Heading into the very last quarter of the year in just a few weeks, it’s hard to believe the bulk of 2023 is in the rearview mirror. What better time to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come since January – and to look ahead at what the remainder of the year may yet hold for marketers. If we learned anything from the unprecedented events of 2020 and their subsequent fall out, it’s that the future can be nearly impossible to predict with any accuracy. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to try out our prognostication skills! To that end, here’s our shot at predicting three trends we expect will shape association marketing during the remainder of 2023:

1. Enhanced Personalization with AI: Elevating Engagement through Insights
The whole world – including the global community of marketing professionals – is grappling with the role AI will play in the workplace. Will it replace our jobs entirely? Or will tools like ChatGPT and prove to be an invaluable resource that makes marketers’ jobs easier, while making the human being working in the role more efficient and effective? How that shakes out remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is, AI is here to stay. 


According to a recent “AI Marketing Benchmark Report 2023” from Influencer Marketing Hub, 60 percent of marketers surveyed have experimented with using AI in their work, with 44 percent reporting they use AI tools to produce content. Over half – 54.5 percent – of respondents reportedly feel optimistic that the technology will “greatly enhance their marketing efforts.” 


So, what does it mean for association marketers in the months ahead? We predict that a growing number of marketers will embrace AI to further personalize members’ experiences. AI’s ability to analyze vast datasets at lightning speed will make it easier than ever for association marketing and member engagement teams to identify patterns and trends that may previously have gone unnoticed.  


For this reason, we expect a growing number of association teams will adopt AI-driven analytics to examine historical interactions and predict future actions, and to uncover member preferences, behaviors, and pain points – all of which will help to inform content creation and personalized outreach strategies.  We expect those same AI-powered platforms will become common tools in Mar-Tech stacks, as association leaders lean on them for content creation.

2. Evolving Content Formats: Dynamic Storytelling for Impact 

Marketers across all industries are witnessing a transformation in content formats, and association marketers are no exception. Visual storytelling continues to reign supreme, but for the remainder of 2023, we expect the buzz will be about more than just videos. Look for a proliferation of interactive content, like polls, quizzes, and virtual events, as associations seek new ways to engage members in a participatory manner. In today’s always-connected world, it’s about creating immersive experiences that resonate and foster member engagement.


Moving deep into the year, we expect association marketers will leverage interactive content to gather insights, facilitate knowledge exchange, and further build a sense of belonging among members. By creating content that invites members to participate and share their own thoughts, ideas, and opinions, associations will build a two-way communication channel that strengthens their bond with members. AI-driven chatbots will likely take on a larger role, too, guiding members through personalized content journeys, suggesting relevant interactive pieces, and addressing inquiries. These relatively low-cost, low-input channels will also play an increasingly important role in sustaining year-round engagement that the industry standard in-person conference or tradeshow simply cannot deliver. 


The participatory marketing trend isn’t just about generating and consuming content; it’s about creating a sense of ownership and shared experience for your audience. As the last quarter of 2023 unfolds, expect associations to explore innovative ways to integrate interactive content and AI-driven guidance, setting the stage for deeper engagement and meaningful connections. 


3. Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) Integration

With the caveat that this prediction will likely only play out among large associations with sizeable marketing teams and substantial promotional budgets, we anticipate the latter months of 2023 will see the integration of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to create experiential content, allowing members to interact with products, services, and environments in innovative ways. 


Set aside your ideas about gamers in clunky VR headsets; these immersive technologies are no longer confined to the gaming realm. Imagine attending a virtual conference where attendees can explore a digital exhibition hall, interact with virtual booths, and network with avatars representing real people. Not only would this allow event marketers to reach a wider audience of attendees who may not show up for a real-life event, it also presents an unprecedented opportunity to grow non-dues revenue from sponsorship and advertising sales. 


In addition to virtual events, AR-enabled apps will also find their way to the tradeshow floor as cutting-edge marketing teams look for new ways to provide stakeholders with real-time information and interactive experiences during physical events. Incorporating this technology will elevate the tradeshow or conference experience, while also appealing to those hard-to-engage younger members. 

Proceed with Caution  

So, there you have it, a glimpse into what might be waiting around the corner for association marketers as we sail through the rest of 2023. From AI-driven personalization to the rise of interactive content that promises to elevate member engagement, and the intriguing possibilities of VR and AR making their way into marketers’ toolkits – it’s an exciting time to be in the world of association marketing. 


But hey, let’s not forget, these are educated guesses; our best attempts at predicting what could be in store for us for the rest of the year. We don’t read tea leaves and we don’t own a crystal ball. The marketing landscape is as unpredictable as the weather (and sometimes as stormy too). At the end of the day, only time will tell if we were spot-on or way off base. Either way, we will enjoy the ride. 


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