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It’s Nothing Personal The Power of Building Relationships beyond the Transactional

Category: On-Demand Programs: Engaging Audiences

This is a recorded session from the 2021 AAM Virtual Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo.

Transactional thinking runs deep in the nonprofit sector and negatively impacts the value we provide and receive from constituents. Learn how the Toledo Zoo replaced transactional thinking with a more profound appreciation for the motivations of visitors and members. Come away with pragmatic tools to use motivation to increase engagement, deepen loyalty, and grow revenue.


Jan Kaderly, Founder & CEO, A Line Strategy

Shayla Moriarty, Executive Vice President, Toledo Zoo

Jeff Sailer, CEO, Toledo Zoo


Jeff Sailer: … into it.

Jan Kaderly: Okay. She doesn’t have to get on chat, so she’ll join us.

Shayla Moriarty: Oh.

Jan Kaderly: And it looks like we are live.

Shayla Moriarty: I’m gone. I can’t get back to….

Jeff Sailer: We can hear you.

Jan Kaderly: Okay. I think we are live. Let’s see, who do we have? We’ve got 71 folks here. Welcome, everybody. My name is Jan Kaderly and we are happy to have you here. What I would love to do, we are going to be using chat a lot here. Let’s just start here. Everybody give us a shout-out what organization you’re with, where you’re from.

“From Beacon, New York.” Hey, Mike. I’m in Tarrytown. Cool.

“Tudor Place Historic House.” Janet, hello.

Who else do we have? The lines are open, folks. We really want to use chat.

“McAllen, Texas. Museum of Art & Science.” Hi, Anne.

“NASA Headquarters.” Oh, love NASA.

Tessitura Network, “Hello from Indiana.” Jeff, do you know Munice, Indiana? Are you familiar?

Jeff Sailer: That’s Muncie. Muncie, Indiana where Ball State is, and I’ve been to military stuff.

Jan Kaderly: Jeff is from Indiana. We have got… Oh, wait. “The Museum of Art in Cleveland.” Hello, Theresa. It’s been a long time in Cleveland recently. I wish I could have gone to the Museum of Art.

“Indiana Historical Society.” Jeff, your state is showing up. We have-

Jeff Sailer: Evansville, my hometown.

Jan Kaderly: I don’t know… Jeff, look at this. Did you realize what a reunion we would have? We’ve got “Meadows Museum, Dallas,” “Molly Brown House in Denver.” Cool. “The Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia.” Nice. “Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia.” Excellent. Well, okay, folks, thank you very much for showing up.

We do hope to give you value today. If we don’t, just kind of maybe address that through euphemisms in chat. Let’s not go at it directly. It’ll be a bit of a downer if we disappoint you, but we really don’t want to. So, I’m going to get us going. We have a lot of content to cover. Just in case you see our friend Shayla, the Executive Vice President at the Toledo Zoo, she’s having a little bit of technical difficulty with her camera, but she will be joining us soon. Shayla, can you hear us at least?

Okay. Shayla will be joining and we will introduce her when she gets on, but she’s not coming for a while in terms of the presentation. So, I’m going to get us going. I’m going to show us our slides. Okay. Folks, can you also just say, can you see the slides in chat? Just give me a heads up that we are good to go. Can you see the slides? Let’s see here. Let us know that you can see the slides, in chat. Just give us a yes on chat. Okay, cool. Thank you, guys. I appreciate it. Okay. So, the title of this session, “It is nothing personal. The power of building relationships beyond the transaction.” Okay. Thank you for letting us know that you can see the slides. We’re going to go. Forgive me. I’m going to try to… We’re all going to be looking at chat while we present. So, if there’s a little bit of divided attention, forgive us. And Shayla’s joining in Jeff’s office. Cool. Hi, Shayla. You’re there?

Shayla Moriarty: Hello.

Jan Kaderly: [inaudible 00:04:12] work. All right. Cool. All right. “The power of building relationships beyond the transaction,” I am going to unpack the flow of this conversation as I’m going to frame up what we mean by this at the beginning, kind of get at what makes this a provocative, and heavy, and a little bit of a challenging topic. And then, we’re going to walk through how, in real life, not just consultant life, the Toledo Zoo has really built customer centricity into pretty much every aspect of their organization: Into their operations, into their strategy, and most importantly, into the experiences that their visitors enjoy. So, let’s get with it.

Quick introductions. Here is the team. My name is Jan Kaderly. I am founder of A Line Strategy. I am a consultant, that said, what you may think of consultants. I have done my time in the cultural sector. I spent 20 years at the Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx Zoo. I was a vice president of digital engagement there. So, I have been on the client side. My goal now is to help brave people doing hard things. And the hardest thing is to build authentic relationships and unique strategy on top of them. And two of the bravest people I know are with me. I’m going to have Jeff and Shayla introduce themselves, and then we’re going to get this going. Jeff, take it away.

Jeff Sailer: I’m Jeff Sailer. I’m president and CEO here at Toledo Zoo in Toledo, Ohio. I’ve been in the zoo field for 20 years and I’ve worked in a lot of different zoos, from the standpoint of governance. And a lot of what we’ll talk about today is based in those learnings over these 20 years. I’ve worked in purely public, purely private, and currently in sort of a hybrid situation. And I hope to bring some value from that experience to this talk. Shayla?

