What's Next: Marketing in a Post-Pandemic World
What's Next: Marketing in a Post-Pandemic World
With in-person interactions on pause, associations turned to virtual experiences to stay connected to members. But now as the world shifts back to a new normal, people are expecting to have online options for everything. And targeted communication is more important than ever. This all has a direct impact on the way associations recruit and market to members. Today you'll hear from speakers Annie Henderson, Ashleigh Brookshaw, and Jeffrey Spock discuss which digital experiences are now table stakes for your members.
Beth ArrittProduct Marketing Manager, Higher Logic
Ashleigh Brookshaw, M.AManager, Community Engagement at American Society of Safety Professionals
Alex Mastrianni: Welcome to The Member Engagement Show with Higher Logic, the podcast for association professionals looking to boost retention, gain new members, and deepen member involvement.
Heather McNair: Throughout our show, we'll bring on some experts, talk shop about engagement, and you'll walk away with strategies proven to transform your organization. I'm Heather McNair.
Alex Mastrianni: I'm Alex Mastrianni, and we are happy you're here. Hi everyone. Welcome back to The Member Engagement Show. Today, I am excited to share with you a panel discussion from a new series that we just launched here at Higher Logic called What's Next For Associations. At the start of 2020, no one really could have anticipated that we were about to enter a long period of experimentation. There wasn't really a playbook for running an association during a pandemic. The phrase, if you've heard it, on the fly, was really taken to new heights. Many associations are now taking a close look at the last 15 to 18 months or so to determine the most effective tactics, talking about not just what's worked and what didn't work, but maybe more about what's sticking around and what's to come that we haven't seen yet. So today we're going to listen to our first session of our What's Next series which was all about marketing in a post- pandemic world. Our own Beth Arritt, who you've heard on the podcast many times, is moderating today's discussion with three other association experts to talk about what things they are doing to add value and keep their members engaged. Take it away Beth.
Beth Arritt: Hello everyone and welcome. My name is Beth Arritt. I am an association strategist at Higher Logic. So let's get started with the introductions. Annie, do you want to go ahead?
Annie Henderson: Yeah, absolutely. Hey everybody, my name is Annie Henderson. I am the marketing and communications coordinator at ASBO International. I have been with them for nearly two years and ASBO is the Association of School Business Professionals. So we work very closely in the field of school business and all those folks who are at the district office helping all of our schools for their funding and budgeting and it's our job in the marketing department to make sure that they are getting all of the best information possible. So yeah, thank you for having me today too. This is great.
Beth Arritt: Great to have you here. Thanks for coming. Ashleigh, do you want to go ahead?
Ashleigh Brookshaw: Yeah, thank you guys so much. So good afternoon. My name is Ashleigh Brookshaw and I am the current online community engagement manager for the American Society of Safety Professionals. I manage an exclusive online member benefit there for our 36,000 members of occupational safety and health professionals and I also manage our online diversity, equity and inclusion groups as well. I have been there for about three years now and part of my job in addition to managing that online space is really enabling our volunteer leaders through those DEI groups that I mentioned to provide value to their members through any sort of a virtual networking and virtual programming as well and I'm very excited to be here with you today.
Beth Arritt: We're excited to have you. So last but definitely not least, Jeff.
Jeff Spock: Hi, I'm Jeff Spock. I'm the CEO of Association Revenue Partners. We've been in business about 10 years. An Inc. 5000 company last year and hopefully again this year which we anticipate. We work with hundreds of trade associations and raise non- dues revenue through digital publications, print publications, anything you can imagine. We actually also work with school districts around the United States as well under a different business name and so we have about 100 school district partners as well. So I've been in digital marketing my entire career prior to operating this business. I worked for one of the largest digital marketing companies in the world and Google's only global partner and I love digital media and I'm passionate about it so I'm glad to be on the call and hopefully give some good ideas to everybody today.
Beth Arritt: I'm glad to have you. I really appreciate the time you guys have put into this. We've talked behind the scenes a couple times, so everybody's putting in a lot of time and I really appreciate it and I know it's going to be a lot of really good information. So let's get started. We all know we've been through a lot of rapid change in the last year and a half. So at this point we're just... We've been able to kind of see and evaluate what's been working and what hasn't. So in this first session, we're going to talk about association marketing in a post- pandemic world. I'm thrilled to have everybody here, so what we're going to be talking about first is which digital experiences are actually... From now on, they're going to be required. These are things that your members are going to expect you to have and things that are just from now on you're going to have to do them. So we're going to start talking about the future by talking a little bit about what we've done and then how that translates. So Annie, how did ASBO International really pivot to respond to those new needs that people had?
