It’s highly unlikely he had association marketers in mind when he laid down the track, but ‘90s hip hop icon M.C. Hammer said it best when he said, “You can’t touch this.” In this case, the ‘this’ we’re talking about could be anything an association marketing team is tasked with promoting, driving interest in, or generating demand for; things like:
- Membership renewals—be it company memberships in trade associations, or individual renewals in professional organizations. Are they valuable? Of course. But are they tactile and tangible? Not easily.
- Sponsorships and advertising sales—can you leverage readership data or website traffic to promise ‘exposure’ to your sponsors? Of course. But, reporting out the ROI of ‘eyeballs on a logo’ can be pretty difficult to quantify.
- Influence – For member-based trade groups, conflating ‘advocacy’ and ‘marketing’ is taboo, but persuading your target stakeholders to support your issues is directly parallel to persuading customers to buy your suite of services.
- Event registrations and exhibit booth sales – Sure, events are experiential, which makes them a bit less ethereal than selling an idea. Yet, promoting the value of a one-time event can present quite a challenge to marketers who are competing to gain the attention and investment of an audience whose attention is already spread thin.
Marketing intangible products, such as association memberships or event registrations, requires a different set of strategies and tactics compared to selling physical goods. To create an effective marketing program that delivers results, we’ve identified five areas we think are key for creating a successful marketing program that keeps your members coming back for more:
- Emphasize value proposition: When promoting an intangible ‘product,’ your primary goal is to clearly convey the unique benefits and value your product offers to potential customers. You want to show how these offerings address their needs, solve their problems, or contribute to their professional and personal growth. Before you write the first sentence of a blog post or a marketing email, be sure you have clearly articulated what sets your offering apart from the competition. Create a clear and concise statement that communicates the primary benefit of your ‘product’ and incorporate that message in every piece of marketing you create. Avoid using overly complex or flowery language. Instead, aim for clarity and directness. Highlight how association memberships can make a real difference in your audience’s professional lives or personal development. Use practical examples and relatable scenarios to illustrate the tangible advantages of being part of your organization. And, above all else, always lead with the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’ in mind – with ‘me’ being your target audience.
- Build trust and credibility: Establish trust and credibility by showcasing testimonials, case studies, or success stories from existing members. Utilize content marketing strategies like educational blog posts, whitepapers, or webinars to position the association as an authority in the industry. Keep in mind, sometimes the best person to convince an audience of the value of your offering isn’t you – it’s one of your current satisfied customers. Highlighting positive reviews, testimonials, and endorsements from influential individuals or organizations within your industry (influential members and big-name sponsors) delivers social proof that can influence prospects’ decision-making process when considering intangible products or services. This is where user generated content can also deliver results in spades. To learn more about UGC, check out this blog post.
- Personalize and segment messaging: Tailor marketing messages to specific target audiences within your niche. Understand the diverse needs and motivations of potential members, then customize your messaging to address their unique pain points and goals. For instance, allow your newsletter subscribers to opt-in to themed content, such as monthly issues-related bulletins customized by state or by specific topic areas. Only send that content to members who have specifically requested to receive it. Delivering content that meets members where they are in their career journey is also critical for membership-based organizations. One way to do that is to develop content and events that specifically targets your early career members, such as webinars about
- Engage and nurture prospects: Implement lead nurturing strategies through email marketing or personalized follow-ups to build relationships with prospects. Provide valuable content, invite them to events or webinars, and address any concerns or questions they may have, ultimately encouraging them to join the association. A robust marketing automation platform makes it easy to segment your audiences and set up workflows to send them messages when they interact with content on your blog, in your newsletter, and on your social media channels. Automated content requires quite a bit of up-front legwork, but over the long haul, it makes easy work of the otherwise laborious task of nurturing your prospects and keeping your current members engaged. Never underestimate the value of bringing in outside help like the Vuma team to establish a content automation strategy.
- Foster community engagement: Membership-based organizations hold a distinct advantage over companies selling tangible products in their ability to cultivate a deep sense of community. Unlike a transactional relationship with a company that sells a product, members of associations are drawn together by a shared passion, interest, or professional affiliation. They inherently seek something beyond a simple exchange of goods; they seek connections, knowledge, and the sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. Creating a sense of community among your members can be a powerful tool for marketing intangible products. Establish online forums, discussion groups, or social media communities where members can connect, share experiences, and provide support. Encourage them to be active participants in these spaces. When your members feel like they belong to a community that aligns with their professional interests or goals, they are more likely to see the value in their membership. By fostering a thriving community, you not only enhance the member experience – you also create a natural channel for word-of-mouth marketing as satisfied members share their positive experiences with others in the industry.
Tying it all together
Membership in an organization is not just about acquiring a product you can touch and feel; it’s about becoming part of a collective, a like-minded community of individuals who share common goals, challenges, and aspirations. The very essence of a membership-based organization’s value proposition is predicated on fostering these relationships and creating a sense of belonging. For association marketing teams, this presents a unique opportunity to communicate a message that creates curiosity, inspires action, and resonates with members and prospective members alike.
From emphasizing the value proposition to building trust, personalizing messaging, nurturing prospects, and fostering community engagement, these five pivotal strategies provide a roadmap for marketing professionals in membership-based organizations.
From accentuating the value proposition to cultivating trust, personalizing messages, and nurturing prospects, these strategies provide a roadmap for navigating the unique landscape of intangible product promotion. They empower marketers to bridge the gap between abstract concepts and tangible benefits, effectively engaging potential members.
In a world where connections and belonging hold as much significance as tangible goods, these strategies bridge the gap between abstract concepts and tangible benefits. They empower marketers to not just sell memberships or event registrations, but to offer individuals a sense of community, shared knowledge, and a larger purpose. In this unique approach, the intangible becomes real, relationships flourish, and the value of membership takes on a new dimension. By embracing these principles, marketing professionals can thrive in the intricate landscape of intangible product promotion, keeping members engaged, and nurturing a thriving community.
Ready to elevate your marketing and drive results for your membership-based organization? Contact us today, and let’s collaborate on a tailored marketing plan that transforms intangible value into tangible success. Don’t miss out on valuable resources to amplify your marketing. Subscribe to our newsletter today.