The Future of Member Association Marketing is Here

April 13, 2015

Future of Member Association Communications

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away lived a scrappy member association with a simple dream: “We can change the world... and we’ll do it as a group of professionals united by a shared purpose.” They would gather at meetings, debate the issues and collaborate to solve real problems.

Then technology evolved, the little association was now much bigger... and the internet! It allowed members to share content to the far corners of the universe!

Suddenly the association wasn’t so little anymore. What was once the most exciting benefit to receive — industry content — was only as valuable as the medium and digital experience. The association looked around and thought... “If we’re to achieve our vision of changing the world, we’re going to need to engage these new, younger audiences, aren’t we?” 

What do these audiences want? Personalization. On demand content. New! More!

The State of MarComm

The future of marketing and communications has arrived very quickly for us all, and for member associations especially, given audience demands for technology-powered experiences. Digital and mobile adoption has exploded, which has placed major pressure on associations to stay as up to date as for-profit businesses who can easily spend large portions of their budgets on marketing and the web.

Tools and technology have even become their own challenge. Fragmented databases, multiple email marketing platforms, CRM platforms... and don’t even get me started about social media! Technology decisions made by committee early in the days of the marketing department are now plaguing a team that is reliant on data to achieve new member acquisition goals.

What do Members Really Want?

In 2015 and the near future, members are demanding the type of experiences they receive with Apple products and Amazon shopping: personalization. The most relevant industry content should simply “bubble up” just when members need it via whichever medium is most personally engaging: email, Twitter, LinkedIn groups, a custom app — you name it. Meaningful content shouldn’t simply be discoverable.. it should be delivered. To the right person, in the right place, at the right time.

Personalization extends to in-person event experiences too. This is where members are likely to feel most engaged with the association: an event where members are intuitively guided to great content and even better networking. Meeting peers that become life-long friends is perhaps the greatest benefit for any member, but it does require strategy, intentionality and a focus on crafting an event experience.

Getting Future-ized

Ok, maybe I’ve painted a vivid enough picture... how can an association with a fantastic mission and great member base up the ante?

  1. Strategic, database-driven communications. Sounds obvious, but there’s a lot to this including a TON of investment into technology. If members are seeking a personalized experience, we must begin by seeking to intimately know them including communication preferences, content interests, peer network and even online habits such as the time of day they open emails. This allows communications to transcend “personal” and become intuitive.
  2. Develop an in-house “content agency.” If content is one of the most valuable benefits, we’re going to need to step it up with at least one dedicated team member. This person can lean on engaged members to generate “bite size” topics (and long form journal articles) that can create consistent conversations via social groups. This person can also work to position leadership and key team members as industry thought leaders and leverage the association blog as one of their primary platforms. This creates a hierarchy of industry-leading content that builds over time into a valuable archive.
  3. R&D - Testing new methods of working. Constant department, committee and interest group meetings all start to devolve passionate team members into a “death by meeting” scenario and can halt momentum around an idea faster that you can imagine. Experimenting with new methods of collaborative execution like our Factory Week can resurrect even the most fatigued meeting facilitator. Spend a week outside of the office with a core team, a small group of goals and get stuff done. Bonus: this often builds camaraderie and personal relationships amongst team members.

Getting started may not be this cut and dry, of course, however the future is not slowing down. Before we know it, drones will be dropping off disposable iPads to members with premium subscriptions! The above list is in no way comprehensive. What other ways are associations evolving to meet member demand?

Image sources: Sky Noir and JDHancock via Flickr


Related Posts