Annie Henderson: So the way that ASBO took it was actually almost like a silver lining because before then we had planned on adding a new membership category for us for the district office and not just one individual person and allowing all these additional people within the district office become members of ASBO, that opened up a whole new world of, " Well how do we provide them premier, professional development in the field of school business." So when we had to pivot to a virtual conference last year, it was something that we didn't initially think about but now we have this ability to say, " Hey, all the members of these district offices, now you can come and join your school business manager or your budgeting manager or whomever is second to the superintendent in the district office, come and have this great professional development experience virtually." We had such a well- received response from all of our attendees that it showed us that we can't go back to just sole in- person, multi- day conference events. We have to provide that even after an in- person conference event. Or even multiple times a year in smaller portions because members are busy. It doesn't matter what field they're in, what association you're with. Members are busy and they don't always have the time to sit down in front of their computer for two or three days for a virtual event so even cutting it up into like a few weeks after maybe an in- person event or even a first quarter one day inspirational leadership event, or even a summertime relief of doing something that's more focused. Our members are responding in tenfold to these types of changes that we've made from sole in- person to now more virtual with putting it down to almost less in- person.
Beth Arritt: That's a huge shift. I mean that's big. Do you think that there's going to continue to be a huge demand for that or do you think people are going to slowly shift back as things become normal?
Annie Henderson: Right. Honestly I think it's here to stay because you're able to provide still this amazing quality professional development experience for a lower cost to the member and if they're an association or if they're in a field that maybe they pay for their professional development, there's a budget line item where, " Okay, you get x number of dollars for your professional development every year and if you're capped out at a certain number, then that member is having to then use their own money to fill in that gap of professional development." So I definitely know this is going to be here to stay. I am 100% confident in that, especially given how all associations had to shift, and I'm really excited for it and I think a lot of people are too.
Beth Arritt: I agree. I just think there's so much more accessibility and so much more chance for everyone to be able to participate as opposed to the ones who can afford to travel or who are high enough up that they can get their travel paid for and they can be away from the office those days. I think the only really big problem there is that when you're in the office people expect you to be in the office even if you're technically attending a conference. That something is always going to I think be a balance, it's going to be harder to break.
Annie Henderson: Right. That's why maybe going to a one- day event rather than a multi- day event.
Beth Arritt: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. So Ashleigh, as the community engagement manager, can you tell us a little bit about what the member experience looks like now?
Ashleigh Brookshaw: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much for asking. So as Annie was talking about and as we have all lived through the past 18 months, the pandemic has really forced organizations to examine how they're using technology to connect with members and other stakeholders. So this includes the overall quality of features and online programming and platform usage in relation to any sort of hybrid event that you may be doing. My organization is having our annual conference and for this year it will be the first time that we had a hybrid experience. Last year like many organizations as we've stated have had to pivot to that online experience and what did that look like which caused as I'm sure many of you know this firestorm of how do we do this online, how do we present the speakers, the recordings, the features of these platforms, how do we provide that connectivity that our members have come to expect. So from my perspective, some of the most important things that organizations and associations should take a look at is taking a look at the vendor, the platform itself, taking a look at those features. Not only the features of connectivity, so like your badging or your attendee directory, but really taking a look at what automated workflows are there to help the members get familiar with the technology so what is the registration process, does the platform provide any sort of know before you go emails. Are you utilizing that? So the member experience from my perspective is really going to be going forward, that hybrid experience for people who want to engage in professional development online. I'll just share now for our conference that's coming up, the last number that I heard is we have 900 people just registered for the virtual which I think is huge and we're still a few months out.
Beth Arritt: That's amazing. What are you doing in the promotions just to... Are you do anything different in the promotion I guess I should ask? To talk to them about inaudible engaging.
Ashleigh Brookshaw: Yeah. So I'm actually, as you guys know, I'm the online community engagement manager and I work very closely with the marketing department but really what it's about is we are re- imagining what our conference is looking like and since it's a hybrid experience, we've taken this opportunity to kind of rebrand what that looks like and allowing people to choose the track and the membership experience that will be right for them so if you want to go specifically online for education, there is a track for that. If you're looking and you're very excited and thirsty for that in- person connection and you want to take a flight to Austin, there's a track for that as well. So really it's about in my perspective knowing who your members are and really taking a look at the segmentation within the members because it may have shifted as we've seen during the pandemic. Your membership may look slightly different.
Beth Arritt: When did you say your conference is?
Ashleigh Brookshaw: September.
Beth Arritt: September, okay. So if you've got 900 now, wow. It's going to be big.
Ashleigh Brookshaw: For virtual, and that's just the virtual. I think for in- person... Yeah, I think it was like just over 2, 000 but I'll be predominantly focused on that virtual portion of it.
Beth Arritt: So I know it's going to go off swimmingly too.
Ashleigh Brookshaw: Thank you.
Beth Arritt: Because I know you'll do a very good job with it.
Ashleigh Brookshaw: I certainly hope so.
Beth Arritt: Yeah. It's going to go great. I have every faith.
Ashleigh Brookshaw: Thank you.
Beth Arritt: So Jeff, can you tell us a little bit about the member perspective?
