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Emily Nash

By: Emily Nash on May 17th, 2017

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Using Digital Advertising To Grow Membership

Email Marketing | Marketing Automation | digital advertising


I might receive some push back from this, but there is another way to reach your audience and it doesn’t involve email. But get this, you don’t have to give up your hard-earned email list just yet. Sound contradictory? Let me explain. I recently conducted a webinar on digital advertising and discussed digital advertising and new ways of reaching your members and potential members. Here is a follow up article to that webinar.

Digital advertising is investing marketing dollars into digital channels to measure and grow ROI. It’s exciting because it’s where your potential members are spending their time online: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Search, and Snapchat. Chances are you have some sort of presence online, but are you capitalizing on the rich data these platforms house and offer as segmentation for targeting audiences with your messaging and ads? This is a different mind-set for the typical association that generally operates with “owned media” as opposed to “paid media”. Digital advertising is also exciting because it reaches your members where they are, when they are in the moment of wanting to know, wanting to go, or wanting to buy; also known as “micro-moments”.

There have been many changes and evolving types of ads and segmentation within digital advertising channels over the years. It is important to take away that your visual ad can be set up in many engaging ways. Facebook and Instagram offer carousel ads, video, photo, and other forms of rich media for advertising. Ads can also be set up for page likes, post engagement, brand awareness, local awareness, and more. Beyond demographics, ads can target users by behavior (for example likelihood to buy a home in next 6 months, likelihood to graduate college in next 3 months, etc.) It is scary to think about how much these social media platforms know about us, but highly useful with a marketing mindset.

Perhaps, the most appealing social platform for associations is LinkedIn because it is best suited for business to business advertising. With both LinkedIn and Facebook there is an option for “customer matching” where you can import an email list and target your ads that way. Think of it as creating a seamless omni-channel experience across multiple touch points that guides your target audience along the buyer’s journey during one of their “micro-moments”.

If I had to make the case for why associations need to spend money on digital advertising, I would say the ability to create a highly targeted and segmented audience is number one. Next, any amount of budget you spend with online advertising can be adjusted for optimization by day and time. For example test sending ads on LinkedIn only weekdays until midday when the site is most heavily in use.  Also, with digital advertising, associations can begin to cast a wider net than what is currently in their databases. This strategy helps to fill the top of the funnel with the huge potential that the millennial audience poses. Finally, digital advertising analytics gives insight to engagement, website visits, conversions and ROI.

To take a peek into what other associations are doing we need to only go so far as our recent 2017 State of Digital Marketing in Associations report. In that report, a key takeaway is the sharp increase of Facebook and Twitter usage year over year. Email marketing still turned up at the top of the list in the digital portfolio.

For those associations leading the way in their digital transformation and adopting marketing automation, digital advertising in combination with automation makes for a powerful combination. Between capturing a user's digital footprint with automation and driving new leads to your website with digital advertising, insights and growth opportunities grow exponentially when both are utilized.

There are great use cases for associations with digital advertising. Associations can promote their events, run membership drives, advertise continued education courses and webinars, and create better membership engagement. Traditionally, all of these goals are achieved through email marketing. The purpose of this webinar and article is point to more channels for engagement and opportunities for growth.

If the only blocking point to promoting your event through digital advertising is the expertise to carry it through, then outsourcing is an effective solution. It’s a cost-effective way to fill in the gaps where your current team might be better utlized somewhere else. It allows your team to do what they do best, while an agency does what they do best. By partnering with a consultant or an agency, you get the expertise of a professional with industry knowledge, and campaign execution experience with little down time. 

For more great info on what associations are doing in the digital space, check out our 2017 State of Digital Marketing in Association report.

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For the webinar on Digital Advertising in Associations, watch it on demand.

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About Emily Nash

Emily has 10 years of digital marketing experience, with 3 years solely serving associations, where she has consulted on a number of integrated marketing solutions. She is passionate about delivering consulting services to associations to solve their unique challenges. She is accustomed to working with for-profit, mainstream marketing technologies such as email and marketing automation platforms, and applying them specifically to meet association needs so they can flourish and prosper.