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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