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September 10, 2019 Content Marketing for Associations Sergio Garcia - Marketing Manager

Content Marketing for Associations

Membership growth, member engagement, membership churn. 

For any association executive these three terms fuel the lifeblood of your organization. Digital content is a staple for influencing core metrics, and while this concept has gone from trendy buzzword to the status quo; content is still king. 

Today, I'll list some quick tips to help enhance your association content marketing strategy. These tips are meant to modernize your approach to content and help you be more effective in your execution.

To begin, ask yourself, do you really know what the purpose of content marketing is?

WHAT EXACTLY IS CONTENT MARKETING FOR ASSOCIATIONS?

According to Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

In this marketer's opinion, the key sentence in that definition is “to attract and retain a clearly defined audience”. For the purpose of growing membership and driving engagement, this theme should be the cornerstone of every piece of content your organization creates. With this in mind, let's dive into some modern best practices that will help drive growth.

MEMBERSHIP GROWTH AND RETENTION THROUGH CONTENT

I'm pretty sure at some point, whether personally or professionally, you've turned to Google or Youtube to learn something new and get information. I'm also sure when you're considering purchasing a product or service you do thorough research online before committing to anything. 

This behavior is the backbone of modern association content marketing. This is called the buyer's journey and it's the process buyers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and decide to purchase a new product or service (Hubspot).



Association content marketing is about getting the right content in front of your audience at the right time. Your largest relevant audience is made up of professionals within your industry and you should have content that is relevant to each stage of their buyer and career journey. 

Consider this, Google Search shows that many people search how to do their job.


That's just scratching the surface. Consider how many professionals search online to learn how they can do their job better, to find resources, templates, forums for guidance from colleagues, etc. 

Associations provide their members with a wide variety of content to help develop their career, but miss out on the opportunity to be a consistent resource for non-members and clearly communicate association benefits in the process. 

Your association's content should show up on page one Google search results for these type of keyword phrases. 

To help grow traffic and conversion, not all of your content should be gated. 

Create easily digestible content that targets professionals who are doing educational research about their career, profession, or are seeking solutions for industry pain points.

Simply creating a Resources section on your association's website that is open to non-members can help drive growth. 

Google Trends is a great free tool to test different searches and get analysis on results so you know which topics and keywords are most relevant. You can also simply use Google Suggest as an additional research tool. 

On top of doing SEO Keyword search, you can also survey your current members to find out what they want to hear about and more. 

To give you a head start here's some responses from a survey completed by EDGEresearch on engagement preferences from association members.

No matter what industry your association is in, approaching content with this thinking will help drive more traffic and generate more leads at the top of the funnel; and also boost engagement with existing members.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY

Content strategy has largely been driven by quick turnaround - create content that can be written relatively quickly without a need for much editing. But, the times have changed. 

Check out this live counter that tallies how many blogs are written in a day. Last I checked the count was around 1,500,000 blogs posted today and growing. 

That's just for blogs! We're not even into video content, illustrations, webinars, etc. The average person is bombarded with content on a daily basis, which means mediocre content will not help you stand out through the noise.

Quickly pumping out content without much thought or research might be costing you potential opportunities. Take the time to do more in-depth research that will provide real value for your audience. 

The average blogger spends about 1-4 hours writing 500-1000 words. Bloggers spending 6+ hours per post are 56% more likely to report stronger results. 

These stats reflect that your audience is far more likely to engage with your content if it provides thoroughly researched insights, rather than a quickly churned out piece of content with minimal effort. 

This doesn't just help with engagement, it helps with SEO. A study from Backlinko which focused on word count for page one results on Google found that 1,890 words was the average! 

   Source: Backlinko study on 1 million search engine ranking results.

It's no longer best practice to simply publish as much content as possible for the sake of it. We all tend to only tune into content that is either relevant to us as individuals or that provides high-quality valuable information. 

Consider reviewing the cadence at which you publish content to leave room for more in-depth research. Data shows that modern professionals would rather find a one stop shop resource for all relevant information on a specific topic. 

Taking the time to ensure your content is detailed, well thought out, yet easily digestible will provide far more value for your audience.

