Posts Tagged ‘marketing

11
Oct
16

Change is good…right?

innovationLeaves change. People change. And yes, businesses change.

But what about associations?

Most of us realize innovation is key to driving a business forward. New ideas, new inventions, new strategies, new operating plans. The options are limitless – even for associations.

Associations aren’t often regarded as agents of change, but recently, Marketing General Inc., in conjunction with the National Business Aviation Association, polled association professionals to learn how they set innovation goals, how they support innovation, what rewards and recognition they offer and how they set metrics for innovation.

Nearly 350 associations participated in the Association Innovation Benchmarking Report, which found most associations are at least moderately innovative. That’s a recent development, however, as most didn’t start focusing on innovation until the past five years.

According to the survey, association innovation tends to focus around a few main areas: website and social media; conventions, conferences and seminars; education programs; and membership, technology and marketing (56 percent each).

the-secret-of-innovative-companiesIn addition, associations reported that innovation flows from the top down, with CEOs and other leaders serving as the primary drivers of new thoughts and ideas. In addition, collaboration and communication and encouragement are the most common ways associations support innovation.

And it seems there’s not much middle ground. Associations either fully support innovation or not at all. At the same time, there are challenges – lack of resources being No. 1. Also, most associations don’t set goals to achieve innovation and often, there aren’t reward programs for striving toward and achieving innovation – perhaps because it’s an expectation, and, in some cases, a culture.

Other key findings:

  • Changes in the industry or profession and technological developments are the biggest motivators for adopting innovation.
  • Among organizations that have rallied around innovation, communication has been key to getting everyone on board. Permission to take risk also plays a major role in getting personnel on board with innovation.
  • Those organizations with a specific system tend to handle new ideas in a variety of ways: 50 percent rely on staff initiative; 48 percent have a special committee or group; and 41 percent develop new ideas with the CEO.
  • Increased member engagement is the most common way to measure innovation efforts.
  • In those organizations where innovation is not supported, respondents cite departments and people being very siloed as a principal cause for the lack of support.
16
Aug
16

What’s the state of association marketing?

Digital-Marketing-TrainingAs many of you probably know by now, I’m a public relations fanatic. Not only is it my full-time profession, but I’m constantly soaking up stories about new trends, PR disasters, crisis communications and more.

Years ago, PR (which used to be more focused on media relations) and marketing didn’t always mix well. Fast forward: The line is fuzzy – if it exists at all.

Now, marketing is very much about content. Without content, you’ve got nothing to communicate, no brand and no campaign.

But not just anyone can do marketing. It takes careful planning, strategic thinking and skill.

This week at the ASAE Annual Meeting, Demand Metric (sponsored by HighRoad Solution) unveiled its benchmark report, “2016 State of Digital Marketing in Associations.”

Among the findings: Association customers think marketing communications are rather stagnant – and each year, those feelings grow a bit stronger, according to the survey results. In fact, in the 2016 report, only one-fourth of respondents reported their members perceive communications as always relevant. (Marketing Tip No. 1: Know your audience!)

“All associations need a strategic marketing plan to drive all marketing capabilities and tactics,” Demand Metric said. “In the absence of a marketing strategy that is based on an association’s values and objectives, it is difficult for marketing to have the impact that it should. So for marketing communications and all other capabilities, the right approach is to lead with strategy and planning.”

As for tactics, email marketing again took the No. 1 spot as the most effective (the same as last year.) The biggest dip: mobile marketing. It dropped 11 percent from last year, and this year, only 18 percent of respondents said it’s an effective marketing tactic. Event marketing took the No. 2 spot while content marketing took No. 3.

Other key findings:

  • 71 percent of study participants report their association marketing overall effectiveness as somewhat or very effective.
  • More one-third of study participants rate their understanding of member needs as poor to neutral.
  • 91 percent of associations in the study are tracking some sort of marketing metric. Just 22 percent track ROI as a marketing metric.
  • 82 percent of the associations that track ROI report high overall marketing effectiveness.
  • The average annual marketing budget for associations in this study falls in the $250,000 to $299,999 range.

ROI_blog_graphicSpeaking of ROI, according to the study, many marketers shy away from analytics – which can be a fatal mistake. My two cents: There’s no point in engaging in marketing if efforts are fruitless, right? And so, marketers need to have a key spot at the table when it comes to strategic planning.

