The pandemic era has disrupted nearly every industry, and the professional associations community is no exception. Challenges brought on by Covid-19 have forced associations to pivot and innovate in record time, as in-person events, conferences, and professional development courses have given way to a digital-first world.
In the age of digital transformation and information overload, it’s no surprise that associations are struggling to cut through the noise and communicate the value they provide to potential members. The result can be declining association membership rates—particularly among Millennial and Gen Z professionals who expect a seamless digital experience.
It’s critical that associations continuously adapt their membership marketing strategy and embrace innovative ways of engaging with members in order to stay competitive and drive membership growth.
Top Challenges For Association Membership Marketing
For many associations, membership growth continues to lag despite increased budgets for marketing programs. The main obstacle that seems to be driving a number of challenges for successful membership marketing is the ability to communicate efficiently and effectively.
Many associations have increased their communication frequency—adding more touchpoints to all their marketing channels—but the struggle to articulate the membership value proposition remains. Even when using digital channels, there's a limit to how far emails, webinars, and videos coming directly from the brand can take you. Associations must tap into innovative ways to spread the word about their member benefits and the programs and certifications they provide.
Even after membership marketing efforts have been executed, the issue of accurately measuring their effectiveness arises. Reliable and accessible data—the key to optimizing future marketing initiatives—is underutilized or missing from many associations’ marketing programs.
Associations and professional societies need a better source of membership engagement data available to them in order to tweak future campaigns, increase recruitment and retention, and grow the success of their programs.
Modernize Your Association’s Membership Marketing Strategy
Professional development and continuing education are two of the main benefits members expect to receive from associations they’re a part of. And when they do complete a course or program, they expect the recognition from their verifiable certification to be digital and portable—not a paper certificate or simple PDF that carries little to no value in a digital-first world.
Verified digital credentials or badges are a representation of a person’s abilities and competencies, combined with a description of the knowledge and activities it took to earn them. Issuing digital badges not only adds to your association’s value proposition, it also allows you to modernize your digital marketing strategy.
More than just a way to certify skills and proficiency, digital credentials are highly-visual and shareable online—allowing you to accurately assess member engagement, interests, and online behavior through metadata. This 360-degree view of member activity informs actionable insights that help you grow awareness, recruitment, and engagement for your association.
Here are three ways you can supercharge your membership marketing strategy with digital credentials:
1. Strengthen your social media presence
According to Association Advisor Magazine’s Benchmarking Report, more than one-third of respondents strongly agree that social media is a high priority for their organization, however only one in four feel strongly that their organization's social media strategy is well defined.
Social media networks—particularly LinkedIn—are the perfect medium for meeting prospective members where they are and communicating the value of your association. The beauty of digital credentials is that they turn your badge earners into brand advocates capable of reaching exponential new audiences through their personal networks each time they share a badge they’ve earned.
Take for example the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), who partnered with Credly and found that the average earner in their association shared their digital badge on more than one social network. IAB’s SVP of Learning & Development shared the following:
“With two-thirds of our certification holders opting in to display their credential via a badge, we’ve been able to unleash a very cost effective grassroots marketing campaign. Not only are successful certificants promoting themselves, they are also marketing the IAB certification program for us.”
Couple that with the fact that consumers are more likely to trust posts by real people than those created by brands, and it only makes sense to center your association’s social media strategy around organic posts from your credential earners.
2. Leverage the power of the network
To increase the success of your association’s membership marketing, you must get in front of relevant audiences who are primed for conversion. Credly Acclaim is the world’s largest and most connected digital credentialing network, with over 29 million individuals who have earned a credential on the platform.
Those earners are interested in professional development opportunities and are a prime target audience for your membership marketing. Once your digital badges are added to Credly’s network, they can be discovered by prospective members looking to continue their learning journey.
A digital credential with rich metadata lets you highlight the skills behind the badge when a potential earner clicks through, and provides details and links about your specific learning program. The network impact allows you to drive traffic to your website, increase brand awareness, and expose your association to a wider audience.
3. Make data-driven marketing decisions
Despite knowing the importance of data to improve membership and engagement levels— many associations continue to use legacy communications tactics and strategies based on what’s been perceived to work in the past. Using digital credentials to gain insights into your members means you don’t have to guess anymore.
Straightforward and easy to access badging analytics that include the number of shares, clicks to your website, member engagement, and how well your program is performing against industry benchmarks can provide critical insights to your overall membership marketing efforts.
Using verified digital credentials allows your association to objectively track the topics your members are interested in while strengthening communications and enabling informed decision making based on sound data.
Use Digital Credentials to Recruit, Engage, and Retain Association Members
Given the struggles with member engagement over the past several years, professional associations need better visibility into the way members prefer to be engaged and innovative ways to reach them. Incorporating digital credentials into your membership marketing efforts can provide the key to cutting through the noise and communicating your value proposition to prospective members.
Request a demo today to learn more about how digital credentials can help your association recruit, engage, and retain members.