Striking a Balance: Crafting Your Agile Association Marketing Strategy

Written by Libby Lane

Senior Marketing Manager, Bostrom

This article first appeared in Association Forum’s Forum Magazine in May 2022.

I recently asked my fellow Bostrom marketing colleagues to send me a buzzword that comes to mind when they think of what it takes for them to execute successful marketing strategies on behalf of their association clients:

Agility. Streamline. Strategize. Balance. Organization.

If you are reading this article, I’m going to go out on a limb and bet your job is focused on association communications, membership, engagement or programming, and perhaps these buzzwords strike a chord of relatability within you when thinking of executing your marketing strategies. Working in a multi-client environment at an association management company (AMC), our marketing team is driven by the philosophy of agility and balance – especially when it comes to marketing strategies for the clients we are proud to support. Our flexible, data-driven approach to association marketing gives us the leverage and creativity we need to quickly adapt to the fast-paced, digital environment that we live in.

Allow me to dig deeper into what’s behind these buzzwords and share some tips and tricks our marketing team uses to build engaging and impactful experiences for our clients.

Agility: The Power of the Agile Integrated Marketing Plan

An agile Integrated Marketing Plan (IMP for short) serves as the foundation which all of our clients’ annual marketing strategies are built upon. There are many effective tools and platforms out there to assist you with building out your client’s annual marketing calendar. Our team utilizes to build out and project manage all facets of our clients’ marketing initiatives, most importantly, the IMP.

Once a year, identify the concrete goals that you have to hit (membership recruitment/renewals, member engagement, conferences, education, certification, etc.) and build those campaigns out to drive goals. Tying all of these communications to SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals is key to measuring outcomes. Think strategically about the channels you are using for each initiative. Whether it’s e-marketing, social, or video, the volume and style of each channel will vary depending on the strategic goals identified in the IMP. Developing an IMP to lay out your marketing strategy gives you a clear view of your communications plan so you can effectively control the flow, streamlining, and release of your messaging.

By approaching IMPs as agile and nimble, we can be flexible as new initiatives, changes to project timelines, and budgetary considerations develop over the course of the year. Your IMP should be evergreen; with strong roots in the ground, but always bending and flexing along with your association’s journey.

Streamline: Two Birds, One Stone.

How often should you send member communications? We get this question all the time. As much as members want to hear from and engage with their associations, one of the worst things marketers can do is overwhelm their audiences with too much communication. Bombarding folks with too many e-blasts in a short period might lead to a dreaded click of the unsubscribe button…every passionate marketer’s worst nightmare!

Sending anything beyond an average of two e-blasts/week starts to give me heart palpitations, although there are just some weeks where many, many different messages need to get out. In those scenarios, I always try to see where it might make sense to combine messages into one universal blast or segment the audiences who receive the messages. Can I combine upcoming webinars and events into the monthly newsletter? Can I consolidate annual conference highlights, programming, and special events into a handful of dynamic conference-related e-blasts? Could this message be crafted as a social post vs. an e-blast? Repeat after me: streamline, combine, consolidate.

Strategize: The Art of Segmentation

Your list segmentation strategy should align with member types and the value proposition within those types. When in doubt, always take it back to the value prop and strategic goals your leadership team has identified as the pillars of their association. Is there a way you can tweak an e-blast so that it speaks to both members and non-members? Is there a way you can work smarter, not harder? How can you create an e-blast once and modify the language to repurpose it for another list? This will provide you with a roadmap for successfully segmenting your lists and crafting your messaging content strategy for each specific audience.

Balance: Mix Up Your Content!

Finding a balanced content mix is critical to keep messaging fresh, relevant, and exciting for your audience. Whether it’s video, social, whitepaper, or website content, every platform serves a different purpose and carries its specific tone. Aligning your content channels with the goals identified in the IMP will deliver value, reach your target audiences and meet/exceed goals.

Our team goes straight to the analytics to give us clues into how our users are interacting with content, which ultimately helps us identify what channel will work best for messaging. I always associate analytics with reading tea leaves; let them serve as conduits for seeking truth, offering advice, and forecasting the future.

Organization: What’s in Your Toolbox?

I love hearing about the latest-and-greatest tools that my colleagues swear by to get them through their days and make them more proactive. Case in point: I immediately purchased a RocketBook upon reading Ben Kalkwarf’s response in the recent Association Forum article, “Work/Life: Game-Changing Technology”. Love it!

Here are some other tools that our Bostrom team uses daily to keep us proactive, productive, and sane:

Marketing Automation: Campaign automation has freed up our team’s time and energy to focus on strategy and the development of additional creative marketing initiatives. Our clients use many digital marketing platforms, but some of the most user-friendly for automation are Higher Logic/Informz, Constant Contact, and Emma.

Hootsuite: A one-stop shop for keeping your social media marketing management smooth and streamlined.

Canva: A robust and user-friendly tool to create engaging and effective designs that amplify your visual content.

Grammarly: Because we all need an extra pair of editing eyes to ensure messaging is proper and polished.

Milanote: Excellent platform for team collaboration, visual brainstorming, and staying organized.

Even though there is much more to crafting an agile marketing strategy than just buzzwords, when taking the next step in your marketing journey, I wish you:

Agility: To lean into disruption alongside our rapidly changing world, innovating, growing, and transforming your path toward new journeys and opportunities.

Streamline: To find areas where you can simplify and consolidate processes and messaging, increasing efficiency and productivity.

Strategize: To prioritize, set goals and act upon the passion and creativity that fuels your fire and makes you an awesome force to be reckoned with. (You are. Don’t forget it.)

Balance: To strike a perfect blend of dynamic content that will excite and engage your audience.

Organization: To stay on track by utilizing tools, methods, and techniques that will keep you focused, relaxed, and set up for success.

Now go out and strike the balance of crafting amazing and inspiring marketing strategies for your associations and their members!

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