According to the report, IT handles many marketing tactics (the logistics of email campaigns, for instance), but marketing staff needs to be involved in the overall vision of an organization. All this said, it’s crucial for marketing staff to have an understanding of HTML and other basic web functions. Unfortunately, according to the report, that skillset has decreased among association marketing staffs.

Here’s where learning and professional development come in.

“Associations must view training as an investment, not just in growing the skills of the marketing team, but in enabling the marketing function to help the organization achieve its goals,” Demand Metric said. “Marketing needs to exist within a culture that values learning. The marketing team that has a competitive technical skill set is an asset to the entire organization it serves.”

So marketers, what do you think? How do you fit into your association’s strategic plan? Share your comments here.

12
Jul
16

The growth spurt continues for associations

membership-associationWhat keeps association leaders up at night?

According to Marketing General Inc.’s 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, it’s issues such as balancing a limited budget, engaging younger members and understanding what members truly want, especially in terms of networking and professional development.

The good news, though, is that associations continue to grow.

Slightly up from last year’s report, this year 49 percent of associations reported a growth in membership. The largest individual member organizations (those with more than 20,000 members) were the most likely to see increased growth. In fact, only 14 percent report of respondents indicated no change in their number of members, a decrease from 16 percent in 2015.

For most associations, membership renewal rates didn’t change this year. Nor did the top methods for recruiting new members: word of mouth and email. Perhaps not surprising, associations said conferences and trade shows are also common recruiting tools, ranking No. 3.

Magnified illustration with the words Marketing Plan on white background.

So why do associations remain popular? Most association executives believe members join for networking and continuing education opportunities.

Other key findings from the MGI report:

  • The primary internal challenges to growing membership are difficulty in communicating value or benefits, insufficient staff and difficulty meeting members’ needs due to a broad membership base.
  • Competitive associations or sources of information (34 percent) and economy/cost of membership (31 percent) are the biggest external challenges to growing membership.
  • Nearly 80 percent of associations with increasing renewal rates indicate increased participation in their private social networks, with Facebook and Twitter being the most popular platforms.
  • A majority of associations consider the average age of their members to be between 45 and 54 years old.
  • Similar to acquiring new domestic members, the most effective methods for recruiting international members is through word-of-mouth recommendations, email and by promotion of or at an association conference or trade show.
  • The majority of associations currently have a separate strategic initiative or tactical plan for increasing engagement (58 percent).
  • More than 30 percent of associations offer certification of some kind.

So what does this mean for the future?

The MGI report includes best practices, predictions and tips from association leaders who participated in the survey.

As one respondent said, “Associations will need to find services that can’t be provided by any other organization — such as professional credentials. Networking can be online and social; professional development can be searched online; and knowledge is not valued, as information can be easily gathered. But status can only be gained by peer review and credentials are important.”

24
May
16

No more masses for association marketers

email-marketing-for-your-home-businessAs some of you may know, Event Garde sends a monthly e-newsletter. So every month, I jump into Constant Contact to look at stats.

Admittedly, I’m a word nerd, but I find the stats and data fascinating. I get excited when the click and open rates increase. And I use those – based on the popularity of certain topics – to decide what to write the next month.

Email marketers: Does this sound familiar?

According to most reports, email is the No. 1 tool for marketing among associations. But do email campaigns work?

A new report by Informz may help marketers decide.

The 2016 Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report analyzes nearly 2 billion emails sent by associations in 2015. According to the report, email volume rose nearly 12 percent from 2014.

We’ll delve into the findings shortly, but first, Informz points out marketing automation technology has transformed the way associations communicate. For example, it allows senders to more easily segment audiences, allowing for topical, personalized responses.

“Associations are making a purposeful shift to integrate and maximize their digital marketing reach, utilizing all their data assets,” Informz says. “Websites, email marketing programs, account management databases and online communities are no longer perceived as separate functional entities. Taking a holistic approach means moving away from a single communication strategy to a tailored, one-to-one communication approach.”

click-460In addition, the report revealed email relevancy is top of mind for subscribers. As such, marketers are moving away from mass emails, instead sending customized communications to members – which translates into more meaningful member experiences.

