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Small Companies
If you’re like most associations, your member recruitment strategy probably goes something like this:
  1. Work very hard to get the largest companies in your industry to join, because their dues are the highest.
  2. Work even harder to get the medium-sized companies in your industry to join, because they are your reliable base.
  3. Let the small companies just find you, because the combination of lesser dues + resources needed to serve them doesn’t always feel worth it.

We understand this approach. We also know that associations must do a delicate juggling act. You need to make your payroll to stay viable, but you’re also nonprofit, charged with representing the industry.

In other words, you’re supposed to be doing it all, but your staff lacks the time and resources. So, you adopt a triage mentality, and focus your efforts on what seems like it will produce the greatest rewards.

But what if we told you there was an easily available opportunity that didn’t make your life harder and wouldn’t add more work? One that would allow you to better represent your industry AND grab a boatload of dues-paying members?

The answer is behind door number three, where the small companies are hanging out.

We’re going to show you exactly WHY you should grab them and HOW to make it worth your while.

Why Your Association Should Actively Recruit Smalls

One of our clients is a large association in the human resources industry, with about 36,000 members, and an 88% retention rate. After some discussions about their membership goals, we helped them create a campaign that would specifically target smaller businesses in the industry.

They got more than 50 new members in a matter of two months.

Here’s what the Senior Vice President and Chief Membership Officer of the association told us the other day during our weekly check-in.

“Right now, we have so many applications coming in from new members that we can’t even process them all. And we are on course to set an all-time revenue high.”

There are so many things that are great about this. First, they have an influx of new people. New people bring new blood and new opportunities. Because the CEO of that $4 million company you just recruited might be the decision maker at a $25 million company in a few years.

You never know the energy and possibility that can come with ANY new member—and that includes one that is 10 times smaller than the largest organization on your roster.

Plus, when you have a rich blend of large, medium, AND small organizations in the mix, you’re much better able to uphold your mission of representing ALL voices in the industry.

And then there’s the most obvious thing: Smaller organizations are low-hanging fruit. No-brainer revenue. The benefits of belonging to your association far outweigh the dues for most of these smalls. You just need to take the time to articulate the right message to them.

How to Handle Smalls? Automate!

We know what you’re thinking: This all sounds good, but it takes effort to recruit smalls. And if we don’t put in the effort to retain them, they’ll leave after the first year and blow our retention rate.

We hear you, and you’re right. That is a challenge. Fortunately, there’s a great answer: Automation!

You know how we helped our HR industry association client get those 50 new members? We ran multiple digital campaigns for them throughout the year. That’s it. No heavy lifting required.

We helped them craft a targeted message. It required a modest initial investment, and then it ran itself—and it continues to run itself.

That same automation can work for onboarding and retention workflow. You probably can’t afford to hire a member representative who is solely dedicated to the smalls. But you can use modern technology to streamline the process.

Targeting small organizations allows you to grow your association, thoroughly represent the industry, and plant seeds for future growth.

We understand the challenges. But we truly believe this is one of the least-accessed, BEST opportunities right now for associations.

We’d be happy to bounce ideas around with you, and help you envision what a targeted campaign to the smalls would look like.

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Recession or Not, Your Association Must Do These 7 Things Now

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Do You Know Your Prospects’ Biggest Fear? It’s Not What You Think.

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Content Marketing Must Die. And Be Reborn as People Marketing.

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Recession is an economic concept, but it’s so much a part of the popular imagination that it’s also become a behavioral one. Even the word “recession” gives people a fright.

The experts may be debating whether we are officially in a recession, but people are already thinking differently about their money and how to spend it.

This applies to associations as much as it applies to consumer spending. Because the same people who buy consumer goods also make decisions about whether to renew their company’s membership, send employees to events, and invest in training or other professional development tools.

Whether your answer to the recession question is yes, no, or maybe so doesn’t actually matter. What matters is that your association is ready to respond to people’s behavior over the coming year.

We have 7 ideas for how you can adjust and prepare for another tumultuous season.

1. Find your sense of urgency.

Many associations don’t spend time thinking seriously about the fall . . . until the fall. Yes, summer is busy, and kids are most likely not even back to school yet. We know August can be a hot and lazy month. But what if you DID start now, instead of waiting until the fall? Get out ahead of a potential economic downturn by planning your entire marketing strategy around it, instead of waiting to see what happens.

2. Use data to flag your risks.

What story is your data telling you? Are you letting it guide your efforts? For example, people often sign up for membership just to get a discount for the annual conference. But then they don’t use any of the other membership benefits. So when the budget tightens, whether because of a real or perceived economic decline, what do you think is the first to go? That membership they barely used. Identify these members at risk of dropping off, flag them in your list, and market to them specifically.

3. Prepare to compete with an election for attention.

Between now and November 8, people will be inundated with nonstop messages from political campaigns. Emails, social media posts, videos, ads, texts, phone calls: Every channel will be jammed with political messaging. How will your messages stand out? You’ll never beat politics when it comes to sheer number of communications. How will you reach prospects and members in a meaningful way?

4. Think like a prospect.

We preach this in just about every newsletter. You need to think like a prospect. The marketing techniques that drive you crazy as a consumer? Don’t do those things in your own marketing! The endless email drip campaigns. The hard sell. The blanket messages that aren’t targeted to your behavior. You can’t stand these things, and neither can prospects!

5. Figure out how to offer a “sample” of your event.

We’ve been trained by retail and entertainment giants that anything worth our time comes with a preview, whether it’s a movie trailer, book or music sample, or list of reviews. Everything worth something now offers a meaningful window into the experience or a way to test before buying. Associations must begin offering the equivalent of the movie trailer. Otherwise, prospects fear you are wasting their time.

6. Keep communication jargon-free.

Lofty language that uses a lot of words winds up saying very little. Too many associations forego clarity in their quest to sound credible and worthy. But all those staid, insider phrases just come off like clutter. Instead, write like a human, talking to humans. Use clear, short, actionable sentences. Always check your reading level, and aim for no higher than Grade 8 (Flesch-Kincaid rates this newsletter as Grade 7, in case you’re wondering).

7. Train your resilience.

Resiliency is an interesting thing. It’s a mighty force that carries people and organizations through the ups and downs. But it’s not a given. You must cultivate it. What are you building right now that will last? What are you doing right now that will enable you to bounce back when the rebound happens? If someone asked you what makes your association resilient, would you be able to answer?

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Do You Know Your Prospects’ Biggest Fear? It’s Not What You Think.

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Content Marketing Must Die. And Be Reborn as People Marketing.

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There’s a new fear in town. To be clear, our lives are already full of fear, thanks to two tumultuous years and a lingering feeling that the other shoe is about to drop.

But the generalized fear that comes with being a person in 2022 isn’t actually what we’re talking about.

We’re talking about what your members and prospects are truly scared of when they see your marketing email, early bird offer, or social media post.

They’re afraid that you’re wasting their time. Squandering their attention. Making promises you can’t keep.

If we’ve learned anything the past few years, it’s that we don’t have to allow people trifling with our time. Plundering our calendars. Taking our attention for granted. We don’t have to put up with awkward social interactions or obligatory events. We barely even have to leave our homes and offices.

All we have to do is sit, click, and Zoom. And even then, we can probably multi-task and knock something else off our to-do list.


How Did Time Get to Be Like This?

Think about it: Do you even answer phone calls from numbers or names you don’t recognize?
Our outlook has become, “If I don’t know you or have a reason to trust you, I assume you are wasting my time.”

What has happened to cause the erosion of trust, and the fear that others are wasting our time?

The simple answer is that our behavior over the past 2 years has conditioned us to regard business-related events that require real-life interaction with suspicion. Or if not suspicion, second-guessing.

This is because we have learned to accomplish so many tasks virtually. “Alone but together” has become our default. Plus, we’re busy. There’s normal busy, and then there’s, “You need to do the job of three people” busy. Many people are stuck in the latter. Time away from the office is a luxury they can’t afford.

There is a more complex answer, too. And it’s that technology, media, and retail have trained us that anything worth our time (or money) comes with a preview, a list of reviews, or a “cancel at any time” option.

Want to start watching a new series on Netflix or Hulu? Watch a preview before you commit to even 30 minutes!

Want to listen to an audiobook? Listen to a 4-minute sample first, to make sure the narrator’s voice doesn’t annoy you!

Want to order a new air fryer, pair of pajamas, or phone case? Read reviews so you don’t set yourself up for disappointment!

Everything worth something now offers a meaningful window into the experience or a way to test it out.

Everything, that is, except the products that most associations market.


How to Combat the Fear of Wasted Time

A decade ago, or perhaps even a few years ago, your organization could count on the benefit of the doubt.

Now you have to hustle in the marketplace, competing with, well . . . just about everyone and everything.

That means you’ve got to figure out how to tell the story of your event in a way that allows prospects to get a meaningful glimpse. In other words, you need to think about how to offer the equivalent of reading the book sample or watching the movie trailer.

Posting an agenda online doesn’t count. A couple of testimonials won’t cut it either. The same-old highlights reel isn’t enough.

How will you reach a jaded, exhausted, and skeptical population? How will you connect? How will you build trust, so that prospects know you value their time enough to offer them the same kind of ability to sample the experience?

We’ve seen the marketing that most associations are currently putting into the world, and we can tell you: 99% of it is missing this element.

How will you be different? How will you provide that missing piece?


Rottman Creative can help with your marketing. You just have to trust us. We get stellar results for associations who are willing to think and behave differently. Give us a call and let’s start a project together now!

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. . . . Or not.

See what we did there? We assumed the benefit of the doubt. It’s annoying, right? Why would you trust us? You don’t even know us.

But if you’d like to get to know us, check out this free eBook New Tech Won’t Save Your Crappy Marketing. We are also working on another free eBook called 4 Pillars of Event Marketing to Fuel Attendance and Engagement, which is a lot of fun and will be out soon!

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Content Marketing Must Die. And Be Reborn as People Marketing.

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How Not to Get Prospects to Your Association’s Event

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We’re starting to think that “content marketing” is dead. Or rather, it needs to die.

Why? Because too many associations have the wrong idea about how to use content to connect with new prospects. It occurs to us that the term itself might be the problem.

To be clear, content marketing is about creating and sharing pieces of compelling content that help establish your brand as helpful. This piece you’re reading is content marketing. So we’re clearly on board with the idea.

The problem is that, for many associations who do content marketing, the emphasis is usually on the content itself, not the person on the receiving end.

Content Overload is Not a Relationship-Building Strategy

How do we know associations are emphasizing content over people? Because when we dig into the practices and journey maps our clients create, we see very little attention paid to the fact that most people don’t want to be overwhelmed with content in their email inbox.

It’s all, Look at our content! Give us your email and we will send you so much content! Then we’ll ask what you think about our content! Then we’ll slice and dice and show you the same piece of content 7 different ways!

When it really should be, Hey, nice to meet you. You probably don’t want all this junk in your inbox, because you’re a person, not a robot. Let’s start a conversation that respects your time.

Consider how many people open their email each day, use the “shift” key to highlight a pack of emails, and delete them wholesale.

It’s what we do. So does your boss, your best friend from college, and the guy who sold you your mattress.

And you know who else does? All those prospects you forgot were people, who get irritated at the very same things you get irritated at.

Your content marketing is overloading people, instead of learning about them and meeting them on their terms.

What you need instead is people marketing.

Two Principals for People Marketing

People marketing is about making information more accessible and reducing the level of annoyance prospects feel. It offers content without overwhelm. It asks: What irritates you? And then it avoids that.

People marketing is based on the idea that you should always think like a prospect.

We’ve got two principals to help you understand people marketing. The first one is an old-school, universal truth and the second is based in behavioral science.

#1 Market to others how you want to be marketed to.

We all know the golden rule of treating others how you want to be treated. It’s elegant and beautifully simple. But when it comes to marketing, hardly anyone does it.

Ask yourself, what builds trust for you? What makes you engage instead of deleting, lean in instead of running away? Sure, some of it is topic related (people who are interested in sports read sports content, etc.). But much of it is behavior related. If people feel like you are inundating them and wasting their time, you’re gone from their inbox.

#2 Think differently about outcomes (and happiness).

Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling Upon Happiness, has written extensively about how bad human beings are at predicting what will make us happy and how long our happiness will last.

For example, positive events, like promotions or a new house, do add to our happiness, he says. But not as much as we think, and not for very long. What makes us most genuinely happy, and happy for the long haul, are social connections with others.

His work deals with individuals, but we think the findings generalize to organizations—since organizations are run by individuals. Especially the idea that when you focus so much on desired outcomes (because you’re certain they are the key to happiness), there’s a lot you might miss.

Associations can become so preoccupied with reaching short-terms goals that they compromise the very relationships they are trying to build. They think more content and more emails will create outcomes that bring happiness for everyone. But they miss what people want: connections.

In other words, beware of trading short-view actions for long-term strategy.

What Will Your People Marketing Look Like?

This is the question your association should be asking itself. Inside of it are the questions: How can you think more like a prospect? How can you create trust among people who don’t know you? How can you focus on people more than outcomes?

Rottman Creative helps associations like yours find answers to these questions.

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How Not to Get Prospects to Your Association’s Event

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How NOT to get prospects

So your in-person event is back on. Great! Now you need attendees. Here’s a list of proven failures that will most definitely NOT attract prospects. Take these tactics off your to-do list. Then implement a few of the surefire strategies listed below to build a high-quality prospect pool and get more people in the door.

FAILURE #1

Have no value proposition or differentiator

If you’re looking to deter prospects or get ignored altogether, having no value proposition is a great start. Afterall, professionals in your space have lots of events to choose from, so they can just choose a different one. Alternately, they might be satisfied with LinkedIn or Google.

FAILURE #2

Send a drip campaign with 5+ emails

Don’t stick with a “spray and pray” e-blast approach. Sending multiple impersonal emails is a proven tactic to take potentially interested people and chase them away.

FAILURE #3

Hire a famous keynote speaker who is irrelevant to your industry

Your association promotes itself as the best place to find industry-specific resources. Don’t hire a big name celebrity as your keynote speaker who knows absolutely nothing about your industry.

FAILURE #4

Use overly complex language nobody can understand

Long paragraphs, long sentences, and long words take lots of time and brain power to decipher. If nobody can understand you, they surely won’t know why or how to register for your event.

FAILURE #5

Create busy visuals nobody can decipher

Your event branding and logo shouldn’t be difficult to read. Using a plethora of colors and fonts adds to the clutter and is guaranteed to turn people away.

FAILURE #6

Use a generic event name that is meaningless to anyone outside your association

Don’t be afraid to use your association’s acronym as your event name. Afterall, if prospects have never heDon’t use your association’s acronym as your event name. Afterall, if prospects have never heard of you before, they won’t be compelled to attend XYZ’s Annual Conference.

FAILURE #7

Wait until the last minute to create your event website

Your event’s website is a central hub that lets people get to know your association, see how they’ll Your event’s website is a central hub that lets people get to know your association, see how they’ll benefit from your event, and actually register. If you leave off the value proposition, agenda, and registration links until a few weeks before your conference you won’t reach attendance goals.

FAILURE #8

Be so exclusive nobody thinks they are allowed to come

Don’t hide the fact that your event is open to the public, including people who are not members of your association. When people don’t feel welcome, they will definitely not investigate further.


5 Ways to Actually Attract Prospects

Aside from doing the opposite of the failures mentioned above, here are five ways to up your event game and attract more prospects.

SUCCESS #1

Tell your story

Your prospect might have no idea who you are or why they should care. You have to convince them to care. You can’t do that with a few dozen impersonal emails. Tell your story quickly and make it easy to take action on it.

SUCCESS #2

Craft a unique value proposition

If you can’t articulate in just a few words why someone should attend your event, you need a new value proposition. Focus on benefits and differentiators. In one sentence, explain why you are worth someone’s money and time away from the office.

SUCCESS #3

Speak like a human

Messaging should be authentic and value based. Write everything at a 7th or 8th Grade level for easy comprehension. Be friendly and inviting. Make sure everything makes sense to someone who has never heard of your association before. 

SUCCESS #4

Be relevant

Take time to curate a truly relevant experience that addresses your audience’s current pain points. Conduct surveys and focus groups. Choose a keynote speaker who knows your industry inside and out.

SUCCESS #5

Keep it simple!

When it comes to your messaging, visuals, agenda, or anything else related to your event, go with the simplest choice. Cut the clutter. Stay on point. Promise select takeaways that matter to the segment of prospect you’re going after.

A good default strategy for event-related prospecting is to think like a prospect. Take some time to consider the types of messages and offers you prefer to receive from other businesses and organizations. Stick with those and leave the rest of the noise behind.

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The Best Way to Boost Association Marketing Results: Think Like a Prospect

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Think Like a Prospect
Raise your hand if this sounds like your association…

You need more prospects. So you offer up a nice piece of content in exchange for an email address. Congratulations, you found some interested people! Next, you fire off an automated drip campaign with three or four “canned” emails as follow up. The majority of your interested people promptly delete these emails and unsubscribe from your list. Very few engage further, and even fewer convert. Your association continues to struggle with membership numbers, and you are very tired of marketing that just doesn’t work.

But Why Doesn’t It Work?

Literally no one wants to be spammed with a bunch of emails just because they needed some information. Would you?

There’s a better way, and it starts by thinking like a prospect. If you yourself wouldn’t want a bunch of impersonal emails, irrelevant offers, or jargon-filled sales letters, your prospects won’t either. It’s time to imagine life from your prospect’s point of view so you can improve your marketing and get the results your association needs to thrive.

Here are four steps to get you started.

Quit bombing people with communications you wouldn’t want yourself.

In addition to the prospecting example above, your association might be guilty of some of these other marketing missteps:

  • You send members 20 or 30 emails about your annual event every year.
  • You continuously email 8,000-10,000 people when you only need a few hundred interested parties.
  • You send 20,000 direct mail packages and get less than 30 sign-ups.

Instead, let your people tell you what they want. Look at their online behaviors. As follow-up, create multiple workflows based on how people have engaged with your messages and offers. Personalize the customer journey as much as possible.

For example, if 50 people downloaded your content, send those 50 people a thoughtful direct mail piece. Don’t mail more than 300. Look at your list and whittle it down to the most likely prospects.

Shift how you think about your events and membership.

