What do Peer Networks Mean for New Member Acquisition?


Peer-to-peer marketing. Referral marketing. Network marketing. You’ve probably come across these terms as they’ve made their way into every industry and have lots of clear benefits for nonprofits like museums and cultural organizations. But, just what do they mean?

The Rise of Peer-to-Peer

In business, peer-to-peer marketing is a strategy which encourages customers to engage other customers by recommending a product or service to members of their social circle, like friends, family, and coworkers. Referral marketing has been touted as “one of the best marketing drivers for sales and conversion.” Why is this? For the simple reason that individuals place a high level of trust and value on recommendations from friends and family. Moreover, in today’s digital world, anyone can receive advice and recommendations from trusted social connections with ease, especially using digital channels. In fact, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and are 4x more likely to buy when recommended by a friend.

Across the web, reviews and recommendations have become a popular tool for seeking out advice for anything and everything. Facebook’s “Recommendation” features have soared in popularity since they were rolled out in 2017, with 1 in 3 of Facebook’s 2.4 billion users now using the platform to give and receive recommendations.  And, in the world of travel and tourism, every month, 456 Million people – about one in every 16 people on earth – visit the TripAdvisor website to plan a trip.

Given the widespread trust in recommendations (especially those from our friends and family), peer-to peer marketing tactics (particularly digital referral programs) have become a staple marketing strategy in the commercial sector. Giants like PayPal, Dropbox, Airbnb, Tesla, Uber, Google, and Amazon all rely on the remarkable power of the referral to expand their customer and user bases.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

If you work in a nonprofit, you also might know that peer-to-peer power isn’t just for the commercial world. Nonprofit organizations have also embraced peer networks on a large scale. Many nonprofits already utilize a strategy known as peer-to-peer fundraising, which leverages an organization’s supporters to fundraise on their behalf. Just this year, Blackbaud, the largest provider of nonprofit technology solutions, released a comprehensive peer-to-peer fundraising study. And according to CauseVox, peer-to-peer fundraising for nonprofits is an essential tool to build upon existing relationships, multiply impact, and grow awareness organically. As Millenial and Gen Z consumers increasingly express their preference for authenticity over salesmanship, peer-to-peer tactics are likely to be the future of fundraising and marketing.

Peer-to-Peer: The Future of Membership

Now, what does any of this have to do with membership? Peer-to-peer strategy has the ability to transform membership programs at cultural organizations, enabling them to galvanize new supporters, bring in new revenue, and ensure institutional longevity.

Peer networks are a source of untapped potential for museums and nonprofits. Your members already value and appreciate what your organization has to offer and the community it fosters. That means that each one of them could serve as an advocate or evangelist for you, providing your organization with the chance to cultivate more loyal supporters from the expansive networks of your current constituents. 

Imagine John Smith is a patron-level member at your organization, a medium-sized art museum. With his patron-level membership, John receives four guest passes per year. One weekend, John invites his new colleague Jane, a fellow arts enthusiast, along to the museum with a free guest pass. As they enjoy a weekend afternoon in the galleries, John raves about the museum’s top-notch temporary exhibitions, yearly gala, and summer event calendar. Impressed, next weekend, John’s friend Jane signs up to be a member too.

Now, imagine if you had a whole band of members like John enthusiastically referring their friends and family to your institution through a no-hassle digital channel, and bringing them along to visit. Imagine being able to track the guests of your current members and cultivate them as members. Now, this is possible. 

It all lies in the digital guest pass. As it stands, many museums already offer physical guest passes as a perk of membership. Yet, the traditional guest pass model is not optimized to tap into membership networks effectively. In fact the entire process is untrackable and without insights.

For example, do you know if, how, and when guest passes are distributed, or who your members’ referred guests are? Do you know who your most valuable members are? What if you were able to reward and incentivize such members, enabling you to penetrate even more deeply into your second-degree network?

Tapping into a membership network means tracking that membership network. And that’s where digital comes in. A digital referral system can offer tracking capabilities that allow you to chart which of your members are the most socially-engaged and influential, and which patrons invite guests with the highest conversion rate into members. Armed with this valuable insight, you’ll be able to offer rewards and incentives to your most devoted advocates. In short: digital guest passes can be the tool you need to cultivate and sustain a powerful base of supporters.

Are you ready to take your membership program into the future? Schedule a free consultation with Cuseum today to learn about what digital guest passes can do for your organization.

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