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The AI revolution is upon us. Everyone is talking about how AI can perform basic writing tasks, filter and summarize content, and comb through research at lightning speed. At Rottman Creative, we’re at the forefront, using it every day to turbocharge productivity. But before we lean too far into the wind of AI enthusiasm, let’s get real about the implications for your association.

The Allure and the Alarm Bells of AI

Listen, the benefits are clear: AI will continue to evolve at an unbelievable pace. But here’s the buzzkill: within five years, AI’s relentless improvement will create a massive engagement crisis for associations. We’re talking about an AI smart enough to pinpoint people’s pain points and deliver jaw-dropping value—often for free. It isn’t just about cool tech; it’s about the obliteration of traditional value models.

Here’s the million-dollar question: Why should anyone fork out membership fees when they can access a universe of AI-driven value for nothing?

Finding the “Almost”

Yes, AI is formidable, but let’s cut to the chase. It can’t give you everything. The golden nugget your association needs to grab is within that elusive “almost.” While AI dominates in content generation, data analysis, and ideation, there are realms it can’t touch—yet. Advocacy and real, soul-stirring community lie beyond its reach. Your mission? Turn these intangible assets into your association’s fortress.

But more than that, you’ve got to nail down how to communicate this value to your members—sharply, succinctly, and compellingly. It’s here that the failure or success of your association’s future hangs in the balance.

Lessons from Past Non-Disruptors

You might think, “Here we go with another tech panic.” And you know what? You’re right to a degree. Apps and social media were hailed as member engagement godsends, and yes, they had their moments, but they didn’t shift the tectonic plates. Conference apps? Usually downloaded in a panicked hurry. Social media? More emails are sent today than ever before, proving its “email-killer” moniker wrong.

AI, however, is different. It’s generative, evolving, and human-driven. So, here’s your wakeup call: “We’ve been around forever” is not a strategy. Adapt or perish.

Blueprint for Battles Ahead

First, own it. This isn’t sci-fi scare tactics. This is the here and now: AI is happening. It’s not about relinquishing control to robots; it’s about harnessing solutions. You’ve got a window to leverage this.

Next, get your value proposition tight. Research and anecdotal evidence tell us most associations flap about like a fish out of water when asked about their unique value. Nail it down. Your value proposition is your silver bullet against AI encroachment—what you provide that AI can’t usurp.

Now, let’s fix those emails. You’re drowning your audience. Emphasize relational emails over transactional drivel. We talk about this in another blog—dive in deep there.

The Strategic Moat

Prepare to construct your “strategic moat.” AI isn’t about taking over; it’s an enabler. Use AI to amplify what makes your association irreplaceable—your brand, your collective voice, your tight-knit community.

By embracing AI while doubling down on human elements that AI can’t replicate, you create a robust, defensible space around your association—a strategic moat that competitors struggle to cross. Strengthen your story, build your community, and clarify your advocacy. These are your pillars. Your move.

Let’s get tactical—time to bolster your foundation while thinking strategically:

Overhaul your user interface. Think clean, intuitive, and lightning-fast. Simplicity trumps an over-designed labyrinth.

Dive deep into understanding your members. How are they engaging with your content? What platforms and formats do they flock to? Data here is worth its weight in gold.

Reformulate your content around your ironclad value proposition. Make it scannable, digestible, and impactful. Your content should shout your unique value in every pixel.

Recognize the seismic shifts in event registration behavior. Enter The 40-Day Dash—our tailored program acknowledging the last-minute registration frenzy. Get ahead of this curve and you won’t just survive; you’ll thrive.

The Here and Now

As we stare down the barrel of 2024—a year rife with potential turmoil from a presidential election to the specter of recession—understand that it’s just a chapter, not the final word. Don’t let the year’s unique challenges paralyze your vision. Yes, expect some turbulence. Yes, your numbers might dip. But keep your sights locked on the future transformations necessary for enduring success.

Future-Proof Your Association

Prepare today for the AI-fueled tomorrow. At Rottman Creative, we’re not just reacting to AI’s disruption; we’re actively sculpting the future landscape. Ready to elevate your strategic game plan?

Let’s co-create—it’s time to define what makes you irreplaceable. Let’s get to work and carve the heck out of that “almost”.


Contact us today.

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You’re Sending Too Many Transactional Emails

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Your Association’s Marketing Plan Isn’t Working as Well as You Think It Is

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It’s true that most people favor email as their preferred method of communication; it’s immediate and versatile. That said, this same flexibility often leads organizations, including associations like yours, to an over-reliance on transactional emails. Could your email strategy be overwhelming your audience rather than engaging them?

