Not all lead gen avenues are created equal. The source of the lead can play a critical role in its quality and whether or not it ultimately converts into a customer. That’s why dedicating resources to association marketing can be a powerful decision for companies that want to make the most out of their marketing.
Aligning your marketing efforts with a well-established and respected association is an effective way to build awareness and trust for your brand. Additionally, thanks to their learning mindset, association members are more likely to be receptive to your messaging.
As a result, marketers who know how to harness the power of association affiliation are often rewarded with solid and intent-based leads. Although the following companies serve a wide range of industries, they share a similarly successful marketing strategy: aligning their brands with associations to fill their sales pipelines.
We spoke with four experts who have successfully built robust sales pipelines for their companies by aligning their brands with reputable associations in their industry. Following, they share their secrets to success.
A common marketing mistake is to assume your target audience is at the buying stage when only some people are ready to make a purchase, notes Gyi Tsaklakis, president of AttorneySync, a digital marketing agency and website platform for law firms. However, rather than seeing this as an obstacle to AttorneySync's marketing efforts, the company uses the fact that association members often have an education-over-sales mindset to its advantage.
How so? When association members download one of AttorneySync’s guides or ebooks, they don't feel like they're clicking on an ad. In turn, they're more receptive to free educational information. "That makes a big difference," says Tsaklakis. "Thanks to the educational nature of it, you change the relationship from vendor to teacher."
While standing in a tradeshow booth can feel like the epitome of a buyer/seller interaction — thanks to the attendee's expectation that you're going to pitch to them the moment they make eye contact — providing marketing content through an association's online Resource Library positions AttorneySync as a trusted expert, Tsaklakis adds.
“I don't care how creative you are with your swag and stuff, tradeshow marketing is just not the same captive audience as someone who's actively seeking information on a website and then sees something that they like and are willing to provide their contact information for it,” he says. “It's just a totally different experience.”
Aligning AttorneySync's content with legal associations creates a baked-in layer of trust that AttorneySync capitalizes on in its nurturing campaigns. As confirmed through A/B testing, AttorneySync has higher quality leads when follow-up emails include the association's name.
"Leveraging the association branding makes a much more engaged and trusted lead," says Tsaklakis. "Using the association name in the follow-up drives a lot more engagement, response, and conversion than just our own branding."
The biggest difference in AttorneySync’s association marketing efforts relative to other channels like paid ads is that people who are on an association’s website are typically already looking for information. “The intent that people have when they're at the association’s website and the trust that's built into the association, I think those things just tend to drive a better target for us,” says Tsaklakis. “It also results in a lower cost-per-qualified-lead.”
Any time someone downloads AttorneySync content from an association's platform, they will receive an immediate 'Thanks for downloading our guide' response, followed by ongoing additional content offerings such as an invitation to join a website or listen to a podcast.
“Ultimately, it's just nurturing through more content,” says Tsaklakis. “Our position has always been to keep sharing helpful, valuable content. Let them raise their hand to buy when they're ready versus trying to push the pitch too early.”
The most effective way to maximize marketing efforts for navigation application GoodMaps is to ensure the company is closely targeting its sources of influence and demand generation: people affiliated with the transportation sector. GoodMaps needs to be visible to consultants, engineers, construction professionals, and transit authorities.
“Getting those people in front of GoodMaps and understanding what the product is to be able to evangelize it to the transit authorities and agencies themselves is super valuable,” says Amelia Johnson, marketing manager.
The best way to do that, she says, is through transportation industry associations. “An association’s Knowledge Hub becomes a good and efficient way for GoodMaps to capture the entire ecosystem of the community,” says Johnson. “You can’t find anything better than that.”
For example, being associated with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) by having its content featured on APTA's website allows GoodMaps to align its brand with a trusted industry thought leader. The result? High-quality leads that can't be beaten. "We haven't had any other source that's been as good as this, to be quite frank," says Johnson.
