Category Archive: Marketing

What is Pardot?

Stephen-St.-John April 13th, 2022 by

What is Pardot? Or what is Marketing Cloud Account Engagement? (Pardot’s new name)

In today’s digital world, all organizations realize the need to have robust Marketing Automation Software. Marketing automation software allows you to automate your marketing processes, streamline workflows, and track campaign results. In addition, it can serve as a central marketing database, allowing you to provide tailored, segmented, and timely marketing to your customers.

Marketing automation software can assist you in determining the effectiveness of a campaign as a whole. There are several software solutions out there, but Salesforce Pardot (or Marketing Cloud Account Engagement – as Salesforce renamed their product) is one of the most popular. So, in this blog, we are taking a closer look at one of the best marketing automation tools available in the market, Salesforce Pardot.

What is Pardot/ Marketing Cloud Account Engagement?

Pardot is a lead-generating and nurturing system. It is a Salesforce solution that allows businesses to analyze and assess the efficacy of their communications, acquire insight into user behavior, and tailor content across campaigns depending on a variety of parameters. As a result, you can be sure that you’re interacting with the correct person at the right time and in the appropriate tone when you use Pardot.

Salesforce Pardot provides a 360-degree view of all prospects in various industries and helps organizations generate more leads, boost sales, and complete transactions.

Pardot is now ranked sixth in market share, with over 85,000 websites using it daily. Moreover, by 2024, the B2B automation market will have nearly quadrupled from its current level of 3.3 billion USD. As a result, it is essential to understand the several benefits of Pardot to select the most refined automation platform among the numerous options accessible.

Benefits of Pardot

  • Track your return on investment (ROI) to improve your marketing efforts – With configurable and sophisticated reporting, you can calculate the true ROI (return on investment) of all marketing initiatives. The platform assists you in gaining insight into which marketing campaign brings in new business so that you optimize your marketing efforts accordingly.
  • Email marketing – Use the easy email editor to connect with customers. Using customization strings, automation rules, dynamic content, and customer profiling, create segmented lists personalized to the exact specifications. Also, use email SPAM analysis and A/B testing to see which material resonates with customers and optimize it.
  • To increase your revenue, you can look at success in context – B2B marketing dashboards with custom Wave and visual reporting make it possible to see success in context and make immediate modifications to increase income. It also allows the user to acquire fresh insights into how well campaigns are doing to maximize marketing efforts.
  • Includes the benefits of Salesforce – There are several advantages to using the Salesforce-Pardot interface among the various marketing automation solutions. Salesforce allows sales reps to examine Pardot data and send Pardot emails. A task in Salesforce is also triggered when a lead score hits a certain threshold. As a result, experts agree that Pardot’s actual value rests in its integration with Salesforce.
  • Prospect tracking gets better with time – Pardot uses IP look-up software to track in-depth, progressive prospect tracking of website visitors and monitoring social media, Google AdWords, and webinars.
  • Helps you understand the sales funnel – The Lifecycle and Engagement reports provide a high-level picture of the sales cycle, showing how your leads are moving through the funnel.
  • Allows you to nurture your leads – It’s simple to modify content by taking a list of prospects and running a lead nurturing campaign with templates for emails, forms, and landing pages.
  • Lead grading and scoring are differentiated – To improve sales productivity, Pardot differentiates between lead grading, or who is of interest to the organization, and lead scoring, or who is interested in the items.
  • Benefits of integrating sales and marketing – Pardot’s various capabilities link with all firms’ sales and marketing operations to help them develop a super-strong sales funnel and reap the benefits of sales and market integration.
  • The sales cycle is shortened thanks to automation – Pardot’s automation allows users to do certain marketing and sales operations without relying on manual labor to shorten the sales cycle.

You can find a detailed analysis of the benefits of the Marketing Cloud Account Engagement  here

For Salesforce clients searching for a B2B Marketing Automation platform, Pardot/ Marketing Cloud Account Engagement is the obvious choice. Pardot is appealing to new users as a detailed product and easy to learn. In addition, it is connected with Salesforce’s core functions, and because of its low pricing point, it is accessible to many enterprises. So, with Pardot, give your marketing efforts a boost right now.

Data Security & Data Privacy: their relation and their differences

Avatar photo April 13th, 2022 by

Data security and data privacy are commonly used interchangeably, but though they are linked, they are distinct terms that serve different scopes.