Thinking like a prospect means acknowledging that there’s a lot to be worried about right now. Things like war, Covid, and the economy add to the pressures of daily work. People might not have money or time to join your association or travel to your event, and they might have other concerns as well.

More importantly, they’ve figured out how to live without your event for the last two years and they’re still doing fine. Online resources have effectively taken the place of your association for many people. It’s not realistic to think that everyone will rush to your event simply because it’s once again occurring in person.

You will need to be patient as you entice people to attend or join. Given all of today’s challenges, it will take more time than you’d like to nurture your leads in a logical, thoughtful, personalized manner.

Make a dramatic change in what you say.

Speak in a conversational tone. After all, that’s what you prefer when others talk to you. Ditch abstract, overused words like “thought leadership” and “strategic connections.” Swap those for concrete terms that promise benefits. Focus on what sets you apart from competitors.

Communicate in words an eighth grader would understand. Yes, you are a professional organization with in-depth, complex information and resources. But your marketing has to be simple. It has to engage people quickly or they will hit delete and move on.

Rethink your use of marketing automation.

Marketing automation isn’t a “set it and forget it” tool. To be successful, you must set up multiple workflows based on your audience’s goals and pain points, your organization’s resources, and your users’ actual behaviors. Then you need to make adjustments as you go based on performance.

Ideally, marketing automation captures data that you can use to customize future communications and improve your numbers. It helps you reach more people with personalized messages and offers. Too often, however, associations use automation as a way to put their marketing on autopilot. At that point, it’s just more spam.

For every campaign you launch, stop and ask yourself what a member or prospect would want. Is it really another email? Or is it a phone call from a helpful human? Additional useful content? A direct mail piece? Something else?

Start Making Changes Now

Giving people individualized attention is hard to do, and there is no “golden ticket” that will instantly improve your numbers. But you have to start somewhere, and you have to start now. As the last few years have shown us, anything can happen. Better marketing now means your association will be poised to thrive no matter what the future holds.


Think like a prospect is No. 3 in our ebook, 3 Action Steps Associations Can Take to Achieve Goals. What are numbers 1 and 2? Download it and see.

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New Tech Won’t Save Your Crappy Marketing

6 best practices for associations to enhance virtual offerings

As the pandemic continues, many organizations are looking for ways to replace lost event revenue, attract and retain more members, and better serve their base from afar. New technology seems like the perfect solution, and the possibilities are endless. You could do more on social media, revamp your website, create an interactive content library, or launch a series of Zoom events. You could even add artificial intelligence or virtual reality event environments. 

But not so fast. While you have a golden opportunity to better serve your members during a time of disruption, you also have the potential to fail miserably. If your brand is a hodgepodge of messages and images, moving everything to a new platform means you will now have a high-tech hodgepodge of the same messages and images. New tech solutions only work when you have a solid foundation based on your audience’s needs and your organization’s core competencies. 

In short, new tech won’t save your crappy marketing, but these six best practices can help you enhance your virtual offerings strategically to drive revenues, engagement, and retention.


1. Examine your audience

Be specific about who you serve. Know their job titles, years in the business, pain points, demographics, level of familiarity with your subject matter, preferred communication channels, and more. Define your audience’s primary archetype—that’s their universal character type—to help you further understand your base and how best to interact with them.


2. Articulate your value proposition

Once you know who you serve, take some time to define how you serve them. Be specific with tangible benefits. This is not your mission or vision statement. It tells your audience what’s in it for them. Here are a few real-world examples:

  • American Staffing Association: Create better lives, better businesses, and a better economy.
  • Intuit: Simplify the business of life. Ladders: Move up in your career.
  • Bitly: Shorten. Share. Measure

3. Develop standard messaging

Messaging includes two parts: how you talk (voice) and what you say (message). 

  • Voice—If your brand were a person, how would that person speak? Conversational vs. academic, casual vs. formal, technical vs. accessible, funny vs. straightforward, edgy vs. conservative, etc.
  • Message—What information will you convey? Ex: Who you are, product/event descriptions, key member benefits, why join, etc.

First, define your voice. Next, develop a messaging tree with standardized language in that voice. A message tree can help unify your internal team so you can better convey your organization’s value to your audience.


4. Craft unified visuals

A solid brand has a unified look and feel. Be fresh and modern. Focus on people. Show you’re committed to diversity and inclusion. Avoid mixing cartoons with photographic images. Choose a limited number of fonts and colors. Take a minimalist approach. Your brand visuals should contribute to your credibility as an organization and reassure people that they’ve come to the right place.


5. Define your strategy

Sketch out a plan for attracting leads and nurturing them over the long term. Include key dates, your budget, formats, content, and offers. Know your goals and KPIs. Determine how you will score leads and follow up based on each score. Don’t launch a single promotion without knowing how it fits into the bigger picture.


6. Choose your tech

A wise woman once said, “Don’t doubt you can, just wonder why you want to.” There are lots of tech solutions out there with tons of features, but if your audience doesn’t need or want them you’re just wasting your time and money. A few considerations:

  • ROI—Does the solution generate measurable value (ex: increased traffic, clicks, likes, shares, lead forms completed, etc.)? Would a simpler solution generate just as much value?
  • Ease of implementation and use—Is it relatively quick to implement? Is it easy for your internal team to use? Is it quick and easy for members to take full advantage of?
  • Potential for bugs and problems—Aim for simple over complex. If your virtual reality event platform goes down the day of your event, do you have a backup plan? (This happened to one of our clients!)

You’ll notice that choosing your tech should be the LAST step. Don’t just jump on the latest high-tech trend. Solidify your value prop and branding first. Create a detailed strategy. Then make an informed decision on which solution will best help you achieve your goals.

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Dear Associations, We Need to Talk

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It’s Time to Rethink What Networking Actually Means

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It’s Time to Rethink What Networking Actually Means

Answer this question quickly, and in one word: What is the number one reason you believe people attend your event?

We would be astounded if your answer wasn’t networking.

We would be equally astounded if you agree with what we’re about to say next: Networking isn’t actually why people show up at events.

That’s right. It’s not about networking. Or at least, not about networking as you are defining it and creating messages around it.

Whether or not you agree with us about networking not being the top draw for events, it’s a bit of a moot point anyway, since we are living in the COVID-19 era, where events must be completely recast as virtual. So, if you’ve been counting on in-person networking as the draw, you have a problem.

But . . . did we mention networking was never actually the main draw? Before you insist loudly that we don’t know what we’re talking about, let us clarify something.

The anticipation of connecting with others definitely nudges members to register for events. But what really sells them and in particular attracts younger members is the notion of connecting with like-minded souls around a cause or movement.

The great news is that members can connect with one another around a common purpose without meeting in person. Is gathering in real time and space the ideal way to do it? Yes. But we’re all out of luck, because nobody of any real size can do in-person events right now. We are all starting from that same place of, Oh crap, what are we going to do?

What you are not going to be able to do is rely on your old messaging.
So, to recap before we move on:
  1. Your old messages about networking won’t work now.
  2. Your old messages about networking weren’t that great anyway, so don’t spend too much time bemoaning their fate.

If you can’t repurpose your old messaging, the only choice is to create new messaging. While we completely understand the level of stress this is causing, we are here to tell you it’s actually an amazing opportunity to be a leader and do things differently.


How will you show up for people?

Some people’s lives have been completely upended by COVID-19, devastated even. They have lost jobs, dreams, and perhaps even loved ones. In all of this tumult, people both need support and are eager to lend support to their peers.

Your members may have several places they go for professional support, but if your association isn’t the first stop, you are missing a big opportunity. While we may be starting to fatigue of messaging having to do with the coronavirus, your members still need that sense of connection to others, to know they are not in this alone.

This is the time to pull members in and ask basic things like: What do you need and how can we help? Working from a place of empathy isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. Because when the pandemic is over, people will remember who showed up for them.

That means that anything you were phoning in before, or, say, had a place on your website that performed this function but didn’t do it very well (i.e., job search, loan and grant resources, message boards, mentoring) should now be well-designed, easy to use, and highly robust.

Once you have re-established your association as a support system, not just a place to pay dues to, then you can start to ask bigger questions like: What do you care about in your work? What change do you want to make? Do you want to connect with other like-minded people and work toward that vision with us?

This may have been called networking in a previous generation, but the younger generation likens it more to joining a movement. They will be far more likely to join and to show up for you if you first show up for them.


You need a new playbook and new messaging

Traditionally, most associations come up with a few key messages around networking and simply repurpose them year after year. The same 30 percent of members show up, because they are probably going to show up no matter what.

But now, there is no more showing up in the traditional sense. Your event is no longer about a venue, a plane ticket, an app with keynote speakers and breakout presentations, and a nebulous promise of “networking opportunities.”

Your event can’t be what it was, but it also can’t simply be a series of Zoom presentations, interspersed with scavenger hunts and happy hours. We are already zoning out on Zoom. It’s not that the technology doesn’t work. But it’s not a 1:1 transfer. You can’t merely put in-person programming on a virtual platform and call it done.

You have to create a completely new playbook—a new way to do things, and new messaging that pulls people in and brings them together on a virtual platform.

So, how can you make people feel special, supported, and connected to something bigger? What can you create that reminds them of the purpose, the thing your association is collectively working toward?

Whatever was true before the pandemic about your association’s cause or purpose is still true, but what is the 2.0 version of it? Why is it more urgent, more important than ever, or more exciting than ever? Those things are where your key messages should flow from.

Purposeful gathering, rallying around a cause, making connections with others, learning and growing as a community, supporting each other’s careers and goals, and having fun together: These things are all essential right now. They don’t stop in times of crisis. They only grow more important.

As you rebuild your event and reframe the way you talk about your event, begin there.

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Member Retention Isn’t a Pricing Problem. It’s a Value Problem.

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And 4 Things to Add to Attract, Retain, and Engage Members of All Ages

4 Things to Throw Out of Your Association’s Broken Business Model

4 Things to Throw Out of Your Association’s Broken Business Model

In the past, associations thrived on in-person events, networking, education, and certifications—the more the merrier. But for years there has been a shift away from this old thinking to a modern approach where digital is king and people are less enticed by “stuff.” This shift was happening gradually until COVID-19 slammed on the accelerator. What began as a strategy to attract younger members is now essential to serving members of all ages. Your old business model is officially broken, and engagement is about to take a nosedive. It’s time to learn from your younger members so you can fix your business model, drive engagement, and thrive.

What We Know About Younger Members

  • Younger members grew up with Google and are used to instant gratification.
  • They’re careful with their money and slow to make a purchase.
  • They value community and purpose.
  • They trust people more than corporations.
  • They’re highly adaptable and can react quickly to any crisis or disruption.
  • They live online and are comfortable working and networking virtually.

A New Reality for Boomers and Millennials Alike

When COVID-19 hit, even the Boomers had to pivot and adapt. Here’s what the new reality looks like for members of all ages:
  • Google is the go-to resource (and your biggest competitor).
  • Money is an issue for everybody as the next recession looms.
  • Community means more now than ever.
  • We can get by with less stuff in our lives.
  • We don’t have to be there in person.
  • We can adapt to almost anything.
  • We can learn to use new technologies and work virtually.

Just like that, your association’s old business model centered on in-person events and endless offerings doesn’t work anymore. But the need for resources and support hasn’t changed. You have a golden opportunity to reinvent your association and serve members better than ever before.


What’s Out? What’s In?

Fixing your business model is a matter of removing clutter and adding value. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way forward.


OUT: In-person only resources
IN: Digital everything

Crisis or no crisis, your members don’t always have the time, money, or inclination to travel to your annual conference or even attend a local networking event. You need digital resources people can access quickly on their own terms. Templates, content downloads, virtual networking, job boards, webinars, and podcasts are just a few ideas. Break your event into time-conscious virtual tidbits, such as hour-long webinars, information packets, or online discussion panels.


OUT: Too much stuff
IN: Real resources that answer “What’s in it for me?”

Consider the cereal aisle at the grocery store. There are 16 different kinds of Cheerios that water down the brand and overwhelm the consumer. Your association faces a similar problem with your events, certifications, and education. Don’t be Cheerios. Focus instead on your core competencies. What do you offer that your members can’t get anywhere else? Which events deliver the biggest return for your members’ time and money? Don’t worry about revenue. Worry about delivering actual value and the revenue will take care of itself.


OUT: Sales pitches and corporate speak
IN: Meaningful, authentic human connections

The days of slick sales pitches and impersonal “professional” language are over. People are tired of being sold to, and they demand authenticity and transparency. The voice of your association should be human, conversational, and personal. Tell stories. Create online communities. Whenever possible, connect members and prospects with each other and get out of the way. Third-party endorsements are far more powerful than messaging straight from your organization.


OUT: Impersonal communications
IN: Behavior-based communications that are mindful of the customer journey

Nobody wants another impersonal eblast. Instead, use marketing automation to deliver timely, relevant content through marketing automation. Let each individual’s browsing, email, and social media behaviors dictate the next steps in your messaging.

If you can master how to attract, engage, and retain your younger members, you can do it for anyone. Start by throwing out old thinking and extraneous clutter. Then, add in a modern digital approach that delivers value through authentic human connections and a personalized customer journey.

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3 Ways Associations Can Replace Lost Event Revenue

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We Are In Crisis Mode, and It's Unclear When We Will Be Out of It.

On the other side of crisis: does your association have a plan?

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3 Ways Associations Can Replace Lost Event Revenue

If you’re feeling the financial squeeze from cancelled or postponed events, buckle up. There’s more pain ahead as a recession looms large and fears abound. You need a proactive plan to replace lost event revenue so you can ride out the storm and ensure success into the future. Here are three essential steps to take right now.

1. Attract more members

There is power in numbers. The more people you can rally to your organization, the better off you will be financially in the long term. Invest in member acquisition now to ensure you have a solid base to sustain your association.


2. Focus on being a resource

Of course you need revenue to survive as an association, but focusing solely on money right now is insensitive and tone deaf. A phased approach to revenue generation is your best bet.

Start with empathy. Be a trusted resource for members in a time of crisis. Give things away for free if you have the means. Avoid overt sales pitches. Retaining your base and building a following now can ensure long-term loyalty that will turn into revenue later.

When things start to improve, you can be more aggressive with money-making initiatives, for example:

  • Simultaneous in-person and virtual events
  • Vendor-sponsored webinars or Twitter chats
  • Advertising (especially while webinar attendance is high)
  • Gated content for lead generation
  • Paid content or resources for direct revenue streams

3. Go virtual with your event

Transition your event to the virtual space so you can continually deliver value to your base, crisis or no crisis. Use these strategies to help you make the move:

Host smaller virtual events

Instead of transferring your entire multiday event online, consider breaking it into smaller sections, like webinars, livestream keynotes, and panel discussions. Many of your members simply don’t have time for a two- or three-day event. Smaller, bite-sized resources are more feasible, especially during a crisis.

Offer on-demand resources

On-demand webinars, information packets, resource libraries, or online portals can offer the same value as your in-person events with an added advantage: Each individual can choose when and how they want to engage with your association.

Build online communities

Your event gives like-minded people a place to belong. Foster meaningful online communities to maintain that camaraderie even when they can’t be together in person. Post open-ended questions to spark discussions. Share videos that showcase member success stories. Offer free downloads that solve pain points. Host virtual happy hours.

Be a conduit for connections

Your in-person event puts all your members, vendors, and industry leaders literally in the same room. While you can’t exactly do that virtually, your association can still connect the dots to help all your constituents get what they need. Job boards, Q&A forums, hotlines, virtual networking events, online marketplaces, and member portals can help people connect directly so they can learn, share, collaborate, and achieve their goals.

Offer insider deals

For many associations, the annual event is a place for special deals and discounts. Work with vendors and industry partners to make exclusive offers to your members and virtual event attendees. Offer free or discounted association membership to retain your base and ensure they will be around to make purchases from you down the road.

Replacing lost event revenue is a matter of identifying the high-value components of your association—the pieces that serve your members best—and repackaging them for easy, convenient consumption by the people who need them most. Focus on serving members and the revenue will follow.

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We Are In Crisis Mode, and It's Unclear When We Will Be Out of It.

On the other side of crisis: does your association have a plan?

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5 Ways Associations Can Help Their Members During COVID-19

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We Are In Crisis Mode, and It's Unclear When We Will Be Out of It.

On the other side of crisis: does your association have a plan?

On the other side of crisis: does your association have a plan?

We know how diligently associations are working to adapt during this pandemic and to engage members through virtual events. We commend associations for their resiliency and creativity!

But what’s next? It’s the question most of us are asking with a mix of trepidation and hope. We hope things will turn around, but we fear they won’t. We hope normal returns sooner rather than later, but we fear it won’t.

Hope and fear are necessary emotions for processing complicated feelings. They don’t help you come up with a good plan though. And what your association needs now is a good plan. Or put another way, a map that points the way to what comes after all of this.

We have some suggestions about who can lead you there, and what you can expect to find.


Young people are the bright spot

We hear all of the same things you hear about young people: they’re not joiners; they don’t want to pay for things; they can’t commit to one job or one organization; you can’t get their attention.

It’s not that we don’t believe these points. After all, we see the same data you see about Millennial job hopping. Rather, it’s that we know it isn’t the whole story.

When the coronavirus hit the U.S., there was an assumption for a few weeks that Millennials were defying the recommendations to stay home, especially as pictures of young people at parties and crowding Florida beaches started cropping up all over social media. Millennials were quick to point out the generational mistake: it was actually the oldest cohort of Generation Z that was partying it up. In fact, Millennials were growing increasingly frustrated with their Boomer parents who they felt weren’t taking the virus seriously enough (captured humorously in this “open letter” op-ed).

Even more interesting were the memes and Instagram graphics that Millennials and Generation X started posting to rally support and evoke the idea of duty. These posts said things like, “Your grandparents were asked to fight a world war. You are being asked to stay home,” or showed beleaguered healthcare workers on the front lines with captions like, “I stay home for them.”

There are, of course, individual and regional variations in how young professionals have responded (and continue to respond) to the COVID-19 situation, but the abiding response has been one of “We are in this together.”

Younger people may change jobs more often and be more reluctant to pay for a feature they can find for free, but they care deeply about being part of a movement. They care about identifying with a purpose greater than themselves.

And also this: they are adaptable, which is everything right now. For example, though young people deeply value face to face connection, they’ve embraced the virtual work arounds, eagerly participating in your Zoom happy hours, your webinars, and your cyber conferences.

