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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 6: Grit

Part 6: Grit

This is the final installment in our series 6 Ways to Help Your Association Thrive. Once you have a cause, a plan, assets, prospects, and engagement, you’re ready for Part 6: Grit.

Why your Association Needs More Grit (And How to Get it)

It turns out, the one thing that separates truly successful people from the rest of the pack isn’t money or intelligence or access to resources. It’s grit, says the Harvard Business Review. A culture of grit at your association could be the difference-maker that helps you reach your goals for membership, engagement and non-dues revenue.

What is grit?

Grit is passion to throw yourself behind a cause you believe in and the perseverance to see it through no matter the obstacles. Employees with grit roll up their sleeves, put in extra hours, and refuse to give up even when things get hard. They tirelessly pursue new ideas and explore possibilities that will improve your association and make your members’ lives better.


Why does your association need grit?

Your budget, time, and resources are limited, but grit is not. A gritty association can accomplish more than a lackluster or disinterested one regardless of available resources. Grit helps you get more out of what you’re already doing—your cause, marketing efforts, prospecting, and engagement. It makes your association more effective at fulfilling your mission, more appealing to members, and more sustainable in the long run.


Need more grit?

You can create a culture of grit to become a more successful organization by fueling passion and perseverance within your team. If your association already shows a good amount of grit, you can build on that to generate even greater outcomes.

To fuel passion, take a step back and reconnect with the “why” behind your organization. What is your purpose for existing? Why was your association created? Make sure your team understands the greater purpose behind what you’re doing. Next, check in with individuals to determine if they have what they need to be successful. Empowered employees who feel valued are more likely to show grit, voice their ideas, and go the extra mile.

When it comes to improving perseverance, simply stay the course. Don’t give up when a few marketing campaigns perform poorly. Learn from the past and make adjustments to improve in the future. It could take months or even years to get real results. While that might sound daunting, consider the lifetime value of an engaged member. How much will they pay in dues over 10 or 20 years? How many events will they attend? How many other members might they recruit? Be in for the long haul and reap the rewards.


CASE STUDY: Association of Corporate Council

Our client the Association of Corporate Counsel wanted to increase membership around the globe. However, their prospect list was out of date and not converting well. To increase the prospect pool, we used ACC’s existing brand resources—reports, surveys, and infographics—along with lead generation forms on social media. At first, the results were not especially impressive. However, we made some changes based on performance analytics, and we stuck to the plan. It paid off. Over 18 months, we generated 2,000 prospects and 1,100 new members.


Got grit?

When your association shows internal grit, your members will take notice. Because of your passion and perseverance, they’ll be inspired to go beyond as well—to attend your events, renew their dues, purchase additional products, and do whatever they can to support your cause.

Take the assessment to find out how much grit you have. Your results will determine how much passion and perseverance you might need to ignite within your association to achieve long-term success and sustainability.

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 5: Events and Programs

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 4: Prospecting

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 3: Marketing Assets

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 5: Events and Programs

Part 5: Events and Programs

This is the fifth post in our series 6 Ways to Help Your Association Thrive. To get started, establish your cause, sketch out a marketing plan, find or create marketing assets, and build a list of high-quality prospects. Then you’re ready for Part 5: Engagement.

How to Drive Engagement with your Events and Programs

So your marketing efforts paid off and you have a list of high-quality prospects. Now what? How can you turn all that potential into actual outcomes for your association? You need to take deliberate steps to fuel engagement.

What is engagement and why do you need it?

Engagement is an emotional state that leads to a physical action. It’s when people care about your association so much that they feel compelled to attend your events and participate in your programs. But engagement is easier said than done. It’s a noisy world out there and people are busy and distracted. Your association must be so compelling and so valuable that people seek out your resources regardless of whatever else they’re dealing with.

As with prospecting, engagement doesn’t happen overnight. You must first build trust by nurturing your prospects over time with value-added content that solves their problems. An effective workflow might include a digital ad that leads to a landing page where visitors can download a piece of content. Once you capture an email address, you can follow up with an email drip campaign.

Start with free, ungated content

Giving away useful content is a powerful way to establish trust with your prospects. To drive event attendance, consider using one of these proven formats:

  • Behind-the-scenes video of your event setup
  • An interview with a past attendee
  • Case stories that show the ROI of your event
  • Photo collage of last year’s conference
  • FAQ sheet to address common inquiries
  • Article published by one of your speakers
  • Event ROI toolkit

Capture leads with gated content

Eventually you will need to capture an email address so you can follow up with a nurturing email drip campaign. Here too, you should lead with helpful content, not your event or programs. For example, you can offer a tip sheet with key takeaways from your event. At the end of the tip sheet, you can include a call to action. For example: Interested in gaining more insights like these? Attend our annual conference.


Don’t be a time suck

There is a perception across industries that trade associations take up too much time. People believe they must read lengthy content, volunteer for committees, travel, and invest time and money to get the most value from membership. And busy professionals, especially senior executives, just don’t have time for all that.

