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What to say visually and when to say it to reach your association’s membership and retention goals

These days, the social media canvas looks like a Jackson Pollack splatter painting. There are more fonts, colors, and graphics than ever. More politically charged messages. More impersonal ads. More videos. More virtual offerings. More noise.

Your audience has more going on too. More screen time. More responsibilities. More uncertainty. More stress. Amid all this “more,” people are craving, well, a little bit less—less clutter, less distraction, less dog and pony show, less B.S.

If your association wants to have any chance of cutting through the chaos to reach your audience—and reach your membership goals for the year—you have to strengthen and simplify your visual presence. Here are five best practices to help you fine-tune what to say visually and when to say it.


1. Take a minimalist approach

Simplify your branding to include only the most compelling, essential, easy-to-grasp elements. Go back to the basics and focus on composition, structure, and form. Take a lesson from history, when language was simpler. We heard about one designer who used ancient rune symbols from 150 AD for font inspiration.


2. Don’t be fooled by trends

Stay away from trendy design elements that can quickly be overdone. At the moment, everyone is jumping on the gradient bandwagon. You might think being trendy shows that your association is fresh and modern. The reality is that you’re just blending in with everyone else on social media, and your conversion rates will suffer as a result. A simple, clean, bold approach will go farther than the latest design fad.


3. Humanize your visuals

People relate to other people better than to impersonal organizations. Your visual branding must show your human side to attract members and prospects. A tip from neuroscience: Show people’s faces. Human faces enhance a website’s visual appeal, efficiency, and trustworthiness. One study determined that users find it easier to perform tasks on websites with faces.1


4. Go easy on the illustrations

Illustrations can be useful for depicting technical subject matter, complex emotions, or difficult topics. Use them sparingly, however, as too many cartoons can hurt your professional image.


5. Refine your timing

Recognize that people need different types, lengths, and formats of content depending on where they are in the buying cycle. Tailor your visuals and comms accordingly: 

Awareness phase: Providing entertainment can capture your audience’s initial attention and entice them to view more of your message.1 From there, blog posts, social content and e-books can address an acute problem your audience is trying to solve. Keep things simple and fairly brief. People don’t necessarily know you or trust you enough to watch long videos, read lots of text, or interpret complex data.

Consideration phase: Provide meatier content to help people evaluate your association’s offerings compared to competitors. Use visuals such as graphs, infographics, and illustrations to aid comprehension of complex topics. Consider adding email marketing in addition to retargeting and social media ads. 

Decision phase: Ask for action. By this stage, people have already made up their minds about your organization. They just need a nudge to convert or go another direction. Messaging and visuals at this stage should be clear, concise, brief, and straight to the point.


6. Be purposeful

Keep in mind that the wrong visuals can damage your brand and credibility. One study of Instagram posts by orthodontists showed that personal images of family members hurt the office’s credibility and decreased the likelihood of being selected by patients.2 Only include images if they truly show the value of your association.


The power of visuals

Don’t overlook the power of visuals in your membership and retention marketing. Great visuals communicate on their own—sometimes better than text. They can also work in harmony with your marketing copy to drive home key points. Fresh, bold, clear, simple visuals can make or break your campaigns and your goals for the year.

Sources:
  1. Consumer Behaviour through the Eyes of Neurophysiological Measures: State-of-the-Art and Future Trends, Patrizia Cherubino et al.
  2. The Effects of Images Posted to Social Media by Orthodontists on Public Perception of Professional Credibility and Willingness to Become a Client, Thiago Martins Meira, et al. 

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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

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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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