3-Pronged Approach to Association Marketing

When I interviewed for my first job out of college, I had a strong resume and a few good references. But so did many other candidates. During the conversation, the interviewer and I discovered we were from the same small town. We spent the rest of the hour sharing stories about growing up there. The next day, he called to say I got the job.

I believe my success was due to three factors. I had a professional resume and a reference list of other humans willing to vouch for me. But what sealed the deal was my personal connection with the interviewer.

The same professional, human, and personal touches that got me my job can help your organization achieve your goals too. Apply this three-pronged approach to your marketing to get attention, engage your audience, and generate outcomes.

Prong 1: Professionalize

Professional marketing content includes whitepapers, surveys, reports, industry publications, and webinars. These pieces focus on facts and information. They contribute to your credibility while educating and assisting your target audience.

Professional content is a great tool for prospecting. For example, one of our clients, the Association of Corporate Council, has a collection of high-quality surveys and benchmarking reports. We use these pieces as lead magnets for ACC’s social media ad campaigns. Users can download the reports once they provide an email address. Our efforts so far have increased ACC’s prospect pool by 600 email addresses, gained 400 new members, and grown award nominations by 66%.

While this professional content has been an effective marketing tool for ACC, neuroscience tells us not to stop there. Aside from professional, logical information, people need an emotional reason to engage with your brand. For this, you’ll need stories.

Prong 2: Humanize

Stories humanize your brand by putting real names and faces to your association. They take your organization beyond facts and figures to show actual member benefits and ROI.

Our work with the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association is a great example of humanized marketing. To promote ASTRA’s annual conference, Marketplace & Academy, we crafted attendee stories and promoted them through digital marketing, email automation, landing pages, and other collateral materials. The result was a 23% boost in attendance each year for three years.

Professional, human marketing is effective. But if you want to go for the gold, you’ll need to personalize your efforts for each individual you’re trying to engage.

Prong 3: Personalize

Personalized marketing goes beyond “Dear <>” variable data and includes tailoring your messaging and offers based on what you know about your audience.

One way to achieve personalization is to create several defined communication strategies, called workflows, with if/then statements. Once you set workflows in motion, your audience behaviors trigger next steps. For example, if a user enters their email address to download your whitepaper, the action will trigger a series of follow-up emails with related content and offers.

In addition to the workflows we used to promote ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy, we added further personalization by creating a quiz-style assessment called “What Kind of Specialty Toy Are You?” After each user answered a series of multiple-choice questions, they received a toy-themed personality profile based on their answers. The assessment encouraged interaction with ASTRA’s brand and reassured interested prospects that they had found a group of like-minded peers.

How to use all 3 prongs

Lots of associations offer plenty of professional, logical reasons why people should join their organization. Their communications are filled with facts and figures about member benefits. But if they don’t take steps to humanize and personalize their marketing, they could be missing out on new members, event attendees, and non-dues revenues. Much like my job prospects, you can’t reach your full potential without a human touch and a personal, emotionally engaging connection to your audience.

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3 Essential Elements of Effective Marketing


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Does your campaign include all 3 essential elements to engage your audience?

Marketing Essentials Self-Checklist

Marketing Self-Checklist

When I got my first manual camera, all my pictures came out blurry or dark. It took me a while to learn the balance between the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. These three elements come together in different ratios to create a nice picture. Now when I shoot, I change the ratios depending on how I want to portray my subject. Similarly, Aristotle tells us we need three components for a successful campaign: ethos, logos, and pathos. Much like in my photographs, you can use these three elements in different ratios to achieve a desired outcome.

When to use more ethos

Ethos speaks to the character and credibility of your message. Prospecting, for example, often requires a heavy dose of ethos to build trust with people who are unfamiliar with your organization. Prospects want to know how long you’ve been in business, how many members you have, and the breadth of your offerings.

When to use more logos

Logos includes facts and information to help your audience make a decision. Launching a new product or promoting a high-priced event often requires a lot of logos. For example, your event participants want to know ROI of attending vs the cost of registration and travel. People purchasing your products want to know features, costs, and benefits.

When to use more pathos

Pathos is the emotional appeal of your campaign. It gives people a reason to care. No matter what you’re promoting, your campaign must have pathos. An emotional appeal is an obvious choice for fundraising campaigns, but it’s also important for things like member acquisition. Consider that you’re giving people a place to belong, to collaborate, and to improve their businesses and their lives.

Case Study: National Alliance on Mental Illness

The National Alliance on Mental Illness asked us to help promote a new website for their Cure Stigma program. They wanted to raise awareness about their cause by generating 10,000 unique webpage views. We created Facebook ads using single images and PSA videos featuring NAMI ambassadors.

Ethos: NAMI is a nationally known organization with a long history and a good reputation. The NAMI name established the campaign’s ethos. We aligned the look and feel of the ads with the rest of the NAMI brand.

Logos: The PSA videos contained hard facts, such as that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. are affected by mental illness. The call to action was to take a quiz to determine whether users have stigma about mental illness.

Pathos: The images and videos provided a human touch to engage prospects emotionally. The dialogue was lighthearted and humorous.

This campaign is a great example of how to use a mix of ethos, logos, and pathos to raise awareness, engage prospects, and incite action. If even one element was missing, the campaign would not have been as successful. The result: We surpassed NAMI’s goal by attracting 13,600 unique webpage views in just one month.

Marketing Essentials Self-checklist

Use the checklist below to gauge whether your campaigns contain sufficient amounts of ethos, logos, and pathos to reach your audience and compel them to take action. You should be able to answer “yes” to at least one question in each section, more depending on your campaign and goals.

  • Is the campaign’s look and feel aligned with the rest of your branding?
  • Is the information in your message reasonable, true, and accurate?
  • Does it contain verifiable information or testimonials?
  • Do you mention a keynote speaker or other expert affiliated with your organization?
  • If prospecting to an unknown audience, do you provide enough details to start building trust? (ex: years in business, number of members, breadth of your offerings)
  • Can you deliver on your promises?

  • Does your campaign include important dates, costs, facts, and figures?
  • Do you provide details on your event’s schedule or your product’s features?
  • Do you explain how to use your product or service?
  • Do you show return on investment for your events or products?
  • Is it clear how your audience can take action to claim your offer?

  • Is your message written in an approachable, human tone with words a lay person would understand?
  • Does your message contain emotional words? (ex: vivid descriptions, sounds, or colors)
  • Does your message prove you understand and empathize with your audience pain points?
  • Does it include a story?
  • Does it excite your audience or tug at the heart strings?
  • Does it inspire possibilities?
  • Does it get people fired up so they want to take action?

Did you answer “yes” to at least one question in each section? If not, consider how you can fill in any gaps to build trust with your audience, appeal to their logical side, and engage them emotionally. You’ll need all three elements to create a compelling picture of your organization, product, or cause.

Share this post in LinkedIn:



3 Essential Elements of Effective Marketing


6 Steps to Content-Based Lead Generation


3-Pronged Approach to Association Marketing