New Insight Into Marketing Automation and Member Engagement

A new report looks at how associations are using marketing automation tools to improve marketing efficiency, boost member engagement, and drive growth. If it sounds intimidating, a few simple steps can help you get started.

We’ve all been there before: that moment when frustration kicks in after a lengthy search on a website. You’re looking for something specific—event information, a registration link, or professional support—but you can’t seem to find it.

For association members—especially five-minute members who engage with you in quick, in-and-out interactions—that frustration can turn into a feeling of abandonment, leading to the conclusion that you can’t deliver on their needs. In such moments, advanced marketing automation can deliver, says Alex Mastrianni, marketing manager at Higher Logic, a marketing automation provider. By connecting web analytics to an automated email campaign, you can quickly and efficiently address the member’s need.

“Say you have members who are searching on [web] pages about upcoming events, but maybe they aren’t taking advantage of anything—signing up, registering, or clicking through,” Mastrianni says. “With an automated campaign, the association can go back and send targeted and customized messages that are triggered off those web visits.”

Often these messages get delivered in a series, or drip campaign. It can be a great way to reach what Mastrianni calls “fringe members,” those who sit on the sidelines and don’t ask for help.

Higher Logic recently surveyed membership, marketing, and communications professionals at 200 associations about marketing automation usage. According to the report [PDF], respondents who use the tool said their top goals were:

  • event registration (16 percent)
  • membership renewals/retention (16 percent)
  • member intimacy, i.e. personalization (15 percent)
  • new member recruitment (14 percent)

In just a few short years, marketing automation has grown in sophistication and use, but many organizations find the idea of adopting it intimidating [ASAE login required]. If that describes you, here are a few tips on how to get started.

Start small and go slow. The easiest and fastest path to adoption is through a simplified email campaign. Associations most commonly use marketing automation for welcome notes, event messages, or renewal reminders, says Caitlin Struhs, senior manager of marketing and communications at Higher Logic. That could be a good place to start. “Sometimes marketing automation can feel overwhelming or confusing for an association,” Struhs says. “That doesn’t mean you don’t need it. Start slow. Association adoption is happening, even though it may be a bit behind the curve.”

Less is more. It’s clear from the study that associations want to use marketing automation tools to streamline email communications to achieve business objectives. As every association marketer knows, email fatigue is a real problem, and the report confirms that keeping your email volume small will improve member engagement. Automated email campaigns with 500 recipients or less performed best, with, on average, a 45 percent open rate and 20 percent click rate.

Define smart processes and value first. Key challenges for marketing automation include ease of use (23 percent), integration capabilities (22 percent), and price (20 percent). Knowing these challenges upfront can help your association define what you want to get out of a marketing automation tool and how you will use it. This is a critical first step, Struhs says, “because at the end of the day, your marketing automation strategy won’t work if there’s no buy-in. Staff need these platforms to be working for them.”

Have you put marketing automation to work for your association? Share your experience below.

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Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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