Jeff Spock: Yeah, I'll talk about the vendor- member perspective and Ashleigh, I think you made some great points as well as Annie. I think the vendors are looking for the one- on- one interaction with the members and quite frankly the members want it too. They want products that can help them do their job better, smarter, faster, whatever it might be for their particular industry. So the vendor inaudible... Man, they really love the in- person trade shows, get to know everybody. You make those one- on- one connections so we've seen a really big inaudible into digital from late adopters so anybody who wasn't doing digital previously, they've really dug in, they're really analyzing their strategy. Website traffic, newsletter engagement, click- through rates for our clients are quite frankly higher than they've ever been before. Digital spend across our company, across our partners went up over 40% year over year. So incredible, incredible growth. So the money just shifted from one place to another. I think vendors are still looking to create that direct experience even if it's through digital. So how can we do that? We have programmatic, web, email, database marketing. We've also seen something else that's been very, very important for our clients is social monitoring. So people have really, really dug into things like inaudible where maybe the vendor community didn't do that quite as much as the association membership did it in the past so the members are really taking ahold of this and it's very, very important. So as an association I would recommend how can you create a program or strategy that allows that member digitally to have as much as they can is a one- on- one connection with that member and it could be slicing and dicing different programs. Like if they give content and a show, sending out... Like this, you're going to send it out to everybody that sees this. What if at that point you are also able to sell a sponsorship around that for somebody that is appropriate to that functional area? Vendors are desperate for these types of things and they exist.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, and that actually is a really good segue. Did we lose inaudible. That is actually a really good segue if Jeff is back.
Jeff Spock: I'm here. I don't know if you can see me. Can you hear me?
Beth Arritt: We can hear you, yeah.
Jeff Spock: If you can hear me, good. I'm having a little bit of camera trouble today. Keeps cutting out for some reason.
Beth Arritt: Yeah. I don't know. We're having some fun with cameras over here. So oh, he's disappeared again.
Jeff Spock: I'm still here. It's just the camera is a problem.
Beth Arritt: All right. So we will just keep talking to you while you inaudible like a genie. So this is a really good segue into our next question about new programs that are taking off and which ones are getting left behind.
Jeff Spock: Yes.
Beth Arritt: So please keep talking, yeah, about the programs taking off.
Jeff Spock: Well I think... I'll start with the ones that are getting left behind. Let's start there. One of the ones that are getting left behind, digital buyer's guides. inaudible I don't think they work. I think they're actually just taking money from your members potentially that could be better spent other places. I can't remember the last time I personally went to a buyer's guide. I'm an ASAE member but I don't go to the buyer's guide, I go to Google to look for inaudible. That's what most of us do. So how can we find a better way for your vendor community to spend that money to get a better lift? Because even if they are buying in that platform and it doesn't work, are they likely to increase their spend in other areas with your association? Probably not. Like you create a strategy that works, that does provide lift, well they're going to keep expanding how much they're spending with you. So topic- based e- newsletters have been huge. So think, " Hey, this January, we're doing HR month." You send out a newsletter with two or three articles once a week specific around HR. The vendors in your industry that are related to HR are all going to buy an ad. So it makes a lot of sense. It provides value for the members because they're learning about a functional area that's important to your industry. It provides the vendor a direct connection with that person and that member is going to receive probably an ad from somebody who can prop up the business. A platform that we've used ourselves as an exhibitor with TSPRA, the Texas School Public Relations Association, they use remo. co for their trade show. I mention this because there's digital roundtables, there's digital events, there are things where you look like a little inaudible guy walking around, you can talk to people and stuff. What happens as a vendor, we talk to a member, they're like, " Oh, you're a vendor, I don't want to talk to you." They run the other way. We found a lot of success from the digital roundtable on this platform so people that wanted to talk and engage with us, they would show up, we would talk to them, present, and it was fantastic. So I'd recommend that if you guys could find something like that technology and that's remo.co and I say that I have no financial interest in them. We pay them to use their platform. So I recommend things like that. Things that will allow your vendors to engage with the members directly digitally.
Beth Arritt: Building on that, Annie, you mentioned the virtual option of yours is much more reasonably priced and it turned out to be really successful. So how do you see that continuing to shift into a hybrid environment and do you have other programs that are kind of being sunset?
Annie Henderson: Well, the one aspect that we thought is that it was actually mentioned earlier, you said it Beth is that our members don't have time to be at their desk in front of a computer for virtual events or hybrid events and let's just say that there's one person that does get their trial paid for for professional development. So the key here is I think while hybrid is great but separating it out too and making them different dates is going to be essential so that when that main person comes back, they can start implementing some of the great things that they learned at the in- person and then a few weeks following you take some component of what was shared in the in- person and maybe even some new fresh content from the virtual event and you have all the other members at the office attend that virtual event so you're not feeling everyone's dispersing and that's inaudible while in- person is still really important I think there should be more virtual options more frequently for that busy member and in- person is still going to be maybe like that once, twice, depending on your membership, maybe even three times a year that it's going to be your mainstay. I don't know, I mean I'm really feeling virtual is going to be kind of that new accessible component along with just your normal everyday amazing webinars or professional development you can curate for your members and how you can market that to them as this is for all, this is for the many, this is not exclusive to one type of person too.
Beth Arritt: That's a good point, yeah. And I think that as people become more and more used to it, it's almost going to become just part of their monthly routine. I'm going to have all of these different ones that my organizations that I trust have curated for me as you put it. Yeah, I think hopefully that's just going to become part of their routine and they're just going to add it to their schedules and that's going to be that. So that's my hope. I do love the fact that it opens up so much more accessibility. That's always been my favorite thing about hybrid and online is just there's so much accessibility to it.
