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In today’s digital age it’s not only important to have a website, you have to use it to drive your business forward. Embracing web technology does wonders for businesses in general—and associations are no exception.
Blending marketing, communications and technology to develop and distribute a true digital experience was a central theme at this past December’s American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Technology Conference & Expo.
And this was no surprise for us at Vanguard Technology. We might be biased, but we feel a large part of associations’ focus should be on their website and content management system (CMS). Here are some things association marketers should think about:
Let’s face it, you have lots of great programs and services. But to learn about the organization and access those resources, every member (and non-member) starts with a visit to your website. It’s the first point of contact for every interaction with your organization and functions as your storefront.
When in doubt remember this… more people will use your website than come to your meeting. Are you planning and using it accordingly?
Even with all your marketing technology and tools out there, everything points back to your website.
Those well-crafted emails? They direct to a page on your website. Tweets, LinkedIn and Facebook? Back to the website. Even your brochure for your annual conference directs users to your website to learn about your conference and then register.
So when they get there what do they see? Does it reflect the quality and experience you want? If they opened the email on a mobile device are they getting an experience that they can use and is built with responsive web design?
Most of the time when you print a brochure, you do one version for every member—regardless of whether they are a student, active professional or retiree. But with your website and CMS you can break the mold and treat all visitors as individuals.
Options include segmenting visitors with landing pages for unique audiences and content for them (like we did in the website for the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine) or embracing the emerging trend of content personalization (see this article from the June Issue of Associations Now). Either way, the reality is your website is a powerful tool to make sure each member gets what they need as individuals from your organization—not mass produced content that has to serve everyone.
Not every department or staff member has access to your printer so they can print up brochures (or at least they shouldn’t). But you can give every group or staff member access to your website’s content management system to publish content and promote their programs. A good CMS and website puts the power and responsibility back in the hands of the subject matter experts and gives them the tools they need to succeed.
Do they have the skills they need to use your CMS and manage their own content? Are they becoming content marketers ready to own their success?
It seems every association conference includes at least one session about Inbound Marketing and many attendees think they need to go get new technology. However, most orgs already have one of the best tools for Inbound Marketing—their association website.
We find that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the biggest drivers of web traffic for all Vanguard clients (we perform an annual SEO analysis as part of our services plan). The key is to make sure you are following SEO best practices and making sure your content can be found.
Once you get them to your website through good SEO, this is where the nurturing and conversion process can kick in and increase the lifetime value of your members.
So, the bottom line is that for many associations the website and CMS is possibly the most overlooked piece of marketing technology they have at their disposal. We see too many organizations that don’t prioritize the website and don’t take advantage of its full potential as the centerpiece of their marketing technology eco-system.
However, with proper planning, staffing and dedication—every association website, coupled with the right CMS, can become the marketing engine hub that helps associations serve members, support their mission and meet their business goals.
We at Vanguard Technology are the only Sitefinity Platinum Partner to serve the association industry exclusively, while also working exclusively with the Telerik® Sitefinity™ platform. We know Sitefinity inside-out and have built over 45 Sitefinity websites.
Ray van Hilst is Director of Client Strategy at Vanguard Technology, a web development firm specializing in websites for associations. Ray blends 20+ years of marketing experience with modern web principles to create high value websites that help organizations meet their goals through user centric, easy to manage websites. His diverse career includes work with Fortune 500 brands such as Disney and The Home Depot and many non-profits and associations with membership, communications, event marketing and website redesign projects.
Follow him on Twitter @rvanhilst.
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