Vision is a Powerful Tool for Association Growth

Does your association have a vision statement that reads like a “big hairy audacious goal?” Many probably don’t and you may be thinking “I hope we never get one because it sounds like a lot of work!” But a big hairy audacious goal, or BHAG, can be a valuable association membership recruitment and retention tool.

In his Harvard Business Review article, “Building Your Company’s Vision” with Jerry Porras, Jim Collins, well-respected author of Good to Great, identifies vision as one of the critical things that helps companies and nonprofit organizations succeed. Here are a few of my thoughts on why so many organizations don’t have a strong vision, along with some suggestions for overcoming these barriers to developing one.

Vision Confusion: Nonprofit organizations often confuse mission with vision. According to Collins, mission is the organization’s timeless reason for being, such as “Promoting stewardship of the earth’s resources.” Vision is something else entirely. It is “a 10-to30-year audacious goal plus vivid descriptions of what it will be like to achieve the goal. A daunting challenge that is clear and compelling, it serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line so everyone will know when it has been achieved.” For an association in 2021, that vision might be “doubling our membership by helping members navigate event challenges of the Covid era with critical perspectives, tools, training, and support.” Mission is eternal. Vision is achievable.

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Marketing Automation for Associations


Marketing automation platforms can make the job of communicating with association members easier for your team and can provide key business intelligence about the content that your members find compelling.

Instead of cobbling various communication platforms together, a marketing automation platform, like SharpSpring or HubSpot, can provide a centralized system to report on and measure your association’s marketing activities.  Once you have a platform in place (we can integrate a platform with your website) you can begin the process of communicating with your current and potential members.


1. Start With Your Buyer Personas

These are sort-of fictional versions of your ideal customers. We say “sort of fictional” because they’re based partly on market research, but also partly on information you glean by interviewing existing customers. Think of them like composite characters in movies based on true events: the filmmakers take a few different real people and put some of their attributes into one person.

With these personas, associations can mold their content to reach their ideal members, based on the information the association has collected. Most associations use two to three personas in order to encompass their target audience.



2. Make Your Content Captivating

If you’ve created buyer personas, you know what your prospective members want. And you and your team’s combined experience makes you an expert in your field. Put those two ideas together to create compelling content: blog posts, e-books, case studies, anything that can solve member problems and also demonstrate your expertise.

Prospective members who visit your website or view your content on social media are on all different stages of their journey. If they’re in the first stage, “Awareness,” all that they know is that they have a problem they need solved.

Therefore, the content you create should try to help solve those problems. If you were a pest control company, you could create a blog post about reasons why ants find their way into people’s homes. In the consideration stage of the journey, when customers are looking for different companies to help them solve their problem, you could produce a case study showing how you helped a past customer with their ant problem.


3. Make Sure Your Content Gets Found

Inbound marketing is meant to pull people in, so be sure to populate your site and all of its content with keywords that have gone through the process of SEO, or search engine optimization. But it’s important to remember to keep your content sounding human. Google’s algorithms can tell when something’s been overloaded with keywords to get noticed by search engines.



4. Find The Right Social Media For Your Business

The targeted approach you took to creating your buyer personas should also extend to your social media strategy. Rather than setting up profiles on all the social networks find out where your members spend their time, and engage them there.


5. Measure Your Success

It’s important to track the impact of your actions. Test different headlines for your blog posts, different landing pages, calls-to-action, etc. and see which ones bring more engagement and conversions. A tool like Google Analytics can help you measure engagement.

Still feel like this is a forbidding task? Grow Associations is here for you. Our team of marketing experts can help optimize your website for SEO,  and help you create entertaining and informative content.  Incorporating inbound marketing might seem scary, but we’ll bet it’s still less scary than the thought of holding onto an outdated method of reaching new members.

 

 

 

Ideas For Communicating With Association Members

In the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, the character played by Paul Newman is  sentenced to two years in prison, however he refuses to follow a path to reform and spends a good deal of the movie in solitary confinement. Throughout the movie he spars with the warden who utters the now classic line to Luke (Newman),

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Do you sometimes feel like that warden? Well perhaps your association members feel like you aren’t speaking their language. Here are six ideas you can use to improve communication with your members.

Speak their language –  It’s important to speak the language that they understand. What we mean by that is if they prefer text or chat to email then try to adapt to their preference. I have some friends who love to use Facebook Messenger to communicate with me. I personally dislike that communication method and therefore their messages sit there awaiting some future date when I’ll check that platform.

If you serve an audience that speaks other languages do you provide translation on your website. The Google Translate isn’t as accurate translating pages, as some of the newer software. Some translation systems will translate the pages for you, while others allow you to translate the pages yourself and will then serve the pages up on the website as needed by the user.

Use A Marketing Automation Platform – Marketing automation platforms, such as HubSpot or SharpSpring, can make it easier to manage the communication process by automating repetitive communication.

Most marketing automation platforms will allow for the creation of automated workflows that are kicked off by either the manual addition of a name and email to a list or based on specific actions the member takes on your website, such as filling out a form or downloading a piece of content.

Imagine a workflow that handles a series of emails to welcome new association members and that provides useful information over the course of days, weeks, or months. What about a workflow to help with communicating before, during, and after virtual, or in person, events?

We will have a future Blog post that speaks in greater detail about the benefits to associations of marketing automation platforms.

Avoid the assumption that email communication is clearly understood. Avoid overreliance on electronic communication. While it may be impossible to speak to every member of your association on the phone, providing live conversation options can help you to reach certain segment of your association.  Even a chat feature can help clarify communication because members can ask clarification questions.

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