Annie Henderson: Absolutely. I love being able to be in my office, do an hour webinar, like, "Hey, I took a lot away from that," do a debrief and send it along. Like, " Here's what I learned and here's what I think we can do to implement it." Do it once a month, twice a month. Like I can manage that. I can't manage sometimes always being away from the office, my workstation and my home office, for multiple days because I feel like what did I miss that happened at the office? I kind of get this anxiety feeling to myself.
Beth Arritt: Checking email, furiously going, " Okay, have I missed anything? What's going on? What am I not telling in the emails?" Yeah, I know that feeling. So we're going to shift a little bit from education to sort of networking, the whole side of things. Ashleigh, for associations, you mentioned that before the pandemic the chapter was kind of the home of people for the association. Can you tell us a little bit about how that's shifting within membership?
Ashleigh Brookshaw: Yeah, absolutely, thank you. So one of the things that I really want associations to kind of take a look at is what is the current and traditional membership experience that your members have gone specifically tied to what is the value proposition, what is the culture of that. So like I said that the chapters have traditionally and in some cases continue to be that home for that membership and connection. I really do believe that in order for associations to pivot to the new normal and not only pivot to it but sustain it based on member expectations is prioritize the strategic planning and the organizational structure specifically as it relates to technology. So how are your members connecting outside of that localized chapter experience? For something that we've done, we have chapters and the value proposition for an ASSP chapter is really centered around that local level engagement. So no virtual community programming, that was done through the common interest group practices which is what I manage as well as a practice specialty which is more related around technical industry news for example. However as we've seen in the pandemic, local level stuff is not as big anymore. Wasn't anything for many, many months, right? Just almost overnight, chapters had to shut down programming. So that leaves a gap in the member experience so how do we fill that? So one option that I would submit for consideration is to think outside the box. Just because it's always been done one way doesn't mean it has to continue to be done that way. So what we did is we provided chapters with virtual tools, some resources, and some potential programming that they can do in the interim. That's something that I really want to stress associations start to think about because as we've been talking during our time together, this kind of hybrid experience is here to stay. I believe as Annie mentioned some associations had provided a digital membership offering. So we know that members want to connect in a way that is best suited for them. I do know from feedback from our members and you get into demographics a little bit here but the kind of the traditional chapter meeting as I understand it was two, three hours long, like in the middle of the day, and geographically chapters were located in a place where a member may have to drive 30 minutes or an hour or closer to the nearest chapter in order to get that connection. So again reinstating that organizations and associations should really take a look at the organizational structure and the technology integration points in order to be able to serve those members longterm and meet them where they are and give them the tools that they need to want to connect.
Beth Arritt: Some people might resist. I know that there are some people who are like, " Oh, we can't wait for things to get back to the way they were." To those who might resist that and are like, " Well we've always done it this way, this is just a blip and things are going to go back," what would you say? What would you say to them to try and get them to understand that no no, this is going to be the expectation. You need to run with it rather than try and fight it.
Ashleigh Brookshaw: I've got to be honest, if I had the answer to that question I would be a very rich woman. So this is where I actually leverage kind of my change management skillset and methodology. I really take a look at what is important to this particular stakeholder that I'm having the conversation with and speaking in a language that resonates with them and highlights the what's in it for them. So when you ask me like, " Hey Ashleigh, this is just a blip," I kind of come armed with data- driven recommendations and I would just pull out, " Well according to the CDC, inaudible." I work for safety organizations so I have the benefit of having that knowledge and being plugged into that, so it's like... Yes, things may be going back to normal but how are you defining normal? It goes into that language and forms kind of perception and like let's make sure that we're operating on the same definition. To be perfectly honest, I come from... It's important to include the voice of the member. So for example, what are your members saying? Do your members like the virtual programming? This is kind of like a whole change management and cultural shift and in some cases it's a behavioral checkup if you will for the organization. Like it's going to be uncomfortable for some people but I always recommend keeping the member's voice in mind, having any sort of data points from any previous annual surveys that have been done, any polls that have been done if you have an online community but come armed with some data points to be able to reinforce your position when you manage that resistance to change if you will.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, and data is so helpful in assessing inaudible from your members. Super helpful.
Ashleigh Brookshaw: Yeah.
Beth Arritt: So yeah. So I want to be mindful of time and go ahead and pivot to our final question. So this question is one that's near and dear to my heart is how to target members who are likely now going to be busier than ever before? So Annie, I know you were able to get a lot of amazing very relevant content to your members very quickly. Can you talk a little bit about how that works and how it has evolved over time?
Annie Henderson: Absolutely. So when it came to this whole last March to even shutting down and all that, it rocked all schools, all parents, all district offices, everywhere around this world. So the most important part that we realized as an association is we need to talk to our members and our members who are really involved with us and those are our committee folks. So we reached out to them. There was a taskforce that was created within the organization to drive this content. So whether it was a magazine article in our print publication or if it was a guest blog post on our community network, or it was like just simply sharing some of the inaudible that we were pushing and sharing it out, getting involved. That was really the key factor in pushing all that content out. We have a great publication committee or an editorial advisory committee. We have a great legislative committee. Our members are so dialed in because they're so passionate about what they do. They're really the true stars of how that content came to reason. We just had to realize that it was right there for the taking. We just had to make the ask. That's something that I think any marketer, any association, any foundation, any not for profit, can realize is all you've got to do is you've got to make the ask and content can come after that.
