How to get an easy win in digital marketing
Chris Gloede, Chief Consultant for Ricochet and past Chief Marketing Officer of the American Bar Association, breaks down the art of connecting with members.
Here’s the thing about successful digital marketing for associations: it can be as tricky to execute for organizations with more than 400,000 members as it is for organizations whose ranks number in the hundreds. Chris Gloede knows this first hand. In the past, he served as chief marketing officer of the American Bar Association (whose annual dues totaled more than $80 million). These days, he is the chief consultant for Ricochet, where he teaches an Association Digital Marketing Academy course on strategic, technical and tactical elements to digital marketers working in associations of all sizes. “Generally, associations are kind of mid-size, with a marketing team of a few people,” he explains. “But often in my class, I have many students who keep reminding me that their marketing team is them — a team of one!”
Big, medium or solo, Gloede believes that a common enemy is thwarting the hard work of many association marketing teams. “I call it ‘Damage to the Email Channel,’” he says. For decades, association marketers had a distinct advantage over consumer product marketers: they knew where their customers lived and knew their email addresses. And so they communicated—a lot. “To this day, you still have organizations that email members three times a day,” Gloede notes, “And so those members have quickly learned to ignore emails from their associations.”
These days, Gloede says, successful marketers have moved away from the email flood tactic and turned to a far more impactful form of marketing: targeted ads that follow members wherever they might be on the internet. “What was kind of impossible just a few years ago is suddenly possible with affordable and practical tools like Feathr,” says Gloede.
Feathr, a digital marketing platform built for the specific needs of associations, solves a problem of many marketing departments: they are run by people with little-to-no actual digital marketing training. “It’s a very odd time for marketers at associations because meetings got flipped on their head last year because of COVID. So meeting planners who were used to planning in-person events suddenly had to do virtual meetings, and they didn’t have the skills to do that,” explains Gloede. “You know, negotiating a hotel contract is very different from setting up an online website and knowing how to reach out to potential attendees on the internet.”
Gloede advises new digital marketers to dip their toes with an affordable and user-friendly platform like Feathr. “We advise our students to choose a definite time period and a singular product, such as an event. Events tend to have a pretty good response rate, and because there is often an extra registration fee, there’s a positive ROI that gets you an easy win in a relatively short amount of time,” Gloede explains. “Then once you’ve got some comfort, you can start getting into what I consider more complicated sales such as membership, which can involve a longer decision cycle.”
Creating engaging ads that get click-throughs is an art in itself. Gloede advises that smaller teams (or those armies of one) utilize low-cost freelancers via sites like Upwork or Fiverr, noting that Feathr’s creative team can build ads that associations can use as-is or utilize as a starting point that they can further customize. “To be effective, we teach our students to have simple calls to action and to use as few words—and even as few characters—as possible.”
No two associations will have the exact same goals and needs, and getting started in digital marketing can be overwhelming due to a huge amount of choices (not to mention huge price tags). That’s why Gloede counsels his students to start with an easy-to-use tool that allows them to grow as they learn. “Feathr is straightforward, and they give support and help when you need it,” says Gloede. “For the first year, many of my clients sign-on for Feathr’s full-service model. And then, by the second year of using it, they’re like, ‘Okay, I can manage this. Got it.’”