What We’ve Learned from Email Audits

Time and again, our audits reveal a common trend: most organizations, perhaps yours included, have a tendency to send out more transactional emails than those dedicated to building relationships—often at a ratio of 2:1. For instance, one client discovered that in a period of promoting events and membership campaigns, 71% of their emails were transactional, while only 29% focused on nurturing relationships.

This imbalance often results in communications that feel less humane and more directive—simply instructing subscribers to “buy” or “do” something rather than engaging them on a more personal level. We’ve got to start treating our audience like people, not just potential sales.

Comparing Transactional and Relationship Emails

Transactional emails have their place. They are essential for confirmations, reminders, and information about discounts. However, the problem arises when these types of emails dominate your communication strategy, reducing your members to mere transactions. This not only distances your audience but also increases the likelihood of your emails being disregarded or deleted with a simple thought: “Not today.”

Relationship-based emails prioritize building a meaningful connection with the recipient, whereas transactional emails focus on completing or confirming a specific action or transaction.

By strategically balancing these two types of emails, organizations can not only optimize their communication effectiveness but also foster stronger connections, enhance customer satisfaction, and potentially increase the lifetime value of their audience.

Transforming Your Email Strategy

How can you turn a standard transactional email into a relationship-building opportunity? Here are a few strategies:

Instead of just pushing for registration, frame it as an invitation to an exclusive event where they can connect, learn, and grow. Share stories of past attendees who found significant value in participating.

Replace a straightforward renewal reminder with a personalized appreciation message. Reflect on the tenure of their membership and highlight upcoming opportunities tailored for them.

When promoting a benchmarking report, initiate a consultative conversation. Provide snippets of insights they could gain and discuss how these could address specific challenges they face.

Offer more than a simple discount—invite them to an exclusive learning experience designed to enhance their professional growth, adding a preview of the actionable knowledge they’ll gain.

Have You Evaluated Your Email Strategy Recently?

If you’re planning join and renew campaigns or simply aim to improve your communication, consider conducting an email audit. Compare your transactional vs. relationship emails and adjust accordingly to enhance recipient engagement and achieve better results.

Your Next Steps

Transactional emails serve a purpose, but remember, building lasting relationships will sustain your organization in the long run. Begin transforming your emails today to deepen connections and elevate your overall communication strategy.

For more insights into enhancing your communication impact, read our guide on optimizing email strategies here.

Transition your strategy from transactional to transformational with Rottman Creative’s expert insights and watch your member engagement soar!

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Your Association’s Marketing Plan Isn’t Working as Well as You Think It Is

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3 Components of Holistic Email Marketing

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Associations that have been around for a while—years, decades even—are doing a lot of things right. A word of caution, though. It’s easy to get complacent, to keep doing what’s always been done because it “works,” or because everyone is too busy to contemplate a better way.

See if this sounds familiar: Your association runs basically the same marketing plans year after year for membership and events. You have similar messaging and a similar value prop every time. You also have the same overall look and feel, the same offers, the same vibe. You might even cut and paste messages from years past into your current promotional materials. Maybe you’re short on time. Maybe you truly believe it’s hard to top a classic.

Even if what you’re doing “works,” chances are you’re leaving something on the table: memberships, registrations, and non-dues revenue. Sure, you are getting members in your door and filling some seats at your events. But consider how many people might be tuning you out after all these years. And imagine how many more people are out there that your association could help and support if only they knew you existed. If only they knew how great and valuable your offerings are.

There’s an old business saying, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” It used to mean that if you don’t change, you’ll never grow. Nowadays, however, that’s a best case scenario. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll erode your brand. You could see a decline in your membership and event numbers until eventually your association ceases to exist.

It’s time to get more. To shake things up. To ensure your association will still be around for decades to come. Newspapers, print ads, and direct mail were once the backbone of a solid event marketing strategy. Then came email. And now associations are sending lots and lots of email. Too much email. Digital ads, AI, and automation are powerful new tools, but they’re also causing a noisy, always-on, information-overload culture that can actually decrease engagement. It’s essential to put your time and money behind the things that will do you the most good and lay aside the things that no longer serve you well.

Don’t just change for the sake of change. Change is tough. It’s hard to get buy-in for new processes, ideas, and tools. You need to make the right changes. The most meaningful changes. The ones that stand to make the biggest difference in terms of your event and membership numbers and, by extension, your association itself.