Thanks to associations like APTA's ability to serve as a trusted content syndication platform, GoodMaps can easily position itself as an industry thought leader. "Our brand cannot develop and gain trust if we're not able to partner with these different associations to be featured in their Knowledge Hub," says Johnson. “Our relationship with APTA is super important for us to have places where we can have content syndication plans that actually matter. We need to be able to get our content in front of the right eyes."
Growing brand awareness and credibility are two key engagement metrics that event management software company EventMobi makes a point to emphasize throughout its lead nurturing campaigns. Chrissy Gow, director of marketing, says aligning the EventMobi brand with associations is a valuable way to promote both.
With its target markets spread across associations, corporate organizations, and event agencies in North America and Europe, EventMobi creates a lot of educational content to fuel its inbound marketing strategy in addition to pay-per-click ads, social media, and review site content to round out its outbound marketing efforts. Out of all these avenues, associations are a top source of nurturable leads, says Gow.
“We have several nurture streams set up depending on the type of content topics that bring association leads into us so that we can best nurture them,” she says.
The content syndication element available through associations is particularly appealing. “Finding new channels for us to share our content, to get it in front of association event organizers is very important,” says Gow. “Our content pieces housed within association Resource Libraries have been sending us very qualified leads for the past six months.”
She notes educational resources such as white papers, actionable templates, and guides that address top pain points work best within the association market, where members are often explicitly seeking out instructional information. “How to drive revenue from sponsorships is our top-performing bucket,” Gow says.
While traditional top-of-the-funnel advertising is essential to AXDRAFT's overall marketing efforts, the contract management software automation company has found its association marketing efforts excel with mid-funnel content.
AXDRAFT’s target market is in-house legal counsel, law firms, mid-sized businesses, and enterprise businesses that process a minimum of 30 contracts a month. Producing data, ebooks, checklists, and other content directly linked to the buyer’s intent generates high-quality leads that move well through the funnel at associations like the Association for Corporate Council (ACC), says Alina Karnaukh, marketing manager. “By tapping into this community and consistently delivering content that people find valuable and engaging, you increase your odds of winning this B2B race,” she says.
In the association space, you'll also find more qualified targets with less competition than other methods. For example, while people are not likely to see, say, a Google Ad that's not in the first few spots on a search results page, they are much more likely to notice content from their professional association.
"You get a certain degree of recognition by working with an association. People see those association emails. They open those emails. They look out for those emails and engage with the content that associations put out there," says Karnaukh. "There is a more-or-less measurable guarantee that people will respond to our content."
Karnaukh also takes advantage of the opportunity for post-content engagement. As a best practice, AXDRAFT aims to send its first nurture email within the first few hours after a content download, linking to the original piece of content as well as related materials. “We want to stay on their radar. Even if they didn't convert at the first download of the content, there is more recognition with each step,” she says. “So you can gradually build up your expertise, which is a great thing.”
Ready to expand your sales funnel with qualified association-member leads? If your company is like many brands that spend significant time and resources developing industry expertise and thought leadership, you can amplify those efforts by participating in an association's online Resource Library.
A Lead Marvels-fueled Resource Library platform (also known as a “Knowledge Hub” or “Content Hub”) has been been integrated into the website of more than 100 of our association partners. Associations themselves regularly promote their Resource Library content to members through emails and prominent website placement.
The ability for marketers who participate in the Resource Library to filter leads by factors such as company size and location ensures high-quality qualified leads, says AttorneySync’s Tsaklakis. “We're very happy with the Lead Marvels program and the leads generated. We really like the filtering features,” he says. “That's been a very good mechanism for lead quality from our end.”
Sure, not all leads will convert immediately, but by aligning your brand with an association, you can secure a vital channel to syndicate your content and continue to cultivate your company's thought leadership directly within its target market.
You can start strengthening your sales pipeline right away. For more real-life examples of association marketing in action, download our case study on how one company turbocharged its lead gen efforts. Then, click here to schedule a demo today.