Benefit-driven marketing programs can increase your nonprofit trade association’s non-dues revenue and strengthen affiliate relationships.

By Chris Schriever

Creating a balanced marketing program for industry providers is a valuable way to grow your nonprofit trade association and increase your non-dues revenue by way of advertising, sponsorships and exhibition marketing opportunities. While the marketing landscape may be rapidly evolving, the basics of developing an effective program remain constant. They are what I like to call the Three Keys:

  1. Identify the needs
  2. Create programs that deliver
  3. Follow through

Focusing equally on each of these areas will help you develop a successful program

1. Identify The Needs

What is it your industry’s providers are looking for when it comes to connecting with your members?

While the needs vary, they are grounded within a set of common goals. Your industry providers are looking for more than just basic promotion and branding opportunities – they’re looking for engagement, access and education.

It’s less about building brand recognition—which can be achieved through the more traditional advertising channels such as digital, online and printed offerings—and more about digging a little deeper. Most vendors are looking to access your members in a more meaningful way. The connection to new potential customers and educational insights into the industry is what can set industry providers apart and help them grow their business and overall market share.

With a robust marketing program, your association becomes one of their key access points to a targeted industry. And a successful program facilitates interaction back and forth between members and industry providers.  It facilitates learning between the two and fosters meaningful engagement.

Consider the value of offering focus groups during an annual conference. Bringing members together in a setting where industry providers can learn how to better service the needs of the member is good business for both your membership and those who provide products and services to them.

2. Create Programs That Deliver

How do you deliver Access, Connectivity and Educational Insights?

Let’s break it down.

Access. It’s easy to provide, but deciding how to do so can be tricky. There are many ways to offer access to members. First, consider providing access to members through your email and mailing lists or online, membership-only communities where industry providers have access.

Next, for larger partners, offer an opportunity to further connect with members through more targeted online groups. Remember to limit the functionality and the depth of the exchange as well as the data you provide.

Connectivity. I’m sure you’ve all noticed sponsored stories on your favorite websites and blogs. This is one of the easiest ways of connecting your most astute industry providers with members.  Sponsored content can allow industry providers to share their knowledge and expertise with your members—and build trust with potential customers. Consider how your association can incorporate native advertising or sponsored content within its digital properties.

Another, and perhaps simpler, way of connecting your industry’s providers with members is onsite at conferences and events. Face-to-face networking remains the number one way of closing a sale and increasing sales. Consider building more engagement into your exhibit hall to facilitate.

Education. Beyond encouraging vendors to participate in your educational sessions and events—which ensures that they have the most up to date information and insights—consider adding a presentation stage within your exhibit hall. This is a great opportunity for exhibitors and sponsors to share their expertise, be it about a product, service or something deeper, with your members and conference attendees.

3. Follow Through

How do you stay engaged to keep each industry provider program balanced?

Throughout every step of this process, the most important thing to remember is communication. Listen to the needs of your members and partners, say what you’re going to do to solve them—then do what you said you would do, in the time you said you would do it.

Follow these key steps and begin building a successful marketing program for your nonprofit association.

Want to learn more? Get in touch today.