The Power of Marketing Automation for Associations
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're happy you're here. Hi everyone and welcome back to another episode of the member engagement show. Hey Heather, how's it going?
Heather McNair: Hey Alex. So I know that you're a really busy woman. You have kids, pets, a super demanding job. So do you ever feel like you have enough hours in the day?
Alex Mastrianni: That's a good one, Heather. You're very funny. Not even close.
Heather McNair: Yeah, I know that feeling. So growing up, did you ever watch the cartoon, The Jetsons?
Alex Mastrianni: I did. I sort of remember it. I feel like I was more of a Flintstones fan. I don't know if it was... I was very into the vitamins. So it I don't was more Flintstones, but I do remember the Jetsons, yes.
Heather McNair: Yeah. I think it predates both of us a little bit, although they kept running it again and again. I always loved watching the women on the Jetsons when they were getting ready in the morning and they just step on this conveyor belt and they could still be half asleep and the conveyor belt, they had all these machines, all this automation would just get them ready for them. It would do their hair, it would get them all ready put clothes on them, that's my dream.
Alex Mastrianni: I am with you.
Heather McNair: So much so that when I bought my first robotic vacuum, I even named it Rosie after their robotic housekeeper. So a girl has to dream, I'm getting there one step at a time.
Alex Mastrianni: I am right there with you, especially when it comes to household chores, laundry especially. I don't really have so much of an issue with the washing and the folding, but the putting away, if that could be automated, I would just feel so much better because I can't tell you how many times I fold piles and piles... Two little kids, one large load of laundry has 300 pieces of clothing, approximately because they're so small, and putting it away takes so much time so if I could automate that, that would be fantastic.
Heather McNair: That would be amazing, yes.
Alex Mastrianni: Luckily, today we actually do have more automation in our lives. So some of it isn't farfetched, although the putting away of laundry, I think there's still some work to go on that one.
Heather McNair: And Elon Musk has his way, the rest of it will be here in no time.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah.
Heather McNair: Well, on the podcast today, we're going to talk about one of the best ways you can save yourself a ton of time, make your staff more efficient and provide better service to your members and customers. And I know that sounds almost as magical as the flying cars from The Jetsons.
Alex Mastrianni: That's right, Heather. Today, we're going to explore the world of email marketing automation with two of our resident experts here at Higher Logic, and they're going to share some tips and tricks that they've learned along their journeys.
Heather McNair: Absolutely, and we are so excited to have Beth Arritt and Kat Jarvis with us today. Hey ladies, thanks so much for joining us.
Beth Arritt: Hi there. Happy to be here.
Kat Jarvis: Absolutely. It's a pleasure to be here, thanks so much for inviting us.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. To get us started, can you each tell us a little bit about your backgrounds in the association space and what you do now here at Higher Logic. Beth, how about you? Do you want to get us started?
Beth Arritt: Sure. So I've been an industry marketing for more than 25 years. Most of that's been associations across a number of industries. In my most recent position, I spent almost seven years with AAAE where I built the marketing department, and I brought in IMS and Informs, communications professional. And I have a lot of success with both of those there. So now in my new role at Higher Logic, my job is really to help other people succeed with similar methods. So I'm working to engage users of the communications products and help them see how they can use the same processes to really make the most of the features that they may not even know exists.
Alex Mastrianni: Love it. And Kat, how about you? Welcome to the show.
Kat Jarvis: Sure. So similar to Beth, I worked in the association space for a number of years, in my case, as a marketing manager. And now in my role with Higher Logic, I'm both an online community and communications consultant on the strategic services team. And in my role on the communication side, I provide strategic guidance on automated campaigns, marketing best practices and ideas for leveraging data based on an organization's goals.
Heather McNair: That is fantastic. So before we get into the topic, I know we live and breathe marketing automation all day, every day. But for those in our audience who may be unfamiliar with it, Beth, can you give us an overview of what exactly it is and kind of a high level of how people would use it?
Beth Arritt: Sure. So marketing automation is, at its core, just what it says, it's automated marketing. But there's so much more behind it. It's a way of taking what you know about your customers and providing them with the information and the data that they need in ways that work for them, not you. But of course the ultimate goal is that it works for you as well and that they buy what you're selling, because you hit them at the right time with the right personalized messaging based on what they did on your website or what they clicked on an email or what you know about them in your database.
Heather McNair: Yeah. I like to think of it. And I think a lot of people do hold kind of Amazon as the gold standard in that kind of watching what you're doing and delivering you the right message, right time, right place, based on what you're doing.