This is the bright spot of this dark situation, because it means that younger people are ready to take up the mantle of your association. That is, if you give them something real and deep they can believe in—a true mission and purpose they can rally around.


Your plan for what’s next

Your engagement may be very high right now, because a crisis invites engagement and the desire to connect with one another.

What about when it passes? What will these younger members rally around next?

You can’t wait until the pandemic begins to lift to decide that rallying point—especially because it will likely leave a long, painful recession in its place. As hard as it is to think about what comes on the heels of this, you must start planning now.

FIRST, if you have an event scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2020, you must accept that it will be dramatically different than what you anticipated when you first planned the event—starting with the fact that it may not happen at all. Or if it does, some members still may not be comfortable traveling.

How will you replace that revenue stream? How can you still connect people around a message? Keep in mind that people will be fatigued from COVID-19 messaging by then. You need a NEW message—not a crisis message, and not the outdated value proposition you were using before the crisis hit.

What will that message be? How can it work either in-person or virtually? Be clear on that now, versus having to be reactionary and make decisions on-the-fly.

SECOND, what will you put in place now to ensure that your association is leading the way, rather than following or being reactive?

Our tendency when we see recession coming is to tighten our belts, to duck for cover and resort to a fear and scarcity mentality. Instead, how can you take this awesome engagement you have now and monetize and build on it? You can only do this successfully if you invest in true digital marketing tools right now.

We started our agency in 1999, which means we ran our business through two major recessions: 2001 and 2008. Both times, we saw it as an opportunity to pivot, to dive deeper into work that matters.

This is the same mindset we have now. We believe that a shifting economy is a chance to rethink everything. We know what this journey looks like, and we find ourselves once again staring down a path marked “before” and “after.”

Come with us to the “after.” You may not believe it, but it can be even better than the “before.”

Want a brainstorming call to talk about what’s next for your association? Schedule time to talk to us! We are sheltering in place, thinking hard, and creating some innovative and amazing campaigns for associations.

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5 Ways Associations Can Help Their Members During COVID-19

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5 Recession Myths that Hurt Your Association

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5 Teleworking Best Practices for Associations

As if you didn’t have enough to worry about with COVID-19, you suddenly find yourself working from home. That means carving out space for an office, troubleshooting Zoom meetings, and trying to stay connected with your team and your membership…not to mention actually getting some work done! For many, this new reality can be overwhelming.

If teleworking has you flustered, here are 5 best practices to help you preserve your sanity and improve productivity.


1. Rise and shine

Trading your commute for a brief jaunt down the hall might leave you feeling lost in the mornings. It’s a good idea to maintain your regular morning rituals, such as setting your alarm clock and getting out of your pajamas. Enjoy coffee or breakfast with your spouse, kids, or roommates for social interaction and to ease into your day. Without a drive, you might even have extra time for exercise, meditation or chores. Avoid heading directly from your bed to your computer, which can blur the lines between your personal and professional lives.


2. Get some space

If work is staring you in the face day and night, you’re likely to feel stressed and stretched thin. Create a dedicated office space that you can leave behind at the end of the day—even if it means closing your laptop and moving it off the kitchen table. Let your family know that they should respect your office space during the day. Put up a sign if necessary (ex: Shhh! Mary’s Working 8 a.m.-5 p.m.) To help you focus, avoid cluttering your home office with food, toys, laundry, or other distractions.


3. Keep a set schedule

The best way to be successful while working from home is to have a set schedule. Determine when you will start each morning, when to break for lunch, and when to call it a day in the evening. Begin each day by reviewing any upcoming meetings or project deadlines. Consider holding a daily morning huddle with your team to check in, stay connected, and help everyone stay on track.


4. Establish boundaries

When your work and home are one in the same, you might feel pressured to be available 24/7. That will lead to burnout in a hurry. Once you have a set schedule, share it with colleagues so they have realistic expectations about your availability and responsiveness. Don’t forget to keep your members and industry partners informed about your operating hours as well. At the end of the day, sign off any chat programs and silence your phone so notifications don’t intrude into your personal time. Avoid responding to communications after hours or on weekends.


5. Stay connected

The isolation of teleworking can take a toll on morale, and productivity can suffer as a result. Use technology tools, such as video conferencing, to maintain human connections. Try a phone call instead of an email for more in-depth conversations. Check in with members and industry partners. Consider launching a brief daily e-newsletter to share positive news. Your association is united by a common cause. Reminding everyone of that cause can lift spirits and rally your team to keep moving forward despite these difficult times.

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

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Learn From Others' Misconceptions so your Association can Thrive

5 Recession Myths that Hurt Your Association

5 Recession Myths that Hurt Your Association

Rumblings of the next global recession make headlines almost daily. If the predictions are true, associations could be headed for difficult times when it comes to member engagement and event attendance. To make matters worse, most association leaders use flawed logic when navigating an economic downturn. But not all the news is negative. An impending recession or other crisis is an opportunity to strengthen your association so you can thrive no matter what the future brings.

Here are five recession myths that hurt your association plus advice on how to shift your thinking to ensure resilience into the future.


MYTH 1: Your value proposition must change for a down market.

REALITY: Your association needs a strong value proposition always. “Things” like events, content, and thought leadership are easy for your audience to cut. However, it’s tougher to cut a cause and a community they are passionate about. That’s why you need a solid value proposition that answers the question: “What am I paying for?” Lead with your cause and prove you offer real, tangible value. Show you are a resource people can depend on. Emphasize the value of your network. Be so helpful that your base can’t imagine getting through a recession—or an average work week—without you.


MYTH 2: Associations should reduce programs that don’t produce revenues.

REALITY: Your members rely on your association for resources that enhance their careers and make their lives better. Some of these resources don’t generate measurable ROI for your association, yet they are invaluable to building trust with members, driving engagement, and creating loyal brand ambassadors. It’s a bad idea to cut programs based on revenues alone. It’s a great idea, on the other hand, to cut anything that doesn’t generate some sort of value for your members. A recession is an opportunity to examine your programs, services, publications, events, and other resources. Cut anything that could distract members from your core value.


MYTH 3: Low engagement is a red flag for a recession.

REALITY: Low engagement is a red flag that your value proposition is broken and your strategy is flawed. Many associations already see a drop in engagement, and a recession isn’t here yet. If one does arrive, engagement will get even worse and event attendance will decline along with it. Recession or not, now is the time to be proactive with modern digital marketing that differentiates your association, builds trust with members and prospects, and delivers value over time.


MYTH 4: It’s a good idea to decrease staff and marketing.

REALITY: Many associations think they need to lay off staff, eliminate outsourcing, decrease marketing funds, and review vendor contracts to cut potential excess from the budget. All of these are terrible ideas. Laying off staff means you will be less capable of serving your members’ needs. That can only lead to a drop in engagement and retention. Instead of decreasing marketing funds, you should increase them. Even if you see a lull in membership during the recession itself, you’ll be that much farther ahead when it’s over if you invest in marketing now. More people will know about you vs. competitors, and they’ll come to you first when they have money to spend.


MYTH 5: You should wait to see how bad things get.

REALITY: Don’t wait for disaster to strike before you take deliberate steps to strengthen your association. People don’t make the best choices amid chaos. Reactive mode is never as effective as being proactive. Right now is a great time to examine your value proposition, strategy, and prospecting efforts to make sure they all serve the needs of your current and future members.

The best way to survive a recession is to strengthen and improve your association before one hits. Know and articulate your solid value proposition, invest in marketing and prospecting—especially to find the next generation of leaders, and focus your efforts on resources that deliver real, tangible value. These are best practices for success regardless of current events.

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4 Steps to Prepare Your Association for the Ripple Effects of the Coronavirus or Any Crisis

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4 Steps to Prepare Your Association for the Ripple Effects of the Coronavirus or Any Crisis

What Does the Coronavirus Have to Do with Association Marketing?
Answer: It’s always a good idea to prepare for the worst.

Today’s major crisis is the coronavirus. Companies around the world are implementing travel restrictions. Events are being cancelled. Chaos and fear are driving decision-making. Maybe the next cause for panic will be an economic downturn. Or perhaps something else will impact your membership, events, and revenue. Maybe it’s the cultural and generational shift happening among your members and prospects.

Whether it’s a global pandemic or something else keeping people away from your association and events, now is the time to be proactive. You must adapt and act to ensure your organization can thrive no matter what the future brings. Here are four steps to help you prepare for the worst:

1. Fix your value proposition

If you can’t prove your value, people will find it easy to cut your membership and events in uncertain times. They need to understand what they’re paying for and why they should care—regardless of what’s happening in the world. A solid value proposition must be based on your association’s cause, not on “stuff” like products or programs. Use our Value Proposition Checklist below to help you articulate your real, tangible value.


2. Amend your strategy

Crisis or no crisis, your audience is constantly bombarded with marketing and media noise. It’s totally unrealistic to assume people will find your association on their own. Even if you manage to get their attention, younger members and prospects generally mistrust companies and traditional advertising. They need time to do research and ask for advice before making a purchase. Your strategy has to include modern digital marketing based on delivering value, nurturing prospects through the customer journey, and building trust over time.


3. Ramp up your prospecting

Fight uncertainty with sheer numbers. When a crisis blows over, the associations who already invested in marketing and prospecting will come out ahead. When people aren’t scared anymore and they have more money to spend on travel and professional development, they’ll be back in force. And they’ll knock on your door instead of a competitor’s if you invest in prospecting now. Plus, with so many in-person events being cancelled, now is an especially good time to find and engage people digitally.


4. Be the solution to the crisis

In the case of the coronavirus, your members are probably suffering too. Travel restrictions and uncertainty affect their businesses as well. How can your association help? What resources can you provide to ensure they weather the storm? If in-person events are no longer feasible, consider hosting virtual events. If any sort of event isn’t serving your membership, find out what is. Be a resource to your members during difficult times so they’ll trust you to serve their best interests all the time.


Don’t hunker down

You might think it’s a good idea to hunker down in the face of uncertainty, to cut spending to the bare essentials. In fact, the opposite is true. Taking action now can assure your success for years to come. Fail to act, and you’ll face even more uncertainty ahead.


Complete the Value Proposition Checklist

Would you like your association to be resilient in the face of whatever the future brings? The first step is to articulate a solid value proposition based on your cause. Complete this Value Proposition Checklist to help you think through this process.

  1. What is your cause, the reason your association exists?
  2. Whom do you serve?
  3. What is your audience trying to achieve in their careers and businesses?
  4. What are their pain points, obstacles, or challenges?
  5. How do you help them overcome obstacles or achieve their goals?
  6. What are people paying for when they join your association?
  7. If your association didn’t have a face-to-face event, what’s the most valuable thing you offer? (Hint: It’s not content or thought leadership.)
  8. What does your association offer that can’t be found on Google?

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 6: Grit

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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 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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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 3: Marketing Assets

PART 3: Marketing Assets

This is the third post in our series 6 Ways to Help Your Association Thrive. If you missed our earlier posts, you can read about your cause and your marketing plan to catch up.

How to Attract Prospects and Members with Marketing Assets

People are more likely to engage with your brand in exchange for something tangible and beneficial. That’s why a good content-based digital marketing plan requires supporting assets to maximize outcomes.

What is a marketing asset?

A marketing asset, often referred to generally as “content,” can be almost anything from your association that offers value to your audience. Traditional marketing assets include whitepapers, infographics, how-to guides, e-books, webinars, videos, checklists, podcasts, survey results, industry reports, and many more. Thanks to new technology, marketing assets also include interactive content, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, chatbots, apps, and others.


What’s the right asset?

With so many types of marketing assets to choose from, how do you know which ones will work for your audience? The answer: the ones that give people what they need when they need it. Personalization is key to a successful content-based digital marketing campaign.

Here are a few considerations when determining your marketing assets:
  • Where are individuals in the customer journey? New prospects need different information than long-term members.
  • What’s going on in your industry? Tailor assets around current trends, technology, and industry events.
  • What are their goals? Offer tools that enable goals, help them develop professionally, or assist in planning for future growth and success.
  • What are their pain points? Provide information that will save them time and money, make their lives easier, or help them overcome obstacles.

How to personalize marketing assets

To effectively personalize your campaign, you may need to segment your list into two or three meaningful groups. For example, members, nonmembers, and sales reps. You can also use marketing automation to determine who gets what. For example, a workflow based on a series of if-then statements could trigger various marketing assets and follow-up communications depending on user behavior.

While personalization requires a little more work and forethought, the results are well worth your time. One research study from Experian showed that personalized email campaigns receive 29% higher open rates and 41% higher clickthrough rates than generic emails. Personalized marketing improves customer experience, which ultimately drives membership, non-dues revenue, and member engagement.


When in doubt, go visual and be quick

While your audience will have its own preferences, the current trend in marketing assets is to lean heavily on visual components. Additionally, keep in mind that time is always a concern for your members. Resources that save people time and are quick to digest are the most likely to generate outcomes.


Gated or ungated?

Gated marketing assets are those you give away in exchange for an action, such as providing an email address or starting an account. Gated content is a great way to build your prospect list. However, people won’t hand over their email address to just anyone. First, they need to trust that you offer value and that you won’t just spam them with more time-consuming emails.

When you give away your marketing assets with no strings attached, that’s known as ungated content. Ungated marketing assets demonstrate to your audience that you’re here to help, that you offer credible resources, and that you’re worthy of their trust. A good strategy to is to give away ungated content initially and eventually gate content to capture contact info.


How to get started

To get started using marketing assets to attract prospects and members, take a look at your existing materials. You might already have a stash of articles, interviews, infographics, podcasts, and more that can be used as-is or repurposed to support your cause and your marketing plan. If you need to create new materials, be sure they’re aligned with your existing brand’s look and feel for consistency.

Need more ideas for marketing assets? Download the checklist for 50+ ideas.

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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 1: The Cause

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How to Implement Omnichannel Marketing

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 2: The Plan

Part 2: The Plan

This is the second post in our series 6 Ways to Help Your Association Thrive. We’re covering six key marketing elements to help you reach your goals. If you missed our last edition, check out Part 1: The Cause.

How to Create a Digital Marketing Plan

Save time and money while boosting your marketing results with a quick and painless plan

So you know your cause, and you want to tell the world about it. You’ve got resources to share plus events to promote and products to sell. It’s tempting to blast your members and prospects with all these valuable things at once. But hold on a second…


Why you need a marketing plan

Getting attention and moving people to act involves a balance of timing, frequency, relevancy, and format. You need to meet your audience where they are or they won’t engage. Even a simple marketing plan can help you achieve better results while saving you time, money, and effort. Before you launch another promotion, stop and sketch out a plan.


Why your plan needs digital

You can’t improve results if you keep doing the same old thing. Now is a great time to embrace digital tools. Digital advertising and email automation enable precise audience targeting and follow-up based on actual user behaviors. With digital, you can customize each user’s experience with your brand to improve outcomes.


How to create a digital marketing plan

Planning a year of marketing might seem daunting, but it takes just seven steps.

1. Establish goals.

Set specific goals. If you want more members or event attendees, how many? What is your non-dues revenue target? Other goals might include web visitors or social media followers, email performance metrics, or improved member satisfaction. As much as possible, express your goals in hard numbers and concrete terms.


2. Get to know your audience better.

Dig deeper into your audience to improve your marketing like never before.

Consider three categories of data:
  • Demographics: age, gender, household income/company revenues, geography, years in business or profession, political affiliation, hobbies or special interests, etc.
  • History with your association: past purchase history, events attended, years as a member, volunteer positions, etc.
  • Data gleaned from online behaviors: web pages visited, articles or e-books downloaded, email opens, clicks etc.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a ton of data. With digital marketing, you will gain data as your campaigns progress. You can use what you learn to solidify and improve your efforts going forward.


3. Focus on value.

Go beyond networking, education, and certifications to focus on value. How will your association make people’s lives easier, save them money, or advance their careers? Brainstorm tangible benefits of your membership, events, products, and certifications. Calculate ROI whenever possible to prove you’re worth people’s time, money, and effort to engage.


4. Choose an engaging format.

Choose a format, platform, or channel based on your audience, goals, and budget. Some of the most effective strategies are email drip and nurture campaigns, social ads paired with helpful content (ex: whitepapers, e-books), and web retargeting. But you’ll need to test and track to see what works for your audience.


5. Create a marketing calendar.

Timing matters. Consider what else might be going on in your audience’s lives: holidays, industry events, competitor messages, other comms from your organization, etc. Schedule your promotions when they will have the least competition from other sources. Then make sure your team is aware of launches and prepared to field responses.


6. Execute.

Don’t fall victim to analysis paralysis. At some point you have to put your best foot forward and launch your initiatives into the world.


7. Track performance.

You must track performance and analyze results to know if your plan is working. From there, you can make adjustments on the fly or learn from past efforts to improve in the future.

Your cause is the driving force behind your organization, but without a plan you can’t reach your full potential. Adding digital marketing to your plan can further improve your results while saving you time and money. Ready to get started on your marketing plan? Download the free Sample Marketing Plan below to guide your efforts.

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 1: The Cause

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How to Implement Omnichannel Marketing

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What is Omnichannel Marketing and Why do You Need It?

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6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 1: The Cause

Part 1: The Cause

So you need more members. And more non-dues revenues. And you’d like to boost engagement while you’re at it. To reach your goals and truly thrive, you’ll need more than a nice website or a great social campaign. You’ll need six key elements working in harmony: a cause, a plan, marketing assets, prospects, engagement, and non-dues revenues. In this six-part series, we’ll cover all these essential elements so you can get maximum results for your association. Part 1: The Cause.

How a Cause Helps your Association Thrive

Get attention in a world of endless spam, robocalls, and popup ads

Do you ever wish you received more email spam, robocalls, or popup ads? Of course not. And your members don’t either. We all get too many emails and phone calls. We’re sick of slick sales pitches and impersonal advertising. By now your audience is hardwired to ignore most marketing messages—even the ones that could benefit them.

Considering all this, how can you get attention and compel people to join, attend, renew, and engage?

You need a cause. Give people a reason to care. Help them feel like they’re making a difference. If you can engage people emotionally in your cause, there’s almost nothing they won’t do to support it. If they feel needed and valued within your community, they will stick around year after year to work for your cause and sustain your organization. They will look forward to your communications and tell others about your important work.

Before you even consider your next marketing message, campaign, or platform, you need to determine your cause.


