Culture Marketing Member Engagement

Human-Centric Marketing for Associations

Marketing often gets a bad rap. Most people would say marketing is the act of promoting products or services with an endgame of closing the sale. But the truth is, good marketing is about so much more than a singular transaction. It’s about building and maintaining customer and member relationships. Successful marketing initiatives are human centred.

What does this mean? Human-centric marketing is about pivoting your focus toward fostering relationships with your members, and turning efforts toward member retention rather than solely focusing on accumulating one more notch in your member count! In the wave of digitization, the importance of building real-human relationships with our members has gotten lost. 

At our association, we’ve begun to put human-centric marketing at the forefront of all of our campaigns, and we’re starting to see significant results. These results include 40% year-over-year registration growth for our 2019 Annual Meeting, with three and a half months left to go until meeting kickoff! Here are just a few of the initiatives we took on to get the ball rolling.

Create Member-Focused Content

Replace your stock photos with photos of your members

Your marketing should be as real and reflective of your audience as the content itself that you are promoting. If you wouldn’t take an out-of-the-box program and paste your organization’s name on it, then you shouldn’t take a $229 stock image subscription and call that representative of your community.

Most professional associations have been created by members for members, and those members want to see themselves (and people like them) on your website, in your brochures, and emails.

At our association, every image in our program books are from previous meetings. Whether you’re buying a used car or the Cadillac of meeting experiences, you want to know who has been on the ride before you.

Interview members, tell their stories

According to Nielsen’s “Trust in Advertising” report, 84% of consumers trust peer recommendations more than any other form of advertising. So if we know the ROI is there and we know we have access to a unique pool of insights and perspectives through our member community, then why are we not better storytellers?

A key strategic marketing initiative we’ve taken at our association this year is to share more user-generated content (UGC) in the form of video testimonials. Whether it’s due to perceived barriers of cost, technology, or geographic disbursement, many organizations have held back on adding video to their toolkits. However, these barriers can be overcome with a fairly simple UGC video marketing program. In fact, not every video needs to be highly stylized or produced. A 30-second testimonial shot via an iPhone or other portable recording device can lend trust and credibility when paired with the right application. 

Make key volunteers your organizational ambassadors

Who better to share your organization’s mission, story, and offering then those intimately familiar with the industry you serve? Your association’s members are your greatest content experts, market forecasters, and lead generators. While supervising a constantly changing cast of volunteers is challenging enough without adding promotions to their list of duties, it is possible to strategically leverage core volunteers to add a personal touch to your organization’s messaging.

At our association, we recently developed an executive committee marketing kit to help key leadership share our messaging with their networks. Kit components include a personalized email template, graphics for email signatures and social media, and physical referral cards to hand out to prospective meeting attendees. The kit components are periodically refreshed and new communications are sent out to volunteer leadership.

In our quest to meet the looming demands of the publication deadline, program launch, or registration cut-off, we’ve become automatons to our desire for marketing automation. By sharing the images and stories of our members, and leveraging their insights and perspectives, we can center the human connection in our marketing efforts.


Seeing is believing

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