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Bloops and Blunders: Top Ten Association Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Posted By Todd Von Deak, Thursday, August 20, 2015
Updated: Friday, July 24, 2015
By Leza Raffel, The Communication Solutions Group, Inc
 
No matter how successful your association is, there’s always room for improvement. The best way to attract new members and promote new services to current members is with a comprehensive marketing campaign. Before you jump right in, however, it’s important to remember some ground rules that will help ensure your campaign is successful.
 
There are many effective association marketing methods, but beware: there are also countless ways to spend money without getting results. If you don’t have any marketing experience — or even if you do — remember that poor planning, poor execution and poor follow through lead to poor results.
 
Below are the top ten marketing mistakes and advice on what to do about them. Following these rules could help you see your way through to a successful and profitable marketing campaign.
 
Mistake Number One: Launching a marketing campaign when you don’t have a clear set of goals
 
Don’t jump into a marketing campaign without deciding what you want to say and who you want your message to reach. Doing so could be a waste of time, effort and most of all — money.
 
Instead, take the time to plan. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish with your campaign. Are you trying to bring in more members? Are you looking to retain existing ones? Is your association offering new services? Do you want to grow attendance at your next conference?
 
Having a clear set of goals will help you decide on what kind of a marketing campaign you want to launch, and the rewards of a successful campaign will more than make up for the time you spend researching and planning. 
 
Mistake Number Two: Not taking the time to determine your unique selling point
 
Don’t start a marketing campaign if you don’t know what differentiates you from competing associations. If you don’t know, potential members won’t either.
 
Determine what makes your association unique, and use that to drive your message.
 
Mistake Number Three: Not identifying your target market
 
Not everyone can be your target market, or target member for that matter. Before you spend money on a marketing campaign directed toward the masses, identify who’s ultimately going to make the decision to join your association and why.
 
Knowing who holds the purse strings and who determines where their organization’s money is spent will help you decide how best to get your message across.
 
Mistake Number Four: Not having a budget in place

Without a budget, chances are you’ll spend too much money on marketing. Know how much you want to spend before beginning a marketing campaign, and stick to your budget.
 
The general rule of thumb says a marketing campaign should be 1.5 percent to 3 percent of your operating budget. That amount should be sufficient and will help you determine what kind of marketing campaign you can afford.
 
Mistake Number Five: Putting all your eggs in one basket
 
Don’t spend all of your marketing money on one type of promotion. Creating an overpriced website or buying a single membership recruitment ad in an industry publication is a surefire way to you’re your budget very quickly.
 
Instead try spreading the wealth around. In addition to making your money go further, your message is more likely to reach existing members and potential members when you use more than one type of marketing method.
 
You could easily miss valuable prospective members if your marketing method overlooks them, and by putting all your eggs in one basket, you’re certainly going to overlook someone.
 
Mistake Number Six: Trying to do it all yourself
 
Trying to accomplish everything on your own often leads to problems. Do-it-yourself marketing campaigns are often disjointed and unpolished. 
 
Use professionals who can create a comprehensive package that enhances your association’s image and gets your message across clearly and completely. It may be a bit more costly than doing it yourself, but it should pay off.
 
A cohesive marketing campaign developed by the right professionals and aimed at the right target audiences won’t eat into your time and will more than pay for itself.
 
Mistake Number Seven: Not doing your homework
 
Don’t pay top dollar when you don’t have to. Advertising prices vary and so do printing prices.
 
Negotiate with publications for a lower advertising rate and shop around to get the best printing prices for quality work. Just because a company charges top dollar doesn’t mean it provides top quality products.
 
Failing to be cost conscious in all of the marketing decisions you make is a mistake. Remember, the further you stretch your marketing dollars, the greater the opportunity you’ll have to spread your message.
 
Mistake Number Eight: Not pursuing PR opportunities
 
You’re not marketing your association well if people in your industry don’t know who your association is. Get involved in industry activities and issues, launch a scholarship fund, and organize conferences which educate others on industry trends. Then, be sure to get the word out about your activities on your social media sites and in industry and mainstream print and electronic media outlets.

PR is free and it provides organizations with more credibility than advertising. In fact, data suggestions that people are 7 times more likely to respond to a story about your organization than an ad! 
 
Mistake Number Nine: Not tracking where responses are coming from
  
Don’t forget to find out what’s working and use that to your advantage. If you don’t track responses to your marketing campaign, you won’t know which parts of it are successful.
 
No matter whether you use social media, direct mail, conduct recruitment webinars, advertise in special industry publications or any one of a number of other promotional sources, it pays to know what’s working. Failing to question your members about how they heard about you or not having a system to identify where inquiries come from is a costly mistake.
 
The more you know about what’s working, the more you can use that to your advantage, and the next time you embark on a marketing campaign, you won’t waste your money on what didn’t work.

Mistake Number Ten:  Not Attending MASAE events

MASAE is committed to providing educational and networking opportunities for members, thus enabling you to gain more knowledge and grow your contacts within the association field.  Paying money to be a member, but not partaking in member benefits that does not make sense.  Mark your calendar for upcoming MASAE programs and join us! 
 
Follow the Rules for a Successful Marketing Campaign
 
Remember, a great marketing campaign can be an invaluable tool for promoting your business, but a bad one can be nothing more than a waste or your time, energy and financial resources.
 
Keep this list of ten mistakes handy, and refer to it each time you begin developing a marketing campaign.
 
Make it your goal to ensure that your future marketing efforts are mistake-free.

Leza Raffel is the president of the Communication Solutions  Group, Inc. MASAE members are entitled to a complimentary, one-hour consultation. For details, call 215-884-6499 or visit www.comsolutions.com

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