And now the findings from the Informz report:

  • The average email metrics for associations include a 98 percent delivery rate, 36 percent open rate and 16 percent click rate.
  • More than 70 percent of email subscribers were sent one to five emails per month.
  • Emails containing eight or more links represent 77 percent of the email sent volume.
  • Audiences between 5,000 and 50,000 accounted for 63 percent of all emails sent; however, the smaller the audience, the higher the open and click rates were.
  • For the second consecutive year, emails sent during midday hours accounted for the largest percentage of emails sent, as well as the highest click rates.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday had the highest email volume with an average open rate of 35 percent.
  • Friday had the highest weekday open rate at 37 percent.
  • Subject lines with fewer than 40 characters had open rates that exceeded the 2015 benchmark of 36 percent.
  • More than 60 percent of opened email had engagement for more than 10 seconds, which is an increase from last year’s metric of 62 percent.
  • Mobile readers engage with emails longer than desktop readers, with 67 percent of mobile readers spending longer than 10 seconds.

So…what are your thoughts? How does your association use email?

Remember that newsletter I referenced? We’re always looking to feature examples of success so if you’ve developed an email campaign that works, please send information to Kristen Parker at Kristen@eventgarde.com.

17
Nov
15

A look back at 2015

 

IHS group

From left to right: Jenny Hill, Aaron Wolowiec and Cally Hill

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s time for us at Event Garde to reflect on the many things for which we’re thankful.

From education to content creation, we’ve had a successful year and have experienced tremendous growth.

And we owe much of that to you. Thank you for trusting us to help you learn, network and transfer differently. (See more on this below).

This year end report is just a smattering of the successes we’ve achieved. It’s hard to quantify those day-to-day “ah-ha” moments, but we hope you enjoy this glance at our 2015.

We look forward to spending 2016 with you, and can’t wait to see what’s in store!

Here’s a look at 2015:

communication_strategy_01Marketing and Communications

In September, Event Garde held a marketing and communications retreat in which we discussed our communications strategy and marketing goals. With so many moving parts and pieces throughout the last year, it was time to reflect on our brand.

So we asked ourselves: What have we become? How are we different from our competitors?

Thus the birth of our new tagline: Learn. Network. Transfer.

Learn – We are educators and we are educated. As responsible contributors to our industry, we participate in professional development while also planning it.

Network – We plan events and programs with an emphasis on providing networking environments and opportunities for program attendees and participants. And individually, we belong to networks and organizations that enhance our personal and professional goals.

Transfer – We realize the needs and wants of an industry that experiences ups and downs and use our collective and individual experiences and knowledge to foster performance improvement.

As for personality, here’s a list of words we think describes us:

  • Authentic
  • Capacity-building
  • Client-oriented
  • Detailed
  • Knowledge-seeking
  • Leading-edge
  • Tenacious

Next month, we’ll be discussing how to implement our marketing and communications plan. So stay tuned.

airplane wing

A view from one of Aaron’s many flights

Speaking engagements

This year, Aaron spent many hours on an airplane for speaking engagements. From Atlanta to Florida to Michigan, Aaron spoke at 25 events on a range of topics. Audience size varied from three to 144, but in total, Aaron spoke to more than 1,200 people. Some of the topics: learning/how the brain learns; how to improve conferences and events; and membership.

And here’s what some people had to say:

“Aaron is knowledgeable and engaging.”

“This is the first webinar I actually paid attention to throughout the whole hour.”

“Very engaging, personable, knowledgeable, understood his market, well prepared, very good at herding cats, great content, well-presented. Kept us engaged and moving.”

EG relay for life team

The Event Garde Relay for Life team

Professional development and community engagement

As stated above, we’re lifelong learners, so the staff of Event Garde attended 28 professional development sessions this year, with topics ranging from instructional design to volunteer training to conference presentations.

At the same time, we value the communities in which we live, work and play. And we understand the importance of giving back. So again this year, Event Garde sponsored a Relay for Life team, walking 24 hours around the track at East Lansing High School in recognition of those fighting cancer, in honor of those who’ve triumphed and in remembrance of those who’ve lost their battles.

