Association Communications Benchmarking Series

Be the 30 Percent Helping Advertisers Tell Their Full Story

By David Freeman • October 24, 2020

Treat your ad options as a whole, integrated campaign to see sponsor engagement and non-dues revenue increase.

Today’s marketer is stressed out. I know, I work with them every day. Everything they thought they knew about marketing has gone out the window, and I don’t think it’s ever coming back. Monolithic target audiences, like the ones associations provide, are fractured in their media consumption.  Association advertising has always, and always will, command the respect of the marketplace because it is the best path to engage niche audiences. It is tremendously valuable to any marketer. How do association executives make marketers see this in a world of shiny new objects? A world where the options have become so limitless, and the data so relevant and easily deliverable that it makes deciding on one cohesive, unforgettable, targeted and charming advertising campaign feel like a thing of the past? 

In my quest to answer the very questions I present today I revisited a familiar resource: the 2020 Association Communications Benchmarking report. A few data points crystalized in my mind. 

First, the 2020 Benchmarking Report found that 2 out of 3 association respondents use some sort of integrated sales approach to sell sponsorship of their print, digital, and live events, but less than three in 10 say the integrated approach is their default standard approach. Basically, most associations aren’t taking a comprehensive, integrated approach to selling sponsorships.  

Okay, I get it, we want to give advertisers options and let them decide how to market their products… right? Wrong! These marketers are stressed out, looking for a way to tell a story, and they are fending off the telephone calls, emails, and social media harassment of a thousand salespeople, desperate for attention, each one peddling a new and shiny data capability. They don’t have the time to deal with all these options. Period. They want to tell a story. They want to make it cohesive. They want to start a conversation with your members and track their results. 

Here’s another relevant point: In 2020, more than half (55%) of respondents also recognized a serious or significant problem with the lack of revenue generated from their communication vehicles – a cohort 10% higher than in previous years. 

Therein lies the opportunity. Again, marketers are in uncharted territory, and they desperately need to tell your members a story that compels those members to engage with their company. Less than 3 in 10 associations are giving them a way to do this by offering a comprehensive slate of advertising resources. More than 7 in 10 are just throwing out standard, cookie-cutter options. Over half of associations are worried that they have a revenue generation problem regarding their advertising sales. 

The solution for associations is this. Take stock of your options. Understand the unique capabilities that your different communication vehicles provide. Tailor specific packages that lend themselves to a thought leadership campaign, or a branding campaign, or a lead generation campaign. Your marketers come to you with different goals in mind – help them reach whatever goal they have. 

Let your team shine by coming to the marketplace with fully functional solutions that are an answer to the specific needs that todays marketer is struggling with. Don’t let association advertising be just a piece of their campaign, let it be the whole campaign. Never forget that you have the keys to help companies engage with your members, and if your members are their target market, then your members are the most important audience in the world. The data shows most teams haven’t made this pivot yet. Put in a little creative thought into your advertising program and make this fun.  

Come up with packages and add-in discounts that incentivize. Cater to thought leadership campaigns, branding campaigns, support campaigns. Lets stop worrying about our revenue and start hitting the market with a veritable smorgasbord of strategic marketing solutions. 

Download the full 2020 Association Communications Benchmarking Report. This valuable tool explores association communication challenges and what steps should be taken to serve members better through improved communication practices. The survey is open year-round at

About The Author

David Freeman is an account director with Naylor Association Solutions.