Difference between Data Security & Data Privacy

Confidentiality, availability, and integrity of information are used to describe data security. It’s all about the policies and procedures businesses put in place to safeguard personal data against unauthorized access, data breaches, cyberattacks, and unintentional or deliberate data loss. Data security guarantees that data is accurate and trustworthy and that only authorized people can access it. Resilient data storage technologies, encryption solutions, data erasure, data masking, physical and logical access controls, breach response, and multi-factor authentication are all part of a data security plan.

The policies that regulate the collecting, storage, sharing, and use of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and private firm data, on the other hand, are related to data privacy. Data Privacy refers to the rules and regulations that ensure that personal or confidential information is protected according to the individual’s preferences. Companies that retain or handle PII are now subject to a greater range of privacy standards and regulatory compliance requirements under data privacy regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA. Failure to protect the privacy of PII and other highly sensitive personal information can result in fines or even criminal prosecution under these laws.

Understanding the relation between Data Security & Data Privacy

Although enterprise data security may be effective and reliable, the techniques used to collect, store, and share that data may be in violation of the privacy policy.

For example, a company might protect data by encrypting, disguising, and appropriately accessing it. However, if it collects such information unlawfully, such as without the agreement of the individual involved, the organization has broken data privacy laws, even if data security is not compromised.

As a result, businesses must realize that data security may be achieved without sacrificing data privacy, but data security, on the other hand, cannot be achieved without data privacy.

Ensuring Data Privacy & Data Security

Concerns about personal information and sensitive data and their loss can result in company disruption, considerable reputational harm, and regulatory fines. By implementing effective security measures and adhering to the accompanying privacy standards, businesses can avoid unplanned business interruptions.

Both internal and external policies are required for a comprehensive data privacy strategy. An external policy educates clients, customers, and shareholders about the types of data the company collect. An internal policy establishes what the company and its workers can do with that data.

A comprehensive data security strategy should assist the company in addressing the mounting issues of safeguarding today’s complex computer systems. Understanding where data is kept, identifying who has access to it and blocking harmful behaviors and suspicious file transfers are all part of the process. In addition, a data protection strategy that allows businesses to deal with both structured and unstructured data makes the job easier.


Even though data privacy and data security are sometimes used interchangeably, they have a more synergistic connection. A data security policy is implemented to safeguard data privacy, the same as a home security system protects the privacy and integrity of a household.

When a company is entrusted with its customers’ personal and sensitive data, it must implement a robust data security policy to safeguard that information.

Track Your Association Engagement With Pardot Scoring

Komal Chauhan fusionSpan Team June 18th, 2021 by

Many associations want to quantify how engaged their prospects or members are with the organization. While this is ideal, many associations do not have an integrated system that can look at how the user engages across multiple platforms – web, marketing, and CRM. Various marketing tools have the capability of scoring users based on engagement, but the key is to track engagement across platforms.

Pardot Scoring

Pardot, a marketing tool owned by Salesforce, offers a “score” for each record. A score in Pardot is a numerical value assigned based on a prospect taking action. We measure that action as implicit interest in your product or service.

Scores are automatically assigned to prospects when they are created. Scores constantly change based on activities and interactions and show how engaged your prospects are with your marketing materials. As people interact with the activities like opening an email, clicking on a link, completing a form, etc., the score increases. Pardot even provides a scoring system that you can customize.

The Pardot Score lifecycle chart shows the prospect activities, and how their score has changed over time. In the chart below, you can see an example where a member had a lower level engagement for about a year, had a rapid engagement increase for a few months, and then level off again.

Pardot Scoring Model

Pardot assigns default values to prospect-initiated activities. These are already set up in the Pardot account as the baseline scoring model. The default scoring aspects are based on the email open, event registered, form view, webinar registered, etc. The model can be customizable to suit your association’s requirements.

The default scoring model is as follows:

Scoring Customizations

It is totally up to the client on how they want to customize the scoring model. What scores do you want to assign for each activity? Based on our experience with different clients we would like to recommend best practices to use in the model.

