The world has gone digital, so it is important to ensure associations communicate digitally to ensure the message is received by members and stakeholders.

Many talks I attend these days speak about the importance and measurability of digital channels to get your message out to your stakeholders. It may not be necessary to put all of your resources into digital communication, but it is an excellent additional channel to ensure your message is reaching your intended audience.

First off, I am no expert on digital marketing, but as my association management clients start to look at all the communication options available to them, opinions begin to form on what works, what may work and what approach you should take to stay in touch with members and stakeholders.

Benefits of Digital

A huge benefit of digital marketing is that it can be measured, therefore associations can set action plans and evaluation plans to determine if this form of communication is right for their association. Delivery reports, open reports, read-through reports and bounce backs are provided with each campaign sent. You can find out the exact demographic that has responded and determine its place within your association. See my past article, Developments in Digital Marketing for Associations & Members, for more on this.

Another measurable strength of digital communication, and probably the best, is that you can use a targeted approach. You can select specific target groups to send messages to. It is almost creepy how targeted you can get these days!

One of our association clients is specifically targeting faculty buildings on university campuses to promote their profession as an option to students within the faculty. The messages only appear in that building on their mobile device as ads for the profession. The ads follow them after they leave the building as well giving targeted exposure through the digital channel. It’s hard to argue with the effectiveness of reaching your target audience in this manner.

Potential of Digital

There is enormous potential in using digital channels to not only establish a stronger digital footprint for your association but also to:

  • Increase the perceived value of membership to members and potential members: By sending hot-off-the-press information to members that can include latest studies, event announcements and big news.
  • Potentially deliver good quality traffic to those members from people visiting the association’s website: For example, locate a member section
  • Build a strong email database for the association (collect subscribers listing): Have people subscribe to the website to get updated information as it becomes available.
  • Build and foster a community of engaged members and bring potential and current clients to the website through social media, email marketing and other digital channels: When a person sees the ad, they can immediately click on the link and be directed to the website where they can join the association, register for an event, or read the latest publication.

Maximizing the Value of Digital Marketing

Some of the activities that can maximize the value in digital marketing are:

  • Blog Section to your website that gives the reader value in visiting the website and brings them back for more in the future (for more on starting an association blog, click here): An ad can announce the latest blog publication with topic and recipients can click to immediately view it.
  • Email Marketing Strategy (include lead/email capture forms on the website): A “sign up now” ad can enhance your member/potential member list by receiving email consent.
  • Blog post design, layout and distribution (set up a content calendar): Having an attractive site that is useful and clear to all demographics
  • Social Media Management / Social Media Contests: Such as “Click here to be entered to win free conference registration”

Creating a digital strategy is important and your association should speak to a professional firm that can assist in walking you through the process of creating and implementing a strategy. One of our clients in a seasonal industry is looking at engaging a firm that can assist them in keeping their message continuous throughout the year to eliminate the peaks and valleys of their messaging.

The benefits of a digital strategy are clear but not always relevant for every association out there that needs to communicate with stakeholders.

As association managers we need to ensure that the association’s mandate is considered in all marketing (paper, print or digital). Digital communication is an ideal way to ensure the message is being directed and measured and getting to the right audience.

Having key information at your fingertips will help members and potential members be more engaged in your association. Fully engaged members are happy members, and happy members stay members, and recruit new members.