Article published by American Society of Association ExecutivesMarketing Insights, January 2008
We’re eight years in to the 21st century. Can association marketing pros finally get with the times? If you’re frustrated with traditional marketing tactics that just don’t seem to resonate any longer, then consider these new strategies that target the importance of relationships with generations X and Y.Think for a moment how much the world has changed since the 1950s. The average annual salary then was $2,992, a loaf of bread cost $0.14, few women worked, civil rights were non-existent, Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states, and the first domestic jet airline passenger service began flying between New York City and Miami. And people received their information from the only information sources available to them: newspapers, magazines, direct mail, black-and-white televisions, and social events. Here we are today, a half-century later, and I continue to be amazed by how many associations are still marketing and relaying information exactly as they did in the 1950s. In the middle of the last century, associations relied on direct mail, advertising, and events as their primary means of marketing because those were the only means available. Today, there are numerous options available to associations, but few associations are using these tools to their advantage. In just the past few months, I have spoken with many association leaders who are frustrated either because the association’s direct mail responses have plummeted, advertising revenue and response rates are nonexistent, or event attendance is at an all-time low. What to do? Start marketing like it’s 2008! The concepts of direct mail, advertising, and events are hopelessly outdated. Your association and every other association out there has been there and done that. In 2008, the world of marketing has no limits. Your association now has the opportunity to reach its audiences through blogs, podcasts, word-of-mouth marketing, YouTube, text messaging, social causes, media relations, webinars, public speaking, instant messaging, peer groups, and Facebook. While the list of options may seem overwhelming, there is a common theme. In the past, marketing was focused on the concepts of product, place, price, and promotion. Today, marketing is focused on one thing and one thing only: relationships. Unlike their baby boomer predecessors, generations X and Y didn’t grow up in the 1950s. Marketers have been pitching to them since infancy, which for these later generations spans 1966 to 1995. They grew up with technology and expansive media, observing corporate layoffs and mergers, divorce, terrorism, school shootings, and political leaders who lied and failed to deliver on their promises. As a result, they are savvy and skeptical consumers. They have a strong need to trust and they are loyal to those associations, companies, and brands that establish their trust and form meaningful relationships with them. To gain the trust of the next generations of members, volunteers, and leaders, your association will need to think about marketing with a constant focus on relationship-building.
Here are some tactics not to be overlooked:
Your audiences are searching for new, different, and innovative approaches to connect with your association. Will your association stand out from the crowd? Will it meet their expectations? It’s much easier to do both today than it was in 1950.
Sarah L. Sladek is the president and CEO of Limelight Generations and was a presenter at the 2007 Great Ideas Conference. Email: email@example.com
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