Beth Arritt: So when you're making that ask of say a really busy committee member or something like that, somebody's who's in damage control, trying to figure out how to get their schools online. How do you phrase that ask so that they make it... It feels like it's something that's important for them to do as opposed to you're asking me to do something I just don't have time to do right now? How do you phrase that?
Annie Henderson: Yeah. There's definitely going to be pushback. We actually, for one of our programs that was shifting from in- person testing so our certification was in- person testing only and you couldn't do that anymore during the pandemic. So there was literally no testing happening for this certification for almost five months until we were able to get online, an online proctored test which was a huge game changer for our program overall. We got granular with our member ask and we went down to the early younger member, not the high demographic number that we do have of 45- 55 men and women, this is their second or maybe even third career path, this is the younger audience that we have in our membership and it was an immediate yes. So it's really making those identified ask because you can't just ask a random number. I think using... If you do a membership survey yearly and you look at the data, because Ashleigh spoke perfectly to it, you have to get those numbers back up, find those numbers, read in between the lines, pull them out, get granular with it so that you're not asking for a no, you're asking for a yes, and you can pretty much guarantee that yes.
Beth Arritt: I like that. So I think that... I'm just trying to think from my standpoint when I was in the association shoes if I was listening to this, one of the other things I would want to know is how in the world do you plan a content calendar like that when you're relying on volunteers and you're pivoting left and right to try and get new content? How do you plan out a calendar like that?
Annie Henderson: You don't. You don't. If your members are active, if you have an online community where they can come and ask questions. That is your content calendar right there. They're telling you what they want to know and we also sent out our own survey with good responses too so you don't plan it. You are reactionary during that kind of position. Then you can learn from it. So like this now here we are, one year later, and I am learning from what we did and I'm saying, " Hey, remember when we wrote this? Remember when we did this? How does it compare to now?" I'm really excited to hear what our members have to say.
Beth Arritt: I really want to know what they have to say too. I'm really curious. I mean you mentioned community Ashleigh. I mean community is a great place to start to get content, yeah? Definitely.
Ashleigh Brookshaw: Yeah, absolutely. And kind of just to piggyback off of that, how you keep global communication going and getting members to engage in a space that's not purely virtual. To Annie's point, you can have a content calendar, you can have a basic structure, but the content is organic in the fact of what's happening with society, what's happening with the world in general. So for example because I have the pleasure of working with safety professionals and we had to really equip them with not only content like articles but we did free webinars to get them engaged on like here's what safety measures could look like in this pandemic. I mean we had volunteers come out of the woodwork to want to lead these webinars and provide those COVID- 19 resources to their actual counterparts and their professional colleagues. What I did from the standpoint with our online community and I will get super technical because I am a little bit of a nerd so feel free to reign me back is that I opened up our structures in the online community and put a specific COVID- 19 place that was integrated with our overall communication strategy which was great. Our online community also had a widget that I was able to put on our COVID- 19 website so it was that nice integration point and it went out in a lot of email and marketing communications to our members. One of the things that I would also like to say is that if members are used to getting like direct mail, like the associations really should kind of take a look at organizational and instructional priorities and how it relates to that technological integration point because we have global members and we were mailing out our publication to Kuwait and Nigeria and places outside of the U.S. But we also have a global, or excuse me, a digital version of our publication that's available right on the website which is great. So really want to reinforce taking a look at those data- driven recommendations that we talked about earlier. What do your members want to see if you have an online community and/ or social media presence, ask them. I'm sure they will tell you, that is an excellent data point and then we also talked about an annual survey but also one thing is leverage your other members. That peer to peer recommendation is phenomenal. For us it's our volunteer leaders, the chapter leaders, the virtual community leaders. They're going to tell their friends, like, " Hey, this webinar is coming up," or, " Hey, we're getting together at this local level safely because the society has provided guidelines on what that looks like." So I think there's a multitude of ways you can do it but I always like to start out from what is the organizational structure and how is that mirrored towards the technological integration points because technology is going to be the future. It is not going anywhere, it's only going to get more matrixed in. Technology changes every day so associations really want to encourage you guys to take a look at what is a technological structure, can it be improved upon or do you just need to start and some cases you may need to start.
Beth Arritt: So I know that one source of... I speak from experience, one source of content can be from vendors. Obviously vendors know when they need to keep it educational and when they can actually put a peer sales in there but I know that vendors for me have been a great source of content over the years. So Jeff, maybe you can talk a little bit about how that fits in with vendors and then also just sort of how your vendors are engaging with members.
