How To Build an Association Marketing Plan: A Comprehensive Guide

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How To Build an Association Marketing Plan: A Comprehensive Guide

When associations create a marketing plan, their main aim is to attract as many new members as possible while improving the retention rate. The big question, however, is whether this goal is attainable. The answer is yes; it is achievable only if everything is executed correctly.

But how exactly should one go about it? Formulating a strategy that increases membership and improves retention rates can be challenging.

In this blog, we will guide you through the primary aspects of a marketing plan that leads associations to significant success. Keep reading to uncover the insights that translate into great success.

Key Takeaways

  • Success in association marketing begins with clear goals and thorough market research. Understanding your audience, analyzing competitors, and creating detailed member personas are foundational.
  • The importance of digital marketing channels, including websites, SEO, email marketing, social media, and online communities, is highlighted. These channels are vital for visibility, engagement, and promoting the association’s values.
  • Traditional strategies like referrals, partnerships, merchandise, media sponsorships, and in-person events complement digital efforts, broadening reach and strengthening community bonds.
  • Analytical tools such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console are essential for gaining insights into website performance and member behavior, enabling data-driven strategy adjustments.
  • Glue Up offers tools for event management, membership management, community engagement, email marketing and analytics, supporting associations in executing sophisticated and impactful marketing and management strategies to boost engagement and growth.

Define Your Association's Goals and Needs

Define your association`s goals and needs

Before creating a marketing plan, it's important to identify your association's goals and needs. Start by asking yourself what you aim to achieve, outlining your long-term objectives, and identifying what your association currently requires. This might include the resources you lack or the areas that need more focus.

Understanding goals and needs is broad, but the following simplified steps can streamline this process.

Conduct Market Research

Market research plays a very important role for associations and businesses in understanding consumer behavior and forecasting industry trends, allowing them to transform their marketing and strategic decisions accordingly.

Although market research is a crucial step that forms the foundation of any marketing plan, statistics reveal that this industry generates over $118 billion annually. This figure highlights the significant investment businesses make in market research to stay ahead in their respective fields.

Market research consists of several key components for gathering comprehensive insights and intelligence to guide decision-making processes.

1. Identify Your Target Audience

The first component of market research for any association is identifying its target audience. Designing an effective membership marketing strategy becomes challenging if associations are unaware of the people to whom they sell their memberships or services.

Understanding various aspects of potential members is foundational, including the businesses they are associated with, their needs and interests, the industries they favor, and whether they represent small businesses or large enterprises.

The market research industry generates $118 billion annually, and this critical component—identifying the right audience—accounts for 13.4% of that total. This emphasizes the importance and value of accurately identifying and understanding your target market to tailor your approach and offerings effectively.

2. Examine Competitors

The second aspect of market research involves examining competitors. Examining your competitors allows you to:

  • Analyze the services provided by competitors, including deals and packages.
  • Assess their membership pricing structures and the value they deliver for those fees.
  • Stay informed and ahead by knowing competitor strategies.
  • Tailor your offers based on competitor analysis.
  • Identify gaps in competitor services and areas where they fall short.
  • Fill these gaps to capitalize on opportunities and enhance your competitive edge.

3. Create Member Personas

Creating member personas involves structuring detailed profiles of your ideal members based on your audience knowledge. These personas help plan your marketing strategies and services to meet different member segments' needs and preferences. Let's create a persona for a hypothetical member:

Member Persona: Sarah Johnson

  • Age: 35 years old
  • Job: Digital Marketing Manager
  • Earning: Approximately $75,000 annually
  • Pain Points:
  • Finding comprehensive, advanced digital marketing training that fits her busy schedule.
  • Networking opportunities with other marketing professionals in different industries.
  • Access to the latest marketing tools and technologies without a substantial investment.
  • Needs and Preferences:
  • Flexible, online learning opportunities that allow for self-paced study.
  • Different networking events, both virtual and in-person, with a focus on cross-industry knowledge sharing.
  • Affordable access to industry reports, tools, and software to stay ahead in her field.
  • What Should Be Arranged for Them:
  • Introduce advanced digital marketing workshops and courses available online with flexible access.
  • Organize monthly networking events and mixers that bring together professionals from various sectors.
  • Offer group discounts or partnerships with tech companies for the latest tools and software.

Creating a detailed persona like Sarah's helps your association to better understand the specific needs and challenges of your potential members. Gaining such insight facilitates the development of targeted marketing strategies and offerings, supercharging your ability to attract and retain members like her.

Building a Strong Foundation

Building a Strong Foundation

Building a strong foundation is necessary for associations aiming to become household names. Investing effort in founding a solid base is a future investment.

When marketing the association, a strong foundation helps connect with the audience more easily, and people respond more quickly to calls to action than associations with weaker foundations.

