Why email continues to deliver for membership organisations

Email has fast become the darling of Covid communications as membership organisations have found that its combination of personalisation, automation and relatively low costs has been the perfect way to stay in touch with audiences.

Members have never needed the support of a community more than they do today. When the future is uncertain, everyone needs to feel part of something bigger, and to be supported through the hard times.

Membership organisations have the ability to bring people together, help them feel part of a like-minded group and offer valuable information and support. While this gives membership bodies an opportunity to shine, it is also a period when those that do not connect with their customers will fall by the wayside. Today’s message is simple: be relevant, be useful, offer value, or be left behind.

In recent research conducted by Think, 92% of membership organisations said that they were increasing their email content as a direct response to Covid.

This year’s Reuters Institute Digital News Report also notes a sharp increase in the production of email newsletters by both traditional print and digital media publishers. It highlights that newsletters help build habit and loyalty and are a critical weapon in reducing churn. Email service providers such as Adestra, dotdigital and Mailchimp are also reporting increased traffic, with Mailchimp reporting a 45% increase in new publisher accounts in 2019 and that sends have continued to increase during the pandemic.

At Think, during the past six months, we have launched new email strands for several clients, including the Royal Photographic Society, The Arts Society and IMarEST. The current climate has allowed organisations to test out new content designed to meet a particular need, knowing that it may only be relevant for a short period of time. This approach has produced a tremendous amount of useful customer data that can feed into the building of better content in the future.

The ability to hyper-personalise content dependent on user behaviour has also fuelled the growth of email. Where once email was a one-size-fits-all channel, it is now personalised based on multiple factors including membership type, interests, location, reading habits and preferred open time among many more. But, more than ever, creating a successful email programme requires strategy, flexibility and a curatorial approach to content.

While there has been an increase in the volume of emails sent out, depth of content has become increasingly important. Successful emails are now treated as editorial content rather than acting as a repository for marketing messages. A sophisticated approach to content creation and use is needed to make the most of email. For example, a piece of content that once would only have been seen by members can now automatically feed into acquisition and re-engagement emails.

Many membership bodies have successfully deployed tools such as pop-ups or downloadable resources designed to increase their prospect lists, and are focusing on the quality of their lists by building systems to re-engage members who have gone ‘dark’. These can include automated follow-ups at the 30- to 60-day mark or removing disengaged readers completely.

Newsletter publisher Morning Brew recently told Digiday that, if at any point after sign-up a reader hasn’t opened a newsletter for 60 days, they will receive a re-engagement email. If they don’t respond within 48 hours, the name is removed from the list. “If we acquire you as a subscriber and you stop reading, we don’t really care to keep you on our list for the sake of saying we have more subscribers. We keep open rates high, which makes deliverability better, which increases the total unique opens.”

Successful communications strategies use a range of channels in order to engage effectively with audiences. Social media is a great broadcast tool but is limited in drawing audiences towards the content provider. Magazines deliver high amounts of perceived value and offer strong engagement but are expensive and slow to produce. Email can deliver highly personalised information and is uniquely measurable and timely but can fail to deliver an emotional connection. By exploiting the advantages and minimising the drawbacks of each channel, membership organisations, brands and commercial publishers can provide value, deepen the relationship with their audience and grow their reach.

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