Whether I’m writing about marketing, strategy, or technology, one idea always surfaces. Understanding members at a granular level has never been more important.
We all know this, right?
Yet, it seems that even big corporations are struggling to deliver the level of personalization that customers expect. Harvard Business Review Analytic Services recently released a report that illustrates the gap between knowing and doing. These are the contradictory statistics:
- 88% of business leaders surveyed acknowledged that customer engagement is significant to ROI
- 92% say that it is “very” or “extremely” critical to the company’s success
- But only 9% currently report “excellent” engagement
- Just 40% are successfully using data to reach customers at the right time on the right channel
- And less than half plan to invest in improved technologies to achieve those goals
This disconnect could seem confounding, except the numbers also reveal the roadblocks:
- 44% of respondents report lack of collaboration and siloed departments as a problem
- 32% blame the inability to widely distribute customer data throughout the organization
- 56% say that finding the right talent is an issue
- And 73% “strongly” or “somewhat” agree that their organization needs employees with engagement experience
If you thought these problems were unique to your association, it’s reassuring to know that the corporate world, with its deep pockets and broad reach, is experiencing the same barriers to cozying up to their customers.
Of the four bullets listed above, the last two seem to be the most challenging. You can build more collaborative teams. There is plenty of advice out there, and most leaders have the management skills to retool organizational structures for better communication and greater agility.
There are technology tools that can make information and data analytics accessible to everyone. Data management platforms are constantly improving their user-friendliness, flexibility, and reporting capacity. And staff training will ensure that everyone has insight into their numbers.
But—you can’t know, what you don’t know. Even if you have the tools to get up close and personal with members, without a savvy marketer on your staff, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to use that technology to the greatest advantage.
Understand the Options
The obvious answer to the dilemma is to hire that digital marketing genius as quickly as possible. But that is also probably the most challenging solution. New talent needs a permanent line in the budget.
Consider Temporary Support
Another option is to contract temporary support. A freelance expert can train current staff and get your organization up to speed. The avenues for finding this help are more plentiful than ever. Upwork, LinkedIn, Indeed, and a host of other sites offer a variety of talent solutions. Our own platform, .orgWorx connects you to seasoned association professionals. Hiring a contract employee is also an opportunity to “try before you buy.” Often current freelancers are actually seeking a permanent home.
Make Space for Engagement
There is a third important option. This idea is the most practical and, in some ways, the most effective. Make space to give your current staff the time and training they need to become engagement specialists. Involve the marketing team in strategic decision-making. Encourage them to help break down silos by showing all employees how to become better brand ambassadors. Promote data sharing across the organization, and reward people for effectively using new analytic tools.
Align Strategy and Marketing
Align strategic goals with marketing initiatives, and ensure that all teams understand their role and responsibility to deliver results.
.orgSource senior consultant, Amy Williams, offers this advice: “The marketing department is not just an external brand ambassador. They must also provide the authority and guidance that unites strategy, brand, and voice across the organization. Instructions, such as a style guide and taxonomies, are part of this process. But ongoing inter-organization communication and dialogue are even more important.
“Everyone on your team should have a deep understanding of the strategic goals and how they relate to departmental operations. Too often plans are reviewed at a staff meeting with little to no explanation about what the various objectives mean for distinct functional areas and how they connect to each other.”
Scan the Landscape
Internal collaboration is important, but it is only the beginning. Martech changes overnight. You need multiple eyes scanning the digital landscape to stay abreast of current and emerging trends. Identify the employees on your team who love innovation and technology. Encourage them to explore and bring new ideas to the group. You might be surprised by how enthusiastically people respond to a request for creativity.
Better yet, become a trendspotter yourself.
Make a point of subscribing to marketing publications and following the thought leaders. Break out of the association bubble. Study across industries. Forbes, CMO Network, Inc., Entrepreneur, Social Media Today, Adweek, and Adage are a few of the resources on my radar. Be an open-minded reader. Consider ideas that, at first glance, don’t seem like a great fit. Studying the concept instead of the details can lead to breakthrough initiatives.
These are three interwoven trends that are currently in my sites.
Video isn’t new. But associations tend to use it like a warm-up act instead of making video the headliner these statistics suggest that it should be:
- A HubSpot survey of 3,000 respondents indicates that 54% of consumers preferred video marketing from their favorite brands.
- According to Forbes, 90% of customers say that videos help them decide which product to buy, and 64% say that a video makes them want to buy a product.
- Also from Forbes, customers retain 95% of the information they watch.
- Social Media Today estimates that this year, consumers will watch 1 million videos per second.
If you think video is too expensive or labor intensive, know that the cost of a professional production is rapidly dropping. And a powerful film clip can be the backbone for an entire multi-media campaign, making it even more affordable.
Influencers aren’t just for Instagram anymore. Everyone can use some clout. What’s more compelling than an endorsement from someone you admire? You don’t need to hire a Gen X superstar to promote your next annual meeting. Most associations already have a well-defined tribe filled with potential influencers. Use that network of respect to elevate your brand.
Board and committee members are obvious choices. Feature them on social media, and in podcasts, testimonials, and blog posts. The trick is to be consistent. This is not a one-and-done activity. Appearances don’t need to be time-consuming, but they should be frequent.
Market in Real Time
Here’s an idea that requires imagination and an eye to the big picture. Take a lesson from QVC. Add video plus influencers, and what do you get? Live stream sales maximize the impact of both strategies. Real-time promotion is already a billion-dollar industry in China.
Think beyond B-list celebrities hawking manufactured diamonds. And imagine live tours of your annual conference, reports from the exhibit hall floor, or committee meetings with audience feedback. The aggressive pitch can become a friendly chat. There are subtle approaches that win friends and develop engagement in unique and creative ways. The audience’s ability to ask questions and provide immediate feedback is a bridge to the member-centricity that we are all seeking so fervently.
Study the Future
Leadership today asks you to become a student of tomorrow. Bringing that inquisitive outlook into your organization and acting on the ideas it inspires closes the gap between knowing and doing.