We're all looking for new ways to grow membership. How do we reach the right people and get them to join? And once they join, how to we get them to stay? So much effort goes into crafting the perfect campaign, the perfect message, making the best argument that will tip a potential member over the line to join.
These things are all important. The better our message and the better the context, the more likely a person is to join, and the more likely we are to grow.
As CEO of the Union Innovation Hub, I’ve helped many union executives strategize their membership growth. There are so many incredible opportunities to drive growth by deploying the use of new tools and techniques, like marketing automation. Marketing automation allows us to enhance our efforts and enables us to do more with the same resources.
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation allows us to target each member and non-member with the best message for them, at the right time. And what’s more, it allows us to do this automatically.
Marketing automation has the potential to change how we grow membership in a way we have never seen before.
Examples of Marketing Automation
What if as soon as a member joins, our system welcomed them and forwards them information and recommended actions to ensure they get the most out of membership? They could be encouraged to log on to their membership portal, use a service or participate in a relevant event or activity.
What if every time we receive the contact details of a non-member, our systems began automatically trying to recruit them? And what if the recruitment message and process was tailored, with different content based on job, region, or age group?
What if every time a member resigns or leaves their membership, our system automatically began the process of winning them back? Again, messaging and content would be tailored, and we could focus on the things that are new, and the things that have changed since they left.
What if every time our system spotted an unengaged member, it automatically tried to engage with them and get them involved with their organization?
Benefits of Marketing Automation
These days we know when a member logs onto our website, and when they attend an event or participate in an online activity. We also know that a member who doesn’t do one of these things is more likely to leave. The challenge is that we often don’t have the time or resources to act when a member disengages.
Marketing automation enables us to do the little things well, every single time. It allows us to build journeys and processes that launch into action the moment our systems spot a member or non-member in need. It allows us to treat members personally and allows us to address risks proactively, taking advantage of every single opportunity that falls our way.
And when these processes occur thousands of times a year, with every single prospect, every at-risk member, every unengaged member, and every past member, the results are guaranteed to follow. Engagement will increase and retention will improve. Recruitment will increase, resignations will decrease, and membership will grow! And once the content is written it can be automated- so results keep on being delivered.
Below are six ways marketing automation can foster membership growth for any member-centric organization.
6 Ways Marketing Automation Can Grow Your Membership
1. Dependable Recruitment
We all have lists of non-members or can generate them. Whenever someone attends an event, signs up for your blog, fills out a survey, or accesses your website, you can collect an email address. We can predict what potential members want and provide them with the information in return for a name and email. Emails are low touch, and easy to get.
Conversion or recruitment campaigns use marketing automation to turn emails into actual fee-paying members. These campaigns can target specific events, times of the year, new service launches, activities, or general membership offerings. And they can be short-term, long-term, or always on, constantly running in the background and working to build your membership.
One of the keys to effective automated recruitment campaigns is that we need to remember we are marketing membership. We don’t need to have a long-winded conversation – but instead, we need to be concise. We don’t have to win them over on the first email. But by staying concise and keeping our message simple, we can drive higher open rates, higher click rates, and ultimately higher join rates over a series of email outreach. And importantly, every single email asks them to join.
Remember, this process allows us to reach more people than ever. We can get more emails and place our join message in front of more people, in more different ways, on more occasions. Every single step results in more joins, and more members.
2. Win Back Past Members
Past members are very different from other non-members. They were once members, and they know who we are. They know what we're about, and at some point, they believed that membership was worthwhile.
Past members represent a massive opportunity. Typically, we already have their contact details, and we know that our interests align. We also know we are on their radar in some sense. Win-back campaigns are about bringing these past members back into the fold and encouraging them to give us another shot.
Win-back campaigns can be run periodically or can be always on, targeting past members and encouraging them to re-join. Always-on campaigns ensure that every single past member receives regular contact at intervals and gives us the best chance of bringing a member back. We can also target former members when we launch new member offerings or activities. Past members can also be incorporated into wider membership drives, but our knowledge of this segment allows us to be more tailored in our messaging. Rather than a generic “Join” message, we can run a “There’s never been a better time to renew” message.
Whatever form your win-back campaign takes, marketing automation ensures that you never miss an opportunity, and that you make the best case possible to win them back.
