Why Associations Should Embrace Marketing Automation

As an association, it’s crucial to stay competitive and relevant in today’s fast-paced digital landscape. One way to do this is through the use of marketing automation. Marketing automation refers to the use of software and technology to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows.

Save time and resources

Marketing automation allows you to automate repetitive tasks, freeing up time and resources to focus on more strategic, high-impact activities. For example, using a marketing automation platform, you can set up an automated email campaign to send a series of welcome emails to new members, without having to manually send each email individually.

Improve lead generation and conversion

By providing personalised content and experiences, marketing automation can help to generate and nurture leads, leading to increased conversions. For example, you can use marketing automation to segment your audience based on their interests and behaviour, and then send targeted emails or ads with relevant content that speaks to their specific needs.

Increase engagement and retention

Marketing automation can help to build relationships with members and keep them engaged through targeted, timely communications. For example, you can use marketing automation to send automated birthday or anniversary emails to members, showing that you value their membership and helping to foster a sense of community.

Enhance data management and analysis

Marketing automation enables you to collect and analyse data from various sources, giving you a more comprehensive view of your audience and allowing you to make informed decisions. For example, you can use marketing automation to track how members interact with your website and emails, and then use that data to optimise your marketing efforts and better understand your audience.

Streamline workflows

Marketing automation allows you to streamline workflows and improve efficiency by automating tasks such as email marketing, social media posting, and lead nurturing. For example, you can use marketing automation to schedule social media posts in advance, ensuring that you have a consistent presence without having to manually post updates each day.

Boost ROI

By automating tasks and targeting the right people with the right messages, marketing automation can help to drive more qualified leads and increase ROI. For example, you can use marketing automation to create targeted landing pages and forms that are tailored to specific audience segments, increasing the likelihood that they will convert into members or customers.

Stay ahead of the competition

By leveraging the latest technology and marketing best practices, associations that embrace marketing automation will be well positioned to stay ahead of the competition. For example, you can use marketing automation to A/B test different subject lines or email templates, helping you to identify what works best and staying ahead of the curve in terms of email marketing best practices.

If you are looking to enhance your marketing automation, I recommend reaching out to MemberBoat. MemberBoat specialises in supporting professional associations and membership organisations with all their marketing efforts, and can provide cutting-edge marketing solutions for your membership. Find out more here.

Strategies for Cultivating a Strong and Supportive Association Community

In the association sector, cultivating a sense of community among members is critical for building strong relationships, encouraging engagement and loyalty, and achieving organisational goals. Here are some of the ways successful associations are making it happen:

Facilitate communication and collaboration among members

One of the ways associations can cultivate a sense of community is by facilitating communication and collaboration among members. This can include providing online forums or discussion groups, hosting regular webinars or conference calls, and facilitating in-person networking events. For example, a professional association might host a monthly virtual roundtable discussion on a specific topic of interest to its members, or an industry association might host an annual conference that brings members together in person.

Encourage member involvement and participation

Another way associations can cultivate a sense of community is by encouraging member involvement and participation. This can include providing opportunities for members to volunteer their time and expertise, or to take on leadership roles within the organisation. For example, a trade association might encourage members to participate in committees or task forces that help to shape the direction of the organisation, or a hobbyist association might provide opportunities for members to lead workshops or presentations at annual events.

Foster a sense of belonging

Associations can also cultivate a sense of community by fostering a sense of belonging among members. This can include creating a welcoming and inclusive culture, recognising and celebrating member achievements, and providing opportunities for members to connect and socialise. For example, a sports association might host a member appreciation night at a local game, or an alumni association might hold a reunion event for former members.

Promote a shared sense of purpose

A shared sense of purpose is another important factor in cultivating a sense of community. Associations can promote a shared sense of purpose by clearly communicating their mission and vision, and by providing opportunities for members to contribute to the organisation’s work. For example, an environmental association might provide opportunities for members to participate in conservation projects or advocacy efforts, or a healthcare association might offer opportunities for members to contribute to research or education initiatives.

Provide resources and support to members

Associations can also cultivate a sense of community by providing resources and support to members. This can include access to information and expertise, as well as practical support such as discounts on products and services. For example, a professional association might offer members access to a members-only online library or provide discounts on continuing education courses, or an industry association might offer discounted rates on industry-specific software or tools.

Create a welcoming and inclusive environment

Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment is another key factor in cultivating a sense of community. This can include initiatives to be more inclusive and diverse, and being mindful of the needs and preferences of all members. For example, an association might have a diversity and inclusion committee that works to ensure that all members feel welcome and included or might provide accommodations such as sign language interpretation at events for members who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Recognise and celebrate member achievements

Finally, associations can cultivate a sense of community by recognising and celebrating member achievements. This can include publicly acknowledging member contributions, awarding awards or accolades, or recognising milestones such as anniversaries or retirements. For example, an association might hold an annual awards ceremony to recognise outstanding member achievements or might create a member hall of fame to honour long-time members.