Shayla Moriarty: Good morning. I’m Shayla Moriarty. I’m the chief of staff and senior vice president here at the Toledo Zoo. I work predominantly with our earned revenue, hospitality services, advertising. And prior to my role here at the zoo, I was in the gaming field and did a little bit of politics. So, I am new to the field. I’ve been with the zoo for about five years.

Jan Kaderly: Thank you, guys. All right. We are ready to go. Okay. I’m just going to introduce a concept and it’s kind of a buzzy-sounding concept, but it’s pretty simply applied here. And forgive me if I accidentally use “customer” instead of “constituent.” It might be a little bit ill-fitting since we’re in the non-profit sector. That said, I do like the word customer, because it implies an exchange of value. You give something, you receive something, that notion of the value exchange is at the core of what we’re going to be talking about today. And it is kind of built into the notion of constituent centricity, which just put simply, it is… if you are a customer-centric organization, if you do business the way the customer wants to do business and just take it at that. You’re allowing them to pay the way they want to pay. You’re giving them the products and services that they want. You’re meeting them where they are, when they’re ready. So, in short, that’s kind of the central organizing concept that we’re talking about today and unpacking how you think of your customers in that regard, how do you build products, experiences, and most tricky, how do you align your organization around it? So, that is the organizing feature.

All right. We’re going to use chat again. I mean it. We want this to be interactive, so I am going to use… Oh, good. Customers okay with Jan. Thank you. This is a really fun, interactive… It’s a facilitation tool. It’s called TRIZ. You can see it was developed by the Russians in the 1950s. They had some stuff going on, but they still do. And it is a technique designed to get… Hold on. I’m just going back to slides. Okay. Just in case, my fellow presenters, do not hit the camera button because that takes us all back to camera. We’re going to stay on slides.

So, this is a exercise where you get groups to think in extreme ways to create the safe space that enables change, because change is hard. We need safety to do it. So, we’re going to do an exercise real quick to get us going. Okay. It’s called TRIZ. All right. So, here we’re going to do a little role playing. We’ve got 70 something. Who knows how many people here? Now, each of you are hired by your non-profit. You’re a consultant now. Welcome to my world. You’re hired by your non-profit. And your goal is to destroy all good will with your supporters. I mean, obliterated. And you need to [inaudible 00:09:56] with it. Okay?

Just real quick, Jeff, Shayla, can you guys turn with… We’ve got a little feedback. Just mute, in case… We’re getting… One moment. We got some feedback. There we go. Thank you. Sorry about that, everybody.

Destroy all goodwill with your supporters. Okay, here is your task. In chat… And we’re going to use Chat Storm.

Just [inaudible 00:10:27], guys. Is Shayla starting? We’re getting feedback. Okay, cool. Now we’re muted. Excellent.

Okay. Your goal is to gleefully design how you will reliably and systematically destroy your constituent experience. We’re going to use Chat Storm, which means on my count, everybody, you’ll type in your answer. And then, you’ll hit return in chat. We’re going to do a Chat Storm. So, you’re going to type in your most extreme idea in chat. And then, we hit the return key. Okay? So I’m going to give you some examples. We have to destroy your visitors’, your constituents’ experience. We have to destroy their support. Here’s an example. Okay. Let’s say you’ve just had your end-of-year gala. You just had your big fundraising event. Your CEO writes your entire membership base and you say, “We had the most wonderful event. Oh, my God, the outpouring of support,” and you were not invited. Okay? That’s that’s one way to destroy goodwill. You send an email to your entire donor base, public funders, private funders, small donors, big donors, and you tell them, “We have no idea what we did with your money. We have no clue what it did.”

Another one. You’re thanking all of your members. You’re making calls. They’re collect calls. Okay? So, extreme ideas to destroy goodwill. Type one idea in chat. I’ll give you about 15 seconds, and then we’re going to hit return at the same time. Okay? Everybody, type an extreme idea into chat, destroying goodwill, knock it over the fence. Give it 15 seconds. I will tell you when to hit return. Let’s hit return. All right. Let’s read some of these. Jeff, Shayla, help me take in some of these. All right. We have…

“A gangsta rappa at the member preview reception.”

“Treat people differently based on no other reason than your own preferences.” Ellen, oh, my God. Has that ever happened?

“Close all restrooms indefinitely.” That’s hilarious.

“Argue with customers on social media. Leave them out of announcements regarding programmings or projects.”

“Post your museum hours on social and then fail to open the museum. Ignore everyone.” Chuck, good one.

“Send email to inform donors that we absolutely fulfill our mission without them. ‘Thanks, no thanks.'” Nice one, Kim.

“No returning phone calls. Just never return. Just don’t. They’re not even there.”

“Point out their bad looks and how you can’t stand to have them anywhere near you.” Jeff, you can’t do that. Stop it, Jeff. Stop it.

“Automated thank-yous for every single donor.”

“Never updating the language.”

“Lock the door.”

“Leave the archive contents outside.”

“Cancel all customer service.”

“Change the hours.”

“Staff says only no.”

“No more children with families.”

“Cranky forward-facing staff.”

