Marketing Strategy: Is It Time to Get Off the Bus?

Marketing Strategy: Is It Time to Get Off the Bus?

By Beth Zemach and Bryan O'Donnell

Setting performance metrics and understanding data are key to measuring the success of marketing efforts. If you consistently hit or exceed unit sales or revenue objectives campaign after campaign, you can stop reading now and treat yourself to ice cream for a job well done. On the other hand, if you have adapted messaging, tracked calls to action, and segmented audiences (see Part 1 of this series) but still aren’t seeing results, it’s time to take a deeper look into changing your overall marketing strategy.

The A53 Bus

Illustrious blogger recently shared his wisdom on change, writing, “Your first mistake was getting on the A53 bus, the one that goes crosstown instead of to where you're going. Mistakes like this happen all the time. The big mistake, though, the one that will cost you, is staying on that bus. …. If you really want to get where you set out to go, you're going to have to get off the wrong bus.”

Godin’s message is especially relevant to today’s associations because generating revenue from the sale of products, programs, memberships, annual meetings, and sponsorships is how most fund their missions. If marketing these assets is not effective, organizations risk not being able to achieve their goals. Worse yet, they jeopardize their ability to remain viable in an ever-evolving marketplace. The evidence is clear—if you’re on the wrong bus, it’s time to get off.

Power Your Bus with a New Fuel Source

Consider this example: After surveying its membership, the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses (AANN) discovered the educational marketplace for neuroscience nurses was taking a new direction and recognized they needed to pivot their strategy to keep pace. As a small specialty organization, AANN must invest its resources wisely to fuel its mission. So, when the survey showed members wanted educational content delivered in a digital format, AANN knew it was going to “run out of gas” soon if it continued producing only printed materials. Instead, they developed an e-learning strategy, invested in an online learning management system, and hired an expert on staff to manage the program. AANN initially expected to see a return on investment (ROI) in 5 years, but in actuality, they saw an ROI in only 3 years---proof positive that taking the time to understand their audience and adjust their strategy pays off.  

Build a Bus with More Capacity

What if your industry is changing due to consolidation or new technologies? How can associations still remain relevant and viable and even increase their membership base? One approach is to focus your marketing strategy on rebranding, possibly even changing your name to reflect your organization’s new direction and identity beyond your former niche. A new name and membership strategy could create a much larger audience for your marketing efforts. Take the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses (APHON) as an example. Originally founded as the Association of Pediatric Oncology Nurses (APON), the association discovered its oncology nurse members also possessed a significant amount of hematology expertise. To claim space in that market, the group rebranded its name to include hematology, changing from APON to APHON. Twelve years later, APHON has firmly established itself in the hematology arena, developing multiple hematology-focused educational resources and seeing an increase in its membership numbers. 

Marketing metrics will indicate how agile you can be to improve performance. In some cases, quick adjustments to the messaging in advertisements or the delivery channel might do the trick. In others, a deeper change in strategy may be warranted to reflect hard trends. If so, be prepared to get off the bus and start thinking in a new way. It may take some time but will pay off in the end if you set performance goals and monitor them. And, that’s how you drive your association’s business successfully.

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