The general recommendations by fusionSpan for default scoring model are as follows:

  • For Email Open it has 0 score, it can be increased to +1 or +2 points. Email open is an important activity and shows prospects are engaged.
  • For Event Registration it has 0 score, it can be increased to +2 to +5 points. There are high chances of prospects filling the event registration form. (Note this is based on an integration with Eventbrite.)
  • For Form Submission it has a score of 50, it seems a lot so in this case it can be reduced to +10 or +20.
  • For Landing Page Success it has a score of 50, it can be reduced to +20 or +30.
  • We can use Page actions to increase prospect ‘s score if they visit a specific webpage. It can have a score of +10 or +15.

Scoring Decay

Scoring decay is decreasing Pardot scores over time as a prospect stays silent, going longer without any activity. In such instances, we recommend assigning prospects negative points in order to ensure scores are up-to-date for all prospects.

Pardot does not come with score decay out of the box. If your association wants to utilize scoring decay, you need to set up automation on your own. For assistance on Pardot scoring and automation, reach out to the fusionSpan team for more!

Organizations of different sizes and processes will likely use different scoring decay methods. For example, if an organization has a shorter sales cycle, they may choose to decay scores after 30 days of inactivity, while longer selling cycles might need a 6 month delay before any prospect score decay happens.

For scoring decay, automation rules can be used to change the overall Pardot score or scoring categories. In the example below, if a prospect hasn’t opened an email in 30 days, then their score is decreased by 5.

Pardot Overall Score Automation Actions

Scoring Categories

The final concept around scoring in Pardot is the use of scoring categories. These are used to score prospects on more than one product or business unit. To begin this process, you will assign a scoring category to a folder. When prospects interact with assets in that folder, Pardot creates a separate prospect score for the category.

Assigning a scoring category to a folder will consider all assets (including assets in subfolders) in the category score. You can assign the same scoring category to multiple folders, but each folder can have only one scoring category.

An interaction with an asset will count towards the scoring category assigned to that asset’s respective folder. For example, a form submission on a landing page is attributed to the scoring category assigned to the landing page’s folder.

Leverage fusionSpan For Pardot Assistance

As you can see, quantifying how engaged prospects and members are across the organization can take your associations membership to the next level. Remember, it is important to track engagement across multiple platforms to understand a 360-degree view of your membership.

For more Pardot and Marketing best practices, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the fusionSpan team today!

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Leverage Pardot Forms as Lead Generation Tools

Komal Chauhan fusionSpan Team December 17th, 2020 by

Forms are very common features on association websites to collect information from visitors, regardless of if they are members or not. The information gathered on forms can help turn anonymous visitors into identified prospects. For example, when a visitor provides an email address in the form while signing up for a free newsletter, you will be able to capture the name and contact information of that user. Therefore, forms serve as ideal lead generation tools.

Forms can further be used to gather more information about the contact. Based on the demographic or preference information, more personalized emails can be sent in the future. Different associations value different information, so the fields can easily be customized to get the most important information required into the marketing database.

Associations use a wide variety of marketing tools (MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Pardot, HubSpot, Marketing Cloud, etc.), many of which have form functionality. On of the most common platforms associations tend to use is Pardot. Pardot is a B2B Tool built on top of Salesforce, and makes it easy for users to create customized and user-friendly forms based your organization’s needs. While these forms appear advanced, they are easy to handle and maintain over time.

TABS Case Study CTA

There are two different form types available in Pardot: Forms and Form Handlers.

Pardot Forms

Pardot forms are designed and managed completely in Pardot. They are easy to use and collect information about people visiting your website or landing page, and can be set up quickly by using the Form Wizard tool. Benefits of using Pardot forms include:

  • Prevents data duplication by merging form submission with any existing prospect with the same email address
  • Includes progressive profiling
  • Invisible bot protection
  • Tracks form views and logs error data
  • Can be embedded in a Pardot landing page
  • Can set up automation rules based on form views
  • Displays customized “thank you” content after form submission

Form Handlers

Form Handlers connect Pardot to external forms, which allows you to funnel prospect information into Pardot. With Pardot’s form handlers, you can keep all your existing, styled web forms and still collect the data in Pardot. fusionSpan recommends form handlers if you have an extensive form infrastructure already in place, need total control of your form’s design, or just want to pass data back to Pardot from specific fields in pre-existing forms. Some features include:

  • Integrates with third-party forms
  • Integrates with Salesforce Web-to-Lead forms
  • Maintains existing web forms that are already styled to your association’s brand
  • Captures information from a form that may be writing information to multiple other databases

Progressive Profiling

Forms do not have to be static. Instead, associations can use progressive profiling to set up iterative forms that enable you to define which fields appear in order to gather even more information about the prospect. Every time a prospect fills out a form, you are progressively collecting valuable new information about them while keeping your form as short and easy to complete as possible. Pardot forms can dynamically change and hide questions based on what you already know about the prospects.

