When marketing got hitched to technology and changed its name to MarTech, their relationship caught fire. That marriage is making an indelible impact on the way associations operate and their ability to engage with members.
The MarTech stack, or the digital platforms that professionals use to understand and reach their audiences, is changing so fast that new features become yawn-inducing overnight. Associations may not be burning up the internet at the same break-neck speed as commercial sellers but understanding the trends in this rapidly changing environment is critical. Your competitors are using sophisticated strategies to get closer to their customers, and some of those customers are your members.
Until now, most associations have held their positions as expert providers of professional information and products. Whether you are a marketer, member services professional, or the CEO, staying in tune with the latest marketing trends and technology will help your association maintain that lead.
MarTech delivers cost savings and takes campaigns beyond “your best shot” to a thoughtful analysis of what will move consumers to action. It informs professionals with concrete evidence about what their constituents want and need. .orgSource Senior Consultant, Amy Williams, advises on the importance of MarTech like this:
“The right MarTech stack allows marketing teams to build more effective campaigns. Dashboarding helps leadership see real-time performance. The MarTech stack provides a line of sight throughout the sales process, from the first touchpoint through conversion. An investment in MarTech can pay off greatly, but associations have to make marketing a strategic priority and put resources behind it.”
The ability to see into members’ hearts and minds and to serve up exactly what they crave is growing increasingly sophisticated. The pandemic has only heightened consumers’ appreciation for technologies that seamlessly answer their demands.
These are trends that association leaders should be watching in 2021 and beyond. Although your team may not be prepared to implement all of these strategies, to maximize the relationship between marketing and technology, it is important to be aware of what is on the horizon.
Sixty percent of marketing leaders plan to increase their budgets over the next year. The need to collaborate remotely is driving a demand for tools that support content production and campaign management.
Increased spending for MarTech will be unavoidable for some associations, especially groups that were unprepared for remote work. Now that progress has been made in the area of online connectivity, it’s critical to turn your attention to updating promotional systems and platforms. Williams offered this cautionary advice:
“Associations that fail to invest in MarTech will see member attrition. Consumers expect a personalized experience. Using old-school mass marketing techniques today sends the message that you don’t value your constituents enough to treat them as individuals. Martech makes a more intimate relationship possible. It uses technology to help associations build relevance and deliver value.”
Increase AI and Machine Learning
Look to AI and ML as the foundation of future marketing programs. Savvy marketers are already using intelligence tools to segment their audiences and move beyond understanding behavior to identifying intention.
Learning to use your data doesn’t always require a major expense. You don’t need to hire a data analyst to begin more objective problem-solving. Sharon Rice, .orgSource Managing Director, Business Strategy, notes that, “Associations may imagine that they don’t have sufficient data in their current systems. But most organizations have a wealth of untapped information; it’s simply a matter of knowing how to find it.”
Whether improved AI and ML capabilities are in your budget or not, resolve to learn how you can use analytics to power marketing initiatives.
Content management systems, marketing automation, webinar software, SEO tools, dashboards, AI, and chatbots are some of the essential components of a digital marketing system. You may have several of these platforms, but the magic happens when they are integrated and functioning as a single promotional unit. In 2021 and beyond, the focus will be on creating fully integrated tools that allow for increasingly sophisticated analytics and enhanced personalization.
In addition to integrating software, the future calls for an omnichannel strategy or seamless customer experience across devices and platforms. The average digital consumer has 3.64 connected devices. Your message and delivery should be a symphony, not a collection of solo performances. These are tactics that can help you conduct the orchestra:
- Track how members are engaging and use that information to meet them where they are, not where you think they should be.
- Don’t bore your audience with content they won’t open. Use demographics and behavioral data to improve segmentation and define areas of interest.
- Personalize your message to fit the user and the channel.
People who love your brand can be as important as the product. Influencers are a digital update on the concept of celebrity endorsements. An influencer is anyone who has a significant online following, and as a result of their expertise or relationship with your audience can create affiliation or drive sales. Identifying and managing these partnerships can be labor-intensive. Influencer marketing platforms are designed to make the process easier.
The software helps marketers and influencers identify each other and work together. It can be used to structure a campaign, manage the workflow, and evaluate the analytics. Issues surrounding compliance and disclosure are also automated. Like any software, the options range from fully loaded to economy. SparkToro and Grin are databases you can search to find influencers on a variety of platforms.
While influencers on social media may have over a million followers, there are probably thought leaders in your association’s professional community whose endorsement could have a significant impact. It is worthwhile to consider how you could establish mutually beneficial partnerships with those experts.
Let Your Audience Talk
Siri, Nest, and Alexa are letting people interact with technology the same way they relate to each other. As voice search becomes commonplace, it’s important to remember that search engines respond differently to speech than to written queries. The keywords you used to optimize your website and other content will need to be revised to include more natural language. For example, “conference Chicago,” would be replaced by “conference in Chicago.”
The best way to determine whether your voice-based search strategy is effective is by using it yourself. Test the questions you think searchers will ask to find your information and refine SEO based on the results.
Feed the Need to Listen
I’m not sure whether Zoom fatigue fueled podcast passion, but it’s clear that people are loving a great listen. Edison Research reports that more than one-third of Americans, age 12 and over (104 million), regularly listen to podcasts. Podcast editing and production software is a rapidly growing technology. Podcasting may be the flavor du jour, but the rules for successfully promoting your brand remain the same.
- Set objectives that align with strategic business goals.
- Don’t make it all about you. Keep your audience top of mind and deliver the value they are seeking.
- Use segmentation to match people with their interests.
- Purchase the best technology you can afford.
If you’re looking to hear some of the association world’s most interesting conversations, be sure to check out .orgCommunity’s new Association 4.0. podcast.
Marketing and technology are no longer simply in alignment, they are inseparable. As the integration of platforms, messaging, and experience becomes increasingly tied to efficiency and success, marketing will take a leadership role in determining overall organizational strategy. Williams advises:
“Associations should consider their marketing teams as strategic partners. It’s one of the few departments with a view across the organization. If the marketing team doesn’t have influence and involvement in developing the strategic plan, there’s a major disconnect, which results in missed opportunities.”
The marriage of marketing and technology is a prime example of how associations must adapt to succeed in the digital world. The future will reward organizations that move away from being a collection of separate business units and toward becoming organic systems. When interdependent components work in unison to maximize technology, they can achieve even the most challenging business goals.