Jeff Spock: Well of course, of course Beth. So I'll first start by saying the things that Annie and Ashleigh talked about really are important to the vendors. So first you can go out and you get some of the data points so you can narrow down your membership and then Ashleigh talked about getting content. A vendor doesn't necessarily want to advertise in a magazine that's going to Nigeria or another place and the old idea of advertising inaudible 30, 000 people, maybe 5, 000 might buy my product or something like that. As a vendor we want those direct connections, so you then just mentioned talk ab out vendors providing content. One of our most successful product lines across any association is editorial content provided by the vendor. So this is not an advertorial send, it's an editorial send. They get a full email, they send out once a week or once a month depending on the association, inaudible how many emails they're sending to their members, but the members have actually, they got a lot of value in this. You have somebody who inaudible they're safety experts or in Annie's case they're an expert at managing school infrastructure and they're talking about something that is very important to this functional area of a subset of your membership. So you can either blast it out to everybody or you slice and dice your database to say, " Wow, this particular safety person is focused on medical safety. This person is focused on inaudible." I don't know that that's exactly accurate Ashleigh, but you understand kind of where I'm going. The more you can slice and dice your database and then track, adjust, track, adjust to provide the members the best possible vendor experience. Because again I do believe the members want to find the products that help them work better, farther, smarter, faster, whatever. And the vendor community is willing to pay for these types of experiences to connect with the members and I think we do it the right way and the members are receiving the information from the vendors they want to receive it from. That's a winning scenario for everybody involved. Everybody involved. I think as we dig deeper into the digital world, the ability to target members who are busier than ever before is easier than it's ever been before. I can identify somebody that was a safety professional, how? Well they went to Ashleigh's association's website. You can reasonably assume that person is probably involved in the industry. Similar to the way you search for shoes on Google and then you see Nike ads everywhere you go on CNN, your vendors actually have the opportunity to re- target people who visit your association's website. So now as an association you actually have a chance to monetize the rest of the internet that you currently didn't do. We can help do those things. Associations are having a lot of success, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars a year doing this. Same with trade shoes. I think we've had a lot of success with monthly newsletter- based trade shows. Or newsletters based upon their specific trade show. So you can promote the trade show throughout the year, keep it top of mind, but the vendor is also going to sponsor that communication and drive traffic to the communities, back to your website. It all kind of works together if you're playing this out right.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, agreed, and I think that there is so much exciting with targeting right now more than ever. There's so much more you can do now than ever before and I love that track, adjust, track, adjust, track, adjust. I feel like that's something that can never be said too often because targeting is fantastic and we all want to target as narrowly as we can to just they're getting exactly what they want to see and then they don't care how much email you send them for the most part.
Jeff Spock: Just because something worked today doesn't mean it's going to work tomorrow. That's why we keep adjusting inaudible every great new platform technology that comes out, it's an opportunity for your association to find out how it can help your members and how it can help your vendors connect which I believe is kind of the core responsibility of the association to serve as the meeting point for the vendors and a members and a voice inaudible
Beth Arritt: Agreed. Agreed. I think that's actually a great place to sort of pause because I want to be mindful of the time because at this point I want us to move into Q& A because we have already got some good questions rolling in. If you have a question please do go ahead and submit them in the question box on the bottom right if you haven't already but this question... I think is really probably going to be one for Jeff. Everybody else is obviously welcome to chime in but members may love the virtual, but how are the vendors responding? As important revenue sources, how can we keep them happy and engaged in the virtual world because I think most of us have found that the digital exhibit hall really isn't working. What are the ways that we can keep them happy and engaged and can make that important connection because the exhibit hall at the annual at my old job was like one of the most important things to people. Because they wanted to make a personal connection.
Jeff Spock: I talk with vendors and people in my company, we talk to vendors all day. The one thing that we ask, especially when we're starting a partnership and we're calling the newest top sponsors of an association, what's the best way that you want to reach the membership? What ideas do you have? We talk to the vendors and say, " What have you found that worked successful in the past? How can we translate what used to be an in- person experience into a digital experience? Is there something we can set up to where it can be... Like an online webinar where it's the virtual trade show but you're just talking to the person?" Like I mentioned before, the remo. co. We found that to be highly valuable because the people who are coming to talk to us are actually interested in what we're doing and it's just not a, " Oh hey elevator pitch." Somebody's actually interested in your product and service, that would be my suggestion.
Beth Arritt: That's a good point too. The fact that you're getting less volume but you're getting... Less quantity, more quality.
Jeff Spock: Exactly. Exactly. inaudible and I think the vendors nowadays want to prove value for their money more than they ever have before. I mean they really need ROI and then we can just define it much better than ever in the past, right? I mean we can identify visits your website, leaves it, then comes back, ends up making a purchase and tie that from the original search on Google or whatever. So we can really hammer these things down to digital which we might not be able to do in the past through print or other mechanisms.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, and I think that the ROI is going to be massive in terms of percentage over what it costs to go to a trade show. I mean it's expensive.
Jeff Spock: I like both. I enjoy attending trading shows.
Beth Arritt: I do too.
