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Effective Associations: Your Online Brand is Your Magnet

Your Online Brand is Your Magnet
The association world is at the centre of a shift in marketing philosophies that works in favour of organizations that genuinely want to listen to their members, learn from what they hear, and deliver better, more targeted services.

The trend is called inbound marketing, and it’s creating new expectations for the way organizations of all kinds communicate with their members, customers, and stakeholders. The new marketing approach is about magnets, not darts: Rather than hunting key contacts down, you attract them by offering irresistible value.

Building an Online Profile

Nowhere is this change more visible than in the communication tools associations use to attract, engage, and retain their members.

  • Optimize Your Presence: Your website and mobile platform have to be optimized to draw members’ attention and stand out against a din of competing content and messaging. Your sites should be easy to find and a pleasure to navigate. And you have to use the right analytics to understand who’s visiting your site and what information they find most useful once they get there.
  • Get Social: While the large majority of Canadian associations are engaged with social media, and most of them are satisfied with their results so far, the majority reported last year that 10% of their members or fewer were participating in their social sites. To boost your presence on social media, you’ll want to build a campaign that uses compelling content to draw them to your website.
  • Keep Asking Questions: The most effective associations conduct regular surveys to take the pulse of their members, spot emerging trends and issues, and show that they genuinely want to deliver the best possible services and value.

Make the First Move

Inbound marketing is about making the first move. When you reach out with something your members need and value, it needn't and shouldn't carry an obvious sales message: your immediate goal is to earn their trust, confidence, and appreciation. For most of us, time is the scarcest commodity of all, and if we find a reliable, convenient path to the information and resources we need, we aren't likely to forget it.

As my colleague Doreen Ashton Wagner told hospitality executives in a blog post last year: “With inbound marketing, you get back the attention and engagement of your target audience—and, eventually, their buying power - by giving away something they need and want in place of a standard, outbound sales pitch. Offer them knowledge. Point them to resources. And make it clear that you ask nothing in return, that the conversation is its own reward.”

For associations that really have their members’ best interests at heart, that strategy shouldn't be a hard sell. But it can and should be a gateway to stronger, more meaningful member relationships that make everyone more resilient at a time of rapid change.

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