I’m more than a bit behind in my reading, and trying to catch up. Today, I opened up a nearly year-old journal for association professionals and came across an article on mobile apps that included this quote:
"Associations cannot rely on an 'if you build it, they will come' strategy to promote their apps."
So true. But so obvious to me that I can’t believe it’s worth a conversation at all. And yet it is – which is, of course, why I am writing about it and why I am not in any way criticizing the reporter and editor that included that in their article.
I am amazed by how many people still believe “If you build it, they will come.” I have seen entire websites launched with no marketing campaign or with a marketing campaign that didn’t extend more than a month or two after the site went live. I have seen newsletters created with the same sort of promotional effort. The end result? Website traffic dies down after an initial spike, and no one signs up to receive the newsletter because they barely know it exists.
Another common error is assuming that if you post a notice about something on your website, members will see it and read it (and digest the meaning and remember what they read, and maybe even tell their colleagues). News flash: It ain’t gonna happen.
It’s time to get real. The sad reality is that your members are very, very busy people, and no matter how great the information on your website, they don’t have time to go to your home page every day and check out what’s new. Even your board members probably don’t have that kind of time.
So you need to bring that information to them, where they are. And you need to bring it to them multiple times, in different media, because they will not see every message, and perhaps not even most messages. I’m not talking about inundating members with email; they will stop opening your email if you do, and perhaps even remove their email address from your records (or, what might actually be worse, flag your emails as spam, which has ramifications that affect your ability to deliver email not just to them but to anyone else on your list as well).
What I’m talking about is backing up your important member-facing initiatives – your important products, if you like – with a marketing campaign that recognizes that it is not the member’s responsibility to find everything you have to offer. It is your responsibility to make members aware.
What does that entail? Any and all of the following:
- A formal marketing plan with specific tasks: When you launch a new product, take time to map out a series of promotions to let members know about it. The level of detail in your plan, and the duration of your campaign, might be commensurate with the importance of the product. For example, you might have a standing plan for three basic announcements of every new video on your YouTube channel (e.g., one newsletter link, one link from your home page, and two mentions on social media); but for a redesigned website, you might be looking at a year-long campaign with multiple print ads, newsletter links, promotions for individual website features, and three links from social media per week.
- Multichannel marketing: Even if it’s a new website feature, your website is not the only place to promote it. Use all of your channels: print, online, email, social, your online community or discussion forums. New feature in your journal? Announce that on your website, in email and on social channels as well. Marketing media work best when used together to deliver and reinforce a message.
- Search engine optimization: For any sort of online product, don’t underestimate the importance of SEO. Your members are not just looking for you at your website domain; they are going to Google and other search engines to find the information that you have. For goodness sake, they’re going to Google and typing in your organization’s name or URL when they know they’re looking for your site; you can darned well bet that they’re going there to look for information to do their job, which you also happen to have on your web site.
- In-person promotion: Use your annual conference, other meetings and other industry events. And use your volunteer committee meetings as well. Launching a new website or newsletter? Set up a computer monitor in your trade show booth to show it to members and help them sign up on the spot. Use your booth, and your time in it, to make sure members know about all of the great new things you have available for them. And when you have committee meetings, use that opportunity to make sure those members who are most invested in your organization also know about your new products and initiatives. In-person promotion should happen in small venues as well as large ones.
- Word of mouth: Identify champions to help you spread the word: First and foremost, try to recruit your board and committee members to tell their colleagues. Find out who the most engaged members are on your community platform, and make sure they know about your key products/resources. Identify industry bloggers who have influence and readers, and work directly with them as well.
All of that is work. But if you’ve invested the time, energy and perhaps financial resources to create something, then you owe it to both yourself and your members to put the right effort into an awareness campaign. Better you launch one great product that your members know about and use (and appreciate!) than 20 they don’t know about and therefore never use.
What are your great content promotion ideas? Your success stories? Please share.