Posts Tagged ‘study

18
Oct
16

The communications struggle continues

2016-association-communications-benchmarking-report_page_04If you’ve been following this blog for the past five years (heck….even the past year), you know I’m a communications nut.

Seriously. It’s the center of everything I do – from my personal life to my professional life.

Without communication, both internally and externally, there’s no content, no strategy. Nothing.

But not everyone knows how to communicate, at least not effectively. That goes for businesses, too.

Last January, I wrote about Naylor’s 2015 Communication Benchmarking Study. Naylor has been conducting the survey for five years, and last year, the survey found most associations were continuing to struggle with communications. In fact, only 6 percent reported having a communications strategy.

Fast forward: Naylor recently released the results of its 2016 Communications Benchmarking Study. And….you guessed it. Associations are still struggling.

The top two communications challenges reported this year: communications clutter/overload and the inability to communicate membership benefits effectively. Both challenges have increased since 2011, with 69 percent and 67 percent of associations stating those are the largest obstacles.

At the same time, nearly 80 percent of associations said their members ignore their communications – up from 59 percent in 2015.

Also of note:

  • More than half of respondents recognize a serious or significant problem with the lack of revenue generated from their communication vehicles.
  • Most respondents believe they are good at creating relevant content, and more than half are conducting communication-specific surveys at least once every 12–24 months to stay on top of members’ needs. But, as stated above, those efforts are often being ignored.
  • Although 57 percent believe they could improve member engagement by improving their ability to customize for different subgroups, not many are actually doing it.

While under staffing remains a top concern among associations, especially in the communications department, some positive trends emerged in the 2016 survey.

communicateThis year, more associations reported success in helping their members find desired information quickly and keeping them informed about education opportunities and events.

While e-newsletters and print magazines remain top communication vehicles, associations seem to be expanding their communication vehicles. For example, according to the results, Facebook, webinars and online career centers have gained traction.

Finally, again this year, associations reported difficulty with communicating to young professionals. While integrated communication is paramount to success, segmentation and customization of communications is key to enticing young members. As such, Naylor advises associations to develop specific events, communications and mentoring opportunities unique to this group.

“In general, associations are doing a better job at organizing information and making it accessible to their members, as well as keeping their members informed about new events and education,” Naylor says. “It’s more critical than ever to make every message count. And while associations appreciate the importance of segmenting member data to provide tailored communications to combat the ‘overload’ challenge, a relatively small percentage feel they are leveraging technology available to do this effectively.”

13
Sep
16

Pay attention to what matters most

same-pageThis probably won’t come as a surprise to many of you, but it seems associations and their members aren’t always on the same page.

According to a recent report by Abila, what members want from associations vs. what associations think members want don’t always align.

For example, millennials just starting their careers often turn to associations for job opportunities and career advice. But baby boomers, who are winding down their careers, may instead rely on associations to provide industry news and trends.

The problem: A one-size-fits-all approach to association management and communication doesn’t work, but associations aren’t always good at segmenting their memberships.

Furthermore, many professional organizations take pride in providing numerous meetings and conferences when instead they should focus on job opportunities, credentialing and certifications, Abila found.

“Understanding generations and how they like to engage now is essential for any organization,” Abila said. “And acknowledging that an emerging generation will change the rules of engagement down the road – and planning for that – will help ensure success.”

Some key takeaways from the Membership Engagement Study:

  • Sixty-eight percent of members feel organizations are responsive to their needs, while 91 percent of organizations think they’re responsive to members.
  • Only 63 percent of members feel they’re getting good value for the membership fee, while 81 percent of organizations think they’re providing good value.
  • Seventy percent of members feel the organizations to which they belong are the voices of the industry, while 84 percent of associations think they’re the leading voices.

I alluded to it earlier, but segmented communication is crucial to member retention. In the survey, members said they most want to hear about industry news and trends, followed by professional meetings. Third: networking opportunities.

