3 Ways Inbound Marketing Changes Your Association Messaging

yell and sell

yell and sellEmbracing inbound marketing can have a huge impact on your association’s messaging. By understanding your buyer personas and creating content that solves their most pressing problems, your messaging changes from “catchy” and “clever” to WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). There is less blathering as you focus on value. Simply put, you stop trying to convince, you stop yelling and you stop repeating.

Here are three ways that inbound marketing changes your association messaging:

1. You stop trying to convince

With outbound marketing you are constantly trying to convince prospects and members to buy your products. Your messaging focuses on features instead of benefits. Headlines probably start with “Register Now and Save” or “Resources and Events” instead of “How to Get the Most out of Annual” or “5 Ways to Network and Learn.”

So…when you move to inbound (and create problem-solving content) convincing people in your messaging becomes less important. Actually, it’s no longer necessary. Your customers are attracted by your thought leadership – your blog, your ebooks and your How To’s. They buy your products because they believe you have the right solution, not because you’ve convinced them with witty headlines. In the end, you become less marketer-centric and more customer-centric.

2. You stop yelling

When you’re trying desperately to convince people that your association has value you start to yell and sell (just like a classic infomercial… picture me shouting on TV…”Dave Martin here for XYZ Association and our membership is the best….blah, blah, blah”). Turning up the volume doesn’t help. With inbound marketing you ask for permission to communicate with your prospects (through blog subscription opt-ins and content download forms). This way you use a magnet instead of a megaphone. So stop yelling at your customers. They’re tired of it and they’re tuning you out.

3. You stop repeating

A classic marketing mantra is “It’s all about repetition, repetition, repetition.” Uh, well….no it ain’t. Those days are over. Outbound marketing is interruptive and requires repetition – hitting people over the head with a sledge hammer to get your message across. Stop doing this right now! People are ignoring you and the more you repeat your message the less likely you are to reach anyone.

Ok, I said three but here’s a fourth…not sure it fits but I think it’s interesting anyway…

4. You kill print and shift to digital assets

At ERA, shortly after moving to inbound, we began producing more digital assets and less print (actually, almost no print at all). With print ads, for example, messaging is focused on capturing the readers’ attention with snazzy headlines and visuals. When you kill print you stop being catchy and clever and expensive creative becomes less necessary. You focus on variations of digital assets, mobile-optimized web design and short, simple Calls To Action (CTA) that drive new prospects.

So consider inbound marketing and stop trying to convince, stop yelling and stop repeating your messages.

What do you think? Did I miss something? Does this make sense?

As a side note…on November 16 I started as the new Chief Marketing Officer at Aptify. I plan to continue this blog and, while I may no longer be at an association, I am still in the association world and I look forward to sharing my inbound experiences with you!

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  • Tony Rossell ,

    Hi Dave — Very good post here. As you know, I am a big believer in Inbound Marketing and we have 30 clients using this channel. But my experience is that an integrated approach to marketing is essential. Rather than go into great detail, here is a link to a post that I did awhile back that talks about using a combination of channels to maximize marketing effectiveness. Here is the link:


    Let me know if you agree with my thoughts or not. Tony

  • Dave Martin ,

    Tony – thanks for your comment and link to your recent post. I believe that an integrated approach is important and obviously you need to understand your buyers and how they make decisions before determining which channels to use. However, in today’s day and age, I would expect that print mail really only works for a small minority of associations with an aging membership. We know that most people go to Google when they research something – and if you can’t be found on Google (and your competitors can) you are toast! So I agree that word of mouth is important as is inbound marketing (which includes email and social media in my mind) but telemarketing and print are difficult to measure and, therefore, ROI becomes more challenging. Telemarketing is also interruptive and will most likely annoy more than it does inform so I would be very careful with its use.

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