For example, let us say a prospect has already filled out a form with their name, company name, and email. If you want to ask the prospect for additional information, you can use progressive profiling to automatically replace one of the form fields they’ve already answered, like a company, and exchange it for a different field, like a phone number.

The benefits of progressive profiling include:

  • Shorter forms have better conversion rates
  • Progressive Profiling avoids repetition and saves time
  • Users are able to capture more valuable prospect intelligence over time

Completion Actions

Once a user fills out a form, you will want to take next steps with that lead. Pardot has a functionality called completion actions that allow you to immediately perform an action on a prospect record. Below are several examples of completion actions:

  • Automatically add new prospects to a welcome email nurture program/journey
  • Send auto-response after a form is completed
  • Send an email to the prospect asking them to sign up for additional email preferences
  • Assign prospects to a source campaign to later identify their member journey
  • Notify an association staff member that a prospect completed a form

Contact fusionSpan For More Assistance!

As you can see, forms are an easy-to-use yet effective tool. By using forms, you can enhance your customer’s journey and turn unidentified prospects into strong leads.

For more information on Pardot, Forms, or Marketing Automation, don’t hesitate to reach out to our talented Digital Strategy team here at fusionSpan!

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How Google Analytics Can Improve Your Association’s Digital Presence

Adam November 19th, 2020 by

As an association in an increasingly digital world, providing value to members through online-content is essential. However, it can be difficult to determine whether or not that value is truly being delivered without knowing how users are interacting with the content on your website.

By using Google Analytics, associations can measure return on investment, identify which digital strategies are successful, and understand what content is delivering the most value to members and non-members alike. The way that visitors interact with content on your website will either validate or invalidate your idea of what is valuable about your association and the services that you provide.

Let’s take a look at how Google Analytics can help inform your association’s digital strategy:

1. How Are Users Getting to Your Website?

Determining where users are coming from can help inform where your association’s marketing efforts are most successful, as well as areas that can use improvement. For instance, if most visitors land on your website through Facebook, that may be an indicator that your current social media strategy is successful.

However, you may also notice that your site is not getting a lot of traffic through organic search. That could mean that your website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) needs improvement. This type of information is extremely valuable and can be used to ensure that marketing budgets are allocated to the best-performing channels.

2. Which Pages of Your Website Are Receiving the Most Traffic?

Using Google Analytics, you can easily view which pages of your website attract the highest number of users. If you notice that some pages are receiving significantly more traffic than others, it may prove useful to incorporate certain design and content elements from successful pages more frequently throughout the site.

High traffic on a particular page may also have to do with how users are getting to that page. Perhaps one news post on your site was viewed significantly more than others, and the source (AKA medium) for that traffic was email. It may be that a link to that particular post was included in an email to members at the time it was posted. This knowledge may help inform a decision to focus more attention on email marketing campaigns.

3. How Long Are Visitors Staying on Your Website?

The length of time users stay on individual pages – or on your website in general – is a simple but crucial metric. Google Analytics breaks these visits into what they call “sessions.” As defined by Google Support, “A session is a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame.”

With Google Analytics, you can keep track of users’ average session duration that comes to your site. According to Databox, most digital marketers report an average session duration of about 2 to 3 minutes. If users spend less than 2 minutes on your site before leaving, it may be a good idea to review which pages have the lowest session duration and experiment with content updates on those pages.

Contact Our Digital Strategy Team for Additional Resources!

These are just a few examples of the vast array of tools that Google Analytics has to offer. Accurate and reliable data can bolster the success of any association’s digital strategy. Google Analytics provides you with that data and will give your association a clear picture of where to focus your digital efforts. Learning from your data is a big step toward meeting your organization’s goals.

The Digital Strategy team here at fusionSpan specializes in helping associations act on reaching those goals. Reach out today to learn more about how we can help you set up Google Analytics, learn from your data, and act to improve your success in the digital association space!