Jeff Spock: inaudible. They're supposed to be in Dallas, that's my backyard, right? I was, " Oh, I don't have to get a hotel this time. Are you kidding me?" I was all excited. So I think in- person is important too but how do we... I think the people that are going to start doing more in- person and start bringing it back, how are you going to take those, the best sessions. How are you going to divide that? How are you going to disseminate that content then throughout the year and then monetize that content throughout the year? Vendors want to attach themselves with the ideas and topics that are relevant to them, and they're willing to pay for that if they think they're going to get a lift. But I don't think many vendors want to be in newsletters with 20 ads anymore. They want to be in newsletters that have 10 ads, right? They don't want to be in a newsletter with 10 other companies that do what they do and then what happens? There's no lift, the members have a terrible experience seeing the same ads. So I think as specific as you can get and as direct as you can get through data like Annie said and through good content like Ashleigh said, I think that makes a lot of sense.
Beth Arritt: Agreed. Agreed. So the next question is how do you make the pitch to leadership, i.e. like the board of directors who are itching to get back to in- person that remote is worth the investment?
Annie Henderson: I can field this one. Yeah, it's true. I'm right there with Jeff. Like in- person still has major value. I mean one of my members said that best, it's coming to the annual conference gives you a resurgence. It's a refuel, you get to share with colleagues that are like- minded who share the same passion for the field that they're in. So in- person still has a huge mainstay stake in their relationship with their membership of your association. But for your board of directors and your leadership, you have to remember, these are still your members. The board of directors are still your members. So pain points. Just you got to see pain points and pick them out. We did a survey about virtual learning last year and that gave us a lot of data and we selected bits and pieces from that to present to the board and that type of information, we go back to it time and time again over the last 45 minutes, analytics, numbers, data. They don't lie. They help drive decisions and they're so important. So if you're not already taking down that type of analytics, start now. Start small, build your way up. Because it's going to serve you just a great purpose in any pitch that you want to do to the board. Whether it be a hybrid event or continuing in- person or changing a whole program in its entirety. You need the data to help drive the decision.
Beth Arritt: We keep coming back to that over and over, Ashleigh inaudible data is what's going to help all of you be part of it.
Ashleigh Brookshaw: Yeah, and I was just going to say, I may be a little spoiled because I work for... Like my board of directors, they're safety professionals so they have the data. They have the analytics. They're tracking stuff with the CDC. So for me I would say... Yes, echoing the data- driven recommendations are important, but also having like the conversation to get a sense of we know that in- person is important. There are just some people that want to connect in- person. That is just how they are wired. There are some people though where they don't mind connecting virtually and I do think that if it's done correctly and it's kind of spread out, I know that we have like the Zoom fatigue now. Like everything is online and you're always online and that screen time is there all the time. But getting creative and innovative, while pulling in those data- driven recommendations I think will be very helpful because if you can demonstrate... Like there's a lot of things that people are doing now to connect in the virtual space and members are enjoying it. They're liking it because to the point about accessibility earlier, there may be some people that may not be able to go to a three hour chapter meeting in the middle of the day. They may not have the budget to travel to a conference for three to four days. So I think that pulling in those data- driven recommendations yes but also pulling in those elements or here's what has worked in similar spaces may go with that conversation as well but like I said I'm spoiled. I have safety professionals that leadership but yeah. That's what my recommendation would be as well.
Beth Arritt: So that kind of brings up an interesting question, just to build off of that. I have a very insightful colleague inaudible who liked to call what we were going through even before the pandemic, she liked to say that we were actually going through the next industrial revolution. I think in many respects she was right and also she did not see what was coming but wow, did it speed up. As somebody who loves to go and look through history and stuff like that, you can see that there are always catalysts that build these things to make them like suddenly speed up when people are resistant. So with that in mind, as being on screen actually becomes more and more normal and people are more and more used to it because more people than ever are going to be working from home now. I mean I know that it struck me yesterday that I've never met most of my co- workers because I started here during the pandemic. I only met some of them because I knew them ahead of time and they're spread out all over three countries, all over the U. S. and three countries and it's weird because I feel like we work in one big office. Because they're all right there in Teams and I can talk to any one of them face to face any time I want and it's just... They're all right there in that little square building in my head. As that becomes more normal, do you think that the virtual will just... The Zoom fatigue will fade and it will just become even more normal to just be seeing people online all the time?
Ashleigh Brookshaw: So I can take a stab at this. I've actually had some conversations about like what does the future of work look like, this digital kind of hybrid experience and I would say that it is going to be tied to organizational culture and what you want to provide to your members. I joke with my colleagues, first of all, I am a glorified introvert. I am never going back in the office. Full transparency, not doing it, not going. But the organizations have like a lot of conversations on how do you continue to engage people in this hybrid place. I make a joke about it but prior to the pandemic when people were having meetings or conference calls if you will, you weren't always on the camera. It wasn't always a video call, in some cases it was just a conference call. I would say that when you're doing kind of hybrid events, this is what we have seen. We have done virtual coffees. We have had that connectivity and that series with the board for our members because they really wanted to be able to connect with individuals. The great thing about that is it made our leadership team much more accessible because all you had to do was log in to a Zoom link. I would caution associations to continuously check and assess how the virtual events are going based on again data, so registrations, comments, a virtual coffee three days in a row may seem like a lot. So kind of taking a look at what does longterm sustainable engagement look like in the digital sphere as you may transition to that back to in- person hybrid experience and what does that look like and again it's about taking a look at what you as an organization can realistically accomplish. It looks like taking a look at the technological features of whatever you're using. I don't know if you guys know this but on Microsoft Teams you can change the view and it can have everybody look like they're sitting together at a table. That kind of simulates some connectivity as well so it's just about... I think Beth really liked that.
