Sunday, February 14, 2016

6 Tactics Association Marketers Can Learn from the “Silly Season”


The ongoing U.S. Presidential campaign (sometimes called the “Silly Season”) provides multiple examples that associations can consider for their content marketing and membership marketing efforts.
Disclaimer: nothing here should be taken as support for any candidate or either party.

Just as associations seek to recruit or renew members and/or recruit or retain donors, political candidates (and parties) seek to renew past supporters and to recruit voters and/or donors.

1. Target & micro target
  • Rather than mass marketing, many candidates are targeting messages to specific groups. 
  • For example, Senator Ted Cruz hired Cambridge Analyticia to manage a highly micro targeted campaign that delivers specific messages to specific audiences.
  • Associations can learn micro targeting tactics when they see the multi differences among their membership and potential members and then use that knowledge for their member development strategies.
2. Hone/simplify/repeat your message
  • Candidates develop a few core messages that define who they are and attempt to distinguish themselves from other candidates.
  • For example, Bernie Sanders message is: tax the rich; free college; free medical care.
  • In my experience, many associations have great difficulty articulating the benefits of membership in their organization. Most can list the services and programs they offer but few do a great job in describing the benefits of those services.
3. Keep on message
  • Candidates work hard to keep focused on their core messages no matter what questions they are asked. This includes getting their surrogates to convey the same messages.
  • Senator Marco Rubio, for example, was heavily criticized as a “robo candidate” because he kept repeating his key message during a debate prior to the New Hampshire primary.
  • If not careful, associations – especially large ones – can stray from overall organizational messages to individual departmental talking points.
4. Concentrate the campaign
  • While it seems that the presidential campaign lasts forever, it actually represents a series of short, geographic specific campaigns. This allows candidates to concentrate resources in key areas for a short period of time.
  • Associations sometimes see member recruitment and retention as a year-round function. Others find success when they concentrate recruitment and retention for a limited time.
5. Personally connect with voters (members)
  • Most candidates combine thousands of volunteers with hundreds of paid staff to engage supporters and voters in what they call “the ground game.” Campaign strategists call this GOTV which stands for Get Out The Vote. The intent is clear: you can’t win if your supporters don’t vote.
  • If associations concentrate their member recruitment campaigns (See #4), they can concentrate their resources (volunteers and staff) in a focused effort to increase membership.
6. Don’t rely solely on big media
  • While some candidates continue to invest heavily in television ads, many are recognizing that television audiences are shrinking, especially among millennials. (See the story about how smaller ESPN audiences are lowering Disney profits.) ESPN’s paid subscribers have dropped 7.2 million in the last three years ... most coming as people switch from cable to online programming or streaming video.
  • Most (if not all) candidates are using social media to connect to potential supporters and donors.
  • Most associations cannot afford paid television commercials. But, they can learn from candidates on successful marketing via social marketing.
As the political campaign continues over the next eight months, you may want to observe candidates from both parties to see what you might learn and convert to your own membership and/or donor efforts.

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