Zetland's member-get-member campaign
Overview of this campaign
Throughout our four-year existence as a daily digital newspaper, Zetland has tried several forms of marketing, including Facebook ads, events, outdoor and television commercials. Results have been mixed. In 2018, data showed that more than 40 percent of our members attributed their membership to “word-of-mouth”. We thus decided to work strategically with referral marketing. Based on data and experiences from a test campaign, we planned a membership drive using tools from modern political campaigns and leaders in community marketing from other industries. In June 2019, we released an article detailing our financial situation, a show of transparency that attracted much attention. It described that Zetland was at a crossroads. With 10,000 paying members (from a population of 5.6 million), we were around 3,500 short of financial stability. The goal of the campaign was to attract 1,400 paying members, and the initial call-to-action was simply to sign up as a voluntary ambassador. By August, almost 15 percent of Zetland’s members had signed up, and we had shipped more than 2,000 posters and 20,000 personal ambassador cards to ambassadors all over the country. The ambassadors could share a personalized link with friends, family and colleagues, offering them a chance to sign up to Zetland on an exclusive pay-what-you-want offer (only those who paid at least 1 DKK and thus gave us their payment information would count toward the 1,400 target). In the weeks and days leading up to the campaign (which began on August 6th, a month and a half after the initial article), they received weekly e-mails with instructions and encouragement, often based on ideas from other ambassadors. One of the key learnings from the failed “traditional” marketing channels such television was that for Zetland, unfiltered, informal communication had proven much more effective than sleek professionalism. These experiences shaped and informed our wording and visual expression in e-mails and social media throughout the campaign.
Results for this campaign
We believed 1,400 new members to be a realistic campaign target. We never thought we would double that amount. But that is what we did: 2,806 members was the final result. Additionally, attention before and after the campaign meant that our regular recruitment funnels soared from June to October, bringing in at least 1,500 extra members, though the connection is harder to back up with data. In order to spur our ambassadors on, we put a counter on our app and website that constantly showed the campaign progress. We also celebrated important milestones on social media. Our most important means of communication, however, were the emails we sent to our ambassadors throughout the campaign, updating them on the campaign’s progress, setting new targets as we reached the first target (1,400) and the second (2,000), and sharing tips from other ambassadors who had been successful in recruiting new members. We regularly asked for feedback from our ambassadors, as well as photos, videos, tips and experiences, going so far as to enlisting the entire newsroom to phone and thank 200 of the most active ambassadors. Our tone of voice was personal and informal, and feedback from both members and other media were universally positive. Since the campaign, we have closely monitored our monthly retention, wondering whether the new members would stick around after the first pay-what-you-want month. A month after the campaign, 82 percent of the new members had renewed their membership, exactly equalling our average first-month retention. With recruitment having increased since the campaign, presumably due to an increased awareness, we have even managed to grow every month since the campaign, meaning that we are now, for the first time in our existence, earning a profit. The campaign has also strengthened our relationship with our most loyal members. In a post-campaign survey, 43 percent stated that they feel more connected to Zetland after the campaign, and 58 percent signalled an interest in becoming ‘full-time’ ambassadors.