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How to Create an Effective Marketing Plan for Associations

There are ways to market smarter, stay within your budget, and increase your audience engagement. In this blog, we’re going to go over exactly how to create an effective marketing plan for your association.

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Let’s be honest, we could all use some help with our marketing strategy. With the online world constantly cycling out new, interesting ways to market to audiences, it can be hard to keep up with the ebb and flow of the marketing sea. And if you’re not getting the satisfaction your association is looking for with its marketing efforts, you’re not alone.

According to Hubspot, a minimal 22% of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates from marketing or advertising campaigns. That’s right, less than a quarter of organizations are seeing the results they’d like. It seems like many of us are looking for a new way to market in order to increase engagement and conversion rates. But where can your association start?

When it comes to a marketing plan, your association doesn’t have to get too complicated. There are ways to market smarter, stay in your budget, and increase your audience engagement. In this blog, we’re going to go over exactly how to create an effective marketing plan for your association. We’ll talk about proper marketing techniques, how social media can help spread the word about your association, and why you should never underestimate the power of good content. Let’s get started.

Think ahead

When starting out with a marketing plan, you need to make sure you keep your association in mind with every step. Consider why a marketing plan has not worked for your association in the past. What sort of struggles did you face when trying to market to audiences? Was it your budget? Or maybe your approach? Many associations jump into a marketing plan without taking any of these questions into consideration, when in fact - there are a variety of factors that can affect the success of your marketing plan. The size of your association, amount of budget you spend on marketing, demographic of your audience, and so much more should be thought about before designing a marketing plan that works for you. Think about the size of your association. Is it a large, national association with resources to market as free as you’d like? Or are you a smaller association with a limited budget, running on volunteer help and looking for a low-cost marketing plan?

While these questions seem self-explanatory, they’re important to address. For example, a larger association may have a team dedicated to marketing and a powerful budget to back it up. However, a smaller association may not have the same resources, and therefore needs to form a marketing plan around those restrictions. Once you have a firm grasp on where your association is in terms of marketing and what resources it has to offer, you can then start to hash out a plan that is tailored specifically to your association’s needs.

Free marketing solutions

Before your association spends any of its budget on marketing, you might want to consider a few free (or low-cost) options that could actually boost your overall engagement more than you might think!

The first option your association has is one that you probably already use: Social media. Social media marketing is a powerful marketing tool, and we’re not the only ones who are vouching for its power. According to Social Media Examiner, 97% of marketers are currently participating in social media But the problem lies in its purpose. According to the same study, 85% of participants aren’t sure what social media tools are the best to use. There seems to be an air of confusion settled around how to use social media as a marketing tool. Is there a proper way?

Here are a few strategies that your association can use to make social media into a powerful (and most of all free) tool for your marketing plan. To start, you want to identify which social platforms perform best for your association in terms of member engagement. This means analyzing what social media channels you use get the most activity and interaction from your audience. Do your members prefer contacting you through Facebook? Or are they more comfortable with short-form content like Twitter?

Once you know which platforms work best for your association, you need to come up with ways to reach your target audience on those platforms. This is where smart marketing comes into play. Gather your team and exchange ideas on the best ways to create interesting social media content. There are many other ways to create free or low-cost marketing solutions for your association. In fact, let’s take a look at another marketing strategy that’s high power and low-cost.

Content is king

Content: It’s a one-stop shop for audiences looking for industry-related information. And it’s a great marketing strategy as well. But what’s the big deal?According to LinkedIn Technology Marketing, 72% of B2B marketers have a content strategy. However, only 30% of marketers have a documented strategy, meaning the remaining 42% have an undocumented strategy.

Incorporating content into your association’s marketing plan is a must, not just for associations looking for a free way to gain marketing success, but for any association looking for marketing success in general. Here are a few general “rules of thumb” your association can follow when starting to create content for its association’s website/social media channels.

Diversity is key. While it’s great to have a surplus of information-rich content, it’s equally as important that your content comes in various forms. You don’t want to bore audiences with the same old formats week after week!

Think about the forms of content that will work best for your association to host on its website. Whether it’s blog posts, ebooks, checklists, or even video content - there’s always a form for every organization out there. Then, once your have a sturdy library of valuable content, it’s time to push it out to audiences. This is a great time to utilize the amazing email list your association already has available. Send out any new content to audiences in the form of a weekly/monthly newsletter. Or, you can promote your content on your social media channels- integrating two marketing tools into one!

Monitor your plan

As we stated in the beginning of this article, marketing trends are constantly changing, growing, and dying. With that in mind, your marketing plan should be examined and updated every so often to keep up with all of these changes. Be sure to set aside time throughout the year to go in and do an audit on the current state of your marketing plan. See what’s working for your association, and what could use some tweaking to bring around more overall success.

You can review your marketing plan by going over recorded analytics (and using helpful tools like Google Analytics) as well as collecting feedback from your current audience and membership through a satisfaction survey.

With a close eye on your marketing plan, you can be sure your association will stay ahead of any new marketing trends that come up over time. Why market hard when you can market smart? If your association puts time aside to create a marketing plan that works, you can see an increase in marketing success and audience engagement- and hopefully an increase in membership and revenue in the process!