If you are looking for support to maximise the success of your membership program we can assist. Email Belinda Moore for more information.

Increasing Online Community Engagement in Your Association

An online community can be a valuable resource for associations, providing a platform for members to connect, collaborate, and engage with the organisation. Here are seven ways to build a successful online community for your association:

Clearly define the purpose and goals of the community.

Before launching an online community, it’s important to define its purpose and goals. This could include creating a space for members to share resources and knowledge, fostering a sense of community and connection, or providing a platform for members to engage with the association and its leadership.

Invite and onboard new members.

Invite members to join the community and provide a clear onboarding process to help them get started. This could include an orientation video or tutorial, a welcome message or guide, and an introduction to the community’s guidelines and expectations.

Encourage participation.

Encourage members to actively participate in the community by posting content, asking questions, and engaging with others. This could include hosting weekly discussion topics, hosting live events or webinars, or providing incentives for participation such as prizes or recognition.

Moderate and manage the community.

It’s important to have a team in place to moderate and manage the community, including enforcing guidelines and addressing any issues that may arise. This can help create a safe and welcoming environment for all members.

Foster a sense of community.

Encourage a sense of community by promoting social connections and creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. This could include hosting virtual social events or providing opportunities for members to connect with each other based on shared interests or professional goals.

Keep the content fresh and relevant.

Keep the community active and engaged by regularly posting new content and updating existing content to ensure it remains relevant and useful. This could include sharing industry news and updates, hosting expert guest speakers, or highlighting member achievements and success stories.

Engage with members.

Make sure to regularly engage with members and respond to their questions and feedback. This can help build trust and strengthen the relationship between the association and its members.

By following these seven steps, you can build a successful online community for your association. From clearly defining the purpose and goals of the community to fostering a sense of community and keeping the content fresh and relevant, there are many ways to create an engaging and valuable online space for your members.

If you would like an online community for your association, take a look at Trybz. Trybz in an online community platform specifically designed for associations. To see it in action, check out the  Answers for Associations online community for association professionals.

The Key Elements of An Association Membership Model

Associations have played a significant role in connecting people for thousands of years. From hunter-gatherer societies to modern professional organisations, associations have taken many forms and have had a profound impact on society. In recent years, rapid changes in technology, economics, and culture have necessitated a transformation in the way associations operate, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this shift.

One of the most fundamental changes many associations are considering is their membership model. An association membership model is the foundation of an organisation, underpinning all aspects of its operations. It is essential that this model is the result of careful consideration and aligns with the purpose and goals of the association. The includes consideration of the following elements:

Association Purpose

An association is a group of people who come together to achieve a shared goal. Its primary function is to work towards this goal, rather than to attract and retain members. A clear and defined purpose is essential for guiding the actions and decisions of the association, as well as for measuring success and navigating through changes. To ensure that the association is aligned and motivated towards its purpose, it is important to define its vision, mission, and values. The vision is the desired outcome or impact that the association hopes to achieve. The mission describes the actions and services that the association provides to achieve its vision. The purpose is the reason behind these actions and serves as the driving force for the association. The values are the core beliefs that guide and motivate the association and its members.

Association Type and Structure

The type and structure of association will influence the membership model. There are various types of associations that can be classified based on their goals and objective such as philanthropic foundations, environmental and animal protection organisations, hospitals and health services, social services, religious groups, international aid organisations, educational institutions, cultural and recreational clubs, advocacy and political organisations, business and professional associations, and labour unions. Within each of these categories, there are subcategories that further classify the association based on specific characteristics. The structure of an association, whether it is a single entity operating nationally or internationally, or a federation of independent organisations, will also impact the development of its membership model.

Who the Association Serves

It is important to identify the specific individuals and businesses that an association should focus on serving and engaging with, rather than simply attempting to attract as many members as possible. A clear understanding of the purpose of the association can help to clarify which groups are most important and should be prioritised.

There are five types of stakeholders that an association may interact with: those it exists to serve, those it engages with to further its purpose, customers who purchase its products and services, those who are targeted as part of a specific campaign, and vendors who provide products and services to the association’s community (stakeholders will fit into only one of these groups).

To determine whether an association is serving or engaging with a particular group, it is helpful to consider whether members of that group should have a governing role in the association. If the answer is “yes” that group is more likely to fall into the cohort of members you serve.

