Perhaps nothing has changed as much in recent years as the marketing communications functions in our associations. Yet most of us in the nonprofit world have been slower on the uptake than our colleagues in the for profit world.
Rethinking Marketing Communications for Associations
The facts are these:
- people are very good at tuning out irrelevant information
- people don’t read/watch/see/react to the media of old
- if you want someone’s attention, you have to disrupt their usual information flow
- you need to be where they are and not where you want them to be
Basically the marketing principles of old – advertising, press releases, direct mail – the kinds of things that are called "outbound" because you are communicating outwardly to your potential customer – are not irrelevant, exactly, but there's a new customer sophistication and reality.
Outbound marketing techniques rely upon you getting your message to the right people and expecting them to be interested and receptive to what you're saying. Guess what, they really aren't that interested.
It's all about inbound marketing today
Today’s thinking is all about inbound, and it’s time we get on the band wagon, nonprofit people! With respect to Prince, we want to market like it's 2016, not 1999..
Today’s world is all about sending the right message to the right people at the right time. And bullet point two: it’s about getting them to read what you write. Familiarize yourself with these terms: inbound marketing, marketing automation, content marketing. Basically they're all about creating the kinds of information that bring potential members and customers to us by giving them something they want and need. You're driving them to you, rather than chasing them - which can get exhausting.
Most important of all, you want to bring them to you in a way that allows you to measure and act upon the data you collect.
And associations are simply in a marvelous place to be able to do this. Why?
- You often have tons of copy that can be created, used, repurposed, and offered as a wonderful content magnet that people want to read because it’s good and because you’re an authoritative source. Exploit the power of your content by using it as the hook and line to reel in an audience and bring them to you. While we often believe this wonderful content we’ve created should be the sole property of our members, you should consider ways in which you can repurpose older content to appeal to a non-engaged audience as a value statement on just what you do for members. Start a blog using your content as a cornerstone piece of your marketing effort.
- Associations many times have computer systems that can capture data about the people visiting their site and can analyze this data to see who, how, and what people are interested in. Use the power of your AMS system to measure engagement to build further engagement. This includes learning about the power of lead generation pages and creating pixels and cookies to track visitors. Track the activities and involvement they have with your organization, such as webinars attended, products purchased, continuing education credits accumulated. This data is gold. And if your system can’t do this, we need to talk!
- Social media is a boon for associations. Using the power of your members to reach other potential members (ie, their professional social media contacts who are not currently associated with you) is one of the best, most targeted prospect lists you could hope to activate. Create interesting, educational, and entertaining content on your social sites so your members want to share it. Offering a taste of the culture and creativity of your organization online is one of the surest ways to capture inbound leads.
I’m not advocating that you totally abandon your old ways, but it’s time to experiment! Time to get your marketing program aligned with your data management and make a new media reality for your association.