Beth Arritt: Absolutely. And marketing automation is uniquely perfect for associations, probably more than any other industry, ideally, associations should know their members better than any corporation, like you talked about with Amazon. You should have information on their interests. You should know what meetings they attended, what committees they're on. If they have certifications in specific areas in your industry, et cetera. And all of that gives you the perfect insight into what kind of messaging would resonate with each individual member when. I actually call it Amazon plus, because as associations, we really should know more about our members. It would be better than Amazon and just know what our members want, not just as a customer, but as a member with standing and a lot of information. But the other thing about marketing automation is that associations tend to have very small marketing teams for the most part. And automation will take care of some of the basic messaging, much more successfully than you could just by sending one- off emails. But it also frees you and your team up to focus on other initiatives.
Alex Mastrianni: So Kat, do you want to talk about how you've worked with marketing automation in the past, how you've seen it change your association?
Kat Jarvis: Absolutely. So one way marketing automation is really important for associations is this ability to use data to deliver personalized experiences and targeted communications to members. And on top of this, as Beth mentioned, saved staff time. So really the beauty of having an integrated database, and this is typically an AMS association management system or CRM customer relationship management system with your marketing automation platform, is that it allows you to really leverage and maximize your existing data. So this integration gives you access to detailed data, and that enables you to do specific targeted campaigns as well as tailor the promotional experience without the manual headache of pulling lists. And your database is live and really changes minute to minute. So if someone was added to the database yesterday, they could easily be added to a campaign today. And I really empathize and know what it's like to be part of a small marketing team with limited resources and staff and only so many hours in a day. In my previous role, initially our email marketing platform was not integrated with our AMS, which did mean that we had to pull distribution lists manually every time we went to send a message. And this may resonate with some of our listeners because when you work for a global association, different regions need to be sent messages based on their particular time zone. So between exporting lists by region and member type, and then excluding opt- out list, this was an extremely time- consuming tasks. And just think of all the time you get back by not having to go through this manual process.
Alex Mastrianni: Oh my goodness. I also can relate to being a member of a small marketing team and luckily did not have to do that. But if I had to it would be so, so limiting to what you can get done in a day. The data is so precious. You need to make sure that you were sending the right stuff to the right people. And I feel like if anyone who's ever had the role of putting together an email and hitting send you're just crossing your fingers sometimes hoping like," I hope I have the right subject line in there. It's going to the right people. I have my links working." And if you had to think about the lists on top of that, that would be quite the headache. But okay, so say I work at an association and I want to start to try to implement this type of communication with my members. What would you say is the first step in getting started. Beth, what would you recommend to someone?
Beth Arritt: Well, it really depends on your goals. But for most associations, the biggest win is going to be renewal for your first automated campaign. If you're having trouble getting buy- in for automation or if you want to improve your working relationship with membership, or even just help them out, a renewal campaign can really help both of those things. You can free up time for the membership team and likely your marketing team as well. You can increase retention and you can show that automation really does work. If that's not an option for some reason, web tracking is always a great place to start. So I recommend getting tracking code on your websites as soon as possible. Drip campaigns that are fed by a web tracking to hit people right when they're looking for information on something or such an easy win when they're done right.
Heather McNair: Yeah, absolutely. So I think we've hit on a couple of things, timing. So renewal campaigns, drip campaigns, so automation can hit people right time in their life cycle with you. And Kat I love that you used the example of working for a global organization. And I know with Higher Logic, we have a big audience, obviously in the United States, a big presence here. We also have a big presence in Australia. And while they both speak English, there are differences in the language there. And I think it really is important that you customize the language, the vernacular they use, that type of thing, depending on the audience you're hitting. And if you have to develop two completely separate emails each time, all of a sudden, it doubles the amount of work versus just being able to change a few things, personalize it based someone's geographic location. So I think that's another great way of looking at automation based on location, but talk to us about another type of campaign certification training. I know there's huge opportunity around education.
Kat Jarvis: Yeah. And that's a great example of a campaign that might really work for associations. Most associations have either a certification, certifications, or training. And so if you have web tracking set up, you can set it to email people within hours or even a couple of days of visiting pages for that certification or that training on your site. And that then follows up with them through a series of email over weeks to remind them of the certification or that training and why it's important, how it can help them, et cetera, just reinforce what's on the webpage. And even if you don't have web tracking, that is one that you could run a series of people through and then periodically just pull new lists and run them through the same campaign as well.
Heather McNair: Yeah. So how much time does... I know that's one of the questions we get a lot is that," Oh, this will be so cool and we know we can see return on investment for setting one of these up, but it seems so complicated to set up all these steps and figure all this out." How much time are we really looking at to set up a campaign like this?
