Professional associations abound in the U.S., and despite pandemic setbacks that forced many association in-person events to go virtual, professional member organizations continue to thrive because they provide highly valued support for their members, from networking and advocacy to education and career development.
According to a recent report by Community Brands, 56% of members say that associations are more important now than ever, and loyalty scores are consistently steady. Despite the misconception that member rolls are primarily comprised of older members, according to research from Buzz Marketing Group, membership in a professional association is perceived as a highly important path for career development among millennials and Gen Z as well.
Consider these statistics:
Associations exist in every industry. According to some estimates, there are approximately 22,000 national associations in the U.S. and another 115,000 that are regional or local in scope. Association marketing, whether in the form of event sponsorship, print or digital advertising, or Resource Library sponsorship, can be a highly effective way to grow revenue for businesses that depend upon actively engaged professional buyers for growth.
Following are five benefits of aligning your brand with a professional association.
Gartner identified the Framework for Ideal Customer Profile Development (ICP) in 2019 as a “critical, strategic document” for marketers. Since then, the ICP has become a buzz-worthy concept utilizing qualitative and quantitative data to predict customer buying patterns by laser focusing on industry location and size, business model, annual revenue, number of employees, issues affecting the company, and the products and/or services the company most need to propel forward.
Supporting an association in your targeted industry can give you immediate access to your ICP — and not just to promote your solutions. By actively participating in a community of ideal customers, you’ll gather important information about what makes them tick — what are their challenges and aspirations, what keeps them up at night, what trends are impacting their businesses, and how they see their businesses evolving in the future.
Armed with this vital intelligence, you can fine tune your own messaging and solutions to align more closely with the needs of your ICP.
Professional associations are trusted thought leaders in their space — They advocate on behalf of their members, they’re often cited in the media, they publish research in their industry, and they are highly trusted by professionals who rely on their association membership for career development.
When you align your brand with an association, you establish credibility and build trust among the organization’s members. And by actively participating in the association community by, for example, speaking at an association event or promoting your own thought leadership content, you will elevate your own thought leadership as well and, in the process, grow trust, an essential ingredient in the B2B buying cycle. According to Edelman, the majority of B2B buyers say that thought leadership is a more reliable way to assess a company’s trustworthiness than its product guides and marketing materials.
Unlike other marketing tactics, association marketing has a narrower reach. When you align your brand with an association, you’re getting in front of a targeted group of members who are actively engaging with their professional community.
Compared to trade publication subscribers, associations are not as likely to have “inactive” members lingering within their database. Some associations may also offer segmentation capabilities, allowing you to drill deeper into their database to target a narrower niche. And, when you promote your thought leadership content within an association Resource Library, you have the ability to add filters to your registration form to get more qualified leads.
By narrowing your target to your ICP, you increase the efficiency of your marketing spend along with your ROI. Association advertising also tends to take place within a less competitive ad environment, increasing the likelihood that your brand will stand out.
In contrast to other forms of advertising, when members are engaging with their association, they are in a “professional mindset.” Unlike paid search or social programs, for example, association sponsorship ensures your message gets in front of the right people at the right time and when prospective buyers are most likely to be receptive to your promotional messaging.
Tifiny Swedensky, marketing director for Great Legal Marketing, explains, "Social media just doesn't give us the volume we need, and it doesn't seem to scale. . . . Alternatively, when they're looking at a trusted professional website within [their] industry, they're thinking about their business. It's just a different mindset.”
When it comes to associations, networking isn’t simply a member benefit — It's a benefit for association sponsors as well. Unlike traditional advertising which tends to be more passive in nature, the most effective association sponsorship programs involve active participation within the professional community.
Speak with an association’s leaders to get an understanding of how you can best engage the community and share your own expertise. There may be openings for speaking engagements at an in-person event. And associations with Resource Library marketing programs will allow you to share your thought-leadership content with the community.
When you provide value to the association community, you’ll likely encounter an increased receptiveness among members who have needs that align with the solutions you offer.
Association events, both digital and in-person, can be a great source for warm leads. According to Chief Marketer, nearly 60% of B2B marketing professionals say that conferences are the best place for lead generation. They offer the best of both worlds — the opportunity to collect data and for meaningful, face-to-face interactions.
A live event only lasts a matter of days, however, and your business development needs likely span the entire calendar year. To solve for that, we’ve partnered with an estimated 100 different associations in a wide range of industries to offer lead generation opportunities through our Resource Library program.
At Lead Marvels, we partner with associations to create Resource Libraries for associations. A Resource Library promotes your thought-leadership content and resources directly to engaged association members. Resources can include white papers, guides, ebooks, reports, research, podcasts, on-demand webinars, and more.
The content and resources in a Resource Library are free to association members and typically require users to complete a short form in order to download the material from a 3rd-party sponsor or provider. When a member registers to download your brand’s content, they become a lead for your business.