The Current Situation
Many associations and member-based organizations are facing challenges due to COVID-19. Of those surveyed:
- 62% are shifting content from in-person to digital formats.
- 80% stress the importance of education programs as a mission-based strategy.
- 63% have faced difficulty retaining qualified staff.
- 77% have reduced discretionary spending.
- 42% expect their members to face even more challenging financial/economic decisions.
- 52% are reconsidering their content pricing models.
31% of associations surveyed face difficulty in identifying high-performing content.
How to Re-Engage with Your Members & Stakeholders
For over a year now, businesses worldwide are facing unprecedented challenges. For associations and other member-based organizations, it’s difficult to navigate the financial implications of the pandemic and retain members, whose member fees are often their main source of income.
Here are five ways to stay relevant and remain a valuable resource to your members and key audiences:
1. Optimize your content to resonate with your members and key audiences—both current and prospective.
- Identify High-Value Content: Using this information, you can boost engagement among your existing members and audiences while increasing membership with new audiences. How? By leveraging your current content to appeal to the right people at the right time. (And by identifying any content gaps and crafting new content to fill them!)
- To start, identify your high-value content for each of your audience segments. Ask your members what you offer that they find most valuable. Maybe it’s your newsletter or a report that helps them plan their annual budgets. Or maybe it’s access to a web portal with resources they rely on. Determine if that content needs to be adjusted or refreshed to address today’s challenges.
- Next, pinpoint any content that’s not used as often or that your audiences don’t find quite as useful, and determine if you should revitalize it, replace it, or get rid of it entirely.
- Now, looking at the set of content that’s made the cut, does any of it exist in multiple places/materials? Now is the time to streamline any inconsistent or unintegrated marcoms and messaging.
- At this point, perhaps you’ve identified new content that could help your members. Take the opportunity to create it now, when they need it most.
- Once you’ve updated and fine-tuned your high-value content, present it as a solution to each of your target audience’s problems: How does your content, service, or product help them solve—or ease—their challenges; keep them informed; or help them better serve their stakeholders?
HOW IT WORKS
We audited the Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) brand communications and delivered a refreshed suite of cohesive, engaging, and easy-to-read materials. CLIA gained a professional, integrated brand presence that helped increase reader traffic.
55% of associations surveyed report difficulty in creating a compelling audience experience.
2. Convert your in-person communications to digital and virtual.
- Make the Jump to Digital: Reignite interest in your offerings without face-to-face opportunities by converting your in-person (and paper!) communications to digital solutions and virtual experiences. That doesn’t mean that in-person interaction and print pieces are going away forever, but having them digitally opens up possibilities. You’ll reach a much bigger audience, and once you create them, you likely benefit from cost savings. You can maximize your budget with adaptable virtual event platforms (that can be recorded and re-distributed) and digital materials that you can share online and via email.
- Strengthen Your Brand: By distributing branded, cohesive digital communications, you can ensure that they maintain a consistent look-and-feel and that the content remains accurate, rather than print pieces that audiences could “borrow from” to create new—and potentially inaccurate or off-brand—materials.
HOW IT WORKS
Only 3 in 10 associations have converted their live events to virtual.
We help the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) attend 10%+ more events and conferences (in-person and virtual) for the same budget by leveraging our consolidated purchasing approach and time-tested, efficient event planning process.
We worked with the Maryland Business Development Agency (MBDA) to develop a results-driven event strategy and to promote its MED Week virtual conference, resulting in 400% more attendees than anticipated.
3. Revitalize your education and certification programs.
- Involve Your Target Audience in Content Creation: To truly engage with your audiences, involve them in the creation—and evolution—of your educational/certification programs. The best part? You’ll not only make your audiences feel “heard” and involved by asking for their feedback, but you’ll learn valuable insights on what’s working and not working in your programs, ultimately making them more valuable and effective! Consider asking open-ended questions to attain more detailed and authentic comments—especially for younger audiences. Studies show that 21- to 35-year-olds prefer to provide deeper feedback than simply scoring something from 1-10 or indicating that they agree/somewhat agree/disagree, etc. By asking your key audiences and members for their thoughts on your education and certification program content, you’ll make them feel like they have a personal stake in shaping program content, reinforcing their connection to your organization.