“Answer member emails truthfully. No sugar coating.” Oh, the customer is always right. No customer’s always right. That would be… Wow. Yeah. Transparency, that’s a double-edged sword, it sounds like.

“Ask them to leave immediately, never come back.”

“Send an appeal with the postage due.”

“There is nothing for you here.”

“Overcharge for everything.”

“Tell them we want them to go away.”

“Suggestions are not allowed.”

“No returning messages.”

“Raise all prices.”

“Don’t answer emails.”

“Stop sending thank-you.”

“Don’t give admissions back.”

Oh, my God. You guys, these are excellent. Okay. I love it.

“Unethically collect new items.”

“Close the restrooms.”

Another one, “Stop serving alcohol at events.” There was a discussion of alcohol before this.

“Are you talking to me?”

“Signage is here for a person. No questions allowed.”

Okay. Fantastic work. And I love that we are succeeding in our interactive. Jeff, which one was your favorite there? Which one resonated?

Jeff Sailer: I really like the one with the sign posted to announce how good we are at our DEAI initiatives.

Jan Kaderly: Nice. Nice. Is Shayla with us by chance?

Jeff Sailer: Yes. She’s [crosstalk 00:15:05].

Jan Kaderly: Shayla, what spoke to you, honey?

Shayla Moriarty: I liked the not having alcohol at the events. That was good.

Jan Kaderly: All right. Thank you, guys. Now, there is a point to this. Number one, it gets everybody, it gets the blood flowing, at least in the fingers. It gets us participating. Here’s how this kind of exercise… This is how it kind of unfolds. And it’s a great exercise. If you want to know more about it, I’ll send you a link to it afterwards. But the idea is, it leaves the space to say, “What are we doing that is just a little bit like this,” right? Like, just a little bit like it. Go extreme, find a little bit of likeness, and then start to unpack the why. Like, “Why are we doing it? What can we do to change it?” That’s just a private reflection. I’m sure none of that applies to any of us.

But as it relates to this topic, the question is, “Are we doing…” To the extent that you’re doing anything like it. And I’m sure you are not, given the probably 50 responses that we have there. “Are we doing it on purpose?” And the answer is, most likely, let’s hope, the answer is no. We’re not doing it on purpose, that these things are often the consequences of downstream impacts on decisions that were made that… No one intended for it to have that… Oh, Reagan likes it. This is fun. Thank you, Reagan. I hope I got your name right. But downstream consequences is the point. And part of when we talk about customer centricity, it is a head nodder. It really is head nodding, and yet it is hard in reality, and it’s hard in reality for good reasons. I’m going to talk about a few reasons why.

But what we’re going to cover today is looking at… This is about the nature of your relationships that you are building with your constituents, what you give and get from your constituents, if you know what they need, and then how you operate across your organization. And why is this so hard? Often, staff have different understandings about your constituents. Departments manage their own constituents, perhaps in silos. And there’s competition about who owns the constituent relationship. Also, it can get pretty heady once you start talking about the business model. Jeff is going to talk about the business model. The business model can itself create some real structural incentives to have relationships. They’re not aligned with what people want. So, it is hard for good reason. And the goal here, my goal, in terms of framing customer centricity, in terms of motivation, is to make it pretty simple, to try to unwind, to try to get out of habitual thinking. That is not aligned with what people need, that’s a simple concept and what you can satisfy them with. Another simple concept.

So, understanding their motivation, in my mind, that is the key to the kingdom. And if you can get a basic, and I mean basic, understanding of motivation, you can develop segmentation around it. Once you understand what people need, you can identify a value exchange and you can align your operations. So, I’m going to give a few examples, and then we’re going to cut to the Toledo Zoo team to talk about how they did this in the real world.

Motivation-based segmentation. Just so everybody knows, I have loaded up in the handouts, a resource handout where I give you links to books and articles about segmentation, strategy, alignment, et cetera, stakeholder management, something we’ll be talking about. Everything in that handout has been really helpful to Jeff, Shayla and I. It’s there for you. You’ll see some other examples of motivation-based segmentation there. So just a plug handout. It’s free. It’s there. Go for it.

Okay. Here’s an example. Motivation-based segmentation. I love birds. Jeff love birds. Shayla… Try to get her to give you her favorite animals [inaudible 00:19:38]. So we’re going to use this guy as a stand-in for our customer. Okay? And typically, how we think of constituents. Okay, donor, yeah. The entire non-profit sector uses that one. Volunteer, okay. Member, ubiquitous. Advocate, okay. The thing is, that language… And I don’t think I’m going to be going out on a limb here. That language that we use to describe our constituents, that is not only held within the cultural sector where we also then get ticket buyers, et cetera, but it is across the entire non-profit industry. And the thing about that language that everybody uses day in, day out, that is transactional language. We are using transactional terms to describe our relationships with our constituents. And that has impacts. Again, downstream consequences. And it means that you’re not developing relationships that are personal, that are built on top of what people need.

The implications here are, depending on how you acquire that customer, whether they come as in a ticket buyer, whether they come in as… they responded to an advocacy alert, whatever, they will then… You’ll be describing them, “Oh, they’re a ticket buyer. Oh, they’re an advocate.” The first transaction, that’s how they got to the system, starts to define the rest of the relationship that you have with them. And then, the constituent gets pigeon-holed into that transaction. Once you become a member, I can speak with some experience, your relationship will pretty much be an ongoing renewal cycle, right?