What a cause is and isn’t

Your cause must be a simple, powerful idea your audience can relate to and rally around. It’s more than a marketing theme, campaign, or tagline. It’s more precise and tangible than your mission or vision statement.

A cause is not simply donating a portion of your proceeds to charity or organizing a food drive. These might be worthy undertakings that contribute to your cause, but they’re details and they’re short lived. A cause is a big-picture, long-term value proposition that explains why you do what you do, what drives your organization, and what you’re passionately willing to work hard and even fight for.

Examples of great causes
  • REI: Get more people outside.
  • ServiceMaster: Because your customers and employees deserve a clean, safe and healthy environment.
  • American Heart Association: Save and improve lives by fighting heart disease and stroke.
  • Apple: Enhance lives through innovative technology.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness: Build better lives for Americans affected by mental illness.
  • National Association of Manufacturers: Support the more than 12.8 million men and women who make things in America.

How to determine your association’s cause

Determining your association’s cause boils down to just two considerations: who you help and how you help them. Explore specifically who your audience is—job titles, location, age, gender, years in the profession, company size, etc. Then think about their biggest pain points and ultimate goals. Brainstorm how you solve these pain points and how you enable those goals. What is the most powerful resource you can offer people? How do you make a difference in their lives? Don’t get too wrapped up in minutiae. Think about the big picture, the 10,000-foot view of your industry.

For help on this process, download our free guide: How to Determine Your Association’s Cause. By answering just five questions you’ll pin down your purpose and articulate your cause.


Do you really need a cause?

The other day at the grocery store, I walked down the cookie aisle looking for a snack. Thinking of maintaining my healthy diet, I left without purchasing anything. Then I got to the exit, where a group of adorable young ladies were selling Girl Scout Cookies. I bought five boxes to support their troop. That’s the power of a cause. It transcends logic and taps into emotions to compel people to act. Only when you know your cause can you craft an effective plan for the rest of your marketing. More on that next time.

Need help determining your association’s cause so you can get attention and rally people to action? Download this guide and answer just five questions to get started.

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How to Implement Omnichannel Marketing

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What is Omnichannel Marketing and Why do You Need It?

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Best Practices for Digital Marketing that Boosts Engagement

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How to Implement Omnichannel Marketing

I recently attended a fantastic retirement party for my old friend Ben. Every detail was perfect—the beautiful venue, gourmet food, live entertainment, and fun atmosphere. We almost didn’t notice the staff running around behind the scenes to make sure everything went off without a hitch. At the end of the evening, each guest received a special gift basket. We left feeling happy for Ben and lucky to know him.

Omnichannel marketing makes your audience feel like honored guests at a great party. When every interaction they have with your brand is positive and seamless, they’re more likely to join, attend, and engage.

Here are seven steps to help you execute omnichannel marketing that makes people feel great about your organization.


Get your entire team on board

You can’t have a seamless customer experience unless your company is unified internally. Make sure everyone knows your mission, vision, and purpose in addition to your current promotional offers and communications calendar. If a prospect calls to take advantage of an offer, your sales team should be prepared to deliver.


Know your audience

Take time to dig deep into what your members and prospects really want. What are their pain points? What can you offer that will help them save time and money, advance in their careers, or further their mission? If you’re not sure, conduct surveys, focus groups, or interviews to gain insights. Analyze data from past campaigns or consider having a data service enhance your list to go deeper.


Segment your list

It’s impossible to serve your entire base with the same approach. Segment your list by meaningful characteristics so you can tailor your messages and offers. Which segments you choose will depend on your organization and your audience. Company type or size, job title, geographic location, and member/nonmember are just a few possibilities.


Integrate channels and the customer journey

Consider all the potential ways your base might interact with your brand—in-person events, products, webinars, sales calls, direct mail, social media, and more. Then align your efforts to the customer journey. For example, prospects who aren’t familiar with your organization might need more industry reports, whitepapers, or webinars to believe in your credibility. Warm leads might benefit from a phone call or meet-and-greet event.


Put the customer first

To truly serve your base, you must put their needs and interests before your own. Give away information at first to build trust. Offer a free trial to prove you stand behind your products. These activities won’t instantly generate revenues, but they will build trust. And people need to trust you before they’re willing to join your organization, purchase your products, and tell others about your important work.


Use compelling formats and design

What you say matters, and how you say it is just as important. Choose formats and designs that grab attention and invite people to engage with your brand. Use clean fonts that clearly communicate. Choose bright, modern photographs and images with people. Select online platforms with built-in tools, such as lead gen forms, that make it easy for people to engage and raise their hands. Whatever you choose, keep it consistent and unified with your core brand.


Case Study: Omnichannel product launch

The National Association of Manufacturers asked us to raise awareness and drive engagement with a new suite of products. To help us determine the best channels, resources, and messaging for the campaign, we created six personas. Each persona provided details on personality traits, career aspirations, use of technology, and pain points for a key audience segment.

Guided by the personas, we developed an omnichannel strategy that included fresh graphic design, paid ads on Facebook and LinkedIn, automated email drip campaigns, and infographics and videos. We analyzed results as the campaign progressed and tailored our efforts based on user behaviors. As a result, leads for one product increased by 600% and traffic to the product’s webpage doubled.


Make good on your promises

High-caliber marketing and polished sales pitches amount to nothing if your members are ultimately unsatisfied. Omnichannel marketing means you follow through on your promises and then go above expectations. Provide connections, products, and events that your members actually want. Prove ROI whenever possible. Take every opportunity to make members and prospects feel like honored guests at a fantastic party.

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What is Omnichannel Marketing and Why do You Need It?

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9 Content Marketing Problems and How to Fix Them

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What is Omnichannel Marketing and Why do You Need It?

My car died last month. I went online to see what my local dealer had available. I filled out a form with my desired make, model, and year along with my contact info. For several weeks I received social media ads for available vehicles that met my criteria. The dealership mailed me a Car Buyers Tip Sheet to help me make a decision. One day, I got a phone call inviting me into the dealership. When I went, they had three cars that met my specs ready for me to test drive. The salesperson was friendly and knowledgeable but not pushy. They offered competitive financing options, so I drove my new car off the lot the same day.

My car-buying experience is a great example of omnichannel marketing. The dealership made it easy for me to see my options, educate myself, and connect with an expert. They had resources for me at every step of my decision-making process. The result is that I’m satisfied with my purchase. I would buy from the same dealer again, and I would recommend them to friends.


What is omnichannel marketing?

While “omnichannel” might sound like just another bit of marketing jargon, it’s actually a very simple concept: seamless customer experience. “Omni” means all. Omnichannel means you look at all the possible ways your audience interacts with your brand and you make sure everything works well together. It goes beyond your marketing department to include your sales team, customer service, and in-person events. The result of well-executed omnichannel marketing is long-term member loyalty and increased engagement with your association.


How is omnichannel different from multichannel marketing?

“Channel” is just another word for format or platform. Are you reaching people via email, social media, direct mail, or cold calling? These are potential channels for your marketing efforts. “Multichannel” means you’re using multiple formats and platforms to connect with your audience. Most associations today use multichannel marketing. What’s often missing, however, is a holistic approach that considers all the touchpoints along the entire customer journey—from awareness to consideration to decision and, eventually, long-term loyalty and deep engagement. That’s where omnichannel marketing comes in.


Two keys to omnichannel marketing

1. Give the people what they want.

The idea of a traditional sales funnel doesn’t quite apply to omnichannel marketing. “A” does not necessarily lead directly to “B” and then “C.” Omnichannel marketing recognizes that some people move from awareness to decision quickly because of an urgent need. Others might need extra information and support during a long consideration phase. Some people might visit the same channel more than once or skip others entirely. Omnichannel meets people where they are and helps them in whatever way they need.

2. Be consistent in everything you do.

To ensure a seamless experience along this winding omnichannel journey, you will need to ensure brand consistency at every turn. Your collateral should maintain visual continuity in your logo, colors, fonts, look, and feel. Your voice should be clear and consistent, whether in social media, email, or direct mail. Your sales team should be knowledgeable about your association, products, and current promotions. Additionally, your in-person events should include everything your marketing promises.


Case Study: American Specialty Toy Retailing Association

To help the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association promote their annual conference and tradeshow, we used a variety of formats, including direct mail, social media, digital ads, and email. To maximize these channels, we segmented ASTRA’s list into meaningful categories—nonmembers, sales reps, and store owners. Next we considered available brand assets and crafted additional infographics and videos to fill in the gaps. From there, we developed digital workflows based on segments, the assets, and ASTRA’s goals. Users determined next steps based on the actions they took.

Our efforts nearly doubled the number of first-time conference attendees. The last piece of the omnichannel puzzle was that ASTRA’s event delivered on all the promises we made in the marketing materials, which is sure to fuel repeat attendance next year.


Why do you need omnichannel marketing?

It’s all too easy to turn people off. If my car dealer called me in but didn’t have any cars in stock that met my specs, I might never have returned. If the salesperson was slick and impersonal, I might not have made a purchase. Even if I had an okay experience, I might not recommend the dealership to others or become a repeat customer. Omnichannel marketing is a way to continually engage and satisfy your base even if they’re not quite ready to join, attend, or make a purchase. It takes time, but the results are quality prospects and satisfied members with a high lifetime value.

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Best Practices for Digital Marketing that Boosts Engagement

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9 Content Marketing Problems and How to Fix Them

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5 Ways to Generate Enough Marketing Content

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9 Content Marketing Problems and How to Fix Them

Angelo is a bus driver for a small tour company in Ecuador. Quite often the tourists’ breakfast comes with a side of papaya. Many of the tourists don’t like papaya, so they give it to Angelo, who says “thank you” and eats it. This goes on for years. More tourists, more papaya for Angelo. One day, someone says: “Wow, Angelo, you must really like papaya!” He finally confesses that he hates papaya. He only eats it to be polite to all the tourists who give him their fruit.

Your marketing content is a little bit like papaya. Too often there’s a disconnect between what your association provides and the resources your audience members actually want. If your content marketing isn’t performing the way you’d like, you may need to fix one or more of these common problems.


1. You don’t have a strategy.

If you’re pumping out lots of content without a plan, chances are some of your efforts are going to waste. Take time to craft a strategy based on your goals, resources, and budget in addition to your audience’s needs and wants.


2. Your content isn’t relevant.

No one wants their time wasted. Make sure you’re giving your audience content they can actually put to use. Segmenting your list into two or three groups and tailoring content accordingly can help you increase relevancy and results.


3. You need to adjust your frequency.

You can’t just bombard people. Chances are your members and prospects get too many emails and too many digital ads. Look at your association’s communications calendar, and schedule your promotions when they have the least competition from other messages.


4. People don’t trust you.

You have to earn people’s attention and trust. Consider giving away content with no strings attached initially. Eventually you can ask for an email address for follow-up communications. If your ad or landing page promises a solution, your content better deliver.


5. You don’t have a cause.

People need to know why they should care about your content, your mission, your organization, and your offerings. They need a cause to rally around. Ask yourself why your organization exists. Then make sure it’s clearly communicated in your marketing messages.


6. You forgot to include emotions.

Even if your members are technical experts or high-level professionals, they still need to be emotionally compelled to take action. Ensure your content contains a balance of logic, credibility, and—above all—emotion.


7. You need to adjust your format.

Don’t forget there are dozens of potential formats for content—from podcasts to infographic, reports, quizzes, checklists, and memes. Track engagement with your campaigns to learn which formats resonate best. Experiment with long vs. short formats, visual vs. text, etc.


8. Your audience is confused.

If people are opening your emails or clicking on your ads but not converting, it could be a sign that they’re getting lost along the way. Make it easy for them to claim your content by including clear call to action buttons or using prepopulated lead gen forms on your digital ads.


9. Your voice is impersonal.

People connect with other people better than with organizations. Communicate in a human, conversational tone to get the most out of your content marketing.


Case Study:

The National Association of Manufacturers asked us to help promote their Manufacturers Marketplace product. The challenge was that their target audience already received too many emails each day. We created a content strategy that included videos, infographics, and e-books. To personalize the content and increase relevancy, we created personas for key audience segments. Landing pages and prepopulated lead gen forms made it easy for people to take action. Our efforts increased leads for Manufacturers Marketplace by 600% and doubled the amount of traffic to the product’s web page.

Before you feed your audience more papaya, take some time to tune up your content marketing. Fixing even one or two of these common problems can dramatically improve your results.

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5 Ways to Generate Enough Marketing Content

I recently made the mistake of feeding a stray cat at the office. Now it comes back every day expecting more food. Yesterday, there were two cats outside my door. I may have created a monster…

Finding enough content for your marketing might feel like feeding hungry cats. Once you set things in motion, you need a steady stream of content to keep everyone satisfied. How can you possibly keep up? Here are 5 ideas to help you find, repurpose, or create content to feed your need.


1. Develop a strategy.

To accurately assess your content needs, you’ll first need a strategy. Who is your audience? What are their pain points? How can you help them? How often do they need to hear from you? Also consider your organization’s goals. Are you promoting a product or event? Do you need more members? What resources and budget can you dedicate to content marketing? The answers to all these questions will determine how much content you need and what types of content will yield the best results.


2. Mine your existing materials.

The easiest type of content to use is content that already exists. Take a look at your stash of marketing collateral, industry reports, whitepapers, images, infographics, audio or video recordings, and more to see what you might be able to use as-is. Keep in mind, however, that just because it exists doesn’t mean it’s relevant to your target audience. Only choose pieces that are actually useful to your base.


3. Repurpose existing content.

Repurposing content can save you time and effort compared to creating new pieces. Be creative. An infographic can become a video. An interview with an expert can become a podcast. An industry event can become a best practices checklist. We once created a series of short videos for a client using interesting facts from their annual report. Each video contained just one fact that we animated to add interest.


4. Beg or borrow content.

Look to partner organizations as potential sources of content. Their industry reports, infographics, PowerPoint presentations, webinars, or other current information might be relevant to your audience. And don’t be afraid to ask your contacts to be guest contributors to your blog or other publications.


5. Create fresh content.

If you want to maintain your place as an industry influencer, you will need to produce fresh original content at some point. You will likely need a combination of formats to maintain audience interest. Ideas for fresh content: Interview highly engaged members to discuss benefits of your association. Collect testimonials for use on social media posts or videos. Write how-to articles about your products. The possibilities are endless.

Here are just a few additional ideas:
  • Case study
  • E-book
  • Cartoon or illustration
  • FAQ sheet
  • Webinar
  • List
  • Quiz
  • Original research
  • Summary of original research
  • Annual report
  • Whitepaper
  • Survey
  • Timeline
  • Podcast
  • Email newsletter
  • Product review
  • Chart or graph
  • “Day in the Life” article
  • Resources list
  • Photo collage
  • Opinion piece
  • Template

Case study:

To help the National Association of Manufacturers promote their product NAM Energy, we developed a content marketing strategy that included a combination of new and existing materials. The NAM already had an energy-related fact sheet we were able to use by adding the NAM Energy branding elements to the document. We also developed an original infographic and three curated member stories that were featured on individual microsites. The result was a 1688% increase in total revenue for the product.

Content marketing works because it builds trust with your audience by offering something they need. It helps you fulfill an unspoken promise that your association is worth their time. With that relationship solidly in place, your audience is much more receptive to your hard sales pitches for products, events, and membership renewals. Find a way to feed the cats in your neighborhood and your association will see serious ROI from your efforts.

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10 Best Practices for Content Marketing that Converts

When my daughter was in fifth grade, she made a model solar system for the science fair. So did 15 other kids. Many of the entries looked sloppy or hastily put together. Some of the kids couldn’t explain their models very well. My daughter took home the blue ribbon. Her project stood out from the others because it was more detailed, had vibrant colors, and included an in-depth report.

Content marketing is a little bit like bringing a solar system to the science fair. Everyone is doing it. Not everyone is doing it well. Follow these 10 best practices to ensure your content marketing stands out from the crowd and actually converts.


1. Expand your definition of “content”

Go beyond whitepapers and blogs. Content can include podcasts, video, artificial intelligence, FAQs, memes, quizzes, photos, infographics, and more in addition to traditional formats like whitepapers, blogs, and reports. Anything that offers useful information to help your audience can be used in content marketing.


2. Choose the right format

Let your audience determine your format. If podcasts are your most popular offering, for example, do more podcasts. If your audience prefers substantive whitepapers and reports, focus your efforts there. If you don’t have much data on audience preferences, a good bet is to keep it brief. Start with short videos (less than a minute), infographics, checklists, Q&As, or memes.


3. Focus on the customer

Know your audience. What are their pain points? What keeps them up at night? What are their goals and aspirations? You can’t provide useful information if you don’t know what people want. Consider segmenting your list so you can tailor content to audience needs.


4. Offer something valuable

Once you’ve thoroughly considered #3 above, mine your existing brand assets for things people need. Do you have reports, articles, e-books, podcasts, whitepapers, or other helpful tools that will make people’s lives easier? Repurpose relevant materials, but generate original content if your existing stash doesn’t serve your base.


5. Use available data

Whenever possible, make decisions based on data. Look at past performance of emails, ads, and other promotions to see which topics and offers best resonate with your audience. Choose a marketing channel based on demographics or other insights you have about your prospects and members.


6. Schedule your content

Don’t just look at the content you’re launching. Look at what else your audience receives from your association. What other industry events are going on? Time your content when it will have the least amount of competition for attention.


7. Optimize for mobile

There’s a good chance most people read your communications on a mobile device. That means if your content is not mobile optimized, you are wasting your efforts.


8. Speak like a human

Avoid technical terms and industry jargon in favor of conversational, human speech. Your job is to get attention and engage people. You can always follow up later with more in-depth information.


9. Stay true to your brand

Your content marketing should be consistent, unified, and aligned with your existing brand. Consistency helps people recognize you and trust you, two key things that must happen before people will take action.


10. Include a call to action and make it easy to act

Clearly communicate what you want people to do—listen now, download this report, visit this site, etc. Make it easy for them to take action. Try prepopulated lead generation forms so all they have to do is click a button.


Case study:

We helped the Association of Corporate Council build a prospect pool and grow their membership with content marketing. To get attention and build trust, we used the ACC’s existing reports, surveys, and infographics combined with lead generation forms on Facebook and LinkedIn. As a result, we grew the prospect pool by 1400 new email addresses and gained over 600 new members new members.