Let the data tell you which changes to make. Track performance. Talk to your members to understand their current goals, fears, and pain points. Consider your options carefully. Don’t just jump on the latest digital trends. Think like your members and prospects and do what’s best for them—not necessarily what’s the easiest or most fun for your association. Approach challenges with boldness and scrappy determination to fuel members’ success and to secure the future of your association

Give us a call and let’s talk about your tactics, so that you can blow 2024 out of the water!

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What Comes After Inspiration? Reassurance

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Number One First and Always: Inspire People!

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The New Way to Market Events is the Old Way. Just Better.
How are you going to get people to your association’s event this year? If you’re not asking yourself this question right now, you should be.

Why? Because just about everyone is having trouble marketing events right now. The fear of recession, combined with the reality of inflation, means companies are searching for areas to cut.

Inevitably, they see education and travel, i.e., your event, as the low-hanging fruit.

In fact, a Forrester report from late 2023 predicted that companies would be rethinking investments in “employee experience” for 2024. Top on the list? You guessed it: Meetings and events related to personal development, education, and training.

According to our own data, we’re predicting that in 2024, event attendance will be down 12 – 15% and accruals will be down 18 – 25%. The percentage of members renewing will stay roughly the same. But because so many of your member companies now have decreased revenues, they’ll renew at a lower fee.

You need a plan to cleverly circumnavigate these brutal realities. To get your event off the chopping block and into the pipeline of possibility.

The reality is that attendees behave differently today than they did even just two years ago. This means you’ve got to take a fresh look at the year and the way you’re going about things. You’ve got to be willing to think differently, and to go back to the drawing board on some key elements of your strategy.

We’ll explain what we mean in this series of blog posts. But for now, we’ve got 3 words for you: Think in phases.

With uncertainty always swirling around and the world moving faster than ever, you’ve got to take a phased approach to marketing your event. Each phase is as important as the next, but you also can’t get ahead of yourself.

In this series of posts, we’ll talk about what each phase looks like, and offer some real-life examples from association clients.

We can’t wait to share all the details. But here’s the TL;DR:

Phase One: Inspire People

For years, we’ve been championing the idea that for your event to stay relevant, you must inspire the base. What we’ve learned in working with more than 100 different associations is that inspiration is part-science, part-art.

Finding what will inspire people to commit to your event is a process of discovery. Once you understand what moves your people, you must create actionable messages around it. Then you have to know when and how to deploy them, to wrest people’s attention away—even momentarily—from every other distraction competing for their time.

Inspiration fosters unity, aligning elements through a dynamic force in our collective pursuits.

Phase Two: Reassure the Intent

The second phase of marketing is all about curating the facts, to paint a vivid picture of your event. This is when FOMO is your friend. You’ve got a millimeter of people’s attention. What will you do with it?

It’s not that the inspiration phase is over. Rather, you’re pulling the inspiration through into more concrete details, talking about who will be there, what attendees will learn, and what benefits await them.

Phase Three: Plan for the 40-Day Dash

In our contemporary landscape, attendees are waiting longer than ever to register for events. Many people won’t commit until 40 days out or less. We call this the 40-day dash.

We created an entire marketing program around the 40-day dash, with specific tactics to help you reach your audience goals in those last 6 weeks. We’ll show you how to target and re-target, how to get others to spread the word for you, and how to make email work for you (versus getting ignored).

We’re going to face challenges in 2024, there’s no doubt about it. But when you take the right steps, and invest in the right phases of marketing, you can have a successful, inspiring, well-attended event.

The good news is this: When you take the right steps, and invest in the right phases of marketing, you can have a successful, inspiring, well-attended event.

Rottman Creative can help you cut through the busyness with new marketing formats and technologies. Let’s chat.

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Event Outlook for Associations

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Your Biggest Competition Isn’t Another Organization: It’s Busyness

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With Email Bot Clicks Skewing Your Open Rates, It’s Time to Diversify Your Strategy

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Ask any one of your members or customers how they’re doing, and there’s a good chance they’ll say, “Busy,” as part of their answer.

Busy professionals are busy working hard, accomplishing goals, and advancing their companies. They’re also busy making phone calls, answering texts and emails, and sitting in meetings. Busy parents are extra busy taking their kids to things like piano lessons and soccer practice. Many people are also busy scrolling endlessly through social media and binge watching their favorite shows.

The Dark Side of Busy

The trouble is that a lot of this busyness is a distraction. It’s activity, not productivity. Just think about how many meetings could have been an email, how many emails could have been a quick phone call, or how many of those emails and phone calls weren’t really necessary at all. Consider how many hours you have lost to social media scrolling or streaming television this week alone.