So, the idea is that we change the basis of the relationship, shift it from transaction to motivation. Here’s an example. This is a cultural organization and think tank, a subscriber. Literally, this organization, we worked on a Salesforce implementation. They had many different people managing subscriber lists. Their mission delivery was through content delivery. Subscriber received a monthly newsletter. When we started to look at that relationship in terms of motivation, then we get a much richer understanding. They’re a ladder climber, a peacemaker. This is a group that worked on relationships with Asia. Global solutions. They are cultural explorers trying to broaden their horizons. Global citizens. Looking for context in a changing world. Or heritage keepers. People in America looking to connect with their roots.

So we went from this one subscriber, that’s the transaction. When we look at motivation, we get a much richer, more human understanding of what they want. And once you get that, you have unlocked the exchange of value. You know what they want, you know what we can give them, and everybody in the organization can, from the person that opens the front door to the executive director.

So let’s just take one example of how it’s simple. This isn’t rocket science. Yes, you can get copies of the slides. Thank you. A cultural explorer, let’s take that as an example. This is someone seeking experiences that exposes them to new cultures. Enjoy learning about distant places, people and times. They are open by nature, they enjoy new perspectives. Here, what can you do to satisfy them? You can offer them history lectures, tastings in food, popular culture. Like, “What is popular culture in Korea? What is it here? How am I like or unlike other people around the world?” You can show how other cultures use technology. Book clubs, okay? Knowing that people are interested in exploring other cultures, it unlocks creative thinking across your organization for how you can satisfy that need.

So, just understanding… And by the way, in the handouts, there’s two case studies for how two organizations have used motivation-based segmentation to develop campaigns and CRM strategy, so check that out. It’s pretty step-by-step. I go deep into methods so that you can kind of do it on your own. So if you use motivation-based segmentation, you have an intuitive language that everyone in your organization can understand. And you have fostered relationship-thinking across the whole organization. You have of broken out. That is the first step to breaking out of transactional ownership of constituents.

I’m just going to show one more… I don’t go in deep into this. I don’t go deep into aligning operations around motivation here. If you’re interested in learning more about that, check out the resources that I gave you in designing organization on the handout. But here, the long and the short of it is the transactional legacy where you have transactional systems that beget transactional operations, that beget transactional processes, leads to transactional structures. It is through and through how we align ourselves transactionally and how we treat people transactionally.

I’m going to give a quick example, and this is pretty relevant to museums in cultural institutions. And this is what we broke out of at the Bronx Zoo. We had a ticket team. It was a department that managed ticket buyers. They had their database of ticket buyers and they managed those people. We had a membership team that managed members. We had a donor team that managed donors. And we had an advocacy team that managed advocates. And the consequence, we had departments, we had structures, we had systems that were managing our relationships transactionally, and the ticket buyers never wanted to upsell to a membership because the pricing was off. The membership team thought, “Sure that members did not want to advocate.” And so, the consequence of that situation was that, again, we pigeon-holed the constituent into that first transaction. Departments competed, they hoarded constituent. And opportunities and revenue, especially lifetime value was lost.

That, you can break out of if you understand the motivation, because the motivation cuts across different departments. The transaction stays within a department, the motivation cuts across. So, that’s the concept that we’re going to unpack with the Toledo Zoo because they have gotten out of a transactional thinking, and they have overcome the limits of a business model such that everybody in their organization is treated like someone that belongs and is someone that is a member. So, if we get it right, you can innovate, you’re relevant, you grow lifetime value. So that is my blah-blah-ing. That’s the concept.

Let’s go to the real world and people that are far more interesting and insightful than me. So we’re going to go into the Toledo Zoo and Jeff is going to start us off with how he evolved the business model to put the customer at the center. Jeff, you ready?

Jeff Sailer: Yeah. The Toledo Zoo is an interesting case study because we started in our history as a department of the city. And in the early 1980s, for economic reasons, the city and the zoo parted ways and the separate 501(c)(3) was started. But because of the major shift in revenue streams and support, there was an agreement made between the new zoo and the county to receive tax levy dollars that would support the operation. And at that time, those dollars, those taxes accounted for about 80% of the total operations of the zoo. Over time, the zoo’s operations grew, but the tax levy stayed the same. And so, we come into… from 1980, 1982, we get up to 2012, and the tax levy at that time was only about 30% of the operations.

That was great. That support has historically been incredibly important to the zoo. But what has happened from business model standpoint is created two very different sets of stakeholders that have very different needs. The tax levy had to be renewed every five years. And so, you had a group of voters and a group of business owners, [inaudible 00:28:45] as well, that had one set of interest at the zoo. And we had an ever growing, geographically and in pure numbers, a membership and ticketed visitors coming to the zoo. There were a lot of givebacks that were part of this levy. So, free Mondays that would allow Lucas County citizens to come that day for a period of time to enter the zoo free and to enjoy the experience. There was differential pricing for memberships and tickets, free programming for Lucas County schools. Over time, though, what this created was two separate sorts of constituents.

