By Curtis Kitchen, CAE, KCSAE Director
Can you think of any association that doesn’t promise to support its members and help them grow? All associations pledge that to some degree, don’t they?
Of course they do. So, when it comes to communications and marketing pieces, why do so many associations get distracted from that promise?
A study performed in 2014 by the Economist Group revealed that 75 percent of B2B buyers want branded content in order to research a business idea. However, 93 percent of marketers focused their content on their own products and services.
Though those numbers are from four years ago, associations today are not immune to this same disconnect.
Just like B2B consumers, members want to know the “what’s in it for me?” or “why is this important for me?” That’s where the value proposition and real benefit resides for them. On the flip side, B2B and association marketers typically are in a rush to highlight all of the products and services the association provides. Sometimes, that’s a really long list, which seems like a great thing. It might be, in fact, but a list doesn’t focus on or leave room for highlighting the true benefit that each of those products and services provide.
In marketing, this is the “feature vs. benefit” conversation – a topic that can pay huge dividends in lots of ways (engagement, recruitment, and retention, e.g.) when your whole staff understands the difference and communicates benefits in conversations with members.
As an example, consider a couple of the most basic features that come with a membership: continuing education and networking. Think about how many times you either have been pitched on or pitched to members those two features.
“As a member, you have access to continuing education and increased opportunities to network!”
Now, what if you had been pitched “continuing education” in this light:
“Members who completed our continuing education programs reported a noticeable increase in business within the first six months of program completion. Members who did not complete the program did not see a noticeable increase in business in that same time period.”
See the difference? It’s not about the association simply offering continuing education to members. The continuing education benefit is increased business after participating.
The same is true for networking.
Instead of “increased opportunities to network”, what if it was pitched this way:
“A recent poll reported 62 percent of April event attendees said they owed at least a quarter of their new business in the past year to new relationships established at the event.”
It isn’t just “networking. The real benefit is showing the growth outcome from attending and forming new, meaningful business relationships – relationships that probably don’t happen if they aren’t a member.
Work with your communications or marketing staff and develop benefits for each of your association’s list of products and services. Then, promote sharing those benefits with your staff, your ambassadors, and your other volunteer influencers. Spread the benefits message where they are relevant and keep track of how doing so affects those engagement, recruitment, and retention areas.