Inbound Marketing: Exciting New Opportunities to Start a Relationship with Members, Customers, and Attendees

April 9, 2015   |   Vol. 14   |   Issue 4
Inbound Marketing: Exciting New Opportunities to Start a Relationship with Members, Customers, and AttendeesThere is an emerging new and effective marketing technique that growing numbers of associations employ to introduce potential members, customers, and attendees to their organization.

It goes by a variety of names including Content Marketing, Online Lead Generation, or as we will refer to it here, Inbound Marketing. But whatever you call it, this technique opens an online channel where prospects can raise their hand to start a relationship or even make a purchase. Often it involves sharing some free, high value content in exchange for a prospect providing contact information and an opt-in for future communication.

Inbound marketing helps you reach new prospects whom you may not have interacted with before and who come to you in search of the very information and products that you produce.

Some of the inbound marketing channels that associations use include:

  1. Paid Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – Search Ads appear when a prospective member enters a word or phrase into a search engine that matches one of your keywords. This is effective because you are responding with your information directly to a seeker who wants some piece of information that your organization possesses.
  2. Content Ads – Whereas search ads are driven by keywords, content ads are shown on other websites offering information that relates to your products and services. When the prospective member’s reading interests are a match to what you have to offer, your ad is displayed.
  3. Social Media Advertising – Many social media sites offer millions more impressions than you will ever achieve with traditional direct marketing efforts. LinkedIn allows you to target ads to very specific job skills, titles, and industries. And Facebook allows you to match your current members to potential prospects who are on the site and display ads to these look-alike audiences.
  4. Google and Facebook Remarketing – After all of your efforts to drive a prospective member to your website, you may be shocked at how many will abandon your join shopping cart before completing the transaction. One of my clients has over 10,000 shopping cart abandons from their join page each year. Remarketing efforts – following your visitors around the internet and Facebook with ads – encourages those visitors to return to your site to gain more information and perhaps complete their transaction.

Here is an example of how an association can take advantage of these tools. One organization served by MGI has nearly 3 million potential members in their field. They do not have the resources to reach all of these prospects with direct mail and they do not have opt-in approval from the vast majority to send out an email. However, they do have content that prospects want and a very attractively priced monthly installment option available for the prospect to join the organization.

So this association has modeled their current membership file against Facebook members who look like their members and then displayed ads to these prospects. The results have been impressive. Millions of prospective members have seen the ads, thousands have clicked on them, and after viewing membership information, hundreds have joined each month and been tracked back directly to Facebook as the source of the lead.

Another client in the financial services industry had a goal of growing membership globally. However, they were not able to find international prospect lists to use for recruitment and they determined that they would only be able to provide membership benefits in English. The solution was to offer practical tips and tools that would be applicable to financial service professionals through online search and content networks. Prospects who provided their contact information in order to get the content demonstrated a need for the association’s content and their proficiency in English – the two characteristics sought by this organization. Thousands of financial professionals worldwide have opted into a relationship with this association through the program.

Inbound marketing offers some exciting advantages when added to an association’s marketing portfolio.

  • Coverage – Online inbound marketing gives you access to every corner of the world where there is an internet connection.
  • Flexibility – With these inbound efforts, you can adjust and allocate funds on a daily basis to maximize response.
  • Speed – You can literally have digital ads up and running and producing responses in a day.
  • Measurement – You can know impressions, clicks, and with good tracking the number of members joining and customers buying.
  • Cost-effectiveness – Many more prospects will see your ads than will click on them, but unlike many marketing channels, you typically pay for clicks not impressions.

The most important aspect of optimizing each of these inbound sources is thinking through the tactics on how to gain an opt-in in order to follow-up with anyone who does come to your landing page or website. Using inbound marketing allows you to track visitors from many sources to identify what offer and source produced the best response.

Developing an inbound marketing program is not at all meant to eliminate traditional tools such as direct mail, email, and telemarketing. If these tools are productive, by all means continue to use them. But at some point even these established methods will see diminishing returns. You need to find new, untapped audiences for the information and services that you offer and inbound marketing has proven to be an excellent tool to assist with reaching new prospects.

For more information on inbound marketing, contact Tony Rossell at or call him at 703.706.0360.

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