And especially, we ended up with this very odd free Monday versus non-free zoo days that has created almost a class difference between groups who’ve been coming and visiting the zoo. At the same time, our membership roles have gotten larger and larger and larger. What we really had to look at was how did we need to align with our stakeholders to ensure that we could continue to grow that membership base that was a steady stream of support, but also a lot of low-hanging fruit when it came to advocacy in helping us support our mission. And at the same time, continuing to ensure there was access for everyone and being true to this shift in stakeholders, how did we pay that back to the taxpayers? And so, what we have begun to do is to reduce our reliance on those levy dollars by literally reducing the ask every five years and continuing to grow the revenue on the other side.

Jeff Sailer: We’re doing this by ensuring that there’s true alignment between membership and ticket prices. That was not always the case. There was a misunderstanding about the price points that members would [inaudible 00:30:52] get. Even still, we are at a price point that is only still less than two visits for a payback on membership, but it’s much more closely aligned with that number. And as a result, we’ve seen revenue and total number of members increase as they’ve understood the value of those memberships. We are also embarking on a new program that allows us to subsidize memberships and get them out to those that maybe depended on these free Mondays. My overall goal, though, is to provide access with dignity and not these two different experiences that, depending on your socioeconomic level, you get one experience at the Toledo Zoo and someone else gets a different experience.

We want everyone to have the same experience, but we’d also like everyone to join us, as it says in our mission statement, to help us create a place for wildlife and nature in the future. And we have seen a lot of real positive response to this. So, we’re doing our second levy campaign with this new philosophy this year. It’s our second reduction. We get a very positive response from the community on this. We are up into the hundreds of subsidized memberships at this point, and working with our partners or donors, and even other members, we are greatly increasing the number of these memberships that we’re able to place in the hands of others in the community. What this has allowed us to do is to take our customers at this point, those that we’ve asked to join us, and get them all in sort of the same general bucket of members.

And then, we can begin to provide experiences, communications, and look into where individual motivations might be within those membership subsets. And then, we can communicate very specifically with each one of them. So, do we have a subset of members that are purely interested in our conservation work? Do we have a subset of members that are really interested in our education work? We have a lot of historic and architecturally important aspects to the zoo where we have a set of members that are really interested in that art and the preservation of that art. And by aligning all of the different customers at the zoo into this membership category and ensuring that there’s access for all within the community, we’ve really been able to streamline that process and get Shayla’s team in a situation where they can leverage our abilities and communication for greater impact.

I look at non-profits… Non-profits are great, but I don’t think being a non-profit means being a non-business. I think we sell a product which is an experience, but unlike a corporation which has shareholders, we have beneficiaries. And it’s important for that experience to be as good as possible so that we have more and more people joining us and helping us achieve what we want to achieve for our beneficiaries on the other side. And whether that then becomes different components of what the membership wants, or that our school kids that we’re trying to get education opportunities to, or that’s preserving animals in the wild, the better we can do with our product, the more mission impact we can have on the other side.

Jan Kaderly: Hey, Jeff, I would love to just pick up on this notion… Folks, feel free to type any questions that you have to Jeff in the chat. I have… there’s a couple… it’ll be a question… it’ll be something maybe for you to comment about. I’d love to pick up on the… Well, number one, what I think is really interesting in what you guys have done is make everybody a member. Member, yes, there is a membership product, but more than that, a member is someone that belongs to the zoo, that has an investment in the zoo. So, I just wanted to put a pin in that. I would love to pick up on your notion of beneficiaries in terms of the strategy work that you’ve done here because I think in terms of how… Yes, there are animals. Yes, there is conservation. But I would love for you to just expand a little bit on how you all have leaned in really, really strongly into community and then the members within that community. And then, I’ll give you some questions that we have coming up on the chat, as well.

Jeff Sailer: So, one of the questions I’m actually seeing in the chat right now is whether or not there was a lot of resistance internally to a shift away from public funds. And yes, 100%. But what’s really important to understand is public funding is not without its own strings. And what you can sometimes end up having is a bifurcated business model that makes you more inefficient. There’s another question here about, sounds like we aren’t looking at motivations of non-members. In fact, we’ve done a lot of research on what drives a person to become a member versus a non-member, and believe it or not, we found we had made a mistake in our pricing on tickets and memberships at the single and dual adult level. When we adjusted those, those are converting over to memberships at a much, much greater rate in the past. And so, what we’ve found is we’ve made memberships such a value that it’s been communicating to our non-members. Why that membership is a good value that is converting them over? Jan, you did a lot of that early work. And I believe we saw that the vast majority transactions at the zoo were to buy memberships.

Jan Kaderly: Yes. Jack, just to answer that question, the non-member is kind of a prospective member. The membership is getting people that want to come to the zoo multiple times. And our goal is to have, give it time, everybody be one. Like, where membership is such a great value that there will be no non-member.

Let’s keep going. So I just said, Shayla’s going to dive into some motivations here and we’ll talk about… Wendy, that should address your question. “Are you able to determine motivation?” Yep. We’re going to go into that. And yes, tools, we’ll talk about that as well, Reagan. Okay.

Jeff Sailer: Why don’t we hop over to Shayla and let her talk a little bit about this?

Jan Kaderly: Yep. Let’s do it. And we just talked about making membership available to everyone. And here’s Miss Shayla Moriarty.