The Things That Matter Most

Of course, some of this busyness is truly worth your time and attention—like work and family milestones. People will always make time for the things that matter most. As an organization, this is the sweet spot you are looking for. First, you need to cut through all the busy noise that steals your audience’s attention. Then, you need to be one of those things that matters most so they carve out time for you in their busy, busy lives.

Your Biggest Competition

Busyness might just be your biggest competition right now. But there are ways to overcome it. Here are two strategies to get you started:

1. Adapt to New Technologies

First, do your part to fight busyness by reducing the number of emails you send. Next, fish where the fish are. Package your messaging in formats that your audience can digest in places they’re already spending time. Try short videos, subscription-based TV ads, social media ads, and web retargeting. These formats can be targeted to your current email list so you reach the same audience but with better results.

2. Speak Like a Human Being

Corporate speak just doesn’t cut it anymore. Your messaging needs personality. Your tone should be caring and empathetic to pain points. You need people to trust you as a human being, not an impersonal entity. Prove you’re worth their precious time and attention by speaking like a human being who understands their challenges and is here to help. 

Adapt to the new Busy Normal

It’s time to adapt to the new busy normal because busyness isn’t going away. Even if you’re getting okay numbers with your emails right now, it’s only a matter of time before people will be too busy to read them. Besides, you’ll have to do better than just “okay” if you want your organization to grow and thrive.

Rottman Creative can help you cut through the busyness with new marketing formats and technologies. Let’s chat.

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With Email Bot Clicks Skewing Your Open Rates, It’s Time to Diversify Your Strategy

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Non-Members Don’t Trust You. Here’s How to Fix That.

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Tell us if this sounds familiar.

You send out an email to members and prospects in the morning, and then check your open rate and click-through numbers in the afternoon. As usual, your numbers are stellar! 

You’ve got an open rate of 70% and a click-through rate of 60%. You notice that your numbers seem to keep getting better and better.

If you haven’t realized it by now, your numbers aren’t accurate. Over the past few years, it’s become increasingly common for security bots to be responsible for the great majority of B2B email engagement—as much as 80% by some estimates. 

These bots don’t mean to screw up your marketing plans. In fact, they’re in place to scan for links to malware and phishing attempts. 

They derive from security software associated with various B2B email programs. Their job is to scan the email intended for your recipient. And in fact, if they just scanned it, it would be no problem. But the bots also open the email and click the links to check the redirects and make sure they aren’t malware.

The problem is, bot engagement gets recorded just like actual engagement. According to HubSpot, these security filters are more common in certain industries, like finance or healthcare. Ultimately, you don’t really know if your emails are getting opened or not.

And while some marketing automation programs have tried to create fixes, it’s a cat-and-mouse game. Every time the bad actors increase their phishing efforts, security must get more sophisticated, too.

The bottom line is: The bots are going to win.

But that doesn’t mean you need to lose.

Let’s Stop Talking About Your Emails

During our regular client meetings, one topic consistently dominates the conversation: emails. The focus revolves around the emails we sent last week and planning the next set for the upcoming week.

We get it. We monitor our own email performance, hoping for high open rates and click-throughs. We recognize the value of email as a form of communication.

However, we also know that email shouldn’t be the sole communication platform. Relying excessively on it carries the risk of failing to reach the intended audience.

Therefore, our primary message to you is this: It’s crucial to significantly reduce the number of emails you send.

It’s scary to think about slashing the number of emails in the queue. But it’s even scarier to rely on a false narrative of engagement, created by security bots.

Instead of your entire marketing strategy being tied to sending email after email, you need to create a more holistic strategy. There are lots of names for this. Integrated. Omni-channel. Multi-channel. Cross-channel. Unified.

We’re agnostic as to the terminology, but for our purposes in working with associations, the key idea is Not just email.

Not just email can look like utilizing the social media platforms where your members and prospects hang out. It can look like texting, calling, and messaging. And it can look like thoughtful content strategy that hasn’t just been rinsed and repeated from the previous year.

We know it’s uncomfortable to let go of the main tactic you’ve always cleaved to. To untether from what seems like a sure thing. And it’s overwhelming to think about learning platforms you’re not yet familiar with or perhaps haven’t even been invented yet. 

Marketers in industries across the spectrum are feeling the pain, but we know the particular stress that membership- and subscription-based organizations are feeling. We also know that it will only get worse—and not “worse before it gets better,” but “worse before it gets even worse.”

