Tiered membership models are becoming more popular, allowing brands to set different levels of access. It allows individuals to set their own level of commitment, accessing what they need at a price they are willing to pay. We see examples of tiered membership in publishing, a traditionally analogue category that has leveraged digital technology to commercialise products and services into a tiered format. Brands like Fortune and The Economist use paywall technology to gate content, allowing for a certain number of free articles to be available for non-members then gradually increasing access based on subscription tier.
Like publishers, unions can benefit from gating their content in a tiered model by positioning their membership as flexible and needs based. The experience may look different depending on a member’s sector, role, or level - so by implementing a tiered system, union members can choose the access most appropriate to them and their specific needs.
Tiered membership strategies often employ three or four tiers and in some cases a credit system to access certain privileges or services. For example, a union may offer a three-tiered membership, like this:
Credit systems are also a great way to provide some level of access to services and benefits whilst maintaining exclusivity at each tier. This approach may help unions appeal to a broader base whilst continuing to deliver support to those most in need. Ultimately, a tiered membership must make a member feel that the greater their commitment the more access and privilege they can unlock.
Referral programmes not only support acquisition, but it also drives engagement amongst existing members. Speaking with union members, our research shows us that almost everyone started their union journey with a conversation. Word of mouth has always been the most important channel for unions, so it only seems appropriate to harness it and use a referral mechanism to support a behaviour that already exists.
Similar to how customer recommendations and testimonials in the retail sector are highly influential, younger audiences are looking for union endorsements by individuals they can trust and who already have their attention. Refer-a-friend campaigns have become ubiquitous amongst modern brands, but more examples are showing up in traditional sectors, like energy and banking. Often, brands will use incentives or rewards to encourage existing members to recruit, but for Unions, the value exchange is firmly rooted in the collective good and built into the brand promise. For unions, a referral programme is an example of an existing analogue practice that can be digitised to better support members in what they are already doing. It will not only help recruit younger members, but it will do it at a lower cost.
Unions are built on social networks, so fostering connections between members will not only drive acquisition but help disseminate key information and motivate grassroot efforts. Members who are more active are also more valuable to the union, so by using referral as a key indicator for activism, unions may be able to identify which members are budding activists or future union representatives. By segmenting members using engagement data, unions can also focus their internal comms and start having conversations with members that feel relevant, leading to more meaningful, deeper engagement.
Free trials are a great way to give newcomers the opportunity to experience union membership before they commit. We know that most prospective union members are emotionally bought in after they are recommended to join by an existing member they know and trust. However, they still want to see for themselves whether union membership is right for them before formally committing. Including a free trial as a touchpoint at the start of the member journey can help unions win their confidence and trust early on.
Free trials are also useful in capturing valuable 1P data, allowing unions to learn more about their prospective members and engage them in meaningful ways that guide or incentivise further commitment. Prospective member data also can be used to build robust profiles that help inform look-alike audiences for targeting people who have yet to consider union membership.
Most young audiences expect to be targeted in a relevant way and once they have signed up, they have the same expectation within their membership experience. Leveraging member data is one of the biggest opportunities for unions to not only deliver against these expectations, but also to improve marketing efficiency that will give them a better return over time.
The strength of a union is now not only in the size of their membership base, but also in their ability to adapt and modernise. In our digital age a brand’s credibility is closely linked to how they use technology to engage and deliver value to their customers.
Increasingly, we see common retailer marketing strategies being used by public institutions, and for unions to survive, they must look to newer membership models and adopt a modern approach to galvanise their younger, more digitally savvy audiences.