Developing Your Association’s Online Marketing Strategy

By Association Adviser staff • November 5, 2012

By Association Adviser staff

As we head into that time of year when vacations, stifling
heat and a relentless stream of “Out of Office” replies give us a few moments
to pause and catch our breath, we thought we’d tackle some of the most
frequently asked questions sent in by you, our readers.

We’re often asked about ways associations can improve and
expand their online presence. With the help of Dan Seligson, president of the
Marketing Committee for the Kellogg Graduate School Alumni Association in New
York and past president of the Association of Internet Professionals, we’ll
shed some light on how you can improve your presence strategically, rather than
just blasting out as many tweets, posts and “Likes” as you can muster.

  • Free tools help you increase your online market
    potential by hundreds of percentage points.
  • You can easily see exactly what your competitors
    are doing and learn from them.
  • Don’t guess about what makes a website good or
    bad. You can survey users for as little as a penny per test.

Dan, you’re an
e-commerce specialist who’s worked with History Channel, Walt Disney’s Internet
Group, Best Buy and the non-profit aid organization, Americares. What’s the
toughest thing for online marketers and web developers to understand about
drawing the right kind of traffic to their sites?

Everyone with a website knows that online marketing isn’t so
easy. We all want to improve our online
operations, and we have all been sold the same false bill of goods. Intuit, the
makers of QuickBooks, have a new website creator that they proudly advertise on
national TV and on their homepage. Intuit’s claims that it’s easy: 1) Choose a
design; 2) Customize it; 3) Show the world. Intuit isn’t the only company
offering those services; enter “Website Builder” into Google and you will get
28 million

AA: Yet, with 28 million
pages of solutions, how can you really develop your online marketing plan?

DS: There is no magic to it. It just takes some elbow
grease. Follow the same principles that catalogers and direct marketers have
been using for more than a century.

AA: Can you give us some basic guidance
to that process and share some tools that might help?

DS: Here’s a 10-step guide that I like to use for both for-profit and
not-for-profit organizations:

Step 1: Define Your
Industry (Industry Framing)

What game is your organization actually in? Who are you
playing against? Seems obvious, but just ask your exec team and see if they
agree. The best place to define your industry is in a war room. Brew the
coffee, get lots of carbo snacks and lock in your top decision makers. At the
Association of Internet Professionals, we entered our war room thinking that we
were in the “Trade Association” industry and came out realizing that we were in
the “Executive Education” industry. Our
members wanted certification and to learn the latest thinking. That’s what we
provided, much more than any other member benefit. From that, everything
changed. Our competitors weren’t the online networking organizations, they were
colleges, technical schools and groups like the American Management

Step 2: Google Your
Competitors (Competitor Analysis)

Google can tell you amazing things about your business and
your competitors. Let us take a look at our competitor, the American Management
Association. Who is sending them visitors? By adding “link:” in front of their
web address, I get a list of every site that has links to the American
Management Association’s site.

Literally, type “link:amanet.org” into Google, you will get
512 results of links that lead to the AMA’s site. They include a lot of
university career sites, the MBA Alliance, some consulting firms and the
National Career Development Association, an interesting list of relationships!
Do this for your competitors to see what shows up.

You can also pay a nominal fee to sites such as Spyfu.com or Compete.com to see exactly how much traffic and what keywords your competitors
are using.

Step 3: Google
Yourself (Online Media Distribution)

Now compare your list of inbound links to your competitors’
by Googling “link:” and your web address. (Don’t use any spaces.) Document the
differences between you and your competitors.
Decide if you want to develop some of those relationships for yourself.

Step 4: Use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to Determine Your Market Size

Now you want to enter the following phrase into Google:
“Google AdWords keyword tool.” This will take you to a Google tool that will
tell you how many people are typing in a given keyword. It will even look at
your site and suggest keywords for you. How many people are searching for your
association and your competitors? Which search terms are more popular?

Step 5. Define Your
Keyword List

When you look at the keyword tool for the American
Management Association site, AMAnet.org, you can see that the phrase “Training
IT” (as in Information Technology) gets 20 million searches a month and “Seminars
IT” gets 660,000. In this case, using the word “training” in your online
marketing plan will increase your market size by 3,000 percent over the word
“seminar.” Use Google’s keyword tool to create and prioritize your list of
important keywords.

Step 6: Change Your
Site Copy

Having seen which words are more popular than others, it’s time to review your website copy to match it with these popular keywords, and fit those keywords where it makes sense. Show your
keyword list to your web team, and ask how they can incorporate those phrases
into the page titles, addresses, tags and content.

Step 7: Do Some Math

Now that you have chosen your keywords, count how many
searches you could get. The total number of searches for IT training and
similar keywords is about 100 million per month. Divide that number by 10,000 and you get a
good estimate of your potential business from Google. In this case, there is a
potential for 10,000 new orders a month for IT training products. How much is
that worth to you? Now you can start to budget against that potential.

Step 8: Ask Grandma

Everyone who creates presentations or written documents
knows that you can’t edit your own work. It’s the same with the web–you can’t
see your own site. Consider resources such as Creative Good (www.creativegood.com) or Amazon’s
Mechanical Turk site (www.mturk.com) and create an account. There, you can get
people to perform tasks on your site and tell you about their experience for as
little as a penny! Use their feedback to improve the design of your site.

Step 9: Start Bidding

Set up an AdWords account and start bidding on those
keywords. See how many sales you can actually get.

Step 10: Rinse and Repeat

Now you start the optimization process–change your landing
pages. These are the first pages that customers see when they land on your
site. Are you making them an offer, providing an incentive to take action?
Change the incentive, adjust the layout and run the ads again. Test quick,
adjust and test again. Cycle through steps 8-10 over and over. Click on your
competitors’ ads and let yourself learn from what they are doing.

AA: Any final thoughts
for our readers?

DS: In short, there is no need to be inventive. Use the sites mentioned to
leverage your competitors’ work and to test your own.

Helpful sites/searches:

Google Search: “Link:domain.com”

Google AdWords




Association Adviser readers can also email Dan at [email protected] to request a free test.

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