170,000 new and renewing members offering discounted membership and tying in free tickets to the early March show. The invitational-style mailing includes a letter, brochure, reply form, reply envelope and a response deadline of Feb. 16 (Archive code #603-693671-0901).
Starting on the 5" x 7-1/2" outer, the mailing is branded with images of sunflowers, reflecting the bella Italia theme of this year's show. "The sunflower was the signature icon for the show, and it was on a lot of our printed materials. So if people were seeing advertising about the show, the sunflower was there, and when people got this piece in the mail, you know it was easy to recognize," comments Suzanne Betts, membership director for PHS.
Recipients are offered membership at household levels, which cost less than $100 and come with free tickets to the flower show. For a higher price point, there are also leadership-level memberships, which come with behind-the-scenes preshow passes to see the show as it's being set up. "Offering a behind-the-scenes tour to the flower show before it opens has been great for us to get people in at that level," Betts reveals.
The membership benefits add value to the membership beyond the flower show ticket premium. "We have a really great menu of benefits, and we appeal to a lot of different people. We have year-round workshops, lectures, great publications, and I think we do a great job of communicating that to our members," she says. Having the benefits listed on several locations on the mailing, including the brochure, letter and reply card, helps reach those recipients who may only pick up one piece of the mailing, Betts explains.
Although the flower show has been a positive event to market around for the past few years, Betts says that PHS did try something new this year in testing a second mission-based package against the flower show control. Fifty thousand test packages were sent offering discounted membership and flower show tickets, but with a focus on Philadelphia Green's mission and work.
"We did a test to see if people would be still interested in what we did year-round and not just with the flower show," Betts says. To date, the flower show effort has been PHS' singular direct mail effort for the year. "We do smaller mailings throughout the year but nothing on the scale of this," shares Betts, who says a mission-based spring mailing is next.
Even with a follow-up postcard, sent in late January to 20,000 households, the results of this year's membership mailing were low. "We've always done really well with direct mail. We've always got a 1 percent response, not a problem, but last year it started to drop off, and this year it was definitely off-so I think the economy was a part of that," states Betts, who also noticed that people are waiting until the last minute to join or renew, with some recipients of the mailing even waiting until the flower show to purchase their memberships in person.
With no end in sight to the economic downturn, Betts plans to once again test a flower show piece against a mission-based piece next year, but reduce the quantity mailed. "Given the response that we've had over the last couple of years, it will be important to look at some ways to scale it back and still have some impact," she concludes. Next year's mail package again will feature new creative, to reflect the theme of the 2010 show, "Passport to the World."
Landing Page Lessons
Landing pages can be a great response channel for direct mail, but for greater response, try using a code or login to make your direct mail offer redeemable both on your landing page and homepage. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society used a landing page for the first time in its membership mailing. Suzanne Betts, membership director for PHS, said the landing page was successful, but there was some confusion between regular membership rates on the PHS homepage and the 10 percent discounted rates offered on the direct mail landing page. "Some people got confused, because when they were on the landing page, it links back to our PHS website, so some of them paid full price because they weren't sure what site they were on," Betts reveals.