Marketing in the information age

In my experience, the information age—characterized by the ability of individuals to transfer information freely and to have instant access to knowledge—is making it increasingly more difficult to market education programs to my association’s core clientele (a laundry list of individuals, both members and non-members, with a variety of professional interests—all related to the long-term care industry).

Ultimately, I’ve identified two problems:

  1. Information overload. Professionals today are literally bombarded by dozens of e-mails each and every day. They are having difficulty discerning which e-mails to read, which to respond to, which to forward and which to discard. Important association messages, including marketing materials and call to action pieces, which may at one time have been given a high priority are now receiving less and less attention. With the sheer volume of messages delivered each day, principles like the Rule of Three seem unrealistic, outdated and ineffective.
  2. Accessible knowledge. At least in my field, professionals are more connected now than ever before. If they seek training or professional development opportunities for their staffs, these individuals have the means to personally secure a knowledgeable consultant who will customize a curriculum to meet their unique needs. This was not necessarily the case even 10 years ago. (Although this does not hold true when it comes to large-scale conferences featuring nationally-recognized speakers and dozens of local content experts, it is certainly having an impact on smaller one-day events.)

Additionally, I believe my target audience is particularly unique in the following ways (further compounding these problems):

  • Generally speaking, they are not technologically savvy. It’s not unusual for e-mail to be checked once a day or once every other day. Furthermore, it’s highly unlikely these individuals will carry smart phones or access e-mail from home.
  • When asked earlier this year their preferred communication method, YouTube videos landed high on their list of recommendations. Added to our regular e-mail, fax and hard copy promotions, we’ve only generated marginal interest from this new (read: innovative) marketing channel.
  • For the most part, they also do not open their own mail or remove their own faxes from the fax machine. Much of these messages are therefore filtered by paraprofessional staff members who have little knowledge of our association or how we benefit their employer.

Finally, there seems to be a disconnect between what is most effective (personal contact by way of phone calls or site visits) and what our limited resources (including staff time and budgetary constraints) will allow.

So, my question to you is this:  How are you overcoming these challenges? In your experience, what’s been most effective for marketing education programs (or other core association products/services) to your members/clients this year? What does/should marketing look like in the information age?

3 Responses to “Marketing in the information age”

  1. September 4, 2010 at 2:34 pm


    I completely agree that everyone gets too much marketing these days. The easy answer to getting people to pay attention to your marketing is to make it valuable and applicable to the recipient. If you don’t do that you will never get people to pay attention.

    I have an interesting idea around your gatekeeper challenge. Once your members know how they benefit from membership and want to read your communications, or even as part of your communications process, tell your members to whitelist you with the gatekeeper. We ask people to whitelist us so they receive electronic communications. Why wouldn’t the same thing work when dealing with human beings as opposed to computers?


  2. September 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm


    Your marketing analysis totally makes sense. Do you believe the answer is mass customization (a la John Graham) or is it finding the right marketing message/channel for your audience as a whole? Additionally, I like your gatekeeper discussion. Have you encountered clients with similar issues? What did/might that campaign look like?


  3. September 6, 2010 at 11:58 am


    I would love to find 1 message and 1 communication activity that works for all members. Unfortunately I do not think that exists. I think members need personalization and customization and if we cannot deliver that to them then our response rates are on the verge of a deep decrease. I do not believe that true 1 to 1 marketing is capable at this point as it has data and technology and human resource challenges. That said we do need to do everything we are capable of to talk to people in as much of a 1 to 1 basis as our resources allow.

    I have seen the gatekeeper problem a lot. I have not heard of anyone doing what I suggested because honestly that thought just popped into my head as I was writing the other day. I know lots of associations have gatekeeper strategies that could work as well.


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meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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