Because of this perceived burden, many will not even consider engaging with your organization. To combat this, you need to show that your association isn’t a time suck. In fact, you must prove that you can save people time through your resources, connections, events, and other opportunities.


Keep it short and sweet

The first step in saving people time is to keep your communications brief. Here are a few strategies to get you started:
  • Craft emails with two or three yes-or-no questions and a clear call to action button.
  • Create infographics with few words and lots of visuals.
  • Summarize report findings with concise bullet points.
  • Write whitepapers and articles with clear subheadings to help readers skim for key details.
  • Consider checklists and tip sheets instead of lengthier content.
  • Keep videos to 30 seconds or less.

Case Study: Plant tour promotion

Our client, the Manufacturing Leadership Council, offers exclusive plant tours as a member benefit. When traditional emails to promote the tours didn’t perform as well as expected, we switched our strategy. Instead of making a hard sell to sign up for a tour, we offered a useful download on how to improve company culture, which was one of the themes of an upcoming tour. The idea was that once the user downloaded the content, they would see firsthand the value of a plant tour and be inspired to sign up. As a result, the Council’s plant tour emails had the highest open and clickthrough rates of any campaign sent to members this year.


Ready to turn your prospect list into engaged event attendees and program participants? Download this free engagement workflow to get started. It will show you how to get attention, nurture your prospects, and generate actions using digital ads, landing pages, content, and emails.

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 4: Prospecting

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 3: Marketing Assets

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 2: The Plan

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 4: Prospecting

Part 4: Prospecting

This is the fourth post in our series 6 Ways to Help Your Association Thrive. Before launching your prospecting campaigns, first establish your cause, sketch out a marketing plan, and find or create marketing assets. Then you’re ready for Part 4: Prospecting.

8 Best Practices to Find More Association Members

It’s time to find your people and move them to act.

Prospecting is the process of building an audience and nurturing them toward taking an action, such as attending your events, joining your association, or purchasing products. While it takes time to raise awareness and build trust with your base, good prospecting pays off. Follow these eight best practices to get a list of high-quality leads who are ready and eager to engage with your organization.


1. Establish goals.

Before you begin prospecting, determine realistic goals based on your budget and available resources. Keep in mind that it takes time to build a high-quality prospect list—maybe years. Prospecting also requires follow-up, so consider your available personnel when setting goals.


2. Determine your most likely prospects.

Prospects can include known or unknown audience segments. Your known audience might be lapsed members, nonmember event attendees, or people who purchased your products. Chances are they’re already somewhat familiar with your organization, so these could be warm leads that are easier to convert.

Your unknown audience is totally new. You won’t know much about them, and you can’t assume they know about you. Digital marketing tools can help narrow audience criteria, for example by job title, SIC or NAICS code, company revenue, and/or specific zip codes. Targeting an unknown audience might take more time and effort, but it’s a great way to get fresh blood into your organization.


3. Stay focused.

You don’t need to run digital ads on five social media platforms at once. Greater reach isn’t necessarily better. Try to narrow your audience to begin with to make the most of available resources. Two or three audience segments can help you target your efforts, but more can become too complex to manage. Help your audience stay focused by promoting only one thing at a time.


4. Use a proven workflow.

Prospecting is rarely a one-and-done endeavor. Here’s an example of a proven workflow to reach people over time: First, launch a social ad with an offer, such as a free whitepaper. When users click to claim the offer, send them to a landing page (never your homepage or a generic webpage). On the landing page, you can give away the content for free or in exchange for an email address. Once you capture the email address, follow up with an email drip campaign to nurture your leads.


5. Match the marketing asset to the customer journey.

Assume that unknown users have never heard of your organization before. Articles, toolkits, and e-books are good choices for this group. For those further along on the customer journey, member stories, infographics on member benefits, or an ROI calculator will move them toward a decision.


6. Fish where the fish are.

Choose a platform based on where your audience is likely to spend time. For example, Facebook is the most popular social media platform overall in terms of sheer numbers. However, younger demographics tend to prefer Snapchat and Instagram. LinkedIn has comparatively fewer users but offers purely professional interactions that could be more likely to achieve your desired outcomes.


7. Deliver on your promises.

Make sure your sales team is aware of your prospecting efforts and prepared to follow up and field questions. If you promise a free trial, consultation, or other giveaway, give people what they asked for. If you’re seeing low engagement or a high number of unsubscribes, this could mean people aren’t getting the value they had hoped for.


8. Stay nimble.

Not every great marketing promotion yields great results. Track performance and be prepared to make changes based on your audience’s actual behaviors.

Don’t wait for membership to fall off before you start prospecting. Continuous prospecting can ensure the sustainability of your organization while fueling engagement and non-dues revenue. To get started, download the sample prospecting workflow below.

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 3: Marketing Assets

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 2: The Plan

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