Content Marketing for Associations. Associations are increasingly looking to the online world to bolster their membership numbers: the lower overheads, and the increased reach of association messaging over the web, are two of the most appealing aspects of this shift.
But moving marketing online requires extra effort in other areas. You are communicating with an audience that has greater choice than ever before when it comes to the consumption of media. As a consequence, they have a much shorter attention span and lower tolerance for content which does not serve their own motivations. Successful marketing begins when you embrace the fact that your audience has the right to choose its engagement – and when you begin to offer them something which they will not only seek out for themselves, but will also share among their own networks of friends, family, and peers. That is why it is known as content marketing for associations or inbound marketing – because your leads will identify themselves as such as they engage with your online presence. The key to this engagement is valuable content.
To use an analogy, if the internet is a global village, then conventional advertising is akin to standing in the street and handing out flyers explaining why people should buy your product or join your association. Content marketing, meanwhile, is more like installing a very large window in your premises, allowing every passer-by to see the appealing products and services that you can offer them once they have chosen to enter. The moment when a prospect sees an attractive offering and enters your store? That is inbound marketing in action.
It’s perhaps not the most water-tight metaphor when talking about the intricacies of digital marketing, but the example does demonstrate a key difference in attitudes between the two methods – one which is valuable for all association management personnel to learn. Content marketing is less aggressive, and it foregrounds the needs, expectations, and motivations of the customer. You are attracting prospects and inviting them to connect and participate, rather than forcing them through a sales tunnel with the push of hard-selling promotional copy.
Which is all very well in theory, but how does an association apply a successful online marketing strategy, grow membership, and attract those valuable repeat subscribers? An effective strategy can be broken down into four component parts:
The internet has opened up information for all of us. The challenge today is not about having access to resources, but being able to locate them among the hundreds of thousands of similarly-themed web pages being offered to us. Content creation may be the priority, but presenting it in a way that is easy to discover should be seen as just as significant.
Established strategies such as search engine optimisation (SEO) improve the user experience and the visibility of your content. Effective association management means identifying the niche of your organisation, and then targeting precise search engine words and terms to raise your profile in key areas. If you are unique in your industry, emphasise those attributes; if you serve a specific locality or community, make the world aware of your good work with region-specific search terms.
Do not overlook the value of web-building basics, either. Create internal links between your pages and invite visitors to stay. Use Social Media tactics and professional data analytics. If all of your content is informative, and transitions intuitively from one area of interest to the next, then you will be on the right path to establishing yourself as a trusted online resource.
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Of course, once the user base has discovered your content, it then has to delight. Data-rich copy and practical, expert advice are the magic ingredients when it comes to transforming your site from a sterile profile page into a valued resource. Pro-active content marketing for associations include guest blogs, infographics, multimedia presentations, and industry insight from experienced professionals are among the most popular forms of data-rich content.
Attractive marketing combines these first two facets and applies the results in a customer-orientated fashion. This means not only delivering the right content, but delivering it at the right time. Attract clicks with offers and promotions: discounted subscription fees for a limited time, or free access to exclusive content when a prospect follows a specific referral link. But, most of all, make sure that your leads are discovering your offers when it will meet their needs, not your own. Provide pro-active support for your subscribers. Respond to frequently asked questions and provide solutions that are ready when your members need them the most. Effective marketing strategy blends seamlessly with your customer relationship management.
If you have accomplished all of the above, then you will have created marketing copy that is more than advertising, and more than customer service: you have created a product in and of itself.
While the vast majority of your association’s content-driven online marketing may be free to access, but providing that access in return for customer contact details and an “opt-in” facility turns a blogging site into a potent lead generation tool for your association, and a commitment-free means of participating for your members.
It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that content marketing strategies for associations are seen as an effective means of cementing brand loyalties.
As a content-provider, you are cultivating ongoing relationships with visitors that will encourage them to return, time and again, to consume your products and services. In a sector where revenues are often reliant on the ability to grow membership numbers, there can be little doubt that inbound strategies represent a powerful means of promotion for associations today.