There’s a lot of poorly executed content marketing out there. Unfortunately, it’s competing for your audience’s attention alongside your efforts. The good news is that it’s still possible to make content work for you—to get attention, nurture your leads into high-quality prospects, and convert them into members and loyal advocates. But if you want to take home the blue ribbon, you’ll have to be better than anyone else.

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When my daughter was 10 years old, she came home from school one day with a sad, skinny puppy in her arms. All I could think of was how expensive, dirty, and difficult it would be to have a pet. Logically, adopting this stray made little sense. Plus, we’d never had a pet before. How could we possibly know how to care for it? But one look at my daughter’s face and I knew we would keep the dog.


The Art of Persuasion

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher who lived more than 2000 years ago. Among the wealth of wisdom he gave to the world was the art of persuasion. He reasoned that every good argument includes three essential components: ethos, logos, and pathos—that is, credibility, logic, and emotion. These are often referred to as the Aristotelian appeals, and they still matter today.

When you launch a marketing campaign, you’re basically making an argument in favor of your organization, event, or product. If you present the right amounts of credibility, logic, and emotion, your audience will not be able to resist your offer.


What is ethos?

Ethos refers to the credibility and trustworthiness of your campaign. It goes beyond the message itself and includes the ethics and character of the sender as well as the “packaging” in which it’s delivered.


The sender

Your audience asks, perhaps subconsciously, if the message is coming from a reputable source, such as a well-known company or an influential individual. They might also care about the way you do business, for example with integrity, social responsibility, or eco-friendliness. Choosing a well-known keynote speaker for your annual conference is an example of the ethos of your event and your organization. Donating a portion of your profits to charity is another.


The message itself

Communicating accurate, verifiable information is a great start to building trust with your audience. Go one step further and deliver valuable, useful content that can make people’s lives easier. Testimonials, citations from experts, and helpful information all contribute to your message’s ethos.


The packaging

Have you ever bought a certain type of wine simply because it came in an attractive bottle? Similarly, your audience is influenced by the way your campaigns look and feel. They will notice if your images are professional, your content is error-free, your printing is high quality, and your branding is consistent across channels.


What is logos?

Logos refers to the logical aspects of a campaign. It includes facts, figures, information, and product features. If I’m shopping for a car, for example, the miles per gallon and the maintenance record can help me make a sound decision. If I’m considering joining an organization, I might want to know about continuing education credits and networking opportunities. Costs, terms and conditions, and how-to information are all examples of logical appeals.


What is pathos?

Pathos refers to the emotional appeal of your campaign. Your goal should be to excite people, tug at their heart strings, or fire them up to take action. You must prove that your organization understands audience pain points and is ready with solutions. Storytelling is perhaps the best way to reach your audience emotionally. It’s proven by neuroscience to engage the brain better than logic.

If you think your organization isn’t emotional, consider how you connect people, improve their careers, save them time, and make their lives better. Interview members and event participants to mine for emotionally engaging details about your association.


How to use all three appeals

Any effective marketing campaign will use all three Aristotelian appeals in varying proportions. Your audience and the product or service you are promoting will determine exactly what those proportions are. Prospects, for example, might require more ethos in your messages than current members. New product launches might need more logos to help people understand their value.

A good amount of pathos is mandatory in any campaign. Often, organizations get stuck on the logical side of their membership and products. They focus on the “what,” like features, facts, and figures. In reality, logos is often not as important as pathos. If all decisions were made purely based on logic, no one would own a sports car—and I wouldn’t have adopted a puppy.

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4 Steps to Inbound Lead Generation

Why Inbound Marketing is the Best Way to Generate Leads

4 STEPS TO INBOUND LEAD GENERATION

My dishwasher died recently, and I had no idea where to begin shopping for a new one. I found a tip sheet online that ranked popular models, so I provided my email address and downloaded it. I received additional info in my inbox and, eventually, a discount offer. By then, I knew exactly which dishwasher to buy and how much I should pay. I’m happy with the purchase I made. If I ever need another home appliance I know where to go.

My dishwasher experience is a great example of inbound marketing. They caught my attention, captured my email, and moved me along the customer journey until I made a purchase. If your association needs to build a prospect pool for your marketing and sales efforts, inbound marketing beats “spray and pray” outbound marketing any day.

Here are the four essential steps to inbound lead generation so you can attract prospects and convert them into members and brand ambassadors.


Step 1: Attract visitors

You must be deeply familiar with your target audience if you hope to attract their attention. Ask yourself the following questions:

What does your audience value most? For example, affiliation, exclusivity, cutting-edge information, cutting costs, philanthropy etc.
What are their personal and professional goals?
What are their pain points? How can you solve them?
What are the current hot topics in your prospect’s industry?
Where do prospects currently get information or services like the ones you provide?

Once you know what your audience needs and wants, you can craft valuable content that meets them where they are and compels them to interact with your organization.


Step 2: Turn visitors into prospects

When you offer valuable content such as infographics, surveys, reports, e-books, webinars, and whitepapers, a few important things happen:
  • People are willing to give you their email address in exchange for something that will help them. You can capture contact info using landing pages or lead generation forms on Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Your prospect is automatically a more educated buyer. They learn meaningful criteria to use when shopping around, and they shop based on value instead of the lowest price.
  • They see your organization as a thought leader who has their best interest in mind. They start to trust you. They are more receptive to your messaging, and they might even seek out additional content from you.

When one or more of these things happen, you have successfully converted your visitor into a prospect or even a warm lead.


Step 3: Convert prospects to members and attendees

Over time, you can move your prospects from consideration to decision by regularly delivering valuable information. People will gradually see your organization as a source of help and benefits, rather than another marketer trying to sell them something. Eventually, they will be receptive to sales messages because they trust that you have their best interest in mind. Make your prospects an offer they can’t refuse to convert them to members and event attendees.

Be aware that this process could take some time. Multiyear investments into your inbound marketing yield the greatest rewards because you can build on what you’ve learned each year to fine-tune your efforts.


Step 4: Give the VIP treatment

Your job isn’t over once you’ve gained a new member. To ensure long-term loyalty, continue to learn about your members’ pain points and communicate the ways you can solve them. With help from a marketing automation platform, you can make each member feel like a VIP by offering personalized offers and information. Members who feel valued and who continually benefit from your organization are more likely to engage and renew.


Why inbound works

Inbound marketing is a good strategy whether you’re promoting membership or a specific product—like my dishwasher. It works because you’re paying attention to what people need, delivering useful content, and providing valuable offers to build trust over time. This is not just a recipe for gaining prospects and members. It’s a strategy for creating loyal brand ambassadors who will sustain your organization into the future.

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Why you need a consistent brand story

Why you need a consistent brand story

Several years ago, in a brief fit of madness, I asked my barber to give me a different haircut and change my hair color while he was at it. I wanted to try something daring and edgy. The result was laughable. I looked like an Elvis Presley impersonator. It was unnatural. People I knew didn’t recognize me. My wife thought I was having a midlife crisis.

Your brand is a little bit like a tried-and-true haircut. Sure, you need an updated look every once in a while, but a major departure from your established style confuses people, turns them off, and makes them question your judgement.


How to Find and Fix Brand Breaks

Ideally, every aspect of your brand—your messaging and visuals as well as your mission and culture—fit seamlessly into the bigger picture of your organization. In reality, however, a brand often has breaks. Brand breaks are areas where misalignment happens. Some are minor inconsistencies in font or color choice. Others are more significant, for example if your sales team makes a promise that your organization can’t deliver on.

Eliminating brand breaks and maintaining a consist brand story helps people recognize you, trust you, pay your dues, attend your events, purchase your products, and rally behind your causes. Follow these four steps to solidify and articulate your brand, fix any brand breaks, and maintain a unified presence that engages your base.


1. Investigate your brand.

Establish a baseline so you can recognize any deviations from the norm. Examine your marketing collateral, event branding, product offerings, sales tactics, and any other unique aspects of your organization. Consider your internal culture, procedures, and communication practices. Look at your marketing channels and platforms—your event, social media, ads, direct mail, website, and more.

Also consider these questions:
  • Why do you do what you do?
  • Who do you serve?
  • What value do you offer your base?
  • How do you solve their challenges?
  • What is your mission, vision, position, and brand promise?

2. Articulate your brand.

The easiest way to ensure consistency over time and across channels is to create a brand guide. This is a way to document every aspect of your brand, from your mission and vision to your fonts and colors. A typical brand guide might include the following:

  • Mission statement
  • Vision statement
  • Brand positioning statement
  • Brand promise
  • Fonts and colors
  • Voice and sample messaging
  • Sample graphics and images
  • Proper use of your logo
  • Product descriptions

3. Close gaps.

As you create your brand guide, look for anything that doesn’t quite fit with the big picture or any item that’s missing altogether. Check for outdated images, messaging, or offers. Is your logo clear and simple? Are your fonts and colors consistent? Has your mission or positioning changed since you were established? Can you fulfill your brand promise?

At this stage you can eliminate anomalies, revamp your look and feel, tweak or overhaul your messaging, add or subtract product offerings, or launch initiatives to bolster your internal culture.


4. Get your team on board.

Brand consistency includes rallying your team behind your purpose and aligning your internal culture with your outward-facing materials. Once your brand guide is complete, distribute it to your entire team and make sure everyone understands how to use it and why it’s important.

Make a plan to revisit your brand guide periodically and make updates as necessary. Being consistent doesn’t mean being stagnant. It’s a good idea to entice people with fresh messaging, visuals, offers and products as long as you stay true to your core brand.

Why all this matters
Establishing a strong, consistent brand is worth your time and effort because it’s worth money. A study from McKinsey & Company suggests that companies with a strong brand are 20 percent more profitable than companies with a weak or inconsistent brand.

If you can’t clearly and consistently articulate your mission, for example, chances are your sales team won’t be able to convey your value to members and prospects. When people don’t see your value, they don’t pay your dues, attend your events, purchase products, or tell others about your organization. If people don’t recognize your organization, they won’t engage. If your brand is different every place people encounter you, they can’t trust you. Without trust, it’s nearly impossible to turn prospects into attendees, members, and long-term brand ambassadors.

The good news is a bad haircut or dye job isn’t permanent. With a little time, effort, and your trusty style guide, you’ll be looking fabulous in no time.

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6 Ways to Reach Your Marketing Goals in Uncertain Times

6 Ways to Reach Your Marketing Goals in Uncertain Times

When I was a kid, Valentine’s Day was one of my favorite days of the year. I would spend hours decorating my little brown paper bag before taping it to my desk at school on the big day. There was always nervous excitement and uncertainty. Would I get lots of cards from my friends? Would I get the good candy? Or would I get a bunch of rocks?

Marketing to your members and prospects in today’s uncertain times is a lot like my Valentine’s Day bag. You make plans, put in effort, and anticipate good results. But sometimes you get more rocks than chocolates.


The Effects of Uncertainty

Even if your organization isn’t directly involved in political or economic discussions, your members and prospects are affected by uncertainty. As a result, they might hesitate to attend your events, join your organization, engage with your offerings, or purchase your products.

What’s more, heightened privacy concerns mean people are less likely to give you their email addresses. They’re also generally fed up with all the marketing noise that bombards them daily. You simply can’t continue the same old tactics if you want to reach your goals. It’s time to reshape your marketing to best serve your base.

A better strategy is holistic digital marketing that combines high-value content with drip and nurture campaigns. This approach builds trust with your audience over time and moves them along a customer journey from awareness to consideration to decision.

Follow these six steps to mitigate uncertainty and drive conversions with holistic digital marketing.

1. Craft your brand stories

People relate to other people better than to organizations. They value third-party endorsements over marketing messages any day. A great way to get attention and engage your base is to showcase other humans who benefit from your work.

Interview your most enthusiastic members. Ask them pointed questions:
  • Why join now?
  • What is the ROI of joining?
  • What is the biggest takeaway of being a member?

Craft these stories with simple, conversational language. Broadcast them through paid and organic social media, landing pages, and email campaigns to build trust and reinforce the value of your organization.


2. Consider the customer journey

Even the best message can be unsuccessful if people aren’t ready to hear it. Consider where your prospects are in the customer journey BEFORE you sketch out your marketing plan. Ask yourself:

  • Have they ever heard of your organization?
  • Are they familiar with your products and services?
  • What are their pain points?
  • How urgent are their needs?

Prospects who are not very familiar with your organization will likely need some high-level introductory communications at first. Others who are ready to purchase might need more in-depth content to help them make a decision.


3. Identify brand breaks

A brand break is when some part of your culture or marketing doesn’t align with your core brand. Do your emails have a similar look and feel as your website? Is your social media voice the same as your direct mail voice? Is your internal culture aligned with your external communications? Aim for continuity across channels. If you have too many brand breaks, you’ll lose people along the customer journey.


4. Prove the ROI of your offerings

People often need hard numbers to justify paying your dues and attending your events. Look for any opportunity to quantify the value of your products and services to prove they are a worthy investment.

  • Do your products save members money? How much?
  • Does your organization offer discounts on other products and services? How much?
  • Do you facilitate connections that lead to new business or new revenue streams? What is the potential revenue? Do you have a case story to cite as a concrete example?

5. Test and monitor

Digital marketing makes it especially easy to test and track the success of your efforts. You can measure web visitors, engagement with your content, form submissions, likes, shares, and lots more. Determine which metrics are most important to your campaign goals before you launch a promotion. For example, website visitors might be more important in raising brand awareness. Form submissions might matter more if you’re building a prospect list.


6. Fix areas with low conversions

Digital marketing also makes it easy to adjust campaigns on the fly, for example, by changing the offer, messaging, image, or platform. If your landing page receives a lot of traffic but few people fill out the form, this could be an indication of a brand break or poor alignment with the customer journey. For the most scientific testing, fix only one variable at a time.

Holistic marketing means you look at all the parts together, including your organization, story, products and offerings as well as your members and prospects, where they are, and what they need. The more you can align your communications with the customer journey, the more successful your holistic marketing will be even in times of uncertainty. Keep doing the same old thing, and you’ll miss out on members, prospects, and engagement—and the good chocolate on February 14th.

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How Brand and Culture are Connected

How Brand and Culture are Connected
Do you have a solid marketing strategy? That’s a great start. But is your strategy aligned with a strong internal culture?

Your organization’s culture has a direct impact on the success of your marketing and your company as a whole. To serve others well, your team must be aligned with your purpose and unified in their actions. Your members and prospects must trust that you’re the same in front of an audience as behind the scenes. Trust is the foundation of lasting loyalty and long-term sustainability.

While the idea of culture might seem like an abstract concept that’s hard to pin down, it is a knowable thing that can be shaped and enhanced to fuel your success as an organization.


What is culture?

Culture includes your organization’s values, character, practices, and worldview. It guides employee behaviors and attitudes. Your organization’s culture should be unique, a differentiator that draws your base to you. It should reflect your purpose, why you do what you do beyond making a profit. To define your purpose, ask yourself: What is our reason for existing?

Your culture starts with your internal team, but it doesn’t stay there. When your leaders, sales team, marketing, and HR are all aligned with your purpose, your prospects and members can see and experience your culture too. Your culture becomes your brand. It’s how you make an emotional connection with your audience and start to build that all-important trust.


What is a brand?

Your brand is the outward manifestation of your culture. It includes your logo, images, messaging, and marketing collateral, but it’s more than that. It’s your authentic self you show to the world. It compels people to interact with your company and helps them get to know you, your purpose, and your culture. It inspires possibilities in your audience and incites action.


How to Start your Culture to Enhance your Brand (and your Marketing ROI)

1. Articulate your purpose.

Culture starts with purpose. Craft a short statement that illustrates your organization’s purpose. Distribute it to your team. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • Apple improves lives through excellence and innovation.
  • United Way exists to help those in need.
  • Walmart improves lives by providing low prices.
  • Ben & Jerry’s thrives on being socially and environmentally conscious.
2. Define your long-view vision.

Before you outline this year’s marketing strategy, you need to know what you’re working towards over the long term. Identify goals for the next five to 10 years to get everyone on board the same train.

3. Align strategy with vision and culture.

Focus on your core competencies and key differentiators when planning your strategy. Keep your long-view vision in mind as you plan current marketing initiatives. Make sure you can deliver on your promises to foster trust with your base.

4. Engage your team.

When your employees are engaged, they go the extra mile for your organization. They put time and energy into innovative solutions that help you grow and thrive. By default, your prospects and members have a better experience with your brand.

5. Identify strengths and gaps in culture.

It’s okay if you discover that your culture and brand are not fully aligned or perhaps that your employees are not deeply engaged. Take some time to examine your internal culture for brand breaks, any place where your brand and culture don’t align. Also note when something is working well so you can do more of it.

6. Outline steps to close gaps and improve culture.

Once you know your strengths and opportunities, make a plan to close gaps going forward. This might involve creating new rules, metrics, and incentives to shape your culture. Change can be challenging for your team, so take a gradual, step-by-step approach.

7. Monitor progress and celebrate milestones.

Lasting cultural change can take some time, but the payoff is huge. It could mean the difference between success and failure for your organization. When you notice an improvement, celebrate it. Let your team know that they’re doing great things and it’s making a difference for your organization.


There is no difference between a brand and a culture. When your entire organization lives and breathes your culture, your members and prospects will feel it. They’ll be able to trust you, which is the first step to getting them to rally behind your causes and support your organization with long-term loyalty.

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Houston, we have a conversion problem.

In the current climate of data breaches and over communication, people are more protective of their email addresses than ever. Online forms are seeing a 10 to 20 percent drop in conversion rates across industries.

While people may not readily provide their email address, they still seek information about your organization. They’re out there kicking your tires and poking around your website—even though they’re not exactly raising their hands to be contacted. How can you engage these potential prospects when you don’t know who they are?


Marketing automation to the rescue.

Using a combination of digital ads, landing pages, and email automation, you can move these prospects from awareness to consideration to decision. You can build trust by offering value at each stage of the customer journey. Over time, your efforts will compel them to act by filling out a lead form, attending your event, or joining your organization.


Try one of these three strategies to engage your unknown prospects:

1. Nurture your website visitors.

Using pixel codes, you can track where people spend time on your website. Sometimes you can match the user’s cookies with an email address to send targeted messages and offers. Even if you can’t make an exact match, you’ll gain valuable intel on what your audience is most interested in.

