Too often, associations produce content just to fill space. They know they need words on their website, or images on their Instagram, and regular posts on their blog. This focus on quantity over quality results in content that falls flat, and association members that become underwhelmed by your member resources.
The goal of your association's content strategy should not just be to produce the critical mass to maintain your digital presence - but to leverage your digital presence to maximize your reach and impact. Ultimately, content should be a tool to support larger association goals and operational strategies.
In our estimation, there are three components of an impactful, engaging content strategy: development, distribution and monetization. These core tenets, coupled with smart data tracking and analytics, set the stage for a thriving, highly engaged association audience. Learning from and leveraging insights makes it possible to develop an association content strategy that engages current members and converts new ones.
Developing a plan
The demand for valuable content is high, and the landscape is cluttered.
Professional content is plentiful online, and your digital-savvy audience - both members and non-members - know where to go to access it. From LinkedIn to Youtube, your members will encounter valuable content constantly. If associations want to compete, more content isn’t the answer – they must create better content.
Everything you put out has the potential to be great, whether it's original, third party, free, paid, or sponsored - but proper planning will set your content apart from others.
A great content strategy starts with a clear understanding of your audience. What kind of content are they looking for? What are their consumption habits? What do careers goals and journeys look like, and how can your association fill those needs? Answering these questions will help you identify key topics. Having a diverse range of topics and formats, distributed across a wide array of channels, allows you to meet your audience segments where they are.
Based on your initial understanding, create a plan, with flexibility built in to enable an iterative process. Good plans should be structured guides, giving you direction and parameters to work within, but never hampering progress.
In order to create better content, it’s important to set goals for each artifact and use data to learn how well it’s performing. This includes appropriate keywords, traffic, and conversion rates for specific calls to action. What do you want people to do as a result of seeing your content? And how will you measure those outcomes so you can continuously improve your content output?
Establish KPIs - such as hitting a revenue target or growing your membership. KPIs could be related to expanding reach and growing your funnels, such as capturing sign ups for a lead magnet, increasing site traffic, or growing your email ist. According to research, only 37% of organizations track KPIs and just 33% of content marketers regularly use data to make decisions - despite the fact that it is crucial to success.
Install data tracking and analytics tools to listen to your members and discover what their challenges are – then publish content that addresses them. Members expect content to be useful and customized to their personal needs. If you’re not providing that, plenty of competitors will be. Today’s digital consumer isn’t just delighted by personalization - they expect it. 72% of consumers say they only engage with personalized messaging and 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to create a more bespoke experience.
As your association members engage with your content, the proper tools and practices will allow you to capture information about users. Use this knowledge to dynamically improve your content topics, formats and distribution strategies. Consider building upon and paywalling high-resonating topics, or use analytics to identify the most successful channels for new audience discoverability.
Diversification and distribution
Breadth of content enhances engagement, as it provides more opportunities for users to discover and interact with you. At the very least, your content should meet informational and educational needs, but ideally, your content should go one step further to provide solutions and continued value over time. The goal is to position your association as the go-to single source of truth on the subjects and topics that interest your members and potential members. Your audience should know with absolute certainty that by coming to you they get value that they can’t find elsewhere.
Increase the reach and impact of your content objects by repurposing them to extend their value. Reuse content, such as turning a blog post into a video, or recording an article to launch an audio version. 90% of B2B marketers say that repurposing existing content is more effective than producing new content, reducing time and costs, leading to faster, more effective results. Repurposing content has the added benefit of making it more accessible, appealing to people’s varying learning preferences.
Your content exists to be seen and interacted with. But not necessarily all of it by everyone. Reduce barriers to content by making it accessible and setting up channels and promotional timelines to maximize exposure. Think about who is seeing what content, how you can get more of the right types of people to see certain content, and how personalization might improve the response to your content.
Basic information is expected to be free; valuable knowledge comes at a cost. Think about what you offer at no cost, and what you should charge for. Some content should be free, and can act as a lead magnet, enticing people towards higher cost content. If you give everything away for free you’re diminishing its value perception, and leaving non-dues revenue potential on the table.
As a membership organization you can leverage audience size, and seek out behaviors to drive revenues. Clear calls to action are key. Paid users are more serious and intentional – these are the people you want to join your organization. Whether it’s certain content for members, pay as you go services, or tiered content, there are lots of ways to monetize your offering while providing more value and options for could-be members. Ultimately it comes down to creating content that people want to pay for – development – and then going out there and finding those people – distribution.
And it all starts with creating high-quality content that people seek out and want to engage with. If your content isn’t strong, you’ll struggle to monetize it.
It’s clear that modern content strategy is about more than just taking up space. It allows you to have conversations with your audience at scale, providing value and engaging audiences. You can track interactions to develop and improve that relationship through your content, enabling you to better serve your audience. Great content that is developed with a clear strategy in mind has the power to grow membership numbers, enhance offering, and generate non-dues revenue.