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Audit Your Marketing Presence Before Implementing a New System

Susan Baumbach September 10th, 2020 by

For many associations, this time spent working remotely has been a great opportunity to examine current processes and tools. A few months ago, I discussed how to evaluate your current marketing tool to determine if it fits your association’s current and future needs. If the result of that conversation was that a new system is needed, the next logical step is to determine which tool should be identified and implemented.

However, before going full steam ahead, I would recommend that your team do a full audit of all of your existing marketing assets and data sources. Going through this exercise will help ensure both a successful implementation, and reduce the number of surprises throughout the process.

My goal during discovery meetings with a new client is to gain a full understanding of everything that touches marketing and communications, but some small items may fall through the cracks because they are not top of mind for the client. Before a discovery meeting, whether internally or with an implementation partner, have your team review the items below to create an inventory of all marketing assets and ensure everything is included in the implementation plan.


Naturally, in an email marketing system, the first item is going to be emails. In fact, I have seen that Email Marketing is still the “glue” that holds the user experience together for many organizations.

Review the emails that you sent out over the last year and categorize them into buckets. This is helpful in making sure that your email preferences are aligned with what the organization actually sends out. If you don’t have email preferences, then take the opportunity during the implementation of a new system to offer them (and make sure to evaluate your use of transactional emails as well)!

When reviewing the emails, make sure you take a look at the email templates that are used. Do all of the emails use consistent templates, or is there a wide variety depending on the type of communication? Discuss as a group if the organization wants to redesign email templates or migrate the existing design to the new system.

If possible, review what email clients (Gmail versus Outlook, for example), most of your members use to read your emails. Make sure that when creating templates in the new system that they render properly for the most popular email clients your contacts use.

In addition, pictures that are uploaded to your legacy system will likely need to be downloaded and uploaded to the new system. I do not recommend linking to old pictures because once the contract expires on your legacy system, your pictures will mostly likely no longer be available in the future.


Your legacy marketing system holds a wealth of information about how your members and prospects have interacted with your organization in the past. At the most basic level you know which contacts are subscribed or unsubscribed from receiving your emails. At a deeper level, you may know who opens up emails related to events versus educational opportunities. This behavioral information can be aggregated and added to the new system so you do not have to start from scratch.

A component of data is also mapping various data sources. For example, some associations have a stand-alone Event Management System that is used to manually create email lists from event registrations. Others may have a smaller database housing contact records – maybe for event sponsors or industry contacts.

List out all of these external data sources and identify what information needs to be pulled into the new marketing system. Think about reducing the amount of manual data transfer among the tools by understanding how they can integrate to achieve a continuous (or nightly) data sync.

Website and Analytics

Many marketing tools offer forms that can be added to the association’s website to generate new leads through a newsletter signup form. With the help of the IT Admin or Webmaster, review the website to find all the places where marketing forms are located. Create an inventory so you know what needs to be updated when the new system is launched. Make sure to note any forms managed by your current Association Management System (AMS), because they could potentially be replaced in your new marketing tool, if applicable.

While reviewing the website, check if there are any tracking codes from the legacy marketing system. In Pardot for example, tracking code can be added to the website to understand what webpages prospects are viewing and link that information to their record. All of this tracking code will need to be updated for a new system. Make sure to review the reports in the legacy system to identify if the locations of tracking code can be refined to get a better understanding of user behavior on your website. Finally, if Google Analytics is connected to your legacy marketing system, make sure that tracking code is updated as well.

Social Media Connections

Integrating email with social media campaigns is a common practice among associations. If your legacy marketing tool was used to manage social media posts for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, then make sure the new system is configured to handle those connections as well.

Business Processes

This category is a bit more abstract, but is extremely important to launching a new marketing system and ensuring the implementation runs smoothly. Think through how your organization leverages your current marketing system and identify areas where processes can be improved. For example, one client mentioned that they were missing a key piece of information about their members, so we figured out how to capture that in future initiatives.

Lastly, make sure that you know when your legacy marketing system is up for annual renewal. In some associations, that information lives with the finance team and not necessarily the marketing team. This is a question I have learned to ask up front so that everyone involved feels comfortable with the implementation timeline.

Taking the time to review all of the above items will help save everyone a potential headache during implementation, and ensure that the new marketing tool is optimized for your organization.

Contact fusionSpan For Your Digital Transformation!