However, laying a solid foundation for your association can be achieved through the following strategies:

Demonstrate Your Value

For any association to demonstrate its value, it's handy to openly showcase its contributions to society, demonstrating transparency rather than uncertainty. Every member should be well-informed about how the association benefits the community, enabling them to spread the word to others effectively. Demonstrating value involves several key steps:

Introduce Unique Selling Propositions (USPs): Clearly define what separates your association. Highlight the distinctive attributes or services that differentiate your organization from others, clarifying why you're a superior choice.

Communicate Your Differences and Strengths: It's important to inform members about how your association diverges from and excels beyond competitors. This may involve detailing innovative solutions, exceptional services, or unique community initiatives that highlight your unique position in the industry.

Advocate for the Industry: Take a stand on important issues within your field. Your association must champion industry advancements, best practices, and ethical standards. This will strengthen your association's reputation and improve the sector's overall improvement and recognition.

Foster a Sense of Community

It's important to foster a sense of community among members so that they understand that you are with them and will support them. Additionally, facilitating networking and creating connections plays a significant role. Help businesses form collaborations. Convey to your members that you are more than just an association; you are a family.

Marketing Channels for Associations

Marketing Channels for Associations

After identifying the target audience, understanding the association's goals and needs, and demonstrating its value, the focus shifts to determining how associations can effectively market themselves.

Digital Marketing Strategies

Digital marketing strategies are considered the best approach to execute an association's marketing plan. Here are a few channels for associations to implement their digital marketing strategies:

Website

A website is one of the best ways to market your association. It acts as the organization's digital face, and it
must be presented appealingly and professionally.

The website must be user-friendly, emphasizing intuitive navigation and quick access to essential information such as mission statements, upcoming events, membership details, and contact information.

Engaging content like articles, blogs, and videos can further showcase your association's value.

Email Marketing (With Segmentation and Automation)

Email marketing is one of the top marketing methods, renowned for its effectiveness in generating leads. This method can yield significant results, especially when personalization and proper segmentation are incorporated into the strategy.

Statistics from successful email marketing campaigns reveal that personalization significantly exceeds expectations in generating outcomes. In fact, 59% of these successful campaigns cited personalization as the best way to increase engagement, highlighting the importance of tailoring content to your audience's specific interests and needs.

SEO

SEO acts as an organic booster, attracting leads and new members without the direct costs associated with paid channels. The leads generated through SEO are often of higher intent, as individuals actively search for what you offer rather than being targeted by advertisements.

This means they are more likely to have a clear intention to engage or make a purchase, having sought out your association themselves.

Social Media

Social media helps associations thrive. It offers unmatched promotion and audience engagement opportunities. Using platforms where your audience is active allows you to effectively showcase your association's values and initiatives.

It increases awareness and boosts community engagement, making social media an essential tool for connecting with current and potential members. Social media stands as an essential tool for expanding reach and connecting with members and potential members efficiently.

Online Communities

Online communities are handy in building and nurturing relationships with your association's members. These digital forums provide a space for members to connect, and support one another, promoting a strong sense of belonging and loyalty.

An online community can amplify your association's impact by encouraging open dialogue and the exchange of ideas, making it a vibrant hub for collaboration and learning.

Additionally, these communities offer valuable insights into your audience's needs and preferences, allowing you to tailor your initiatives and communications more effectively.

Paid Advertising

Paid advertising, including Google ads and social media ads, helps associations showcase themselves and secure a position in the minds of potential members.

When executed properly, paid advertising can generate incredible Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS). This form of marketing allows for precise targeting and customization, ensuring that your message reaches the most relevant audience.

Webinars & Online Courses

Webinars and online courses effectively generate leads and educate potential members and young minds. These platforms enrich the audience's understanding by offering valuable knowledge and insights and help convert attendees into clients.

This educational approach positions your association as a thought leader and trusted resource, boosting engagement and fostering a deeper connection with the audience.

Other Marketing Strategies

After highlighting various digital marketing strategies, it's time to explore other marketing strategies that can complement these efforts and broaden the association's reach.

Referrals

Referrals are an excellent way to gain and onboard new members. Simply ask your current members to refer their friends and acquaintances. To encourage this, introduce a commission or incentive for those who refer others to your association, making it a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Partnerships (Including Sponsor Acquisition)

Forming partnerships or entering into collaborations—through paid sponsorships or mutual agreements—also promotes your association. These alliances can extend your reach, introduce your association to new audiences, and create opportunities for shared growth and visibility.

Merchandise & Swag

Selling merchandise and conducting giveaways is another effective way to promote your association. Merchandise and swag not only generate additional revenue but also grow brand awareness and loyalty among your members and the broader community.

Media Sponsorships

Media sponsorship can significantly increase your association's visibility by displaying you in numerous places. This type of partnership offers a unique opportunity to reach a wider audience and increase awareness of your association and its initiatives.

In-Person Events (With a Focus on Branding, Networking, and Valuable Sessions)

Hosting in-person events is a dynamic way to promote your association. Inviting industry leaders, seasoned entrepreneurs, and young innovators to these events can improve networking opportunities for your members and help establish meaningful connections.

