What is a relatively simple channel for unions to grow and boost member retention?
The humble email inbox.
Increasing your union’s volume of email to existing members is a fantastic, low cost and highly effective way to “growth hack” your member retention rates.
I’ve written previously about how email is one of the most important growth channels for unions.
The TL;DR is that emailing non-members more often results in more non-members deciding to join! More email equals more members.
This may seem less sophisticated than using high-tech algorithms and complex marketing automations that serve up perfectly timed and personalised messages.
But increasing your volume of email to non-members has a big impact on recruitment.
And this approach can also work for retention.
A constant finding in the research for unions, as well as other membership organisations and subscription services, is that members often feel under-communicated to.
- A good example is a major (US-based) streaming service with 40+ million users. They decreased their churn by 20% simply by increasing the volume of emails from three to five times per week.
- A 2023 benchmarking report of (mainly US-based) membership organisations also shows that for renewals and retention, effective organisations email their members six times on average in the three-months leading up to the renewal period.
Of course, the volume of email should not just be filled with junk.
Rather, this “volume” approach to email must focus on reinforcing the value of membership.
For unions, the research shows that value is really focused on a few key areas:
- Membership is an effective way for the member to achieve their career goals and aspirations.
- Perceptions of effectiveness and value changes for workers depending on what career stage they’re in.
- Communicating or reinforcing that union membership is the best way to ensure workers get support when they need it, better pay and working conditions, and improve laws that benefit everyone.
How can unions practically use this growth hack? Am I really suggesting unions send 3-5 emails per week to their members?
For new members, I strongly suggest that you over-communicate. Not just via email (but definitely via email). This would mean looking at how many emails you currently send new members in their first six months — my guess is that most unions under-communicate.
For new members in particular it is important for you to get the new member to experience the value and benefits of membership as soon as possible.
This means explaining in various ways the different benefits your union offers. Remember the “Rule of Five” — you’ll need to explain the benefits at least five times before it sinks in.
Let’s say your union provides career professional development. You could send an email every week that says something like “60% of new members sign up for this training course… Click here to sign up as well”.
If your union provides some kind of insurance, you could send an email each month (or each week or each quarter) showing how much the new member has saved compared to if they’d bought the insurance separately. (With cost of living a major issue in 2023 — and beyond — reinforcing how union membership reduces cost of living is also a plus!)
For longer-term members, you could send an email each month (or quarter) that highlights the top wins that the union has won for members, with a message from the Secretary saying that their membership has helped win those achievements.
Longer term members are also likely to be in their mid or late careers. Email content could focus on the key drivers of value, such as their rights related to parental leave, equal pay, work-life balance and upskilling (mid-career), or protection, job security and health and well-being (late-career).
These emails to new and long-term membership should be in addition to the emails you’d normally send about campaigns, events and so on.
Am I suggesting a blanket, unsegmented approach? Of course, not. Your email content must aim to be relevant to the recipient.
And of course, the volume of email must also recognise your union’s own internal resourcing limitations. Not every union branch will have the capacity to write loads of emails.
The bottom line is that email works. It is simply one of the most effective communications channel.
Despite the notion that inboxes are full and people are sick of getting emailed, behaviour from members and subscribers on aggregate, is the opposite.
More emails equals more members. More emails equals more retained members.