PERSONALIZATION IS ESSENTIAL

Successfully publishing content that will drive engagement from your audience in today's market requires hyper-personalization. 

As previously mentioned, new content is published online every second. Personalization is what will make your association's content stand out from the noise. 

To effectively implement personalization you need to analyze data and segment your audience. Research shows that most associations put little emphasis on this absolutely crucial element of modern association marketing.

The research above shows that many associations typically only use one data point, type of membership, for communication campaigns to all of their members. This approach fails to create a personalized experience and will especially hurt your efforts to attract and retain younger professionals. 

Basing marketing campaigns around one data point to target many members widens the gap between the expectations of your members and your organization. 

It creates an organizational culture where volume of communication is relied upon to drive conversion and retention rates, rather than targeted communication that can generate higher returns. 

When members or non-members engage with content across various channels, like your website, social media pages, or career center, they are telling you their channel preferences, as well as their interests and content preferences. 

Using those various data points to target the individual member will improve their experience, as well as increase engagement and retention – matching the experience they have with other online brands in their daily lives.

How to use multiple data points

Using multiple data points isn't hard once you start segmenting your audience. 

In our recent whitepaper "A Complete Guide to Attracting and Retaining Gen Z Members", research found that younger professionals do believe there is value in joining an association. However, they’re not exactly clear what the benefits are. Understanding this pain point for this specific demographic helps identify specific topics and themes for your content. 

Beyond analyzing what topics are relevant to your audience, you also need to understand how different demographics prefer to consume content. Many associations, for example, publish articles and blogs.

Yet research has found that blogs are the least relevant form of content for Generation Z (Campaign Monitor). However, Millennials read more than any other generation (Center for Generational Kinetics). Generation X and Boomers also love a good article or blog post as well. 

Looking at the data it's clear to see that promoting a blog post to Generation Z won't make them feel like your content is personalized to their preferences - they prefer video content more than any other generation. 

If your association lacks video content, chances are you're having trouble attracting and retaining young professionals to your membership.

Combining these various data points - age, content interests, content type preferences (video), and preferred channel for engagement - will help you understand the best content strategy for this specific segment of your audience. 

If your content is not in their preferred format, on their preferred channels, and relevant to their stage of the buyer's journey, you will miss opportunities to convert and retain members. 

EMAIL, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND WEBSITES, OH MY!

What channels are most relevant for your niche? We saw that Millennials enjoy a good blog post and Generation Z prefer video, but what's the best way to promote your content for each segment within your audience? 

As with content type, different generations have different preferences for the channels they engage on. In our Gen Z whitepaper we found that Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube are their top social networks for discovering brands, learning new information, and even keeping up with associations. Meanwhile all other generations spend most of their time on Facebook (Business Insider). 

Understanding which channels are most relevant for the segments within your audience also requires analyzing data and testing your findings. 

As mentioned before, and can't be emphasized enough, hyper-personalization is essential for success in today's market. Deciding which channels are most relevant for your niche is equally important and will go a long way in increasing engagement.

TURN ONE CONTENT PIECE INTO MULTIPLE PIECES

Content marketing doesn't require creating new content every single week. Consider this very blog post for example. 

The information I've shared today can also be converted into a webinar. I could also record a video breaking down these tips and attach it to this blog post so the user can decide if they rather read or watch and listen. I could pull some of the data I've shared in this blog to create quick bite-sized videos for social media. I could even write other blog posts that goes into further detail on some the themes I've mentioned today - SEO, market research, a breakdown of each generation and their preferences, etc. 

You don't have to reinvent the wheel every time you create content. 

You can easily take one piece of content and share it across a number of channels to target different demographics or create new content that piggybacks off of your existing content. Taking on this approach will help extend the reach and lifespan of a single piece content, and help your association maintain a regular publishing cadence. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Integrating some of these tips into your association content marketing strategy will help grow membership, boost engagement, and reduce churn. 

Your content defines your association’s brand and, more importantly, defines how your professional audience engages with your organization.

While some of these tips may seem like a lot of work it actually isn't. Like most things, the hardest part is getting started. 

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attracting and retaining Gen Z members to your association