How the Association Serves

It is important for associations to carefully consider their activities and prioritise those that will have the greatest impact on achieving their purpose. This can help to avoid wasting resources on activities that are not aligned with the current goals of the organisation. There are five main ways in which associations can serve their stakeholders: representing the interests of the group to external parties, mobilising people or organisations to take action towards a specific objective, providing products, services, and other resources to assist stakeholders in achieving their own goals, creating opportunities for participation and excellence, and fostering a sense of community and connection among members. The choice of functions that an association undertakes can have a significant impact on all aspects of the organisation, and it is important to make these decisions intentionally rather than simply continuing with activities that have been conducted in the past. 

How the Association engages with stakeholders.

An association’s engagement model outlines the way it communicates and engages with its members and stakeholders. To effectively develop this model, it is important to understand the current and ideal methods of engagement delivery and the gap between the two. This includes considering the type of engagement tools being used, such as traditional, modern, or online methods, as well as the association’s ability to effectively utilise these tools, ranging from developing to advanced. It is at this state that an association would consider the role of chapters, special interest groups, and components in achieving the purpose of the association.

How to make the model financially sustainable

The association’s financial sustainability is critical to its long-term success. The full range of revenue streams, of which membership is only one, should be carefully considered to ensure they align with the other elements of the membership model. Factors that will impact this decision include current reliance on membership fees, cost of delivering the membership program, whether fees are appropriate for all membership categories, current capacity to execute the ideal state revenue streams, and resources available for change.

A final note – the difference between a membership fee and a membership category review.

It is important to note there are two main types of membership reviews: membership model reviews and membership category reviews. A membership category review involves finding a better way to structure existing membership categories to offer value to different market segments, while a membership model review involves examining the entire membership model to ensure it aligns with the association’s purpose and meets the needs of its members.

Undertaking a membership model review can be a complex process, but it is essential for the long-term success and sustainability of an association. By adapting to changing circumstances and staying relevant, associations can continue to make a meaningful impact on society.

If you are looking for support to maximise the success of your membership program we can assist. Email Belinda Moore for more information.

JOURNAL: Associations Evolve: 2023 & Beyond Journal Released

We are excited to announce the release of Associations Evolve: 2023 & Beyond Journal, a compilation of articles from over 50 association thought leaders from around the globe.

This journal offers a unique perspective on the future of associations and the role they will play in shaping industries and communities. From innovative ideas for growth and sustainability to strategies for adapting to changing environments, the articles in this journal provide valuable insights and inspiration for association professionals.

As the association landscape continues to evolve, it is important for professionals to stay informed and stay ahead of the curve. The Associations Evolve: 2023 & Beyond Journal is a must-read for anyone looking to drive positive change and impact within their organisation. Get your copy today and join the conversation on the future of associations.

JOURNAL: Associations Evolve: 2022 & Beyond

Forty-six association experts from around the world have collaborated to produce a collection of articles showcasing contemporary thinking on governance, membership, revenue, events, and much more.

This is a great resource for those looking for inspiration and motivation to make 2022 your best year ever. It makes great holiday reading for those who are feeling particularly enthusiastic (tip: this publication pairs well with red wine and cheese).

Download “Associations Evolve: 2022 & Beyond”

This publication is part of our Associations Evolve project which looks for ways to help associations to thrive into the future. 

Thanks to Beau Cummin from Visual Traffic for his fabulous work designing this publication, Northern Territory Business Events for their great support of this project, and all our wonderful contributors.  

We hope you will find this collection of articles from experts in the association space as informative, inspiring, and motivating as we did. 

All the best for a fun and relaxing break over the festive period. I hope you arrive back at work refreshed and ready for an awesome 2022.

Warm regards,

Association Hackathon Outputs Released

The outputs of our recent association hackathon have been released.

A hackathon is a great way to generate a solution to a problem in a short timeframe. We worked with hackathon specialist Joanne Jacobs from Disrupters Co to develop and deliver a online hackathon for associations.

Thirty amazing association professionals volunteered. They split into six groups who each addressed a specific challenge. You can check out the interesting outputs they generated in the resources library of the Answers for Associations community. Just look for:

• Choosing an Association Management System.
• Creating a Minimal Budget Public Awareness Raising Campaign for Associations.
• How to Successfully Launch and Develop and Online Community.
• Monetising Online Communities.
• Shifting Member Engagement Frameworks from Traditional to Contemporary Operating Models.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated. It was great to see such stimulating and interesting conversations and solutions generated. This is something we would definitely do again as it was an opportunity to intensely address very specific issues so stay tuned for other opportunities to get involved.

If you are interested in running something similar for your organisation, I recommend reaching out to Joanne from Disrupters Co on joanne@disruptorsco.com. She was great to work with.

The Walking Dead: Beware the Zombie Member

(By Colin Perry, Optimum Contact) When COVID-19 hit in March this year, many Australians were forced to change the way they live due to increased financial pressures as a result of losing their job or taking a pay cut. For some, this may have meant cutting down on extra luxuries but for others, it might also mean they reconsider renewing   membership to their professional body.