3. Drive Member Value
Everything a member does tells us something about them. Every time they use a service, visit the website or participate in an event or activity, they tell us who they are and what's interesting or important to them at a particular time.
Automated next-best-action marketing campaigns utilize this data by contacting members about offerings that are most likely to be interesting to them, based on their previous interactions. For example, when a member completes a survey on an important issue, you can automatically ask them to participate in a meeting related to that issue.
The crucial part of this process is automation. There is no way that we can respond to every member interaction if we are doing it manually. Automation allows us to map activities, designing a pathway from one engagement to a second and a third. Engaged members who regularly gain value from their membership do not resign. They stay members. And if more members choose to stay, our organization grows.
4. Identify At-Risk Members
There are times and occasions when we know we might lose a member. These may be different for every organization, but chances are each knows when their key risk periods fall. It may be during your invoicing period, maybe when you increase your fees annually, or in the first year of membership. Or maybe it's specific to a member, like when they are approaching retirement. Seeing which groups of members have a lower-than-average retention rate is a good start.
Retention campaigns use your data to identify when a member is at risk and automatically trigger targeted retention emails, encouraging the member to stay on board. These emails can be targeted to a demographic segment or member category. While some of this could be achieved manually, opportunities to retain a member will slip through the cracks without automation.
The strength of automation comes from its consistency. If we contact one at-risk member, we may or may not retain them. Instead, if we contact every single member at risk, we will certainly retain more than we would without automation. When looking for growth, it's tempting to look only at recruitment. But addressing at-risk members is one of the most important avenues to growth. By identifying our at-risk groups, we can understand where our losses are going to come from, and we can create processes that are consistently and automatically working to retain them.
5. Personalize Engagement
A member who is truly engaged with their organization will stay a member. People don’t stop renewing memberships when they are using it. This poses the question – how do we engage members?
Marketing automation journeys are an excellent way to achieve better engagement across your membership. These journeys draw on your data to identify unengaged members, target them with personalized email and content that will capture their interest and lift engagement. By utilizing engagement campaigns, you are constantly lifting involvement, turning the unengaged into the engaged, and turning reasonably engaged members into contributors or leaders. This is also important for participation in campaigns.
Automated engagement journeys will be a big part of the future for membership organizations. Increasingly we are understanding that members act and behave like consumers. They don’t like paying for things if they don’t feel like they’re getting value. And while we understand the ever-present and ongoing value that unions and associations provide, an unengaged member can easily forget. Engagement can include participation in activities with other members, such as campaigns.
Traditional models of engagement are unlikely to be able to address all unengaged members. Our staff simply cannot reach that many people at once. Automation is integral to this process, as our systems allow us to spot every unengaged member, and marketing automation lets us contact every single one of them in a targeted manner.
6. Re-engage with Remarketing
When someone shows interest in membership, we need to make sure we follow up. However, with the constant rush of work and deadlines that we all face, not every opportunity can be chased.
Remarketing campaigns target contacts who have been to your website or filled in a portion of your join form but failed to finish. We know these people are interested. They were interested enough to start joining. They're considering your organization. We need to close the deal. Remarketing is important. It’s particularly important because we know that the potential member is almost there. Any effort and investment that we put into recruiting these people will be much more likely to succeed than general recruitment campaigns, and it’s crucial that every one of these potential members is reached.
Remarketing campaigns use targeted language to this specific audience, aiming to tip them over the edge to membership. And automation is the best way to achieve this. We can map out the process effectively, with a message tailored to recruit people who are close. By automating the process, we again ensure consistency, we will recruit more members, and we will grow.
Sustainable Membership Growth
By taking over tedious tasks, marketing automation allows membership organizations to utilize the data that they already have to best target each member and non-member with personalized, relevant, and timely messages. Adopting an automation mindset will help you do more and deliver better results, year in and year out.
The Union Innovation Hub helps unions achieve growth, efficiency and impact by fast tracking progress and reducing the cost of digital and other innovation. With over 30 unions clients in Australia and New Zealand, we've guided digital transformation strategies from inception to evolution by utilizing the power of the iMIS engagement management system.
Contact us today to see how the Union Innovation Hub can modernize the way your staff, organizers and members work together.
This article was originally published by the Union Innovation Hub as part of their Hub Accelerator Series, Growth Through Innovations. The content has been adapted with permission.