The Biggest Problem with Association Marketing and How You Can Fix It

Fix It

imageAre you struggling to capture the attention of your members? Are your lead generation efforts anemic? Do you feel like you’re constantly spamming your members with email after email? Are your open rate and click-thru rates abysmal? Are you nodding your head as you read this?

The single biggest problem with association marketing today is that it is based on yesterday’s playbook. This includes interruptive marketing that does not help solve your prospects’ and members’ business problems. We need to wake up and recognize that consumer behaviors have changed and they’re tuning out our traditional marketing tactics.

Consider the following:

  • 44% of direct mail is never opened
  • 91% of users have unsubscribed from a company email they previously opted in to
  • 200 million phone numbers are on the Do Not Call Registry
  • 86% of viewers skip TV ads*

So why haven’t we adapted to this new environment? Perhaps the options and choices are simply overwhelming and the path is unclear. What should you do?

Inbound Marketing

Consider implementing inbound marketing for your association.

What is inbound marketing? Inbound is marketing with a magnet, not a sledgehammer. It’s about getting found online by your audience. It focuses on attracting the right prospects to your association and turning them into satisfied members.

Or as Hubspot defines it: “Instead of buying ads, buying email lists, or cold calling, inbound marketing focuses on creating educational content that pulls people toward your website where they can learn more about what you sell on their own accord.”

To attract new members (and retain them), generate event registrants, develop association advocates, etc. you need to develop relevant and helpful content, not interruptive gobbledeygook.

You need to publish the right content, in the right place, at the right time, to the right people. But it ain’t easy!

Inbound marketing is based on four pillars:


1. Attract

You start out by attracting strangers, current and former members through blogging, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), keywords and social media. You must pull people to your site by ranking high in search engines for industry-specific keywords. At ERA, honestly, we ignored keywords and SEO until we implemented inbound marketing in June 2014. We have identified about 100 keywords and track roughly 20 closely to determine our rankings. By ranking as high as possible for specific keywords we are more likely to be found and to attract new visitors.

2. Convert

Ok, so you’ve started to attract more visitors to your site through blogging, ebooks and SEO but what should do you do next? You need to convert them from strangers to leads. This means capturing their information in return for content like an ebook or a white paper. One big caveat for associations is that many times we already know the visitor. They may be a member, a former member or a long-time prospect. This actually makes it easier for us because we have more information about them. Nevertheless, you still need to convert these new visitors to leads through the use of forms, calls-to-action and landing pages.

3. Close

Now that you’ve attracted and converted visitors, the focus of your efforts turns to nurturing those leads with the right content at the right time. This is where email comes into play. By using marketing automation tools like Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua or Act-On, you can create drip campaigns to further educate them and move them toward a transaction (i.e. purchasing membership, educational content, event registration, exhibit spaces or sponsorships).

4. Delight

If you are indeed developing the right content for visitors, leads and members, you have started the process of delighting them with tailored content. The more information you collect about them the easier it will be to create meaningful content that helps them solve their business problems. You will delight them and your brand will benefit from it.

In the end, inbound marketing is not a campaign, it is a process. It doesn’t always have a start and stop date. It is an ongoing method for driving new business, new members, new exhibitors and new attendees.

What do you think? Does inbound make sense for associations?

*Source: Hubspot

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