Shayla Moriarty: Hi, everyone.

Jan Kaderly: [crosstalk 00:37:44] talk about what folks need, how we satisfy them. Take it away.

Shayla Moriarty: Absolutely. In order to deliver the highest quality experience, we know we need to meet, but also exceed expectations. Every visit, we need to be consistent, we need to have attention to detail. We believe in reaching people where they are. We understand where they are. We understand their motivations. This helps us craft this experience. By going through our transactions, as Jan and Jeff has said, that helped us sort and establish three primary motivations. The Outing is more of our regional guest coming from a robust stay at the zoo. It’s easy. It’s a nice drive. The next group is our Memory Making group. They’re into the traditions of the zoo. The memories made from a great experience, we hope turns those into traditions and countless memories. The next group is a Social Connection, and this is one group that we’ve really concentrated on growing. Having funny, unique events that bring friends together, the zoo, in our eyes, is not just for a traditional family; we’re trying to be relevant and interesting to the community in all different age groups. So, you don’t need to have kids in order to experience and have fun at the zoo. So, we look at leaning in on that [crosstalk 00:39:15]-

Jan Kaderly: Shayla, just real quick. Before we leave this motivation piece, I want us to unpack that a little bit here because we have some questions coming up in chat. We’ve got one from Erica. “How are you able to determine motivations for your members?” I want to go into a little bit of the how while we’re on this slide and you and I can talk about that, tools for investigating relationships and targeting. So, Shayla, let’s talk a little bit about how we got to this first hypothesis. Now, I’m going to go through a little bit of the method. And again, if you take a look at the handouts that I’ve provided, there’s two examples of how two organizations have developed some pretty solid hypothesis around what the motivations are for their constituents.

And first thing I will say, and Shayla, I would love for you to speak to this, is… The way that we did it at the Toledo Zoo, the way I do it with anybody, that’s either doing this at a really high end, meaning you are spending six figures on quantitative research to validate it, or you’re using social media to validate it. You start with the knowledge that your frontline staff had. And Shayla, what we did, we got your membership person, your admissions person, yourself, and you start to mine. It’s the basic question of what do you guys think is motivating your customers.

Shayla Moriarty: Yeah, Jan, I think the way we start that process of actually listing out every single transaction that we can have with the guest and trying to put those into common groups, helped us identify what those motivations are and then put them into those three main groups.

Jan Kaderly: Yep. And so, that’s just that you start with the motivation, why are people buying a ticket, why are people buying a membership, et cetera. So, start with the motivation, and then go into… It’s a simple process of, “Okay, why are they buying the ticket and why are they doing that?” So the key is to ask that question of why, a couple times, until you are at kind of that deeper level of a motivation. And then, you sort. You find the common themes and then you start to see the pattern emerge pretty quickly. So, always, always start with the considerable knowledge that your frontline folks have because frontline folks, they talk to customers, they know what that motivation is. And then, as you get more, there’s a question, I think Erica… No. Reag… Forgive me. I don’t know if it’s Reagan or… To target a couple of things, you can take this to the quantitative phase. And there’s quantitative research firms that can help you be able to define the variables, the data that can help you target motivation.

So, if you’ve got a lot of money at stake and you want to invest a lot of money, you’re likely going to need to go to a quantitative research phase. If you just want to segment your database based on motivation, then you potentially have the data that you already need, in your database, to create some segments. For instance, on Toledo Zoo here, The Outing, we’re doing a Salesforce implementation. Now, one of the most targetable groups of members are potentially the regional. We can use geography to determine, are you coming for a full day, robust experience regionally, or if you are local, we can look at your visitation pattern and your proximity to the zoo, and likely, easy and convenient. With the Toledo Zoo, we layered on top of this some keyword analysis, using social media to validate this as well. So, that’s some of the tools and techniques you can use. All right, let’s keep going, Shayla. You’ve got a lot to say.

Shayla Moriarty: Oh, that’s good. We understand that our primary strategy is to provide unparalleled hospitality. That’s our bread and butter. That is what is ingrained in every team member here at the Toledo Zoo. Unparalleled hospitality that satisfies all the three main categories of motivation. To us, hospitality is not just food, service and events, but is making guests feel welcomed, and comfortable, and inspired by their visit. We want our guests to feel immersed in the mission and the community in which we reside. We tie in local elements in the community in every single thing that we do. For example, in 2019, we debuted our renovated Natural History Museum that featured a partnership with the local Children’s Museum. They had the largest collection of original work by book illustrators in that everyone from adults to our littlest of tiniest of guests had enrichment in there.

There was book signings and activities. There’s touch tanks and conservation guides in each floor. We have greeters and interpreters. Everyone is taught to interact with the guests, let them know that you’re grateful for them being there. That is some of the key characteristics that we put in so that every visit is consistent and is a great experience. Our aquarium has art gallery that changes out quarterly that also features local artists. We believe in surprise and delight. We want our team members to instill surprise and delight every single day. So, what does that look like? That could be local bands that are in the entry plaza. There’s always someone there to direct you to where you need to go and answer questions. The keepers who are the real rock stars with our animal collection, they do surprise-and-delight keeper-chats in line when you’re waiting for food, or when you’re walking by exhibit, they will stop and they will engage with you.

