The Washington DC Metro area is chock full of professional trade associations. Being headquartered in DC, we were overdue in gathering marketing leaders from the association world for a CMO Roundtable conversation with Doug Anderson of DCA Live. So, four association execs jumped on Zoom with us to talk about the challenges their teams are currently tackling – and the next position they would hire if they had the opportunity.

Here are a few takeaways from our conversation:

A strong value proposition underpins all.

A strong value proposition is the backbone of an association’s success. We hear this theme each time we talk to an association marketing leader – they need to ensure their messaging communicates the ROI of membership at every touchpoint. This is especially critical during challenging economic environments or if an association is raising dues and/or introducing new products and services.

Several participants mentioned they’ve challenged their teams to make their communications crisper and to ensure they’re delivering digestible “news you can use” to their members. They’re big fans of Axios’ Smart Brevity.

To hear more about how a very well-timed overhaul of its value proposition helped one association survive – and even thrive –  during the pandemic, check out our recent interview with Chris Jacobs, CMO of AGB.

You had me at segmentation.

Segmentation is another key focus for association marketing leaders. As one CMO said, “I operate in a $1.4 trillion two-sided marketplace. I need to know my members’ likes and wants.”

Gone are the days when a one-size-fits-all member strategy worked and one could market all services to all members. Today, association marketers are digging into the data to understand how to organize their members into discrete segments, so that they can develop targeted messaging and product/service portfolios that speak to the specific needs of each audience.

[Interestingly, this is exactly what Tina Beaty, SHRM’s CMO, talked about in our recent Ask a CMO interview – how her focus on audience-centricity, honed by many years as a PR pro, informs SHRM’s segmentation strategy.]

AMS platforms are not feeling the love.

Four association CMOs, four different AMS platforms. And not one love affair. It seems no one is fully satisfied with their current AMS, but neither are they ready to embark on the challenge of migrating to a new one. There were varying reasons for this – cost, effort, and existing integrations with other martech platforms.

Who would you hire next? (They may not be the answers you’d expect.)

We were a bit surprised by the answers to the question “if you could hire anyone right now, what position would you choose?” On the surface, they may seem unexpected, but they all connect back to the communication themes mentioned above.

  • Head of web services – your website is critical to communicating your association’s value proposition.
  • Full-time video designer – videos are an essential tool for storytelling and delivering digestible “news you can use” content.
  • Communication strategist – a strong communications platform is the engine that informs all of your member messaging.
  • Marketing whiz kid – well, who wouldn’t want one of these on their team?

Association marketing leaders have the unique challenge of both acquiring and retaining members – and engaging them in between. This requires a compelling value prop – and a great team of people to communicate and execute on that promise. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you build your association’s Marketing dream team, click here.

PS – You can see recaps of our CMO Roundtable conversations on our blog, along with interviews with leading marketing execs in our Ask A CMO series.

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