Kat Jarvis: Sure. So it really depends on the initiative, and if you already have your content and series of messages created as well as your internal approval process. But I would say if you're comfortable with campaigns on average, it could be a few days to at least one week or more to get the campaign set up, tested and deployed. And if it is your first campaign, give yourself a little bit more time, at least two to three weeks to plan accordingly and work through the flow with your team. This part's really critical because, by yourself, it's likely you won't think of everything. And it is just really helpful to involve your team and have a different set of eyes on the campaign and to hear the different questions or feedback that they have. And just to add, I do have two pro tips that I strongly recommend doing for each campaign. So the first one is that as you're creating the flow of the campaign, really take time to talk and walk yourself through the logic of the campaign as you're setting it up because this will allow you to really identify any gaps in the logic and think through the ideal cadence you want between messages, you'll really want to consider how long to wait before sending the next touch point and how long you need to wait to see if a member has taken action before continuing along the path. So this could be like clicking a registration button in an email. And then within the course of the campaign, you're likely going to want to take your audience down a different based on the actions that they've taken, like if they've registered or if they haven't registered. The second tip is, as a best practice, make sure to test and run yourself and additional staff members, if possible, through the entire campaign before you deploy. And also keep in mind, just run every scenario possible based on the specifics of the campaign. So if we're talking about different member types, do go and set up a record in your database for each case. So just to give you one example, are they a member? Did they attend a conference or are they on a committee? Because especially as you get started for every scenario, ideally you want to test each one. And that's just going to help ensure that all of the campaign steps are working as expected. And if not, you now have time to make the necessary tweaks before your members are enrolled in the campaign.
Alex Mastrianni: Those are really great tips. There's so much that goes into the prep work of these campaigns and testing is a huge part of it that you think about the time it takes to test one email. But if your campaign has several emails, several different paths that someone can flow down if there really is... You need extra time to do that. And one thing that I'll say, just as someone who's done this many times before, is that when you think about the time that goes into preparing a campaign and how much work it seems like it might be, it's a lot of upfront work, but then it's done and then you can do other things and stuff that maybe you didn't think you had time to do or you can think strategically about something that you're often so stuck in, in the weeds and spinning your wheels getting stuff out the door that if you invest the time upfront it makes your life easier in the long run. So awesome tips, Kat, Beth, can you give us an example of some campaigns that you've seen that have had an impact?
Beth Arritt: I can, but first I want to echo what you said. One of the biggest impacts is always how much time it saves you in the end once you've done that upfront work.
Alex Mastrianni: Yes.
Beth Arritt: It makes a big difference. In terms of returns on investment, at AAAE, we've been doing renewal campaigns for years, and they typically have about a 98 to a 99% retention rate or renewal campaigns. Who doesn't want that? Yeah. So by contrast the people who don't go through that campaign, maybe they're unsubscribed, they have different email addresses that don't go through. Those people generally have something like a 77 to 79% retention rate. So that's a huge difference.
Alex Mastrianni: And I'll jump in on that really quick, Beth, we've done math on that in the data research that we've done that compounds into millions of dollars over the course of several years, three, four or five years.
Beth Arritt: It's huge.
Alex Mastrianni: So you kind of look at those numbers and you're like," Oh, that's like 12%, whatever." No, that's millions of dollars over the lifetime value of a member.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, it's huge. And when I started at AAAE, they had about, talking about individual members, not corporate, they had about 4, 000 members. When I left, it was I think close to 10, 000. And don't get me wrong, it's not just me, you're working in partnership with membership to come up with the messaging is huge because they know your members really well. So the messaging is... It's all about the messaging. So it wasn't just me, but yeah, that combination, and particularly with that renewal campaign, bringing up retention was just massive, the impact was massive and significant.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah and kind of crosstalk like renewal campaigns, Beth, and I can totally geek out about these. The whole thing is like, you can keep adding new members, but if you're losing them out the other end, even equally as fast, but certainly faster, you're never going to catch up. And so retaining your members is such a critical part of keeping your business healthy, keeping your organization healthy.
Beth Arritt: If you, if you're going to run a marathon, do you run like five steps forward and then take three steps backwards? No.
Alex Mastrianni: Awesome. And Kat, how about you? Do you have any examples from your pastoral or maybe from a customer that you work with right now?
Kat Jarvis: Absolutely. So the association I previously worked for, they held multiple global events each year. So event promotion, it was huge. And having a marketing automation platform that was integrated with our member database really did open up the possibilities for personalizing and targeting messages. And it gave us the ability to offer up messaging based on preferences or behavior. So when you do think of a typical event promotion series of messages, you usually start with a save the date. This is typically the first message in an event promotion campaign, where you're just letting people know the event is happening. So here, one tip is you can use marketing automation in tandem with web tracking for a more targeted approach because web tracking will track every page and content on your website. And if a member visits the page, they will automatically be added then to a save the date campaign. And we certainly want to be grabbing those individuals because they've shown interest and they're the ones that are most likely to convert. Then usually you'll have just simply calls to action to drive registration, and the great thing is if someone registers at all during the process of the campaign, they can easily be taken out of the flow. And then really one of the most exciting aspects for us who were these followup opportunities. So the ability to send a series of abandoned cart for registration reminders, and you all might be familiar with this scenario, someone begins to register, they hit the registration page, they click the register now link, but they don't actually complete the registration. So then in the campaign, we can automatically issue reminders to complete registration.
