Successful Sales Series: Testing Out New Marketing Tools

By • December 20, 2019

So, you made the huge decision to build a sales department for your association. Now what?

There are a lot of valuable marketing tools out there, and it can be intimidating to choose which to implement in your sales department. What makes them less intimidating is how you approach them.

“You’re looking at the whole cake like you need to eat it all, but take it one bite at a time,” said Elyce Gronseth, marketing supervisor at Naylor Association Solutions.

She likes to keep this advice in mind when she is feeling overwhelmed in any given situation.

When looked at on an individual basis, many of these suggested association marketing tools are quick, easy and fairly cheap to get started. Take the vital tool of KPIs, for example.

Setting your key performance indicators (KPIs) is a crawl step that follows through every other step of the way. Before you attempt implementing any other tools, your association’s internal team should decide what data points you will use to measure the success of sales and marketing efforts, Gronseth said. Designating which metrics signal success to your association will allow you to ask yourself throughout the process, “Are we on pace to hit our success metric goals?”

This is what campaign analysis is all about – figuring out what is working and what isn’t so you can then retool things if you need to.

Start with these tools:

Social Media

Social media is one of the easiest tools to start working with since your members are already engaging with these platforms. It is an ideal gateway tool to try out before other marketing tactics that require more investment. If you want to get a feel for what members might pay for, Gronseth recommends trying fun and engaging tactics like polls and quizzes. Questions to consider asking: “Would you pay for this type of event?” or “Does this webinar topic interest you?” Once you have an idea of what is piquing your members’ interests, you will have a better idea of how to successfully use other tools.

Nurture Campaigns

Nurture campaigns are another essential tool to determine what is working and what isn’t. A nurture campaign is a type of email campaign that is based on a prospect’s behavior. Targeted information that relates specifically to the prospect is presented using previously gathered data. The goal of one of these campaigns is to distribute relevant information to the prospect so that he or she is more likely to engage with your association.

It’s all about knowing your demographic and figuring out what is the best way to get to them. For example, in email campaigns, you should test different email styles (such as a letter style versus a nurture style) to see which is going to appeal to different clients.

Having already established nurture campaigns, associations can then feed extra information or sales tidbits to members that may tip the scales with regard to more event registrations, paid community members, or filled sponsorships without members feeling like they’re getting a sales email, Gronseth said.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is another tool that often feels heavy to association professionals, but realistically can be as simple as identifying a problem that your association’s members have and writing an article about how to solve that problem, Gronseth explained. Once members feel like they’re getting valuable information from their association, they are more likely to engage with all of the extra things that the association offers.

“The more you come across as a trusted resource that is aware of the problems that your membership faces, the better the whole sales cycle is going to work. Each of these sales pieces is going to be even stronger,” Gronseth said.

Account-based Marketing

Imagine pursuing a potential client for years but are never able to get a hold of, no matter how many times you call or email. You then launch an account-based marketing campaign and, within a week, three people from that company call you back.

And it only cost you $5.

Account-based marketing is “a form of marketing that uses highly targeted, personalized campaigns to win over particular accounts. Rather than relying on blanket campaigns that are meant to appeal to an entire market, account-based marketing treats individual accounts as markets in their own right,” according to the Information Technology Services Marketing Association.

This is a real example of how account-based marketing (ABM) benefits Naylor’s association clients, Gronseth said. ABM campaigns can be a very effective way to reach your target demographic (such as advertisers wishing to reach association audiences) through digital marketing. Outsourcing ABM services is also an option that helps organizations avoid having to hire a ton of new staff.

Talking to other associations that have experience employing ABM tools can be extremely helpful when attempting to establish an ABM plan. You can get answers from sister associations who are already using these tools successfully, or you can get answers from other association professionals you meet when attending conferences. Consider asking questions such as:

  • “This is something my sales department is starting to do. Is yours already doing it?”
  • “What are your benchmarks for success in terms of sales?”
  • “Year over year, what are you expecting your performance to increase by?”


Have you ever been looking at a pair of shoes on your favorite store’s website on your smart phone, only to have an advertisement for the same shoes pop up on your Facebook feed while on your laptop later that day? That’s programmatic advertising.

“Programmatic marketing is automated bidding on advertising inventory in real time, for the opportunity to show an ad to a specific customer, in a specific context,” according to Smart Insights.

Sometimes outsourcing to a company like Naylor is a more feasible option for associations, according to Gronseth. Programmatic advertising and retargeting are useful tools that can have huge pay-offs, but becoming knowledgeable about how to efficiently navigate programmatic ad network buys can be time consuming. During the crawl phase, your association can outline your retargeting plan, such as determining which geographic regions could benefit most from whatever you’re offering. Then you can outsource the actual implementation of that plan because the execution of the plan takes more work than your staff can handle.

“I recommend outsourcing the bulk of implementation so you can focus on strategizing,” Gronseth said, “because you know your members best.”

Eventually, your team can determine how a given programmatic ad plan worked out and then later reconsider training your own team about how to implement programmatic advertising and retargeting yourselves.


It’s important to remember that marketing your association’s advertising opportunities isn’t something your newly-developed sales department needs to do on its own. There are others that can help you dip your toes in the water, or take the full dive for you. Naylor has a knowledgeable staff that has experience successfully implementing each of these tools.

Whether you choose to try out some of these tools on your own or outsource, take one bite of cake at a time, and you’re sure to find success in a few of these tools for your new sales department.


About The Author

Savannah Phillips is a marketing intern with Naylor Association Solutions.