There is an epic failure at hand by association leaders and it’s having a huge negative impact on association marketing. A November 2014 benchmarking study by Demand Metric validates what I have believed for many years…many associations lack senior-level marketing staff and many are woefully under-budgeted. In the digital age, where marketing is more central to an organization’s success than ever before, this crisis in leadership is simply unacceptable. Wake up association leaders!
So I wasn’t surprised when I read the Demand Metric study entitled The State of Association Marketing: Benchmark Study Report.
Let’s take a look at some of the key findings
- 82% of associations have Director or below as the most senior marketing title. This means that marketing does not have a seat at the table. It means that strategic decisions are made without input from marketing. It also means that most junior-level marketing staff do not have marketing mentors.
- 58% of associations have an annual marketing budget under $100,000. You can’t do a whole lot to market the varied programs that most associations sell with less that $100,000. It means that existing marketing staff do not have the necessary funding to do their jobs in the digital age. Can you say #frustrated?
So what’s the impact on associations?
Generally speaking, marketing is unsophisticated and amateurish. Plain and simple. Don’t believe me? Look at the data…
- Only 41% employ blogging as part of their marketing portfolio. That’s a sad lack of thought leadership by industry associations that should be advocating new ideas and presenting new solutions for their members.
- Roughly one-third (36%) use landing pages with dynamic content. If you’re not using landing pages, you’re not really selling. If you’re not really selling, you’re leaving money on the table.
- A mere 20% use paid keywords. This means that 80% of associations are not optimizing for search in a world where the consumer’s first step in researching anything is to visit a search engine. That’s scary.
- Only 20% use marketing automation. This means that 80% are not nurturing prospects along a buyers journey and are not making sales people more efficient in the process.
- And the kicker is that only 55% use email marketing software. Really? What the hashtag are the other 45% of associations doing to market themselves? Not much is my guess!
If your chin didn’t hit the floor at least once based on the above findings then you’re probably six feet under (how’s the wifi down there anyway?).
The Blame Lies with Association Leaders
The blame doesn’t lie with the marketing staff (or whichever staff has had marketing added to its job description). The blame lies with association leaders who lack vision and courage. Because in order to effectively sell membership, attendance at events, sponsorship, research or any other association product you need smart and senior marketing peeps and you need money to do it!
Some may say they just don’t have the dollars in the annual budget. I say hogwash. There’s always money. It’s a matter of prioritization and reallocation.
So what do we do next?
We need to start a dialogue. We need to educate association executives. We need organizations like ASAE to lead the charge and we need it now! If we fail to act, associations will continue to lose relevance in the digital age. Period.
What do you think? Does this make sense?