Alex Mastrianni: I was just going to say, this is the part that retailers have perfected that I have really been experiencing the past year with the uptick of my online shopping. But how many times have I added things... People added things to their cart and then whether or not they have the intention of biking, you get that reminder email from the retailers saying," Hey, come back, still here." So associations can do the exact same thing.
Kat Jarvis: Absolutely. And another thing is those reminders are just a great time to offer really helper resources to registrants in case they have anything stopping them per registering. So maybe that is budget concerns or needing to make a case to a decision maker or timing. And the great thing is cart abandonment emails alone have been shown to convert an additional 10 to 20% of the individuals who opened these reminders. So just ultimately utilizing automated campaigns and engaging with the different member types uniquely can have a huge effect on event attendance. And I know Beth can certainly speak to this as well.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, absolutely. We did an event campaign at AAAE that used web tracking to get people who visited two or more pages on the annual conference site or who visited the registration page. And because event information changes all the time. We focused on the underlying reasons that people attend networking education, exhibit hall and events. And then we added in a fifth mail that gets to where you were talking about helping them plan to attend the budgeting information and a justification letter that they could download and just fill out. So our goals for that campaign were to get lapsed attendees, those who hadn't attended in three or more years to come back and to get more airport attendees to the conference. And we ended up with 96 lapsed attendees who came through that campaign and, and registered and 15% of the airport attendees who came, went through that campaign.
Heather McNair: Those are amazing numbers. And again, it's like you get someone back one year, they're more likely to come back the following year. And it is that that lifetime value that keeps adding up and adding up and adding up and they may bring a colleague, and...
Beth Arritt: That's the goal.
Heather McNair: Yeah, and I'd also be remiss, because I'm a community person, to point out that or to not point out, I guess, that there are opportunities around events too. If you do also have a community to pull in community data into these emails as well. Some of this stuff that we've played with is knowing if someone has shown interest in certain topics in your online community, that you can use that to personalize event emails as well to say," Hey, we know that you've interacted with this type of content in your community, we also have sessions on that topic or a speaker on that topic at the annual conference," that type of thing. So you can use that intelligence across platforms to strengthen your communications as well.
Alex Mastrianni: So before we wrap things up, we'd love for each of you to share, what is the biggest piece of advice, your biggest lesson learned, maybe the biggest oops you've had. Kat, how about you start?
Kat Jarvis: Sure. So my biggest advice and takeaway for today would be just use the data that you have available to really serve your audiences better. So use automated campaigns, use web tracking and landing pages together to know who is taking an action so you can reach out to them and collect that information. That's going to help you serve your audience better. And really look at the specific instance of what you're trying to do and what data point would help you? So did they fill out a form? Did they make a purchase or click a link and always ask yourself, is there a follow- up opportunity? And if so, what is it? Maybe to click the link or went to a webpage, but didn't convert. Someone got close to registering, but didn't. This is exactly what we're after, because it's where you can really move the needle on conversion.
Beth Arritt: And those are such great pieces of advice, kat, I think that mine would be more to learn from your campaigns. Look at what worked and what didn't. See where you can branch off based on email reactions. Did they click on a specific topic that you can now bring them out into a little separate branch and go into more information on that? Are there emails that might work better if you targeted the messaging based on specific information about your members? Now how can you make it work even better and personalize it more? Again, it's all about making that Amazon plus experience, but something that Heather said about community a second ago made me want to add a piece of advice I was talking to someone about this the other day. If you have on a community dedicated to your annual conference or to whatever conference you're going to, as I know several people, do you do have the ability for RSS feeds and one of the fun things that I really want to try and haven't had a chance to yet is to actually take that RSS feed and put it into the campaign and do an email specifically talking about the community and pull in the latest post so people can go right to them. I think that would be such a great thing, not just for the conference, but also just to bring people to the community. So I'm looking for a guinea pig to try that one sometime.
Alex Mastrianni: So creative Beth.
Heather McNair: I love it.
Alex Mastrianni: Well, thank you both so much for joining us today. I have learned a lot and I'm sure our listeners will be able to pick up a tip or too, and hopefully put some of this into action at their associations. So thank you everyone, we will see you next time on The Member Engagement Show.
We all live very busy lives, and anything that can put more time into our day is a game changer. That’s why this week’s episode is about email marketing automation. Alex and Heather are joined by experts Beth Arritt and Kat Jarvis to talk about saving ourselves time! Listen now to hear their tips on how you can make your staff more efficient and provide better service for your customers.