2. Retarget users where they spend time online.

Retargeting means you show digital ads to your website visitors elsewhere on the web. To be effective, you should tailor your retargeted ads based on the type of content your user views, such as pricing information or a specific offering.

3. Follow up on high-quality leads.

Savvy marketing automation includes tracking and scoring your leads to determine next steps for each individual. High-quality leads may warrant extra email communication, a special offer, or even a phone call to convert.


It’s about trust.

Marketing automation is more effective than one-off campaigns because it’s based on delivering value and building trust. Sure it takes more time, but the payoff is worth it: You get a group of passionate, loyal followers who are eager to hear from you and compelled to act, rather than hitting the delete button and moving on. Ultimately, it means people engage with your organization and spread the word about your important work.

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How to Use Social Advertising at Each Stage of the Customer Journey

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How to Create a Customer Journey Map

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How to Use Social Advertising at Each Stage of the Customer Journey

Effective social media marketing involves tactics that cover each stage of the customer journey. During the awareness phase, your efforts will focus on generating traffic and expanding your prospect pool. For the consideration phase, you need tactics to educate customers and help you qualify leads. The decision phase requires specific offers and calls to action. Thankfully, there are a wealth of social media tools to help you precisely target your efforts based on your sales funnel and your goals.


Awareness

Social media can help you raise awareness and expand your prospect pool based on specific criteria, such as geography, demographics, online behaviors, past history with your organization, lookalike audiences, or other categories.

Organic tactics are a good place to start. You might try Facebook Live, social media contests, links to free content, YouTube videos, or regular posts on your LinkedIn or Facebook feeds. However, some platforms only show your organic posts to a small segment of your audience. You will likely need to include paid tactics in your awareness efforts also.

Effective paid tactics include sponsored content on LinkedIn as well as Facebook and Instagram ads. Note, however, that paid content doesn’t have to include a sales pitch. In the awareness phase, you should provide free resources and ungated content to spread the word about your organization and build trust with your potential audience.


Consideration

During the consideration stage, give your audience increasingly in-depth information to help them move toward a decision. Qualify and score your leads based on their interaction with your messages.

Organic social media tactics for consideration include
  • Sharing positive reviews on your Facebook page
  • Posting photos of your organization on Instagram
  • Participating in Ask Me Anything sessions on Reddit
  • Creating video testimonials from members and sharing across platforms
  • Making educational or how-to videos for use on YouTube
  • Conducting quizzes or contests to encourage interaction

Paid tactics include Facebook remarketing ads with details about your events and offerings. You can also use sponsored Facebook or LinkedIn posts with customer reviews or third-party blog posts.

In this stage, third-party content such as reviews, testimonials, articles, and photos can have a powerful effect on your target audience. By some estimates, user-generated content can lead to twice as many conversions as messages directly from your organization. Tap into the power of peer influence by recruiting and incentivizing social influencers who are willing to talk about your organization and your offerings online.


Decision

Leverage your social media efforts to nudge your prospects into action with specific offers and direct calls to action.

Organic tactics for the decision phase include
  • Inviting your social traffic to sign up for your email list
  • Hosting social media contests with promotions and purchase incentives
  • Running Facebook and Instagram ads with limited-time discounts or special offers
  • Linking to landing pages with gated content

You can boost many of the above organic tactics by paying for additional exposure on your existing social media platforms. You might also try Facebook messenger ads or Pinterest buy buttons.


Invest in your entire funnel

Don’t make the mistake of investing in only one or two stages of the customer journey, perhaps to save money or time. This could leave you short on prospects, qualified leads, and/or conversions. A better strategy is to map out your customer journey, including social media tactics for each stage. From there, use an automation platform to ensure customers receive what they need when they need it based on their actual behaviors. The efficiency and precise targeting will save you time and money while boosting your ROI.


Integrating with your overall marketing strategy

Not only is social media effective in moving people through your sales funnel, It can also enhance your other marketing efforts. For example, according to a study by Salesforce, your email openers are 22% more likely to purchase if they’ve also been reached with Facebook ads. Another study found that web visitors who have been exposed to your messages previously are three to five times more likely to convert than cold traffic.

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How to Create a Customer Journey Map

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How to Create a Customer Journey Map

One-off campaigns or clever sales pitches just don’t work anymore to convert prospects into attendees, members, and loyal brand ambassadors. People need time to get to know you, explore your offerings, understand your value, and come to trust that you will deliver on your promises. They undergo a journey from awareness to consideration to decision. Creating a customer journey map can help you take a more precise, strategic approach to guiding prospects along that journey.


What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a diagram of all the steps prospects go through when engaging with your organization. It includes how they first learned about you, the research and education they undergo in their decision-making process, and the action steps they take along the way—from signing up for your email list to attending your events.

At the heart of a customer journey map is the customer. To most effectively move prospects along their journeys, you must become very familiar with their wants, needs, and pain points. What are their goals? What keeps them up at night? Get to know your customer so you know how to help them.


What are the stages of the customer journey?

The initial stages of the customer journey are awareness, consideration, and decision. If you’re successful in these three phases, some members will continue on to become loyal brand ambassadors.


Awareness

This is where a customer first learns about your brand. They might have read one of your blog posts, seen a testimonial, viewed a Facebook ad, or heard about you from a colleague.

For most organizations, increasing brand awareness is an active pursuit. It might include the following tactics:
  • Publish free educational content
  • Create blog posts, webinars, tools, templates, or guides
  • Use video to inform while showcasing your authentic brand persona
  • Publish a free email newsletter
  • Promote content via social media posts and paid ads

Avoid making a sales pitch in the initial stages of the customer journey. This is your chance to engage prospects and build trust by providing valuable resources with no strings attached.


Consideration

Once a prospect is aware of your organization, they will likely undergo a period of consideration. In this stage, they’re not quite ready to take action, but they are interested in learning more.

Move people toward a decision by providing content that will help them see whether your organization can solve their pain points. Be aware that it could take a while—perhaps 10 or more touch points. This is still not the time for a sales pitch. Focus instead on your value proposition and what’s in it for the customer.

Useful tactics for the consideration stage:
  • Case studies, reviews, and testimonials
  • How-to content that showcases your events, products, and offerings
  • Demo videos, product descriptions, and data sheets
  • Social media ads that lead to free downloadable content

At the same time your prospects evaluate your organization, you should also evaluate your prospects. Qualify your leads in this stage so you know where to focus your time, effort, and budget.


Decision

How long the customer journey lasts depends on many factors, including the cost of your product, length of the engagement, complexity of the offer, and more. Regardless, at some point, you will need to make a pitch and ask for a decision so you and your prospect can move forward.

Useful tactics for the decision stage:
  • Ask your social media followers to sign up for your email list
  • Make limited-time offers that create urgency
  • Run Facebook ads that lead to landing pages with gated content
  • Send direct mail promotions
  • Call high-quality leads to make a personal connection

The tactics you choose may depend on the lead score of your prospects. For example, actively engaged prospects might receive additional communications and special promotions. High-quality leads might warrant a phone call or premium direct mail piece. Less active prospects might be moved to an automated email list.


Your guide to relationship marketing

Mapping the entirety of your customer journey may seem daunting, but don’t worry. You’re really just creating a simple guide for efficient relationship marketing. Start with the three broad categories: awareness, consideration, and decision. Then fill in each with details on goals, tactics, specific content, KPIs, and metrics for measurement.

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The shift is here.

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Is Your Association Putting Off Creating a Lead Gen Funnel?

If you’ve ever procrastinated on giving the-birds-and-the-bees talk to your kid or having an uncomfortable conversation with a friend, you know that we tend to put off difficult things.

We avoid difficult things in business, too. Often, we do the easy-to-understand thing over and over again, even if it produces poor results. The hard-to-understand thing promises better results . . . but it can feel so complicated!

We run into this thinking with associations when we talk about lead generation funnels and customer journeys. While no association executive has ever held their ears closed and said, “La la la, I can’t hear you!” when we talk about lead gen, we can tell from their frightened looks and body language it’s what they want to do.

If you’re afraid of a lead generation funnel, you’re afraid of the wrong thing. A lead gen funnel is the only thing standing in the way of your association becoming obsolete in the next five years. Tactics like random fishing on LinkedIn and buying lists to import into your database may have been effective once, but they no longer work.

You have to be smarter.

The good news is, we make it easy for you because we’ve done the hard work of engineering smart funnels that guide prospects along the journey they choose, so they wind up at your landing page, clicking “Join Now.”

Download the Lead Generation Customer Journey to view larger >

What is a Lead Generation Funnel?

Lead generation funnels solve a big problem for member organizations: They help you increase membership and event attendance. They do this by expanding your prospect pool, turning your prospects into qualified leads, and then turning your qualified leads into members.

A lead generation funnel is essentially a holistic, digital map that guides your prospects along a journey. It’s fully automated and built out using an “if/then” system.

For example:
  • IF a prospect clicks to watch a Facebook video, THEN they are taken to a landing page with a simple call-to-action to stay connected.
  • IF they enter their email on that page, THEN they go into a drip/nuture email campaign with its own set of “if/thens.”
  • IF they don’t enter their email, THEN they are re-targeted on Facebook, or perhaps another platform, and the process repeats.

A good lead generation funnel engages with multiple social media platforms and uses responsive list management software that ushers prospects through the journey.

Because it’s automated, after you create your funnel, all you have to do is hit “go.”


Know Your Numbers: Prospect Pools, Qualified Leads, and Conversion Ratios

A lead generation funnel helps you get clear on your numbers.

For example, do you have any idea how large your prospect pool is?

This is often the first stumbling block for associations. They have no idea what number they are starting with. Is it 500? 5,000? 50,0000?

This math matters, because you need to know how many people you’re starting with so you can keep track of the percentage of those people who become qualified leads, and then the percentage of qualified leads who become members.

These are your conversion ratios.

If you don’t know these ratios, you’re just guessing. And while guessing is a legitimate strategy on a standardized test when you don’t know the right answer, it doesn’t tend to hold up as a sustainable marketing strategy.

Your funnel will help to determine your ratios. You’ll be able to track how many people you are talking to each step of the way, so you know your numbers.


Conversion Assets: High Quality Content That Inspires

Your automation has to be spot-on, but your funnel is only as good as the content that feeds it.

You always need high-quality, sticky content, including captivating videos, well-written stories, and compelling graphics.

Though your prospect pool is large, you still need to think carefully about what will catch a prospect’s eye and hit their pain points. At each point along the way, you need strong conversion assets. These assets include landing pages, emails, videos, blog posts, social media posts, newsletters, webinars, and direct mail pieces.

Just because you’re introducing math into the mix, it doesn’t mean you can stop focusing on inspiring people. In fact, you need to focus even more strongly on inspiring people.

More than anything, you need to shift your thinking from one-off campaigns to a holistic approach that blends extraordinary storytelling with the best that marketing automation can offer.

Why put it off when it can make all the difference for the future of your association?

Instead of spinning around in overwhelm, let us walk you through what a lead gen funnel could look like for your organization. Contact Us Today >

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Things Not From the 1990s: Marketing Your Association in 2018

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Things Not From the 1990s: Marketing Your Association in 2018

In fashion, everything old becomes new again. Thin ties were out, and then back in. Glasses were oversized, then small, and then large again. Right now, the 1990s are having their renaissance, with rompers and high-waisted jeans all the rage.

The idea that everything becomes new again works beautifully for the runway.

It does not, however, work so well for associations and membership organizations.

The 1990s are definitely not back in again when it comes to thinking about why people join and engage with your association. However, a lot of associations are stuck there.


What do we mean by stuck in the 1990s?

We mean focusing all marketing and outreach efforts around education and networking. We mean laying out everything you offer in a direct mail piece or an email that essentially says, “We’re the only ones who have this! Come and get it!”

A few decades ago, when there wasn’t as much to compete with, people simply joined the association their mentor, boss, colleague, or previous person in their job joined. People followed the path set before them. Join this association. Here are the benefits. This is what you do.

This mindset was fairly standard, and it worked pretty well. For a while.

It doesn’t work anymore though. The most obvious reason it stopped working is that there are far more channels to compete with now. Professionals can get education through webinars. They can hear thought leadership by watching TED talks, reading blogs, or listening to podcasts. They can network through social media.

Essentially, your association is competing with what they can access on their phones.

The second reason, and the one that associations struggle even more to understand, is that the marketing tactics that worked on Baby Boomers do not connect nearly as well with Millennials, or even the younger side of GenXers.

These populations are looking for something else.

What are they looking for? This is one of the questions keeping leaders of membership associations up at night.

Luckily, we have the answer.


Cause Marketing for Membership Organizations

We’ll get right to the point: Your association needs a cause.

By cause, we mean a simple, easily understandable, highly relevant idea that members can embrace, rally around, and spread.

A cause is not the same thing as a marketing campaign. A campaign is short lived, and usually has a clear beginning and ending. A cause, by contrast, is about the long view.

The right cause inspires people and spurs action. Unlike education and networking, which are plentiful outside of your association, your cause is unique to who your association is and why it exists.

A cause is an idea, which you articulate in a succinct phrase. It’s more than a slogan. A cause must have movement behind it. It must direct what your association focuses on, how you allocate your resources, and how you bring new members into the fold.

Millennials are not a shallow, entitled group, despite how much other generations like to pick on them. They are incredibly savvy and unapologetically passionate—but only about things they truly care about.

To get them to care about you, you need a cause that speaks to them.

But first, you have to get their attention.


Reaching a Millennial Audience

Can you communicate something valuable and inspiring related to your cause in 10 seconds or less? That’s the length of a Snapchat video. We call it the “Snapchat test.” It doesn’t mean you only ever have 10 seconds, but it’s a good idea to start thinking along those lines.

In fact, you most likely need to rethink your communication approach altogether, if you are still using tactics from the 1990s (or even from the 2000s or early 2010s).

In 2018, effective marketing is about using one channel to lead, and another to follow up. Just like a smart phone can “hand off” to a computer, or a tablet can “hand off” to a television, you need a strategy for “handing off” content between platforms.

The key is that you need to tweak your communication plan based on how your audience is behaving. Their next moves after engaging with your content determine your next moves.

That might look like . . .
  • Leading with a Facebook video, and remarketing on Facebook again to people who have shown interest.
  • Leading with a LinkedIn post and then retargeting on Facebook to those people who showed interest.
  • Leading with a Snapchat video, and then retargeting on Facebook.
  • Leading with digital and then following up with marketing automation.

All of your association’s thoughtful and strategic work in articulating your cause will be lost if you go back to a 1990s way of trying to reach an audience. Today’s audience simply isn’t in the same place as your audience used to be, and they are not behaving in the same way.

Your association has to LEAD if you want to attract Millennials, and then—just as important—you need to FOLLOW them where they go and keep the conversation going.

In other words, you need long-view thinking (a strong cause to rally around) with shorter-view action (using the latest tools and content platforms).

Wear all the high-waisted jeans you want, but 1990s marketing best practices are not coming back. It’s time for your association to embrace the NOW.

If you are the leader of a membership organization, your single most important priority right now is to develop and articulate the cause that your members and perspective members can rally around.

Do you know it? Can you write it on a cocktail napkin? Can you get it across in 10 seconds?

Need help? Borrow our brain, and let’s see if we can come up with it together.

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Is Your Association Putting Off Creating a Lead Gen Funnel?

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The shift is here.

If you’re like most professional organizations, you put on your professional hat when you get to the office every day. You’re in the trenches, focused on finding new members, boosting attendance numbers, growing your prospect list, and analyzing the data. You’re up to your elbows in opens, clicks, and conversions.

When the numbers aren’t what you want, you try new messages and offers—you send more and more emails. Despite all your efforts, your numbers still disappoint.

So what’s the deal? There is a disconnect.

Talking to your members and prospects as if they are data points or retention numbers is cold and creates detachment. Communications that are purely professional don’t inspire people. They don’t empathize with pain points or let people get to know you. What’s missing is the human element. You must cross over—shift from professional to personable to engage people and build lasting loyalty.

“Forward movement is not helpful if what is needed is a change of direction.”

This shift is more than just the way you talk to people. It involves being mindful of your members—even when you don’t immediately profit from doing so. It means taking a holistic approach that considers the bigger picture and meets people where they are.

The great news is that once you make this shift, all your numbers will dramatically improve. People will feel valued. They will feel accountable to you, another human. As a result, they will join, renew, attend, volunteer, and engage. They will bring others into your fold. They’ll roll up their sleeves and rally around your initiatives.

You must be real and transparent if you want people to engage on a meaningful level. If you can’t shift your thinking to forge authentic human relationships— nothing else you do will matter.

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6 Email Performance Issues and How You Can Solve Them

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6 Email Performance Issues and How You Can Solve Them

Once you establish your holistic email marketing strategy and set your campaigns in motion, you will need to monitor performance to see if all your hard work pays off. Common email metrics such as deliverability, opens, clicks, and unsubscribe rates are good starting points to measure performance. But these metrics only tell part of the story. Also consider your specific goals, such as growing your subscriber list, increasing event attendance, or converting prospects into members. If your email campaigns aren’t performing to expectations, examine individual metrics as well as the big picture to see where you can improve.

Here are six common email issues and what you can do to boost your results using a holistic approach.


Poor Deliverability

If your deliverability rates are low, chances are your list is outdated or it was purchased from a less-than-reputable source. The highest quality list is one you create organically by asking people to opt-in—through in-person events, digital advertising, or other marketing efforts. It’s virtually impossible to have successful holistic email marketing without a clean list of interested members and prospects.


Too Few Clicks to Landing Page

If your landing page didn’t get as many views as you would like, you may need to work harder to drive more traffic there. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to send more emails. Research from Informz suggests relevancy, rather than frequency, has a greater impact on click rates. Examine your message to make sure it resonates with your audience and aligns with the customer journey.

Other factors such as time of day and day of the week also affect open and click rates. Experiment or A/B test to maximize your results once you have your messaging dialed in. Some marketing automation platforms have an optimization tool that automatically sends emails based on a subscriber’s past behavior.


High Unsubscribe Rate

Generally speaking, your unsubscribe rate for each campaign should be less than 1%. Any more than that could indicate that the people on your list did not formally subscribe—or that they subscribed with certain expectations that aren’t being met. Revisit the criteria for placing someone on your list. Set clearer expectations by revising any communications that encourage people to opt-in.