Our catering in our concessions has a lot of local ties to local vendors in the area. Our beer and wine come from local distributors. We have several partnerships with local brew houses that have beer that is tied to our conservation initiatives. So, not only when you’re at the zoo, but if you participate and you go to the restaurant on another date, you might see a zoo beer there, and proceeds from that goes back to the zoo. So, this is a way that we not only are able to quench your thirst in a way, but you’re also able to support local business and expose them to the regional and local community.

Jan Kaderly: Shayla, I want to, number one… By the way, Don Rose, I’m going to get to your question here in a second about how you make this apply to a small place. I want to put a pin in this because this is what I think is so really, really cool about what you guys are doing at the Toledo Zoo. And I just want to go back. I’m going to go back, forgive the slide whiplash, folks. The zoo’s mission, yes, animals, but it is to improve the quality of life in the community, to be a steward for heritage, business, local environment, et cetera, for the people, right? And we want everyone to be a member, literally. There will be no non-members by the time we’re done. And what I think, that vision combined with your steely eyed… Shayla, a hard prosecutor to name her favorite animal, but through and through most of hospitality. And when you combine what you just went through, that attention to detail, that hospitality is about… Everything that you just went through, from the beer that you’re served to the receipt that says what your money has gone to, you guys, by focusing on hospitality, you are integrating that mission of the local economy, the local vendors, the local craftspeople, your neighbor that is also a greeter, that just hospitality in and of itself brings the customer right to the center of an operation.

Shayla Moriarty: Absolutely. You can step back and look at transactional members, non-members, but really, and I think Jeff hit on this just a little bit, is that we’re really trying to get them to join us in the mission and reaching people in all sorts of spaces. So, when you look back, Jan, at hospitality and attention to detail, these are the things that help draw this group in. These are the things that keep them interested in what we’re doing. They know it’s going to be a consistent, fun experience, but we’re creating engagement all across the board. That’s what we do. We try to take what’s happening at the zoo and take it all the way across different touchpoints so that engagement is high.

Jan Kaderly: Yeah. I would love… I’m just going to tee up this piece too, because again, in Toledo, it is that memory-making cohort that is real and that is tangible. Like, at the Bronx, we always thought nostalgia maybe a thing, but we spent a lot of money on segmentation, and it wasn’t to say [crosstalk 00:49:13], but for you guys, when we did the social media analysis and all that, memory making and tradition is real. It is tangible in Toledo. And I think Jeff is probably there over your shoulder, too. But what I would love for you to talk about here, you guys have, it’s built into your architecture, it’s built into… The traditions of Toledo are built into the zoo. And that is deeply, deeply meaningful to the community and to your members. I would love for you guys to unpack a little bit of the storytelling around how you lean into that piece of tradition of memory with some of your events and in your exhibits themselves because I’m blown away by this.

Shayla Moriarty: Yeah, absolutely. I think when you look at the architecture, we have five Workers Progress Administration buildings. For those that don’t know, that was part of the New Deal’s program that was instituted by President Roosevelt to bring out local craftsmen and utilize recycled materials. But basically, we have these beautiful structures that Jeff has done a fantastic job of renovating, and bringing those to life, and making those relevant to the community. We have an amphitheater that was built in the 1930s that has local… Every year, we do a Music Under the Stars program for the past, well, 30 years that has local bands, and artists, and orchestras that come in. And the community comes out thousands in a five-week span to participate in that. We have a Natural History Museum that we were able to bring to life, that we are able to feature local pieces in.

We have this Lights Before Christmas tradition. Those in Ohio, I know, are probably aware. It’s been more than 33 years of five and a half weeks of lights tradition. So we do 20% of our budget in that time period. And 70% of that is local community coming out and supporting us. So, every step of the way, tradition, local community is tied into these events. I think Lights Before Christmas is, by far, one of the top. So when you’re coming in and you’re seeing your family, you’re seeing friends, I don’t think anyone really comes to Lights Before Christmas from this community and does not see someone they know. We have a tree-lighting ceremony that has local carolers, and our business community comes out and supports that in droves. So, it’s a really big tradition. We’ve been voted Best Zoo Lights because of the local community and their support. So, tradition, by far, is a major deal with that event.

Jan Kaderly: Yep. Thank you. And I’ll just say, when you go to one of these restored WPA buildings, everything, from the door knob to the sculptures to the glass that is used, is locally procured by local artisans. Again, that attention to detail that weaves in the local economy is pretty phenomenal. You guys, if you’re near Toledo, go see this zoo. Okay, going forward, take us home.

Shayla Moriarty: Thank you, Jan. Looking forward, we know that there’s some things that… Obviously, we want to satisfy the needs of our members and our visitors, but we also are looking at ways to do that before and after their visit. So, video content, using technology to help us deliver that, quarterly updates from Jeff in the leadership team, outreach from our keepers, actually getting on their phones and in their inboxes real time. We are also looking at some cool initiatives. Where we sit, we do over a million guests a year, 40% of that come from Michigan. How cool would that be on your drive to have a playlist that you download that will get you to and from the zoo? So, there’s unique ways. And I know Jan has mentioned that we’re also looking at the CRM and finding ways to efficiently communicate and have these touch points with our members and hopefully taking some of these transactionals into membership. So, I think we’ve done a lot, but we still have a long way to go. And we have a lot of fun, new, unique approaches right around the corner. So, we’re very excited.