- It’s All About Digital: Like #2 above, it’s a good idea to start planning to completely digitize your education and certification programs. By providing an ever-evolving, branded, intuitive interface, you can ensure an engaging audience experience, which will help ensure steady enrollment.
HOW IT WORKS
79% of associations surveyed consider education/certification programs to be a key mission-based strategy.
We work with the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) to launch and grow its USA Cheese Guild program, which aims to promote U.S. cheese in international markets by educating both the international trade and consumers about U.S. cheeses and creating a network of professionals who raise global awareness of U.S. cheese. When the pandemic began, we seamlessly transitioned the certification programs to online. Our work includes:
- A full suite of business-to-business (B2B) education and outreach solutions (e.g., logos, website, collateral, curriculum materials, program and event materials, graduation kit, virtual trade shows, and digital assets).
- A business-to-consumer (B2C) campaign with logos, a retail toolkit, display ads, video support, and digital assets.
The program successfully launched in 2019 and continues to see steady enrollment and graduating USA Cheese Specialists, with over 600 graduates from countries including Japan, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Korea, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Specifically:
- Retail: The USA Cheese Specialists achieved their goal for number of certifications.
- Students: Overall enrollment surpassed target goals, and students provided positive reviews.
63% of associations surveyed face difficulties retaining qualified marcom personnel.
4. Fill your marcom staff gaps.
From furloughs to unemployment, it can be a challenge to keep marketing communications going. It takes time to develop the content, package it up (in a PDF, brochure, web page—or even creating a virtual course or event). How do you accomplish this with less staff, or with staff who are taking on marcoms responsibilities in addition to their “normal” roles?
- Enlist Reinforcements: Fill your marcom gaps and stay visible by enlisting a marketing partner that can provide end-to-end communications support (we can help!). This will reduce your staff’s workload and enable them to focus on their core role—plus, you’ll benefit from branded, quality communications and virtual, hybrid, or in-person experiences.
- Consider Business Partnerships: Consider partnering with another company or sponsor to reach new audiences with your content, products, or services. Think about the types of companies that could benefit from your services and content. In many cases, you can provide them with high-value content that aligns with their needs and rely on them to distribute it to their audiences, reducing your staff’s time spent on cold outreach.
HOW IT WORKS
37% of associations surveyed plan to pursue higher quality subject matter experts (SMEs).
There’s real value in working with a marketing partner who can provide the full scope of marketing and experiential services and act as an extension of your team as needed (and who’s not on your payroll!). In fact, we’ve seen focused, retainer-based partnerships result in 10-20% cost savings.
We develop integrated, omni-channel brand communications and visitor experiences for clients including:
- U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC): Global branding, the USA Cheese Guild, Retail Toolkit, and more
- Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
- Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA): Buy MBE Day and MED Week
- Brand USA: Trade shows, immersive office branding, and more
- HMSHost: Activations and pop-ups (e.g., Eat Well Travel Further), the Shout Out associate recognition program, and point-of-sale and restaurant campaigns (e.g., Quick Pay and Pick 3)
5. Offer new pricing or fee options, based on packaged content or services, to better meet your members’ needs in the current economy.
- Appeal to Prospects with Lower Budgets: It’s been a tough year (plus) for many organizations. Remind members of your value while providing lower-cost fee options to help keep them on board. How? By offering new content, services, and products that are relevant and helpful to them right now.
- Crunch the Numbers: Now that you have a repository of high-value content (see #1 above), determine the pieces (if any) that you’re willing to separate in a discounted offer. You might also consider rethinking your pricing models and structures for other offerings, or offering a new member (or long-term member) perk or discount.
There’s no question that keeping your members and key audiences informed and engaged during this unprecedented time can be challenging. But by thinking outside of the box and focusing on their needs, you can reinforce your value by providing high-value content that helps them move forward—while also retaining their membership.