March 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic is ramping up across the globe. Countries close their borders, businesses shutter for weeks; people don’t know where to turn for goods or how to fulfill their massive amounts of time at home. By April, Comcast reported a 30% spike in peak web traffic. Many businesses scramble to build a web presence just to survive. Some will thrive, some will survive, and some won’t make it.
As association and society leaders, building and expanding our digital footprint becomes the key to surviving the pandemic. How do we make sure we stay in front of our members? How do we continue to show our value? Is it possible to survive, let alone thrive? Here are a few suggestions on where to start.
Evangelize Your Mission Statement: There’s no time like the present to remind your members why they joined, participated, and volunteered. Whether it’s your annual meeting, committee participation, or online forums, every member joined for a reason, and now is the best time to remind them why and extend that relationship beyond COVID-19.
Remind Yourself Who Your Audience Is: The worst thing you can do is miss the mark on appealing to your audience. Now is the time to make sure all of your strategies align with who comprises your membership. Develop a “test market” or workgroup of diverse members to test the appeal of your content.
Be Creative: Now is not the time to continue pushing the same membership renewal message you’ve used for years. Campaignmonitor.com reports open rates are only up 3% over previous years while click-through rates are up 23%. Think about different campaigns you’ve received across various mediums and what is standing out and grabbing your attention.
Refining the Strategy: Many societal changes have occurred since the beginning of the pandemic; therefore, your various marketing strategies likely need some fine-tuning, and some may need a complete overhaul. Some things to consider:
- Inbound Marketing: Drawing members into your community may be harder than it was just months ago based on the new level of ‘noise’ competing for their attention. Some questions to consider include:
- General Branding: If your annual meeting is going virtual, how does the branding need to change? Members will have a different experience with your association/society this year, and differentiating that experience through branding may help when things “return to normal.”
- Social Media: Integrating your social media platforms with your email database may reduce your paid social media budget by targeting members who like, share, or tag your accounts. Make sure paid, and organic posts include a creative headline and attention-grabbing graphic. (Hint: Most social media platforms will reduce your reach and frequency if graphics contain more than 25% text. Facebook doesn’t allow paid ads with more than 25% text.)
- Search Engine: Increased web traffic means search engines are experiencing higher than normal visitors. Not being fully optimized may be hindering traffic. Check your SEO score via one of the many free online tools and make adjustments. If organic search isn’t working well, consider paid search options as a short-term solution while organic scores build.
- Email Marketing: Everyone’s inbox is overflowing with special offers, free trials, and clearance sale announcements. Find creative ways to stand out from other emails, and don’t be afraid to try personalization.
- Content Marketing: Insightful and relevant targeted content will attract and retain the community. Consider publishing an e-book, blog, articles or releasing pieces of content behind your membership wall.
Key Performance Indicators and Metrics: Campaign and marketing analytics are crucial when evaluating the success of a campaign, but you’ve likely noticed they look a little different now, or the data is overwhelming. Even giants like Google are reevaluating the way they measure campaign success. They have put the brakes on short-term campaign KPIs, major strategic projects, and unrealistic timelines. Remember, the world is evolving at a more rapid pace than usual due to these abrupt changes.
Last, remember to breathe. In a time of uncertainty, we tend to look for the doom and gloom without taking a step back to admire some of the work being done. There are not pandemic crisis management, organizational management, financial management, or even marketing guides in existence. Considering the last pandemic was nearly 70 years before the internet was invented, give yourself a pat on the back for a job already well done.
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