Low Conversions

If people were moved to click on your email but didn’t convert on your landing page, it could mean your offer was not compelling enough. Ask yourself: Is this offer relevant to the target segment? Does it enable their goals or solve a pain point? Is it aligned with the buying cycle? Is the timing right? Keep in mind your offers might vary depending on the segment. Determine what matters most to each segment, and tailor your offers accordingly. Feature only one call to action in each email to avoid confusing your audience or losing people along the way.


Few New Leads

If your email campaign didn’t generate as many new leads as you would like, give people a reason to share your content. Consider providing a link to a free download that’s worth forwarding on. You might also incentivize your message. For example, offer a two-for-one registration special if a member attends your event with a colleague.


Disappointing Membership or Attendance Numbers

If your email campaign didn’t generate enough members or event attendees, you may need to revise your automated workflows. Consider adjusting your offers, timing, frequency, or other factors. Examine lead scores and segments to help you optimize your message and formats.

Keep in mind that email is only part of your overall holistic marketing strategy. The success of your email campaigns is linked to the rest of your branding efforts—including your digital advertising, collateral, direct mail pieces, and in-person events. You might need to tweak your other efforts to maximize results from your email campaigns.


The Big Picture

Analyzing individual metrics is essential to optimizing your email marketing performance. But don’t forget to look at the big picture as well. Segmentation, personalization, and automation improve email results across the board but only when they’re well informed and well executed. Spend some time getting to know your audience and their behaviors. Based on the data, ask yourself if your segments are meaningful categories that help you focus your efforts. Verify that your campaign themes are relevant and inspiring. Consider whether you communicate the measurable ROI of your events and offers. Determine your timing in light of the customer journey as well as other industry events.

Examining these global considerations—and making adjustments based on your analysis—will not only improve your holistic email marketing. It will improve all your marketing and engagement efforts. When all your initiatives are integrated to present a seamless brand experience, it’s easier to rally your base into action—to attend your events, volunteer for committees, or achieve breakthroughs in your industry. Your goal with email and other channels should always be thoughtful communications that show your value while enabling your audience’s goals.

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3 Components of Holistic Email Marketing

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3 Components of Holistic Email Marketing

In a perfect world, every marketing email you send would be a personalized, one-to-one communication based on everything you know about your recipient. It would provide meaningful information and just the right offer to meet their current needs. While it’s not practical to send everyone on your list a personal email at every step of their customer journey, holistic email marketing is the next best thing.

Holistic email marketing puts the customer first. It lets the member or prospect tell you what they need when they need it so you can deliver a seamless brand experience. This customer-first approach also benefits your organization and your industry. It can dramatically improve your email campaign results while fueling engagement, event attendance, membership, and retention. Getting started with holistic email marketing requires three components: segmentation, personalization, and automation.


Segmented Audience Targeting

To provide the most relevant, timely email messages and offers, you will first need to look at your audience and group them into meaningful categories, called segments. Research shows that segmented email campaigns achieve better results than mass emails.

Consider dividing your list based on a contact’s defining characteristics, such as industry, job title, geographic location, or lead score. You can also segment based on an existing list, such as past event attendees. Another approach would be to segment by actions taken, for example, a form submission or purchase made. You will also need to determine where individuals are in their customer journey: Are they new to your organization? Are they first timers or veteran event attendees? Has their membership lapsed? Is it time to renew?


6 Types of Personalized Communications

Once you establish your audience segments, the next step is to personalize messages for each group. Personalized emails are immediately more relevant to your audience. They reduce perceived information overload, and they boost engagement. Depending on your audience segments, you might send one of these six emails tailored to the customer journey.

  1. Welcome emails—provide background information for those new to your organization; include offers that reassure their intent and encourage them to engage
  2. Lead nurturing—help people move through the buying cycle by sending regular messages that show your organization’s value and promote year-round engagement
  3. Event promotion—send registration emails, special promotions, and post-event follow-up to drive attendance and encourage repeat attendance
  4. Inactive subscriber campaigns—target individuals on your list who haven’t opened or clicked in a while with messages and offers that compel them to re-engage
  5. Membership renewal messages—send emails based on when individual memberships expire to fuel your retention efforts
  6. Lapsed member campaigns—schedule a drip campaign to invite lapsed members to rejoin your organization, attend an event, and engage with peers again

To achieve the greatest results, you should pair each email with a custom landing page that has the same look and feel, messaging, and offer as your email. The landing page should also present an easy way for your audience to take action. For example, include an obvious button to click or form to fill out. Make only one offer to avoid overwhelming people or losing them along the way. Also ensure that your landing page is mobile optimized for efficient navigation.


Marketing Automation

The third component in holistic email marketing is automation. Holistic email marketing takes cues from your audience members’ actual behaviors to determine next steps—such as a phone call, direct mail piece, or another email message. To streamline this process without draining your staff resources and budget, you can use a marketing automation platform, such as Informz.

Using marketing automation, you can set up custom workflows, schedule emails, and score leads as they come in. Once you establish the workflows, the platform takes care of the next steps automatically. You monitor performance as you go and make adjustments to headlines, copy, offers, and visuals as needed.


Why Holistic Email Marketing?

Simply put, people are more likely to engage in issues that matter to them personally. Before you launch another email campaign, ask yourself, “How can we help our members and prospects achieve their objectives?” Quite often, the answer to this question will vary based on your individual audience members. Some need to become aware of your organization and its benefits. Others seek specific tools to advance their careers. Perhaps others need a little nudge to re-engage with your organization.

Holistic email marketing helps you reach all these individuals with relevant, personalized messages no matter where they are in their customer journey. The result is eager, engaged members and attendees that work hard for your organization year after year.

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Holistic Digital Marketing Part 2: Platforms and tools

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Holistic Digital Marketing Part 2: Platforms and tools

Once you’ve outlined your holistic digital marketing strategy, it’s time to choose the platforms and tools that will propel your organization toward your goals. A combination of retargeting, email marketing, segmentation, and automation is effective for reaching members and finding new prospects.


Retargeting and Prospecting

Depending on your goals, you can use retargeting to reach existing members (a.k.a. known users) or lookalike audiences based on your current member profile (a.k.a. unknown users). You can focus your efforts on a single platform, such as Facebook, or use web retargeting for a potentially broader reach.

To achieve results for web retargeting, you will likely need to enlist the help of a partner, such as AdRoll, for sufficient purchasing power. For many associations, Facebook offers more affordable solutions and better results.


Facebook Retargeting

Facebook is the most popular social media platform (with nearly 2 billion users!) and it offers great potential to reach your target audiences and convert users to members and attendees. With Facebook’s custom audiences and lookalike audiences, you can segment ads, measure conversions, and optimize campaigns. New features, such as audience insights, offline events, analytic reports, and product catalogs offer additional opportunities.


Segmentation

Before you launch any campaigns, consider segmenting your list into broad categories. Segmentation contributes to holistic marketing because you can use it to tailor your messaging based on what the individuals in your audience need to hear.

For your retargeting efforts, segmenting increases the relevancy of your message and boosts response as a result. For email marketing, segmentation leads to higher opens, clicks, and conversions. How much higher? MailChimp estimates that segmented email campaigns see a 14.31% higher open rate and a 100.95% higher click rate than non-segmented campaigns.

To take advantage of the benefits of segmentation, first define your segments. Consider categories such as first-time and repeat attendees, members and prospects, stage of the buying cycle, age, demographics, or location. Aim for no more than three audience segments (any more than three can be too complex to manage). Then, on a per message basis, determine whether each promotion goes to a specific segment or your entire audience.


Holistic SEO

Another component of holistic digital marketing is your search engine optimization. While SEO of the past was centered around keywords and backlinks, today’s SEO is all about relevancy to the user. It is increasingly content-driven. For best results, your content should be integrated with your other digital marketing efforts, such as your social media marketing, web retargeting, and email campaigns.


Marketing Automation

Integrated marketing is made infinitely easier with a marketing automation platform, such as Informz. Marketing automation can help you segment your list, personalize messaging, schedule ongoing campaigns, and track results with real-time reporting. Holistic marketing is customer-focused, and marketing automation provides insights and tools to personalize your efforts based on customer needs.


Measure for Success

As a best practice, you should continually evaluate performance and make adjustments based on actual campaign metrics to ensure your desired outcomes are being met. Below are three digital marketing KPIs that are especially relevant to associations.

  • Conversions—new members, subscriptions, class enrollment, etc.
  • Expanded brand awareness—number of ad impressions, site visitors
  • Engagement—clicks, email addresses submitted, inbound inquiries

Your specific KPIs should be based on your organization’s goals and objectives. Click here for the full list of 12 KPIs every association should measure.


Digital marketing offers a wealth of possibilities that support holistic marketing. With the right tools in place, you can segment your list and customize your message based on deep audience insights. You can track campaigns, messages, and offers as well as where each individual is in the buying cycle. Most importantly, you can access advanced data and analytics to guide your efforts today and next year. As a result, your audience enjoys a seamless customer experience—they get what they need when they need it. At the same time, you gain loyal followers who rally around your cause and sustain your organization into the future.

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How to Maximize your Outcomes and Budget

Holistic Digital Marketing Part 1: Strategy

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Why You Should Market Holistically for Long-Term Sustainability

What is Holistic Marketing?

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How to Maximize your Outcomes and Budget

Holistic Digital Marketing Part 1: Strategy

Holistic Digital Marketing Part 1: Strategy

Digital marketing offers endless possibilities to get your messages in front of members and prospects. It’s tempting to jump on the latest trend, platform, or technique to cast a wide net. The result, however, can be a hodgepodge of offers and images that don’t support your core value proposition and don’t speak to individual customer journeys. Poor ROI and low engagement are the inevitable outcomes with this approach.

A better idea is to take a holistic approach to your digital marketing. Holistic marketing looks at the big picture of your brand and how all the pieces work together. It inspires and engages your audience through consistent, unified messaging that meets people where they are in the buying cycle. Holistic digital marketing will tell you where to focus your online efforts to maximize your resources, budget, and outcomes. Here’s how to get started.


Take inventory of your brand ecosystem

Before you can take a holistic approach to any marketing—digital or otherwise—you must take inventory of all aspects of your brand. Consider your digital platforms, such as your website and social media feeds. Add in your organization’s assets, like your events and membership. You will also need to consider your audience and segments as well as your budget and the timing of your initiatives.


Establish Objectives and KPIs

Before you ever brainstorm a campaign, establish objectives and KPIs to measure progress. These will help you know where to focus your energy and budget. In addition to your attendance, membership, and retention goals, your digital marketing objectives might include click-though rates, reach, impressions, and conversions (ex: downloads, purchases, form submissions).


Analyze Past Performance

Take a look at your past digital marketing initiatives and try to extract key insights. Was there a particular offer or message that resonated with your audience? Did a specific platform gain more traffic than others? Which information piece was downloaded most? Were there any flops? Knowing where you’ve been can help you determine where to go next. Quantify results whenever possible (ex: cost per click, lead, or conversion).


Examine Your Audience

Next, take an in-depth look at your audience. Besides the standard audience analysis (who are they, what do they care about?), holistic digital marketing requires a few additional questions.

  • How do people access your content and messages?
    (ex: mobile vs. social, Explorer vs. Chrome)
  • Which social media platforms do they prefer?
  • What communication formats do they prefer?
    (ex: email, social, SMS, direct mail)
  • What are they actually reading?
    (ex: blogs, whitepapers, microsites, event info)
  • What insights can you gain from available data?
    (ex: age, geography, demographics, member/non-member, etc.)

Give the People What They Want

Tailor your efforts based on the answers to these questions. If your audience prefers a mobile experience, your website design must be responsive and optimized for mobile users. If they spend more time on Facebook than Twitter, don’t worry about advertising on Twitter. If they convert more often over email, allocate additional resources to email.


Optimize Your Budget and Timing

Choose digital strategies based on how you can best move people along their customer journeys within your available budget. Time your initiatives with the buying cycle as well as your organization’s calendar and other industry events (ex: conferences, course offerings, changing regulations, membership renewal deadlines).


Maintain Consistency

Whichever strategies you settle on, keep in mind that holistic marketing is a 360-degree approach to reaching your audience. Its success depends on consistency online and off. To build trust and recognition among your base, your digital assets should match your real-world assets—not only in look and feel but in voice and personality as well.


Monitor Performance

Track KPIs over time to gauge the success of your digital initiatives and timing. Did you meet your goals and objectives? Make adjustments as needed—in real time if possible, or use your findings as benchmarks for next year.

Holistic digital marketing makes it possible to reach your audience with the right content on the right channel at the right time. It helps you get the most out of your budget while minimizing staff time and resources. What does that look like in practical terms? Tune in next week for Holistic Digital Marketing Part 2: Platforms and Tools.

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Holistic Digital Marketing Part 2: Platforms and tools

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Why You Should Market Holistically for Long-Term Sustainability

What is Holistic Marketing?

HOLISTIC DIGITAL MARKETING PART 1: STRATEGY

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”

— Aristotle

Imagine how effective your marketing would be if all your channels worked seamlessly together—reinforcing your core brand message and promoting key campaigns to engage and inspire your audience. A holistic marketing strategy can achieve this precision. It thinks through each aspect of your marketing and figures out how all the pieces work together. As a result, you’ll provide a meaningful, consistent member experience that rallies people to your organization, drives engagement, and ensures a loyal long-term following.

4 Components of Holistic Marketing

Effective holistic marketing includes four essential components to help you see the big picture of your brand: relationships, integration of all brand touch points, your internal team, and marketing performance.

Relationship marketing

Given the overwhelming amount of marketing noise your members and prospects face every day, you need more than a slick website or a great offer to win their trust and loyalty. Relationship marketing helps you build meaningful engagement with current members and establish rapport with prospects. It requires you to reach people where they are and provide relevant info, connections, and tools that will meet their individual goals and challenges. Sure, this takes time and effort, but the payoff can be huge.

Cultivate relationships and people will join, attend, and engage because they’re internally compelled and inspired to do so—not because you’ve pushed them or “sold” them on anything. Connect with people on multiple levels: as individuals, based on what they do, continuously over time, directed towards an outcome, everywhere they are (marketing mix). Do this and you will have a steady supply of brand ambassadors who roll up their sleeves to further your industry and organization.


Integrated marketing

Most people aren’t ready to join your association the first time they hear about you. They need time to get to know you, explore your offerings, and understand your value. Individuals undergo a journey from awareness, to attending your events, to joining as a member. Eventually, they might also become loyal long-term followers.

Integrated marketing means giving members and prospects what they need when they need it to continue on their customer journey. Integrated marketing is about more than just splashing the same slogan, identity, and colors on every marketing channel. It weaves a coherent story through everything the brand does. No matter where someone encounters your organization or where they are in their customer journey, they should get the same seamless brand experience and the same authentic brand story.

To achieve integrated marketing, align your message, communication, and brand images across all marketing channels—online and off. Use marketing automation technology to facilitate this process and to create a cohesive marketing plan instead of silos.


Internal marketing

Internal marketing means all departments within your organization are aware of the marketing plan, work to support it, and have access to spreadsheets, calendars, communications, timelines, and budget. Everyone on your internal team must understand your overall vision as well as your individual promotions, standard messages, and current offers. Your team should be deeply familiar with the full range of your offerings and how members benefit from each one.

When your whole team knows the big picture and works toward a common goal, everyone wins. Your members and prospects get a consistent brand experience that meets their needs, and you save time and money by streamlining your efforts.


Performance marketing

To know what’s working you must track marketing performance and measure progress toward your goals. Key performance indicators are measurable values that show you how effectively your association is achieving key objectives. Establish KPIs and measure campaign performance to inform next steps, make better decisions, overcome challenges, and achieve your overall mission. KPIs maximize your budget and staff resources while generating better results. They help you use real-time data to make smart decisions for your marketing and your long-term sustainability.

Establish your goals first. Then assign objectives and KPIs. Once you define these parameters, you can begin brainstorming the individual strategies and campaigns that will propel your organization forward.


Why do you need holistic marketing?

With holistic marketing, you can go beyond simply promoting your organization and your offerings. You can rally your base to join together, form a movement, and further your mission. Holistic marketing is a surefire way to inspire and compel people—rather than push them or convince them. While it takes a little more work up front, over the long haul you’ll have a much easier time meeting registration, membership, and retention goals. As an added benefit, you’ll save time and money by integrating your efforts and streamlining your internal processes.

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How to Maximize your Outcomes and Budget

Holistic Digital Marketing Part 1: Strategy

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Holistic Digital Marketing Part 2: Platforms and tools

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3 Components of Holistic Email Marketing

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So you Can Make Smart Decisions to Reach your Goals

12 Marketing KPIs Every Association Should Measure

12 Marketing KPIs Every Association Should Measure

KPIs, or key performance indicators, can help you track the success of your event, marketing, and organization so you can make smart decisions to reach your goals. They can also help you identify gaps and make improvements as you go. The trouble is, there are lots of potential metrics to track, and not all of them are truly meaningful indicators of performance. Tracking the wrong metrics can lead to you to make uniformed decisions or worse—misinformed decisions. How do you know where to focus your attention?

Here are a dozen examples of KPIs especially suited for associations that hold events.

Use these as inspiration, but keep in mind your KPIs must be aligned with the specific goals of your event and your organization.


1. ROI:

Revenue from registrations, revenue from sponsors, total costs and cost per attendee

Why it matters: At the end of the day, your event and organization must be financially sustainable if your mission is to continue.


2. Event satisfaction:

Feedback from after-event surveys, repeat guests, how many signed up vs. actually showed up, first-time attendees

Why it matters: If the KPIs show that your attendees are overwhelmingly satisfied with your event, perhaps you need to focus your efforts on raising awareness through marketing. If your attendees were dissatisfied, you might focus on improving your event experience before turning to promotion.


3. Engagement:

Attendance numbers; number of people who registered but didn’t show; social media mentions, comments, and clicks

Why it matters: Engagement is often viewed as a subjective concept. These KPIs provide an objective way to measure member and attendee engagement using quantifiable data points.


4. Web traffic:

Number of visitors, which channels they came from, search queries

Why it matters: Monitoring web traffic provides baseline information about the size of your audience, where they spend time online, and what they care about. This can help you decide what content to feature on your site and where to promote it.


5. New leads:

Number of new leads (not just new contacts) and each lead’s source

Why it matters: See where your leads come from so you know where to invest more of your time, effort, and budget (and where not to).