Many Australian businesses who might normally sponsor membership and ongoing professional development for their team members have “pivoted” away from that support or expense. While the Government has injected a considerable amount of financial assistance to businesses, those funds have, in the main, been utilised for job retention, not discretionary spending.  

Further to this, the recent Association Economic Outlook Report published by Marketing General Incorporated discovered that 69% of associations have seen an increase in engagement from their members following the recession/pandemic, yet 39% of associations are still anticipating a decline in membership over the next 12 months. The decline is likely due to these businesses no longer funding memberships for their staff.

So, what does this mean for your association when your members are relying on the government’s financial assistance payments?

Who is a Zombie Member?

A zombie member is a member who hasn’t renewed their membership but are technically still members for a grace period or, in some cases until they resign in writing. Their membership still exists but isn’t active, (alive but dead if you will).

It’s important to monitor Zombie memberships closely because:

  • They are not normally active or add value to the community
  • They may present to the general public as active financial members using association logo’s and expired post nominal which could damage the associations hard won professional reputation.
  • They do not participate in professional development to maintain standards which could reflect poorly on the sector
  • Their behavior or non-committed attitude can be infectious. 

Preventing Zombie Members

As an association, it’s important to remember that you exist for the good of the members and the sector. Strong support and advocacy, an active engaged community and strong values proposition will help ensure success for you and your members and generate the much-needed revenue to help to keep those important wheels turning.

Therefore, in order to keep your members interested, you need to give them a reason to continue with their membership, even when they’re cutting other expenses out of their budget. Your membership, your community and their connection to it, is paramount, not ‘a nice to have’ – be relevant.  

At Optimum Contact, we help associations find meaningful solutions to maintain active members – How do we do that?

Optimum Contact’s Top Tips:

  • Focus on loyalty

Consider providing special options for longstanding members to maintain their loyalty and to show yours. These might include flexible payment plans, a hardship discount, negotiating shorter membership terms, or placing memberships on hold for a period of time. You can also recognise their contribution and off-set membership fees with value-added activities such as writing for your magazine, presenting a webinar or other CPD options that allow for participation, recognition and continuance in the community as well as mentoring of less experienced members.

Some people forget that membership to a professional association, peak body or union that is directly connected to their primary job is tax deductible – a really valuable thing to remind members of when they are weighing up their options.

  • Maintain the connection

Even if a member chooses not to renew their membership right now, that does not mean never again. Associations should seek an opt-in for future communication so that they can keep their finger on the pulse and continue the valuable membership conversations. Members may quickly realise that they miss the association, the resources and connections to like-minded people – a well-timed “we miss you” call campaign and offer may be able to revive a zombie member.  

Remember, it’s best to maintain the relationship with an active member than to revive a Zombie. Member care calls, especially at this time when many are feeling isolated can mean a lot to members and avoids the “I only hear from you when you want money” stake to the heart.

Optimum Contact can assist your association with member outreach and report back to you with the information we receive.

  • Consider their true needs

In order to maintain loyal members, you need to consider what their priorities are and what they want from their association. A broad-brush approach to a 10% discount or theme park passes in a state they can’t travel to is not going to be valuable to your members.  

When was the last time you asked members what they really want?

Taking the Next Step

Optimum Contact can assist in strengthening your connection with your members and retaining loyal customers. Our team love to have meaningful conversations with members and know how to build the rapport that will secure the outcome your association needs.

By Colin Perry Managing Director of Optimum Contact, an Australian-based company that helps connect professional associations, not-for-profit organisations and unions with their members to drive engagement, value and revenue. Contact Colin Perry and the team from Optimum Contact on 1300 017 293 or cperry@optimumcontact.com.au. Read more at www.optimumcontact.com.au

VIDEO: “Reshaping Associations – The Impact of the Pandemic on Membership Models”

In this webinar Belinda will discuss how the gradual shift from traditional membership models (service provider models) to community membership models (including subscription models) has accelerated with the pandemic. This session will cover the major factors impacting change and how different are adapting their membership models to the new operating environment.

Watch the video.

WHITEPAPER: Association Apocalypse

The operating landscape of associations is undergoing a seismic shift. Associations need to act now to ensure they can navigate these shifts to emerge stronger and more relevant than ever before. In my new whitepaper, Association Apocalypse, you can read more about the:

  • Six fundamental shifts occurring in the association operating landscape,
  • Three key models associations will need to re-invent, and
  • Eleven core operational enablers associations must get right along the way.

This whitepaper has been designed to assist association leaders to understand the scale of the change coming and create a platform for productive discussions within their associations about appropriate pathways forward. If you have more questions please feel free to contact us to find out how we can assist.

Read the whitepaper.