Three Tactics for Creating a Standout Outreach Campaign
Many associations want to increase awareness of their work beyond their membership. For the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, that meant launching an outreach campaign focused on improving how it communicates with the larger professional community.
In February 2022, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians launched an outreach campaign that was about more than a membership drive.
“We viewed this campaign as an investment in AANP’s growth,” said Laura Farr, AANP’s executive director. “We wanted to improve how we communicate with the profession, which was why we framed this as an outreach campaign.”
This lens gave AANP the opportunity to make goals that expanded beyond membership, including boosting convention attendance numbers, improving data management, increasing webinar attendance, and growing other sources of revenue.
“We want members to be part of AANP for the long term, so that meant designing the campaign with long-term goals in mind,” said Amy Archer, AANP’s membership and development manager. “Since launching the campaign, we’ve seen growth in a lot of areas and have attracted new prospects and lapsed members as well.”
Much of AANP’s success can be attributed to its strategy around engaging its broader community and reaching nonmember professionals. To do that, AANP had to improve its data-management practices, understand what members and nonmembers valued, and find ways to communicate value back to the larger community.
One of AANP’s campaign priorities was to update its database with accurate contact information for members and nonmembers.
“We had identified large gaps in our data,” Archer said. “We had thousands of bad emails for lapsed members and often no emails for prospective members. So, we weren’t effectively communicating with many people that we wanted to reach.”
AANP also knew that many professionals in the community didn’t know about its activities or the work it was doing to support the industry.
“We saw social media posts from professionals, who weren’t connected to AANP, asking what we were doing about various issues and concerns,” Farr said. “These were some of the people we weren’t reaching.”
AANP conducted a large data cleanup, reviewing and deleting outdated emails and contacting members and nonmembers to ensure accurate contact information.
“Updating the data helped us bring back a lot of lapsed members because we just didn’t have the right information for them prior to the research,” Farr said.
With better data in hand, AANP then created a survey for both members and nonmembers. Though the survey had standard goals, such as collecting demographic data, AANP made the decision to also ask the wider community about its needs.
“The questions helped us understand what was important to the whole community, not just members,” Archer said. “We wanted to know what we could do for the professionals we serve, even those who had never been our members.”
According to Archer, associations can more effectively communicate once they understand why prospects and lapsed members have not joined, what problems they are facing, and what solutions they need.
“Having that information will help associations get a better sense of the changes they may need to make or new programs to develop,” Archer said.
Ultimately, understanding member and nonmember needs helped AANP develop better messaging.
“Our campaign messages aren’t about why people should join AANP; they’re focused on the products and services we provide to members,” Farr said. “For example, the survey respondents let us know that advocacy and continuing education were important services to them, so we make sure to share those types of messages.”
Prior to the survey, AANP already created a monthly newsletter for nonmembers and lapsed members. The content included information about the profession and other AANP offerings like its convention and continuing education. But AANP also expanded its tactics.
“We started sending standalone messages and advertising across social channels,” Archer said. “Sometimes it was as simple as refamiliarizing former members about our work and offerings. In other cases, we were introducing the association to prospects.”
Since improving its communications, AANP has found that the community has developed a better understanding of the association.
“We’ve gotten a lot more support and less questions about our work since launching the campaign,” Farr said. “We’re seeing more nonmembers attend our conferences and webinars because they’re familiar with us and engaging. We’re successfully filling our communication gaps, which, in turn, is improving engagement, which will also increase membership.”