Jan Kaderly: I’m just going to do a build on top of what Shayla’s saying because it relates back to a question that we had about targeting. And I think if you check out the case study, there’s a case study on segmentation in CRM that I loaded up here. The way that this flows… And again, it’s not rocket science. You just got to get to the relevant details. You start with what that motivation is, let’s say it’s the outing. And we’ve got two primary segments coming off of that: Regional outing, local outing. Regional one’s a full, robust day; local one’s easy and convenient. The question you then ask is “How can I recognize what data, how can I objectively determine who is in what segment?” And there, geography became our proxy. Like, if you’re coming from Detroit, then likely you are coming for a robust outing. If you’re coming locally, we can look at your location and we can look at your frequency of visit. If you’re coming to our event, we know then you’re looking for social connection. So, you translate the motivation into recognizable data that can allow you to, without a lot of risk, kind of segment your constituents into some motivational groupings.

And for a lot of folks, I’m going to go back to Don’s question, “How do you do this with a small museum?” This is easiest to do when either you’re really big, and have a lot of money, and sophisticated technology… still hard, but you can throw money at it. Right? And you’ve got technology that can handle it. It’s also easiest when you’re really small. And when you have that frontline personal interactions with people, the intimacy of those relationships, that you can start to mine and get to know people more deeply. And then, if you’ve got a small database, create the field, standardize your language, don’t have multiple words for one motivation, and you can start to segment your file. And again, come up with some of those proxies, “What data can I look at that can tell me…” and maybe run some tests, send out some messages that lean in either to, “Are you coming with your friends for fun or are you looking to make memories?” Okay, Jack, but a small museum would need a CRM or something, which a lot of smaller institutions don’t have of the data to mine or the membership program, unfortunately.

Jack, to that issue, yes, you possibly would need a CRM. I do want to say one more thing though. You can take back to… I don’t want to give you guys slide whiplash here. You can also use motivations to just innovate around your products and experiences, right? Like, “We offer lots of products and experiences,” possibly without thinking of motivation. Like, start with some decent assumptions and then say, “Well, if this was the motivation, what should we offer?” So you can use motivations to also innovate on your experiences. And then, test it out, talk to people.

Any other questions? I know we’re running towards the bottom of our hour. Oh, hold on. I do want to get to this really. I love our thank-you slide. Let’s just have that be our backdrop. Other questions, the lines are open. Let’s talk to them. Boy… If regrets… If I could live my life over again, I would’ve done a lot more talking to people just during my lunch hour. Okay. If any smaller museums want to talk, CRM, Tessitura Network might be able to help. Yes, they can. Also, check out NTEN, N-T-E-N. Some of you may know about them. Any other questions for the good of our order? We’ve got Jeff, I imagine, is lingering there in the background. Doubleknot is here to help. Thank you, Brian. Yeah. Let’s just be clear. There is no shortage of help for museums in the technology world. Yeah, by the way, Brian, I do hear good things about Doubleknot. “Great session.” Thanks, Amy. And if it’s not a great session, just find a double-handed way of saying that, a euphemism. Give us a little something. Oh, Heather, stop it. Fantastic. Again, check out the handouts… Oh, Jeff, fun one. “How did you engage your board?”

Jeff Sailer: Data. You’ve got to have data. What I found in all of the various zoos I’ve worked in is we like to tell stories, I think, you probably find that in other museums and other culturals as well. And so, we’ll often tell what we think is going on, and that becomes part of the mythos of the organization. But when you actually start tracking the data, it’s amazing what you thought you knew, and it turns out it was totally wrong. So, even something as simple as where are your visitors coming from is critically, critically important. And you have to understand, we’re fine financially, but we did not have the technology when we started down this path. So, a lot of this was done the old-fashioned way of just someone sitting there and accumulating the data, asking visitors what zip code they were coming from, and then overlaying that on a map and seeing what that was beginning to tell us about the makeup of these communities and what was important to them.

Jan Kaderly: Yup. Hey, guys, I just want to say… We have a couple folks that have said this was the best session. Good job, Jeff, Shayla. Any other… Let’s see here, what’s new MO, nem-o, new MO, “What was your motivation for interacting with us?” Top-of-mind questions. “Really appreciate the interactivity.” Oh, good. I’m glad. “Provocative session. Practical information.” Yes, check out the handouts. I’m not sure how our friends handle that post session, so please go on, download them now, especially the resources. That’s the best stuff that I have found over my years on this earth. So, if you can benefit from those, check them out. I even tell you what chapter to read. Okay. Oh, yep. They’re going to go along with the recording. “Great session. One of the best.” Jeff, Shayla, you’re one of the best.

Jeff Sailer: Thank you.

Shayla Moriarty: Thank you, Jan. Thanks, everyone.

Jeff Sailer: Thank you. Have a great day.

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1 Comment

  1. This session was very informative. We are in in the building phases for our museum, and you provided so many great strategies for us to implement towards building community and connecting with prospective members. Thank you! I would be interested in the hand-outs that Jan mentioned. Are they still available?

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