Beth Arritt: It doesn't work that well in some cases but yes.
Ashleigh Brookshaw: Yes, yeah, right? So I think that technological features are continuing to evolve to simulate that connectivity. But again it goes back to that culture, right? Because you may have a coffee or something with your executive leadership team for your members. Not everybody may be on camera, so how do you continue to bring people into the room and into the conversation so it's not just a bunch of floating heads or names with no interaction if you will. I want to make sure I answered the question because I feel like I might have rambled a little bit but I think you got some good nuggets in there too.
Beth Arritt: Yeah no, I think there was a lot of good in there. I'm like, " Okay, in 10 years, we're all just basically going to get up in the morning, put on our VR goggles." Actually no, we'll put on these. We'll have our VR goggle embedded and we'll just start typing on our virtual keyboards and talking to our co- workers who are all around us. inaudible I don't know but I do like inaudible exercise via VR anyway, so...
Annie Henderson: Just to kind of further that point real quick though, it goes back to who are your members and are they all virtual or are they in the office? My members, they're not all virtual. They're in the district office. So their Zoom fatigue has had a relief. But in the deep depths of lockdown and COVID and we had to get that professional development out, we did try to break it up a little bit. We've got a great member, a part of our organization who does... She's a yoga teacher and so we would actually break it up with wellness, 10 to 15 minute wellness breaks. Just getting up, stretching, doing some yoga moves and it was really well- received by our members during that time to break up that Zoom fatigue but know your members. Are your members still virtual or are they back in- person and that will also go along with how you market to them, how you push out content to them. So knowing that my members are mostly back in the office, that changes how I market.
Beth Arritt: Yeah. Exactly. I think that's what a lot of it comes down to. Know your membership. Mm- hmm( affirmative). That's just a inaudible with the track, adjust, track, adjust. Know your membership, target, track, adjust. Repeat, repeat, repeat. So we've only got a few more minutes. I want to get to a few more questions. Just quickly, are you finding that a lot of people will register for the virtual and then not show up?
Annie Henderson: So we, because we've only done one virtual event last September when we had to shift, technically we inaudible a one- day. They all showed up. Maybe at different times, maybe only for a portion of the time, but they were all ready for this amazing event with valuable content. Then when we did it again for this one hour let's raise your spirits, let's teach you about this amazing way that you can be a leader and to rejoice yourself for all the work that you do which is huge for our members. I mean they were just trying so hard to make online learning work across the country, across the world. We needed to feed their spirits and so we found a way to do that through our virtual event. They all really loved it. So I think it's also the content. Are you providing the valuable content that's attracting them to come and if you're not grabbing them within that first... Let's just be real, like three to ten seconds, they're not going to stay. So that's also another thing too is you got to grab them, you got to have that great content, reel them in and keep them in.
Beth Arritt: Yeah. Yeah. So we have a question. So for large hybrid events, how do you integrate the two types of events? This person said they're a small organization. So they're hesitant to take on a hybrid because it feels like we'd basically be hosting two separate events at the same time. How do you cope with that?
Ashleigh Brookshaw: So I can jump in with that and the answer to the question is yes, you will be hosting two concurrent events at the same time. That is exactly what we are doing right now. We have two separate schedules for our... There's the in- person schedule and then there is the virtual schedule. The integration point is that our general session will be streamed live obviously at the in- person conference and then streamed to the virtual attendees. But I'm not going to lie, yes, you will be hosting kind of two events at the same time. I can provide some sort of like organizational kind of asset, like tips and tricks. Like have two project plans because we have a virtual one and we have an in- person one. Make sure that you're... Not necessarily confident but you're able as a staff to be able to adequately resource both because you'd have to send staff to an in- person and staff to a virtual. So I guess my point is like stay tuned because this is what we're doing this year. I don't have any hard data or tracks but it's really about having that great content, having the resources and being realistic about what is able to be accomplished well. If you can only put on one well, I would recommend only do one. Don't try to separate it because that's exactly what we're doing. The session schedule like I said, they're separate for both member experiences if you will. I don't know Annie if you have any better words of wisdom than I do. I'm like, " Yes, it is two. You're right."
Annie Henderson: No. There's no doubt about it. It's just typical in the association world. You're wearing so many different hats at one day, two days, whatever. So if you're looking at doing two different events in- person and virtual, you are going to get tired because you are going to be working. But it's for the member, the benefits of the members, and your retention rate on that membership too, showing value for that membership... But to Ashleigh's point, if you just don't feel like you can do quality for the two of them and you can only do quality for the one of them, then just do one.
Beth Arritt: Yes, don't inaudible than you can chew essentially, right? Yeah. I want to give a huge thank you to our panelists Annie, Ashleigh, Jeff, thank you so much for your time and your insights today. Thanks for joining. Hope you have a great rest of your day. Bye everyone.