Perhaps surprising, however, was social media’s influence. While millennials indicated they’re much more willing to use social media platforms to connect with associations, email is still the No. 1 communication tool. Email messages were the most popular, followed by e-newsletters.

In terms of frequency, members said monthly communication is optimal. For social media, weekly communication is satisfactory.

career-journeySo what does this all mean?

“First and foremost, organizations need to have a sharp, well-defined understanding of where members are in their career journey and cater their content and communication strategy to address the needs and desires of their members based on age and/or career stage,” Abila said. “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach no longer works in the targeted, highly personalized and technologically advanced world in which we live.”

Abila offers some tips:

  • An association should explore data within its AMS to identify new segments of its membership. Doing so will help associations tailor communications and think strategically.
  • Paying special attention to members who are just beginning their careers will reap great rewards – especially in terms of members retention. More than any other demographic, millennials (and in some cases Gen Xers) need career guidance and networking opportunities.
  • When it comes to programs, education and professional development, associations should offer a variety of choices, from hybrid to online to traditional conferences, and they should explore a spectrum of content delivery options. Simply put: Determine members’ career needs and meet those.
  • All the above is moot unless associations know their members. To learn more about their members, associations should engage in dialogue and survey them about their membership preferences.
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.”

21
Jun
16

Survey says: Most of us are lifelong learners

technology-beginner-blog-imageOn the last day of school, I told my kids I wished I were still a student. I explained “adulting” is hard, and they looked at me like I had five heads.

Truth is, I love school. I’m a self-professed word nerd, but I also love learning about pretty much everything, which is probably why I’m determined to get my master’s degree one of these days.

I guess my love of learning shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. According to a recent survey by Pew Research Center, most Americans – 73 percent to be exact – define themselves as lifelong learners.

From do-it-yourself projects to professional development, Americans want to learn, the report found. Most learning occurs in traditional places, but the Internet is quickly becoming a reputable knowledge source.

Of those who responded to the survey, 63 percent of working adults have taken a course or engaged in professional development throughout the last year to improve job skills, mostly for career advancement. Perhaps of special interest to associations, 36 percent of the workforce sought education for a license or certification.

At the same time, 65 percent of those who participated in professional education said learning has expanded their professional networks.

In addition, the report found those with high levels of education were more likely to seek out education. Pew Research Center contends this fact negates the argument that the Internet democratizes education. Again, however, the report said those with lower levels of education turn to the Internet for education.

And the report found those who learn professionally are also more likely to learn personally – more good news for associations/organizations representing recreational industries.

sharing-is-caring-social-learning-in-the-workplaceWhile technology continues to evolve in the education arena, the Pew study found many learners aren’t aware of digital learning options. For example, 61 percent of respondents aren’t aware of distance learning while 80 percent aren’t familiar with massive open online courses (MOOCs). Even fewer learners are aware of digital badges.

In terms of industries, those working in the government sector, more than in other industries, represent the highest number of professional learners. No. 2 was education, followed by nonprofit organizations.

I alluded to this above, but most professionals participate in education at their workplace. The Internet is the second most common platform, followed by an offsite facility, such as a hotel. And, head’s up to associations: Conventions and education programs take the No. 4 spot.

Perhaps not surprising, the report found attitudes about learning shape people’s desire to seek out educational opportunities. Most of us like the idea of lifelong learning, but very few yearn to sit in a classroom. In fact, 58 percent of respondents say they’re constantly looking for opportunities to grow.

“Two large forces are driving fresh interest in the way people learn and why they learn,” said Pew Research Center. “The first force is the rise of the Internet and its disruptive potential for education, both for the formal purpose of gaining extra training and credentials and for the informal purpose of learning new things in hope of personal life enrichment. The second force is the steady advancement of the ‘knowledge economy,’ in which economic value is increasingly derived from working with sources of knowledge and in which more and more jobs are built around knowledge workers who use information to ‘create original knowledge products.’”

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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