2018 will be full of new, cutting-edge marketing strategies for associations, but if you’re not at the forefront of the changes, you’ll be left behind.
Like any other business track, marketing is continuously evolving as technology changes and consumer demographics and preferences shift. This perpetual change can make hard predictions tricky, but we certainly can look at trends in tech and consumer behavior to chart where things are most likely to end up.
In order to keep your association on top of the incoming marketing trends, we’ve compiled the top five strategies that will be critical to every healthy marketing plan in 2018. And since the best defense is a good offense, now is the time to start putting together your strategy and incorporating these methods into your marketing plans — so you can anticipate your members’ preferences, and in doing so, better meet their needs. Let’s get started!
1. Advanced personalization
You may be wondering why personalization is on this list. Hasn’t personalization in marketing been a thing for quite a while now?
Correct! But we’re including it here not because we’re lazy and want to recycle old material, but rather because personalization in 2018 isn’t going away — it’s just becoming more advanced.
No doubt your organization is already using some level of personalization in its marketing communication, for example, tailoring messages to various personas, or incorporating personal addresses using your audience members’ names. However, you can take this to the next level even in your ads and other content by using technology that allows for “smart marketing.”
This type of marketing requires some artificial intelligence and data gathering, but don’t let that scare you off. After all, there’s software for everything nowadays! Advanced personalization simply means that you incorporate data that you’ve gathered on website visitors and your current members into your advertisements and other messages. For example, now your display ads can not only address your target based on where they are in the customer lifecycle — they can even address your target by name!
So now your messages achieve a whole new level of one-on-one. It’s this relational dimension that can set you up for better lead nurturing and even better communication with members once they join your association.
2. Push notifications
If your association has a mobile app, chances are you’re already using push notifications. But have you implemented them for your website yet?
Web push notifications are a more recent trend that’s kicked off, and it’s only getting bigger. The more ways you can stay top-of-mind in your members and target audience, the more opportunities you have for retention and new membership.
Web push notifications allow your audience to opt-in to receive messages on their desktop — even when they’re not on your website. This creates a new avenue for you to engage your audience on your terms, and in ways that keep them coming back to your site to see what’s new.
For the professional association, this means that you can send notifications anytime you release a news update or a new employment opportunity. This benefits your members by giving them up-to-the-minute information that’s relevant and important to them. And when potential members opt-in, you now have a fantastic way to nurture these leads and keep them thinking about the benefits you offer to your members.
3. Video content
Alright, we get it, video content has also been a thing for a while. What gives?
Well, the reason we keep emphasizing these trends that are already in motion is that they’re only becoming more important to broad, all-encompassing marketing strategies for associations. And, video is one such trend that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
By creating your own video content that is humorous, or gives a behind-the-scenes look into your organization, or simply tells a story, you build a bond that is just not achievable with many other content methods. You provide a visual stimulus that can help solidify your members as being part of a common goal and purpose, while providing that relational aspect that we discussed earlier. But video goes beyond just engaging content. Even video ads are still a fantastic way to reach your audience.
Think of all the time your target spends on YouTube. This is the perfect place to host video ads that will be seen by thousands of viewers — giving your association better brand recognition and more opportunities to nurture current leads.
And, if you really want to be on the cutting edge, you can extend your video efforts into virtual reality and augmented reality. While these may seem like overkill in some scenarios, they are incredibly compelling ways to reach viewers and they show that you’re more than ready to advance with the technology.
4. Optimizing for new technology
While we’re discussing new technology, keep in mind that even if you’re not necessarily using super-advanced and fancy tech, you still need to optimize your current marketing strategies for those who are using it.
Smart personal assistant devices are a hot item this year, as they allow a level of automation and convenience that is attractive to even the least tech-savvy consumer. However, they do mean that some shifting is necessary to ensure that your marketing practices can jive with the voice search technology.
The good news is that voice search technology uses most of the same web search principles as your average search engine. So, for the most part, if you’ve ramped up your SEO in the past, you’re probably already pretty well optimized for voice search. There are a couple ways you can give yourself a boost though. One of these ways is to increase your longtail keywords. These are the longer, more nuanced or specific keywords that consist of several words or a phrase. When you incorporate more longtail keywords, you tend to be reaching out to a very specific niche — but a niche that is often much farther down the sales funnel, which is a plus. And, since people tend to get very specific when they’re using voice search, implementing these longtail keywords can be an aid in voice search optimization.
Another way to help your voice SEO is by using schema markups. You’ll need a coding buddy to help you with this one. Schema is essentially coding language that tells a search engine more about what’s on your site (similar to metadata). By providing this schema, you’re able to give more information to the search engine and return better results to users, while also giving your rankings a leg up. This is a crucial aspect to any marketing strategies for associations.
5. Strategic content marketing
Unless you’re a time traveler and you’ve just arrived here from 1994, we’re pretty confident you already have a content marketing strategy in place at your association. But now, it’s not enough just to have some decent content to attract website visitors. Rather, you need to have a variety of content tailored to people at specific points in the customer lifecycle (or, in the case of associations, the membership lifecycle).
What this means is that wherever someone is in the funnel, whether they’re first discovering your association, getting ready to sign up, or have just taken the plunge, you have content for them that is relevant and provides information they need.
This takes planning on your part, as you consider all the various stages in your specific lifecycle, and then consider what type of content is relevant and necessary for each stage. And, of course, it needs to be quality content and have a high level of engagement — so you don’t just have to write a never ending stream of blog posts. Shake it up with fun videos, unique infographics, or personal interviews that give your target a peek behind the curtain of your association.
Approach the future prepared
As you can see, the greatest challenge in 2018 will be digging deeper into many of our marketing strategies for associations that are often taken for granted. But, these are the tools that will drive potential members further into the funnel and keep your current membership base intact, if only they are used correctly and in a relevant manner.