Episode-29-Aaron-Wolowiec
Content

In 2015, Event Garde produced 50 blog posts. Kristen Parker contributed most of the content, but Aaron wrote posts at the beginning of each month and each month we featured guest bloggers.

On average, blog posts received about 220 views and the site averaged about 200 visitors per month. Topics of the posts varied, but the most popular seemed to be those focused on hotels – rates and room blocks, specifically.

In addition, Event Garde published a newsletter each month, with an average open rate of 600. As an education resource, each newsletter included links to stories or blog posts we found inspiring and informative. In addition, we featured “bright ideas,” in each newsletter and, of course, an Event Garde-ian of the Month.

Throughout the year, niche media publications re-printed blog posts from Kristen and Aaron, quoted Aaron as expert or included written pieces by Aaron. Key media hits include Michigan Meetings + Events, Naylor Publications, Associations Now, Biz Bash, MSAE Association Impact and TSAE Association News.

Here’s a look at some of the media hits:

Meetings and Conventions

Pure Reinvention podcast

Associations Now

Michigan Meetings & Events

new house

Aaron’s new home and Event Garde’s new headquarters

New headquarters
And finally… Event Garde got a new headquarters this year!

Aaron bought a new house in Kalamazoo, which will serve as Event Garde’s new home.

10
Aug
15

New report: Association marketing has a ways to go

marketing-mix-priceMarketing is much more difficult than most people think. It requires creativity, strategic planning, vision and data analysis.

Marketers have a vast skill set, and that’s why they should have a seat at the decision-making table.

That’s according to a new benchmarking study on association marketing by Demand Metric and HighRoad Solution.

The State of Association Marketing,” unveiled this week during ASAE’s annual conference in Detroit, summarizes the marketing efforts of 373 survey respondents, mostly comprising membership associations.

Key findings:

  • 73 percent of survey respondents rate their overall association marketing as somewhat or very effective.
  • Marketing communications was the most prevalent marketing capability in associations surveyed, provided by 70 percent of marketing functions to their associations.
  • Only 25 percent of study participants report members perceive their marketing communications as always relevant and professional.
  • Membership retention saw the largest year-to-year increase, offered by 47 percent of association marketing departments in 2014 compared to 62 percent in 2015.
  • Event marketing was identified by 78 percent of respondents as the most effective marketing tactic.
  • Associations are embracing marketing analytics more closely, with the percentage reporting no usage of analytics dropping from 13 percent in 2014 to 9 percent in 2015.
  • The budget line item most frequently found in association marketing budgets is for print, found in 46 percent of association budgets. Print, however, ranks eighth in terms of effectiveness.
  • More staff and more funding rank first and second as the resources that would most help improve marketing effectiveness. However, neither staffing nor funding correlated to greater marketing effectiveness in the analysis of the study’s data.
  • Survey respondents identified internal meetings as consuming the most time.

“The baseline study sadly pointed out how far behind associations are in areas such as digital advertising and marketing automation,” said Suzanne Carawan, chief marketing officer for HighRoad Solution. “As you will see in this year’s report, we’re making progress, but there is a lot more work to do before we can bridge the gap between corporations and associations.”

A few things to consider. (My two cents here.)

contentmarketingWhile it makes sense to have the marketing director handle the main marketing duties – banner ads, social media ads, marketing material, website marketing, etc. – it’s also beneficial to have marketers contribute to membership retention efforts. After all, it’s a marketer’s job to explain why membership is valuable, and this means keeping members from losing interest – enter the skill set I referenced above.

In addition, according to the survey, strategic planning wasn’t a top priority for associations. That’s a problem.

As someone who’s learned to blend public relations and marketing, I can vouch for the fact that marketing can’t exist without strategy. A marketing plan isn’t a strategic plan. Instead, marketing should be part of the strategic plan, with clearly defined messaging, tactics and audiences. Marketing should support the association’s strategic vision; not compete with it.

Marketing communications is perhaps the most effective piece of the marketing puzzle –provided there’s good content. Effective, meaningful, useful content.

According to the report, print is still an effective marketing vehicle among associations. But I’d argue that association marketers should consider the power of digital marketing. LinkedIn and Facebook marketing campaigns can yield huge rewards.

Tell us…what role does your marketing staff play in your organization? What works best for you?




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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