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The state of association marketing: Doing more with less

The No. 1 rule of marketing: Know your audience.

It may seem a no-brainer, but too many organizations engage in failed marketing campaigns. For marketing to work, organizations must truly understand their members.

Associations seem to get it, but still have work to do.

Demand Metric, in partnership with HighRoad Solution, just released its The State of Digital Marketing in Associations 2017, which found 76 percent of associations surveyed rank their marketing efforts as somewhat or very effective.

Marketing teams need to take time to learn from their members and tailor efforts to their members’ wants and needs. Organizations seem to understand that, as more than two-thirds claim to understand their members’ needs.

Yet, just one-fourth report members perceive association marketing and communication efforts as “always relevant and professional.” But associations that have a good member understanding are twice as likely to also report their member communications and marketing efforts are perceived as “always relevant and professional.”

See the disconnect?

Other key findings:

  • Association marketing effectiveness has less to do with what tactics are being used, and more to do with how well they are used. Associations in the study are for the most part doing the same things, but some are much better at it. The difference seems related to skills or execution and not the choice of tactics.
     
  • More associations are leveraging social media advertising with back-to-back yearly increases in Facebook and Twitter paid advertising. There has been an increase in almost every category of marketing metrics usage from the previous year’s study. The average, estimated association marketing budget has gone from $260,000 (2015), to $240,000 (2016) and finally $205,000 in this year’s study. And now, more than ever, associations are being forced to do more with less.

“Making an effective use of any marketing tactic is certainly a function of time to learn and train, but the effect of culture and leadership are also factors,” the report says. “Marketers who function in a perpetual ‘hair on fire’ environment lack the culture that would allow them to take the time to learn how to use their tools and tactics more effectively.

“What we can learn from the study data is that a relationship exists between the depth of member understanding and overall marketing effectiveness.”

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