Such gatherings elevate your association's profile and build a sense of community and collaboration among participants, contributing significantly to your association's growth and visibility.

Tools to Help You Execute Your Marketing Strategy

Tools to execute marketing strategy

Now that you're familiar with all the marketing strategies for your association, let us guide you in discovering the tools that will assist you in executing these strategies effectively.

Association Management Software - Glue Up

Association Management Software

Association management software is the first toolset to help you execute your marketing efforts. Glue Up’s Association Management Software, the first AI-driven software, offers comprehensive tools designed to promote your association extensively and effectively reach your target audience.

Membership Management

Membership management makes the process effortless, with features like unlimited membership types, customizable membership forms, recurring payments, automatic reminders, automatic renewals, automated application processing, and financial management tools, all powered by AI copilot to streamline operations.

Online Community

Glue Up AMS facilitates the creation of a vibrant online community where members can connect, share ideas, and collaborate. This feature allows for continuous engagement, keeping members active and involved in the association's initiatives.

Events Management

The software simplifies event management for a range of events, from small meetings to large conferences, and includes webinar hosting features. Its intuitive interface facilitates easy event setup, registration tracking, attendee communication, and hosting of webinars, improving the overall experience for both organizers and participants.

Glue Up integrates all these features into one user-friendly platform, AMS, making it easier for your association to implement its marketing strategies, engage with members, and grow its industry presence.

To see how Glue Up AMS can transform your association's marketing and management efforts, book a demo today.

Analytics Software

Analytics software aids associations in refining their marketing strategy by offering insights into member behavior and campaign effectiveness. A few analytics software options are listed below:

Google Search Console

google search console

Google Search Console helps your association execute its marketing strategies by providing insights into website performance on Google Search. It aids in:

  • Understanding audience behavior: The console indicates search queries that bring users to your site.
  • Identifying and fixing website issues: It can highlight issues impacting search visibility, such as indexing problems or mobile usability issues.
  • Optimizing web content: The tool uses data on how pages perform in search results for better ranking and visibility.
  • Monitoring and enhancing site security: Also, the tool provides a safe browsing experience for users.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics

Google Analytics assists your association in fine-tuning its marketing strategies by providing comprehensive data insights, facilitating strategic decisions, and enhancing outreach.

  • Targeted Engagement: Understand member interactions to tailor content and offerings.
  • Campaign Optimization: Analyze campaign performance to allocate resources wisely.
  • Content Strategy: Identify what content drives engagement to serve your audience better.
  • Personalization: Segment your audience for more personalized marketing efforts.
  • Trend Recognition: Spot trends to anticipate member needs and adapt strategies accordingly.

Other Digital Marketing Software

Now, let's explore digital marketing software choices essential for executing your association's marketing strategy.

SEMrush

Semrush

SEMrush can assist your association in executing its marketing plans by offering comprehensive tools for:

  • SEO: Enhancing search engine visibility and rankings.
  • Content Marketing: Optimizing content to engage and attract the target audience.
  • Competitor Analysis: Gaining insights into competitors' strategies for better positioning.
  • PPC Campaign Management: Managing and optimizing pay-per-click advertising for higher ROI.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite

Hootsuite can aid your association in executing its marketing plans by providing tools for:

  • Social Media Management: Scheduling and publishing content across multiple social platforms.
  • Engagement Tracking: Monitoring social interactions to respond timely and foster community.
  • Analytics: Analyzing social media performance to refine strategies and improve outcomes.
  • Campaign Management: Running targeted social media campaigns to increase reach and engagement.

Email Marketing Tools

Now, let's consider a few email marketing software options that will help you execute your association's marketing plan effectively:

Glue Up’s Email Campaign

Glue Up offers a versatile email marketing tool , one of the most useful features of association management software designed for associations. The tool offers features to improve communication and organizational growth.

Here’s how this tool can support your marketing efforts:
 

  • Personalized Communications: Create branded email campaigns, newsletters, and event invitations at your fingertips with the help of AI Copilot and draft that showcase your brand voice and resonate with your audience.
  • Email Templates: Access a variety of customizable templates to easily design professional-looking emails that align with your association’s branding and messaging goals.
  • Email Marketing Automation: Automate your email campaigns to ensure timely and relevant communication with your members.
  • Smart Lists: Utilize smart lists to segment your audience based on their interests, behavior, and interaction with your association.
  • Email Statistics: Gain valuable insights into the performance of your email campaigns with detailed statistics on open rates, click-through rates, and engagement.

Glue Up's comprehensive email marketing capabilities empower associations to execute sophisticated and impactful marketing strategies, boosting member engagement and organizational growth.

Conclusion

We've covered thorough details on designing an association marketing plan, including insights and essential tools for success. We have also shared useful association management software that will further assist you in creating your marketing plan.

If you want to know more about Glue Up’s AI-powered AMS and how it can help you attract more members, feel free to get a demo here. At the same time, this guide provides a foundation for associations to reach their goals effectively, engage members, and drive growth.

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