White papers, blogs, social media posts, and more, seem to be the simplest forms of content marketing, so it shouldn’t be hard, right? Turns out, we may be underestimating the true effects of this type of marketing, especially if your association doesn’t have a strategy, plan, and purpose for the content.
Let’s start with the basics. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) defines content marketing as "a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action."
This is more than just churning out articles, though. Associations need to create demand for their events, advocacy, and news. Content marketing can be a way to provide numerous opportunities for your organization and be a key part of building relationships with members.
Within your association management system, you should already have key data points – information – on your members and prospects. In addition to that information, you should have relationships built with those current members, know what makes them tick, and what they’re interested in. Put the data and relationships together and you have the secret sauce to create content that has value to not only your membership, but to your industry.
You want to spend time planning out what you want your content marketing initiative to look like and you want it to achieve. Consider these guidelines during that planning process:
- Know the reason why. Without having reasoning as to why a content marketing initiative should begin, it won't succeed. Joe Pulizzi, author of Epic Content Marketing, states that "before you start any initiative or look at your current initiatives, you've got to ask yourself why you're doing it, and develop a strategy for how you're going to accomplish that goal."
- Determine what to discuss. The content that your association creates needs to be interesting and useful to your audience. Note that it is OK to gauge different audiences; whether its members, new member prospects, legislators, community leaders or any other group affiliated with your association.
In short, the content produced needs to engage the readers, convince them to continue reading, and maybe even take some action with it. You want to be able to tell a story; explain how you got where you are and how you're helping others to get to the same destination.
- State your end goal. Gaining and keeping a member is one of the largest goals of content marketing for associations, and you do so by creating value. For example, instead of targeting an audience for new membership inquiries, show them how a lasting relationship will be developed and that members can trust your association. Include as many members in your content as possible – use testimonials, case studies, and more! The use of real-world examples will allow more relevancy, which will help paint that picture.
- Keep the buzzwords alive. Associations already have numerous resources of relaying content to members, so using specific keywords/buzzwords is essential to getting the voice that their attracted to, which will ultimately send the right traffic to your association. Don’t know the latest keywords and buzzwords within the industry? Poll your membership, as they are the best asset to your research.
- Measure tactics. With a new content marketing initiative in place, associations will reap the benefits whether it’s with new member inquiries, retention rates increasing, high engagement rates, or even non-dues revenue. Not all the benefits will be tangible, though. Remember to pay attention to the voices of your members, as they will let you know whether the content is valuable.
With everything discussed above, your association will be on its way to being the go-to place for information. That said, it can’t happen without a strategy and plan in place. In fact, a survey conducted by CMI showed "marketers with a documented content marketing strategy are more effective than those who don't have a written strategy."
Get together with your staff and figure out what resonates best with your members and prospects, so that you can be the leader within the industry.