Making Marketing Simple for Associations

Making Marketing Simple for Associations

Guest blog by Sheri L. Singer, Singer Communications. 

Marketing can be confusing and overwhelming. Why? Because marketing encompasses everything your association does.  No wonder it’s overwhelming.

Here are some tips to break marketing down into bite-sized pieces.

1. Understand the difference between objective, strategy, and tactic.

A good marketing program starts with a strategic marketing plan. To write this plan you need to recognize the differences between objective, strategy, and tactic. Objective refers to an overarching goal such as grow membership or raise the visibility of the association. Everything in your plan needs to fall under the objective.

Tactics are the activities you undertake to achieve the objective. For example, draft a media list, post to Twitter, or write content for your e-newsletter.

Strategies fall in between your objective and tactics–so if you are going to draft a media list, a strategy may be to reach out to traditional and digital journalists to raise the visibility of your association.

2. Write a SHORT plan

Writing a plan isn’t where we make mistakes. We write beautiful plans that are 5 or even 15 pages long. The problem is that no one is reading a 15-page plan. So it sits on your shelf. Here’s a solution — draft a very brief plan. Use a one-page chart, or an infographic or video. Think about delivering your plan in an innovative way to keep it off the shelf.

3. Create messages that reflect your brand

From your elevator speech to the paragraph that closes your news releases, the way you describe your organization contributes to your brand–or the way people perceive your association. It’s critical to ensure that your leaders, members, staff and everyone else involved in your association talks about your organization with one voice. Creating messages and training your leadership to deliver those messages are a key element in creating a consistent brand.

4. Use compelling information to tell your story

Every association has a story. Figure out what makes your organization different and tell that story in compelling and personal ways. This is where testimonials — either written or through video, and photos come into play. Be sure to tell your story consistently, repetitively and through as many distribution channels as possible.

5. Add the personal touch

Research indicates that we join organizations and keep paying dues because we feel connected. That connection doesn’t stem from a group email that starts with “Dear Member.” Return to basics. At the very least, address members by name in your emails. Better yet, choose a small group of leaders and members and write them a personal email to see if you get an improved open rate or response. Make sure that every member gets a call from you once a year to touch base.

6. Know your members

Market research provides valuable insight into your members. But most associations believe they can’t afford market research. First, if you conduct a membership survey, you can get a great deal of member information if you ask the right questions on a survey you are already conducting. Second, market research can be conducted for $50,000 or  $20,000. If you adjust the scope of the research project, you can learn more about your members in a cost-effective way.

7. Focus on more than 1 distribution channel

Today, many associations are stuck between members that didn’t grow up using computers, mobile phones or social media and those who did. This technology gap is a challenge because we need to reach our members where they are — AND they are all over the place. That’s why most of us need to leverage several distribution channels (email, mail, video, website, digital media, etc.)

8. Engage your audience

Be honest. How many reading this post social media messages such as, “Join us at our annual meeting on April 12-15 in Denver.” These messages have a zero engagement component. What about asking a question or conducting a poll such as “How many of you are looking forward to hearing our annual meeting keynote and how many are more excited to participate in our first volunteer charity event?”

9. Be consistent.

Consistency is the way to build a strong, recognizable brand. Among your association’s targeted audience — leaders, members, potential and lapsed members, elected officials, journalists, related organizations, and other stakeholders — be consistent in the way you represent, describe and talk about your association.

10. Monitor your brand

Once you consider these marketing tips, you need to monitor your brand for relevance, consistency, and perception. There are countless ways to do this both qualitatively and quantitatively. With most association leaders asking for more and more result measurements, report to them using both hard numbers and successful anecdotes.

Sheri L. Singer helps associations solve their communications, marketing, and public relations challenges. She is president of Singer Communications, Chair of ASAE’s Healthcare Community Committee, and founder/organizer of the D.C. Idea Swap. She speaks and writes extensively on communications topics affecting associations. @sherisinger