Filter out the Noise – Advice for Associations to Succeed in 2020



Digital marketing is constantly evolving, one moment the algorithm works in your favor and then the next it throws a wrench into your efforts by completely changing overnight. It’s difficult to keep up with the changes and simultaneously keep from drowning in the noise of everyone telling you what you should be doing in the digital space to promote your association.
My advice is to tune out the noise and focus on what’s important. Marketing has evolved but the underlying strategies have mostly stayed the same.
I often use building a house as an analogy to symbolize marketing strategy: you can build individual parts of the house at different times and you can outsource many different tasks, however, you can’t build a house without a plan. You have to assemble all the pieces together on top of a strong foundation.
A strong foundation includes a clearly defined value proposition and mission.
What is your mission? How do you serve your association members? What problems do you solve for your members? What value do you bring to your members and partners? Can you easily answer these questions? Can your members answer these questions? And if not, can they easily find this information on your website?
Is your value proposition aligned with your messaging to current and prospective members?
The framework, or the plan, will support and guide you as you build your house. Your plan should include goals, objectives, and project plans with tactical methods.
What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to improve your membership offerings? Do you want to have the largest trade show yet with increased attendance and sponsorship revenue?
How are you going to achieve these goals? What tools do you need to succeed? Do you have the right team for the tasks at hand?
Have you defined these goals and strategies with actual numbers? For example: grow revenue by 25% percent by redefining your non-dues revenue mix and developing a program to engage young professionals.
The next step is to decide what tools you have, what tools need to be tuned, what tools you will need to acquire, and what work will need to be outsourced.
The biggest and most important tool that we have, outside of our amazing team, is Salesforce. Not only does it serve as our CRM, it also serves as our inbound marketing tool with the addition of Pardot. These two tools are a powerhouse together. However, these tools are only as good as the data that we keep and the processes that we build.
In the digital era, your website and your segmented e-mail lists are incredibly important tools. They’re the only real estate that you own and have full control over. You don’t own your Facebook page or your Twitter feed. Facebook and Twitter own them and they also own your followers. If social media was to disappear tomorrow, would you be able to reach your audience? Keep that in mind when creating content and your communication processes. Social media platforms are amazing tools but they should not be the only places where you share your thought leadership.
The final step is to furnish your house.
This year our marketing plan includes a theme, or a style guide per say, that is a guiding principle in how we make decisions.
Whenever a new shiny object appears, grabbing our attention, we look at our plan to see if it fits within our long-term strategy. Will adding this new tool, service, or benefit move the needle or will it cause an unnecessary distraction? Will this shiny new object help us reach a new audience? Will this shiny new object save us time, money, and other resources in the long run?
Don’t be afraid to try new things, however, try them strategically.
Our theme for 2020 is FORWARD. It’s the perfect theme for us as we continue to prepare our association clients for this new decade with progressive growth strategies. It’s our guiding principle in everything that we want to achieve this year. And we’re walking our talk. For example, we have a project plan to revamp our website this year, including a major update and expansion to our free association resources. We are also looking to add new services to better serve our association clients.
We are constantly testing new strategies to see what works so you don’t have to. We sell memberships so you don’t have to. We sell sponsorships so you don’t have to. We provide consulting services and a third-party voice to help communicate a possibly unpopular, however necessary, change that will help move your association forward.
We make sure that the wires in your house are updated and uncrossed. We help keep the lights on and the house from catching on fire.
We help grow your revenue so that you can focus on what is important to you.
In summary, my advice for associations to succeed in 2020 when it comes to their marketing is simple: have a plan, fortify your foundation, fill your toolbox with the right tools, and furnish your house with tried and true staples but don’t be afraid to strategically shake it up with a shiny object or two.
And if this all seems like too much, give Mike Thomas a call, he’s the best “property development” person you’ll ever have the pleasure of working with.


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