There are specific actions that associations need people to take to meet their core goals – typically membership and revenue. For associations to “stay in business,” they need people to become members, remain members, sign up for programs, buy products, and register for events.
Association marketing is all about getting members, prospective members, sponsors, and event registrants to take those actions. If every associations had all an endless marketing budget and an abundance of staff, making sure that those audiences got the right message at the right time would something that all association could do.
But, that is not usually the case…
If you ask most association marketers, their world is far from perfect. I work with the marketing and communication departments at hundreds of associations each year. Every single one of them is tasked with accomplishing a lot with limited resources.
Why Do Associations Use Marketing Automation?
Associations are building systems using marketing automation software that takes 40-50% of the routine tasks on the backs on their staff. At the same time, they automate the creation of individualized experienced for each person in their AMS database. At every associations that I have seen do this, their marketing team focuses those reclaimed hours on two things.
- Launching campaign to get more members of their target audiences to act.
- Building out additional marketing automation functions to set themselves up for future growth.
How would your association change if your marketing team could handle double the workload without adding headcount (or stress)?
Marketing automation streamlines your lead flow in a way that's not only efficient, but it's measurable and adaptable. Marketing automation can help:
- Nurture prospective members so that they know and trust your organization on their way to joining
- Target members’ pain points and priorities at every stage of the their journey
- Leverage data to improve your members' overall experience and optimize where your staff spends their time.
With marketing automation, you can nurture your membership and prospective member lead pool on a granular level and individualize each members’ experience. This technology gives your marketing team the power to provide tailored messages and calls to action without burning out your marketing and communication teams.
Many associations are finding that, given the competition for attention online, meeting members where they are in their professional journey gives them the edge they need to keep members engaged in the digital age.
The following are the primary ways that you can use marketing automation to grow your association.
#1) Association Marketing Automation Meets Members at Each Stage of Their Lifecycle
Understanding where your members are in their journey is critical to reaching them with relevant information and offers. The world of marketing is continually growing more and more member-centric, and people want solutions that are personalized and adaptable to them.
Marketing automation can use deep targeting algorithms that track website activity, email behavior, and CRM data. This digital footprint lets you set up campaigns that meet each member when and where they are most receptive to your association’s messages.
Picture developing email campaigns and landing pages that target distinct segments of your membership. Each of these populations represent people that are at different stages of the member's journey. When you connect your association management software (AMS) to your marketing automation platform, you can address pain points and provide education that is hyper-relevant to each person.
For example, let's say Bob fits snugly into your “new member” persona, and he's looking to make the most of his membership. However, he hasn't figured out which opportunities are available. He is a little hesitant to dive right in for fear of missing out on another opportunities that he doesn’t know about yet.
From your association’s perspective, you want Bob to receive value from your organization before his honeymoon period wanes.
Luckily, you have a new member campaign set up on your marketing automation platform. When your marketing automation software sees that Bob is new, it's going to give him a tailored experience. The emails, calls to action, offers, and landing page that he received over the next month are going to introduce your association, let Bob know why you do what you do, and give him simple paths to get involved.
Jenny, on the other hand, is much deeper into the member's journey. While she's pretty sure she would like to volunteer for a leadership role on a committee, she has last-second concerns. Your marketing software can recognize this situation and send her an email that addresses those final frictions and a link to schedule 5-minutes with your volunteer managers to put Jenny’s concerns to rest.
You have heard the phase, “different strokes for different folks,” right? Basically, marketing automation software combines this approach to tailored online experience with bringing people down digital funnels to get them to take the action you need them to take.
#2) Marketing Automation For Associations Gives You Deep ROI Statistics
One of the most difficult parts of being a marketer for an association is measuring the success of various campaigns and events. Did that landing page really work, or could you have done it better? Did your conference’s “early bird” campaign hit the nail on the head? Or, was it a bust?
Associations are using marketing automation to measure each campaign and lead source individually so that you can have a deeper understanding of what works and what doesn't.
Do you want to see what the ROI was of your multi-step email campaign to increase registrants for your association’s mid-year meeting? Great! Marketing automation software for associations has it.
#3) Marketing Automation Empowers Your Association’s Sales Team
Increasingly, associations have someone in a sales role, if not a full sales team. They sell everything from conference sponsorships to corporate membership.
For some reason — probably the name — many people think that marketing automation is only for your marketing team. If that is the prevailing sentiment at your association, you may be missing out on a big opportunity.
In fact, one of the best uses of marketing automation is to support your sales team. Marketing automation software for associations is smart... really smart. It can give your sales team better insights into leads that help them personalize each experience.
When Michael calls, your association’s sales rep can see that he's attended conferences and recently watched your newest webinar. Your sales rep can tailor the sales experience to exactly where Michael is in his member journey.
#4) Marketing Automation For Associations Prioritizes Your Effort By Scoring Your Leads
How many of your leads are actually qualified? According to most market research, only 40-60% of your membership, program, or event leads are ready to make a purchase today.
Marketing automation makes sure that you are aware of each lead’s overall progress towards becoming a member or making a purchase.
Let's say that Veronica — who's deep in your pre-membership funnel — has a score that shows that she's a highly-motivated lead. Let's see why based on data in your association’s marketing automation software.
- Visited the website (+1)
- Attended a conference (+20)
- Downloaded an eBook (+4)
- Filled out a “membership tour” landing page (+15)
- Inactivity (-1)
So, the software has determined that Veronica is ready for a call.
Jeremy, on the other hand, has a score that's lower than the threshold that you've set for qualified membership leads. Let's see why.
- Inactivity (-1)
- Unsubscribed from email (-5)
- Filled out a “best practices” landing page (+5)
Sure, he may be interested in getting ahead in his career and potentially becoming a member, but he's already unsubscribed from your email list. That's not the best sign.
You will want to consider holding off on pursuing Jeremy. Using what you know about where he is in his journey, you can target more marketing material that's hyper-relevant to him before you start positioning ”join now” messages.
#5) Provide Individualized Digital Experiences for Your Association’s Target Audiences
Did you know that personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14%? That might be why 33% of marketers said that personalization will be the most important critical aspect of marketing in the future.
However, personalized messages are no longer about putting a prospective member’s first name in an email. Individualized digital experiences take into account all of the data you have in your membership and marketing databases to personalize messages, timing, and next steps.
By sending emails based on member behaviors, associations are seeing both an increase in clicks and conversions. Remember when Jenny downloaded that eBook? Well, she got an email asking her how she liked it with a link to a discussion other members are having on the topic on the association’s online community. How relevant!
That's just the tip of the iceberg. With marketing automation, you can keep track of members post-conference, nurturing them and keeping retention levels high. You can use behavioral triggers based on social, website, and email activity to send content to members at every stage of their member experience.
Marketing Automation for Association Takeaway
Marketing automation is a powerful tool that will significantly improve the relationship between your association and the people you need to take action - your members, prospective, sales leads, and event attendees.
Association marketing automation tools are the “Swiss Army Knife” of your association’s technology stack. It can have a big impact on your marketing and communication team by:
- Giving deep insights into campaigns
- Targeting users based on where they are in the member's journey
- Personalizing website content and emails
- Scoring them based on their "fit" as a lead
- Providing critical feedback
- Empowering your sales team by giving them rich lead information
Remember, your association’s membership funnel isn't linear. Being able to curate a member experience that's granular and relevant is a necessity.