6. Visitor-to-lead ratio:

Compare number of site visitors to number of new leads

Why it matters: If you get lots of visitors but they don’t take any action, that’s a sign that your visitors didn’t find what they’re looking for. It could mean your Facebook ads are targeting the wrong audience, for example. It could also mean your website isn’t compelling enough, doesn’t provide key information, or is difficult to navigate.


7. Landing page conversion rate:

Percentage of people who come to a landing page that complete a form

Why it matters: People who arrived at your landing page were compelled to click on something to get there. If too many leave without taking further action, it could be a sign your offer isn’t strong enough or isn’t aligned with their customer journey (or you don’t have an offer at all). It could also indicate a lack of trust—they might be worried about how you will use their contact info.


8. Lead-to-member/registration ratio:

How many leads you generate compared to how many join your organization/register for your event

Why it matters: If you generate lots of leads but acquire very few members, it could be an indication that your marketing offer was too general (ex: a free promotional item vs. a free whitepaper). For events, this could be a sign that you haven’t proven the ROI of attending.


9. Email metrics:

Delivery, open, click, and unsubscribe rates; number of subscribers

Why it matters: Email metrics help you to gauge whether your messaging and offers resonate with your targets.


10. Blog metrics:

Number of visitors to your blog, click-through rate, number of subscribers to your blog

Why it matters: If your blog traffic is light, your content isn’t resonating with your audience. Click-throughs can tell you what people were interested in to guide future content and offers.


11. Search engine optimization:

Backlinks, keyword ranking

Why it matters: SEO is especially important to find new prospects. The higher your keywords rank, the more likely you are to get organic traffic.


12. Diversity:

Age, gender, ethnicity, bilingual

Why it matters: If you want more millennials, for example, you need to monitor your audience makeup today and as you launch new campaigns and event offerings. Explore the relationship between attendee diversity and your campaigns to see what resonates with people of various backgrounds.


While you might not monitor all 12 of these KPIs, you will need to track more than just one or two. KPIs are most meaningful when considered in combination with one another and as part of your larger brand strategy. For example, you can look at attendance numbers in light of your web traffic, landing page conversions, and email performance to find where people are dropping out of your sales funnel.

Without well-defined goals and corresponding KPIs, you can only guess at the success of your marketing campaigns, your events, and your organization’s progress toward your mission. With KPIs, you can use quantifiable data to make informed decisions that fuel attendance, engagement, and long-term sustainability.

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How to Track Ket Metrics to Make Better Strategic Decisions

Key Performance Indicators for Event Marketers

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How to Move People from Prospects to Attendees, Members, and Ambassadors

Member journeys in the digital marketing world

Member journeys in the digital marketing world

According to the Email Statistics Report, the average person received 90 emails per day in 2016. That’s a lot of clutter to cut through if you’re a marketer. To get attention and to maximize your ROI, you need to go beyond impersonal e-blasts and one-size-fits-all marketing. A better strategy is to take cues from your audience and your data to craft purposeful content for a range of digital touch points. Then optimize your efforts through automation and a CRM platform. When all the elements of your digital marketing environment come together, that’s when the magic happens. You’ll increase engagement and move more of your base along their journey toward event attendance and membership.


The member journey

Most people aren’t ready to attend your event or join your organization the first time they hear about you. They need time to get to know you, explore your offerings, and understand your value. Individuals will undergo a journey from awareness, to attending your events, to joining as a member. Eventually, they might also become loyal long-term followers and brand ambassadors. But how much time do they need? What exactly do they need to know? And when do they need to know it? Answering these questions requires a solid grasp of the entire digital marketing environment. This includes in-depth audience knowledge as well as integrated brand touch points.


Meet them where they are

A solid digital marketing strategy begins by knowing your audience—not just their demographics or purchase history but characteristics and behaviors that help you speak to them. Start by assigning archetypes, or personas, to your audience segments. Archetypes are defined categories centered around value and purpose. You can also segment your audience based on known behaviors, such as members, non-members, veteran attendees, or new attendees. Also consider where individuals are in the buying cycle and how much they already know about your association. All this information helps you tailor your messaging and tactics so you can provide timely, relevant marketing communication that engages your base.


Bring all brand touch points together

Digital brand touch points include stories, videos, retargeting, emails, ebooks, white papers, landing pages, and more. Your audience might encounter any or all of these items depending on where they are in their journey. It’s important to present a unified look and feel in all your branding as well as complementary messaging. It’s also critical to include a mix of content types to cater to various communication preferences. But how do you know which tactics to launch, to whom, and when?


Why you need marketing automation

Marketing automation allows your audience to tell you what they need. To get started, you create several defined communication strategies, called workflows, based on your archetypes, audience segments, and any data you’ve gathered. Once you set your workflows in motion, your audience behaviors trigger the next steps. One example would be an individual who sees your Facebook ad then clicks to download your white paper on business finances. This behavior then triggers an email promoting the finance track at your annual conference. If this person decides to register for your event, they will receive information about other offerings at the conference. If they don’t register within a week of your first email, they automatically receive a discount code in a follow-up email. The more that people interact with your brand touch points, the more you learn, and the more likely it is that you can continually deliver communications they find valuable. The result? A recent study suggests that using marketing automation to nurture your prospects could result in a 451% increase in qualified leads.


Tracking success

It’s important to track campaign results, examine key performance indicators, and understand your data. By leveraging real-time pre-event marketing data, you can use relevant member or prospect behaviors to trigger lead scoring and follow-up activities for cross-selling and upselling. Combining data-driven insights with automation technology will help you personalize their journey toward attendance and membership—and you’ll see increases in both as a result. Use a customer relationship management program to monitor your data and effectively track and score leads. If you can’t monitor results, you won’t be able to calculate campaign ROI and you won’t know what’s working (and what’s not). Marketing automation isn’t something you can set and forget. You must keep an eye on the data and adjust your workflows based on actual behaviors.


Up your marketing game

In today’s world of flooded inboxes and information overload, you need to up your marketing game if you want sustainable membership and event attendance. Improve your marketing using automation and integrated brand touch points to guide more people through their customer journeys. Rottman Creative can help you cut through the clutter and drive event attendance with purposeful digital marketing. Contact us today to learn more about marketing automation.

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How to enhance your marketing with motion graphics
In a world of content overload, motion graphics cut through the clutter with bite-sized content that grabs attention, evokes emotions, and incites action.

So why aren’t you using them? The Association Audience and Member Engagement Study indicated 84% of associations don’t use motion graphics. If you want to improve attendance, membership, and engagement—as well as SEO, web traffic, and social media reach—it’s time to try new tactics. Motion graphics are proven to generate outcomes without draining all your time and resources.


What are motion graphics?

Motion graphics are animations or static images brought to life through design to create the illusion of motion. They’re often paired with audio to form engaging multimedia clips.

Compared to static text or standard presentations, motion graphics give your audience a better understanding of your association and your brand. They’re inherently more engaging than other formats because they “show” instead of “tell.” Motion graphics allow you to present complex information in a short, simple way. An added advantage is that they’re easily sharable, not just on the web and social media but at your events and in apps.


Cost effective

“It’s hard to recruit new audiences with a very limited budget,” noted one association director in the engagement survey. With motion graphics you don’t need expensive equipment and camera crews. You just need a motion graphics designer, who can use your existing brand images and collateral to craft original animations. Because the ideal length of a motion graphic is just a few seconds, these projects are less complex and time-consuming to execute than videos. As a result, they tend to be more affordable than video.

Broad appeal

“One of our pain points is creating content that attracts a wide variety of audiences,” noted another survey respondent. A robust marketing plan must include a range of tactics to engage your audience segments and inspire them to take action. Adding a motion graphics component to your plan is a great way to mix up your content delivery and reinforce brand touch points.


Best practices

Given viewers’ short attention spans, it’s essential to capture attention and deliver your message as fast as possible. Just how fast? According to Facebook, only 65% of people who watch the first three seconds of a video will continue watching for at least 10 seconds. Only 45% continue watching for 30 seconds. A study from Locowise determined viewers watch videos for about 18 seconds on average, even though the average video length is nearly a minute. It’s vital to include the most important information within the first three seconds of your motion graphic if you want to keep your audience captivated.


Expand your efforts

Nearly 90% of associations surveyed in the Association Audience and Member Engagement Study indicated some interest in using more video in their marketing. However, many stated they lack the resources to expand their efforts. Motion graphics can be an simple, effective solution at a fraction of the effort and time of video.

Ready to engage your audience with motion graphics? Contact Rottman Creative today to add this compelling tactic to your marketing plan.

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5 Steps to Facebook Marketing Success

Navigating digital advertising platforms can be confusing and expensive. You might end up spending a lot of money and getting very few results in return. But online advertising also offers a huge opportunity to reach a specific audience with relevant messages and offers. For member organizations, that means discovering more potential members and event attendees. We recommend Facebook as the place to start for affordable online advertising that gets results.

Follow these five steps to ensure you see ROI on your Facebook marketing dollars.

1. You need a strategy.

Launching an ad and hoping you get overwhelmed with responses sounds great, but it’s unlikely to happen without a comprehensive marketing strategy. As with any good campaign, start by establishing the objective. What do you want to happen as a result of your efforts?

When it comes to digital advertising, consider one of these outcomes:
  • event attendance or membership
  • clicks to website or video views
  • conversions on your site
  • page post engagement
  • likes
  • app installs
  • brand awareness
  • local awareness
  • offers claimed
  • product sales
  • lead generation

Be specific and quantify your objective. How many more clicks do you want? How many new members do you need to sign up?

The next stage of your strategy is to select your ad set. We recommend using Facebook’s Power Editor over its Ads Manger for this step as well as the rest of your campaign. Here you’ll decide whom to target, how much you will spend, the timing of your campaign, where the ads will appear, and how they will be optimized. You can always make adjustments to these settings later on based on campaign performance.

Only after you’ve established your strategy, objective, and ad set should you proceed with creating visuals and messaging for the ads people will see.

2. Use segmented custom audiences

An especially useful feature of Facebook advertising is the ability to target individuals who are already on your contact list in addition to new prospects. To take advantage of this option, you will first need to install the Facebook Pixel on your website and upload your segmented email lists. This allows you to retarget ads to your site visitors as well as the people on your email lists. You can even create a custom audience for every page of your website.

Throughout the entire process you have the ability to customize ad sets based on budget, placement, timing, and optimization. You can also tailor your ad images and messaging based on your audience segments. All this adds up to precisely targeting known users and prospects with highly relevant content based on their actual interests and online behaviors.


3. Use custom conversions.

Facebook’s custom conversions help you target visitors to your website who ended up converting (filling out a form, registering for your event, making an inbound inquiry or purchase, etc). To use custom conversions, it is best to have a landing page directly on your site. Here’s an example:

If a user wants to sign up for your newsletter, they visit www.yoursite.com/newsletter. Once they submit their email address, they are redirected to another landing page saying, “Thanks for signing up.” That might be www.yoursite.com/newsletterthankyou. Because Facebook Pixel is already on your site, Facebook can optimize for this conversion when running your ads. It will target these users who have already interacted with your brand (and who we know are more likely to convert again in the future).


4. Don’t forget to test.

One of the great advantages of digital advertising is that you can make changes instantly based on performance. A good strategy is to A/B test images, video, and copy to dial in a winning combination. You can pause or revise ads that are underperforming or increase your budget on ads doing especially well.

Facebook has a range of features, such as image carousel or Canvas, that you can test to optimize your campaigns. For the best results, test only one item at a time. For example, use the same copy with two different images to see which image performs better. After a week, turn off the ad with less activity.


5. Review your stats.

Facebook advertising is not a “set it and forget it” tactic. It’s important to monitor your campaign statistics from BOTH Ads Manger and Power Editor. Ads Manager allows you to see key insights on performance, demographics, and placement. Power Editor provides more specific info on your click-though rates, or CTR, and the average cost per thousand impressions, or CPM. Once you evaluate campaigns using multiple data sets, you can make informed adjustments to boost performance going forward.

Why Facebook?

Compared to web retargeting, Facebook offers more affordable solutions and better results for associations to reach their audiences and convert users to members and attendees. Contact Rottman Creative today to get started using this platform.

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Forge Connections to Further Your Mission and Sustain Your Organization

How to Create High-Quality Connections

How to Create High-Quality Connections

Imagine your event is THE place for connecting—for meeting like-minded individuals who are open to new ideas, ready to work together to change lives, eager to mentor others, and excited about new possibilities for your organization. Imagine your members faithfully attend year after year, and they tell others about your life-changing mission. They even bring Millennials. Imagine event attendance and membership are at all time highs…These wonderful things are the results of inspiration and high-quality connections, or HQCs. The sooner you connect people for productive, inspiring, uplifting purposes, the better off your organization will be.


What are High-Quality Connections?

Certain connections are just plain better than others. Some people lift us up while others drag us down. Some people put us at ease while others put us on edge. Psychologists distinguish human interactions as either high-quality connections, HQCs, or low-quality connections, LQCs. HQCs allow us to fully express ourselves, they withstand setbacks, and they open us to new ideas. In simpler terms, HQCs are strong, powerful, and sustainable. Much like inspiration, they make us open to new possibilities at the same time they spark action and creativity.

Here are just a few reasons why you need HQCs:
  • attract and retain new members, including Millennials
  • break the acquisition and retention cycle
  • build loyalty and encourage advocacy
  • increase productivity and creativity to change more lives
  • sustain your organization for decades to come
  1. Dutton, J. E., & Heaphy, E. D. (2003). The power of high-quality connections. Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline, 3, 263-278.

LQCs by contrast kill inspiration and engagement, close our minds to new ideas, and leave damage in their wake. Consider how just one “bad apple” can destroy team morale in the workplace. Now think about how lots of these LQCs might affect the success of your event—in the form of poor attendance, lack of participation, failed networking events, and more.


HQCs vs Relationships

HQCs are not the same as relationships. Relationships are close bonds between people and include family, friends, and partnerships. They’re a powerful source of information, social support, and even health. But relationships are formed over long periods of time, and most people have relatively few truly meaningful relationships in their lifetime—perhaps as few as six. It’s simply not practical for your members to forge relationships in order to reach their goals and work towards your organization’s goals. You need action now.

HQCs can be created in an instant—in the hallway between sessions, for example. These micro-moments are defined not by their length of time but by their positive regard, mutual benefits, and sense of possibility. Luckily, people have room for lots of HQCs in their lives.


How to Build High-Quality Connections

Now that you know you want them, let’s talk about how to get them. Here are four pathways to forging HCQs with and among your base:

Be Engaged.

When members are engaged, they’re truly present at your event. They listen and participate, volunteer, teach, mentor, and contribute. They don’t just come for a certification and leave. You can encourage engagement with a killer brand experience at your event, and you can continue to engage throughout the year through your marketing. Communicate regularly with compelling triggers and targets. Broadcast emotionally engaging success stories and major milestones. Consider conducting feedback surveys or focus groups so you can continue to deliver what your members need most.


Enable Goals.

Your organization already has the tools, the people, and the knowledge to help your members achieve their business goals and change more lives. The trick is to make sure each member gets the help they need when they need it. Raising awareness is a good first step. For example, if you have a special session for CEOs, send them a personal invitation. Consider a new member orientation to help first-timers take advantage of all your organization has to offer. Don’t let connectivity end on the last day of your conference. Host regional events or maintain active online forums so members can help each other throughout the year.


Be Authentic.

Unless members are their true, vulnerable selves, HQCs can’t happen. Authentic storytelling is one way your organization can foster a culture of openness and vulnerability. Any forum that incorporates idea sharing is another (ex: panel discussions, roundtable luncheons, and Q&A sessions). Also consider unscripted networking events that allow members to let loose a little. A cocktail hour, golf outing, or game night might provide an arena for authenticity.


Enable Teamwork.

Connect inspired individuals to make even more magic happen! Consider creating an online forum before your event with different groups for CEOs, entry-level associates, or first-time attendees. Launch social media campaigns with event-specific hashtags. These pre-conference virtual meetings can help people connect better and faster in person. Interactive sessions at your event can facilitate teamwork by grouping people based on a particular issue they would like to solve. Incorporating a community project into your event can also build a spirit of teamwork.


High-quality connections are an essential part of the Inspiration-Connection Duality™. Humans are hardwired to connect, and we connect to feel inspired. As a purpose-driven organization you can fuel that basic human need and harness it to achieve your goals. Imagine the possibilities of creating HQCs among hundreds of inspired individuals!

Are you ready to tap into the power of HQCs? Let’s get started!

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THE GREY HAIR DILEMMA

As you look around the room at your annual conference, there’s a good chance you’re seeing more and more gray hair. This realization is probably followed by a sense of panic. What will happen to your organization in just a few years when the bulk of your members decide to retire? How can you attract and retain a younger base? And how can you preserve the knowledge and experience of your veteran members?

Step away from the panic button. Consider implementing a few of these ideas to attract younger members and keep your organization thriving.

Stay connected on social media

Social media is a one-to-one, 24/7 link between you and your base. While you might not see a concrete ROI in terms of new members signed up or conference registrations paid, the connectivity social media affords is invaluable. Your events happen a few times a year at best. Stay connected year round with a strong social media strategy.

Freshen up your visuals

Feature younger people in your membership brochure, on your website, and in any of your other marketing collateral. Seek them out for testimonials and success stories. Aside from showing younger faces, it might also be time to freshen up your logo or other visuals with a more contemporary look.

Actively recruit younger members

Fish where the fish are. Speak to your local young professionals group, purchase a mailing list based on age, or look for partner organizations with your desired demographic. Consider reaching out to university students to generate enthusiasm for your organization and your industry. A little investment now could pay off for decades to come.

Encourage involvement

Invite new members to serve on committees and get involved. Pair newbies with veteran members to make them feel welcome and to pass down that valuable knowledge and experience. Consider hosting a new member cocktail hour or open house to encourage connectivity beyond your annual events.

Explain the why

Lots of today’s young people want to be involved in something that matters. Share your authentic brand story and explain the reason why your organization exists. People of all ages will be drawn to you.

Some organizations dismiss social media or an updated look as unnecessary. They think, “We’ve never needed it before and we’re doing just fine.” But as your membership nears retirement and attendance numbers dwindle, you’ll need ways to reach new people—and the value they’ll bring for years to come.

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