Rottman Creative can help free you from email dependence. Have questions? Let’s chat.

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Non-Members Don’t Trust You. Here’s How to Fix That.

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3 Event Marketing Best Practices That Cut Through the Recession Chatter

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Recession coming? No, the labor market is strong! We’re about to have a soft landing. Although . . . inflation! It’s a long way from under control, so maybe we are headed straight for a recession.

We are on the brink of recession. We aren’t on the brink of recession. The true answer (which even the data heads don’t know) matters far less than people’s perception of whether we are.

Because what always goes with a maybe-recession is a certain-scaling back. Once the speculation starts, where do companies look to cut costs? Business travel. Training. Expenses where they can’t immediately trace the ROI.

And that’s bad news for your events this summer.

Or maybe it’s exactly the news you need to make some changes.

Here are 3 best practices we’re doing with our association clients to help them reach their numbers amid the recession chatter.

#1

Offer, Segment, Adapt

Recently, we promoted a special offer for a client who has an event in June. We sent emails and ran a social media campaign that advertised an early bird deal: Sign up by X date and you get X amount of dollars off your registration. 

The offer wasn’t necessarily about getting people to sign up—it was still early, after all. The offer was mostly a strategy to see who would click. Tracking who clicked told us who was interested in the event. With this particular campaign, we had 1,600 people click.

Now, we had a large segment of very warm prospects. You can talk to people who’ve shown interest in a slightly different way than people who still aren’t sure who you even are.

Pulling out this segment of interested prospects helps us create a customized engagement strategy. With each piece of content we send to them, we could learn more about what gets them excited, and adapt accordingly. 

The best part: If we just convert 30% of this one segment, we’ve helped our client nearly reach their attendance goal.

#2

Enlist the Early Adopters

The early bird bait may be all about uncovering a segment to market to, but some people will take you up on your offer. These are the early adopters. Maybe they are loyal members. Maybe they are willing to take a chance on you. Either way, they are a fantastic asset.

In thinking about them, remember one word: EARLY.
It stands for Early Adopters Really Love You.

Why do they love you? That’s for you to find out—by asking them. And specifically, asking them to share their story.

We heard from a vendor who mentioned they had just signed up to attend an industry association event. It wasn’t even on their radar, they said. But a colleague posted on social media that they had just signed up and couldn’t wait to see everyone. That one message not only inspired our vendor to sign up, but inspired at least 5 others, who posted in the comments—all within an hour—that they had just registered.

Both the early adopters and the early majority (a larger segment) can help you in this project. But you need to make it easy for them by making a specific ask, such as: Can you post one sentence on your preferred social network about why you are attending?

#3

Create a Landing Page That Cuts Through the Noise, Especially for Non-Members

Time and time again, we see associations that invest heavily in building great websites for their members. But so often, when non-members go to their site, they aren’t even clear if the event is open to them.

Non-members already have a hurdle to overcome (usually one involving cost). Don’t throw more hurdles at them!

It’s why you need to build out a simple “demo-style” landing page for your event. It should be a page that’s accessible for all, but optimized for non-members. 

Think about when you are researching software. Are you ready to buy it the second you land on the page? No, you want a demo. You want to understand what you’re getting, in the simplest terms possible.

At Rottman Creative, we’ve taken this “demo” concept and reimagined event landing pages for several of our clients. After refining and tweaking, and we have a formula that works. 

If you’re curious to learn more about landing pages or any of these strategies for changing the conversation from “Will there be a recession?” to “I’ll be there! Who’s with me?” . . . just drop us a line at: gary@rottmancreative.com or let’s talk!

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On the Chasm Between Data and Stories (Spoiler: It’s Not Real)

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New Year, Old Database? You’re Going to Have Some Problems

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Trust provokes, entices, and motivates.

It’s also the only thing of value remaining once the noise recedes.

So why not start there?

This is what we do. We start with what is true. And we stick to it.

Converting people to members and customers is not a magic show. Forget the smoke and mirrors. It should be a transparent process. One that’s relevant, data-driven, and measurable.

If your organization is still clinging to remnants of how you did things before, let them go. You must be in the present with your members. Their behavior drives everything.

And you? You need to be real. Authentic. Straightforward. You must answer members’ questions, allay their fears, speak their language, and know their goals and challenges. You must deliver value and be rock solid for people, in good times and bad.

To do this, you need purposeful marketing, not wishful thinking. That means having bold, powerful messages that flow from the trust. A marketing plan based on the science of conversion with the art of storytelling. And an agency partner like us that will never mislead you.

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