How a Thoughtful Marketing Strategy Drives Member Engagement

Marketing tactics can be powerful tools for driving member engagement, but only if they’re deployed correctly. An expert shares some questions to ask before launching a marketing campaign.

The warmup is the most important part of a jog.  Not only does it allow your body to loosen up and your heart rate to slowly rise, but it also helps prevent injuries and burnout. But I have to confess that often I’m so crunched for time that I jet out the door without the doing the recommended shuffling, skipping, and grape-vining.

Associations that are short on time and resources might forget their warmups sometimes too, especially in regards to marketing campaigns aimed at growing member engagement, according to Lindsay Matush, CEO of Vario Consulting.

In a recent webinar called “The Rising Tide: Smart Marketing to Elevate Your Industry and Drive Member Value,” Matush said that often when associations call her company, “they’re calling us for a website; they’re calling us for a brochure; they’re calling us for some help with social media or a video.”

But what associations need to realize is “the importance of leading with insight and following with tactics,” she said. Matush talked with me about how she works with associations to gather that insight—the warmup, if you will, before the full-on marketing campaign.

What’s my purpose or strategy? Understanding what the association’s purpose or strategy in a marketing campaign needs to be “informed by a pretty good understanding of what’s happening inside the association,” Matush said.

So, it’s important that associations pinpoint the problem or challenge that they’re trying to overcome through a marketing strategy. For example, “Is it that 20 percent of my members are doing 80 percent of my work, and I need to engage my members more broadly?” Or is that there’s a lot of great things that are happening at the association, but no one knows about them. Each of these challenges will require a different marketing strategy.

What does success look like? After you’ve figured out what you’re ultimately trying to achieve, you need to think about the end game. “Let’s get specific,” Matush said. “Let’s decide if we’re successful, how will we know?”

Answering this question involves setting precise, measurable goals that will give a barometer for how successful the marketing campaign was. For instance, maybe that specific goal is getting members who currently engage in just one event or webinar a year to come to four events a year.

Who is my audience? One pitfall that associations tend to fall into is not segmenting or personalizing their communications. “It’s expensive and ineffective to say everything to everyone,” Matush said. Instead, she said that associations need to tease apart their audiences, which they can do by asking some more questions. Among them: What is my audience coming to me and looking for? What does the association want from that audience? How can the association create value for that audience?

Take the example of a professional medical association: Student or resident members are likely interested in how to get a job, while credentialed members might be interested in how to grow their practices. Again, because your members’ needs are very different, your marketing and communications efforts and tactics should reflect those differences.

What’s the call to action? This might seem obvious, but the association need to consider what instruction its asking a segmented audience to follow. Quick note: Asking members to get on your website to find out more might not be a helpful call-to-action, especially if your website is hard to maneuver.

For instance, if you want members to use your job board, you might need to add a button on your homepage with clear messaging that brings members directly to your job listings. Regardless of what associations are asking members to do, they need to make that call to action clear and targeted.

But, you might ask, isn’t it lot more cost- and time-effective to just create one brochure or launch one social media campaign directed toward the entire association? Maybe, Matush says, but you run the risk of being ineffective and irrelevant to large chunks of your membership. If you’re willing to invest in a higher order of thinking first, then even “if you’re spending some money, then you know that you’re spending it well.”

What “warmup” questions do you ask before diving into a member-focused marketing campaign? Please leave your comments below.




Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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