Charting the course of digital spaces and larger transformations is daunting. Organizations often struggle to understand the options as well as the implications. At fusionSpan, our digital strategy team understands that a single website or platform is just one stopping point on the entire customer journey.

Contact us today for a consultation to talk about how to plan for your next implementation!

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Best Practices for Your Marketing Tool Spring Cleanup

Susan Baumbach April 2nd, 2020 by

Guess what? Your marketing system is so organized you do not need to do a thing!

April Fools! (belatedly)

In many marketing systems that fusionSpan audits, there are a number of outdated lists, old email drafts, and unorganized email content. Some of this is to be expected with multiple people working in the same system, so it is important to frequently review the tool to make sure it is organized and up-to-date. When doing a cleanup, think about a new staff member coming on board. They should be able to navigate the system without extraneous or irrelevant information around to trip them up.

On The Surface

Remove Test Data
Typically during the implementation of a new marketing tool, a number of test records are created. This may include test contacts, emails, email templates, automated programs, etc. Search through your system for test records and delete unnecessary ones. You still may want to keep some test records that you are actively working on, but just make sure to remove them when you are done.

Cleanup Marketing Lists
Many associations have a large number of lists used for marketing. Some of these are relevant month after month, but one-time lists will just clutter up your system. For example, there is one for collegiate members who are interested in recurring scholarship opportunities and another is for active members in the Western United States for a one-time webinar. To start the cleanup process, copy and paste the names of your lists into Excel or Word and categorize each one based on the frequency of use. Have all members of your marketing team do this exercise separately, and then compare results. Identify specific unused lists that are no longer needed, and either archive or delete them.

Email Templates and Email Drafts
Using email templates is a great way to have a unified marketing approach across all emails sent. Sometimes you use a template to create a draft email, but then it never gets sent for one reason or another. A year later the draft is still sitting there and you have since updated your templates. In order to reduce confusion about which templates are updated, make sure to clean up your old templates and unsent draft emails.

Pictures and Content
Graphics are a key component of good marketing because, as they say, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Images and other content can easily be dumped into one main folder in your system. If that is the case, then think about a folder structure that makes sense for your association. Should graphic content be organized by year, type, or by specific events? Also, during this cleanup process, make sure you develop a standard naming convention for the files.

The Deep Clean

Once you have gone through and removed clutter from your system, then you can start thinking about several more advanced topics to ensure your overall marketing strategy is updated.

Segment Audiences Based on Previous Engagement
Review reports for each email you sent over the past month or two. If you see a dip in engagement, open or click rates, then segmenting your audience by previous engagement is an important step. It is important to identify which segment of your audience is contributing to that drop. In many tools, you can create a re-engagement campaign by identifying those contacts who have not opened an email in the last 3 months (or whatever timeline makes sense for your organization). If you send emails out frequently, several times a week, then having a shorter timeframe for engagement makes sense, compared to organizations that send an email once or twice a month. Use this new re-engagement list to funnel those contacts into an automated program designed for re-engagement. This may include a reminder about member benefits or discounts for upcoming events. In addition, add the re-engagement list as a suppression list on your regular email sends so that they do not get inundated with both regular emails and re-engagement emails.

Reassessing Your Marketing Goals
By springtime, many people’s New Year’s resolutions begin to wane. Think about what fresh ideas you had about your marketing strategy after coming back from the holiday break. Were you thinking about redesigning your email templates to ensure they render properly on the email clients your members use most? Did you want to develop a new drip campaign for the large conference coming up in the fall? Maybe you wanted to create cross-channel campaigns where members would receive content via email and social media outlets? Whatever your goal was, make sure that you are still working towards it! Ensure that you know how to evaluate if changes in marketing strategy are driving you closer to your goals.

Making sure to be vigilant in keeping your marketing tool free from redundancies or unused strategies will help to keep marketing costs low and free from preventable issues in the future.

Top 12 Recommendations for Association Communicators for COVID-19

Becky Breeden March 27th, 2020 by

Top 12 Recommendations for Association Communicators for COVID-19 – Less is Definitely More

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that everyone else in the known universe has an inbox burgeoning with COVID-19 email messages ranging from their dentist to the guy who sold them an earthenware mug on Etsy.

About four of them have been useful, but I suppose it is better to send out relevant information proactively than wait on your customers, users, or patients to call one at a time.

It’s likely this onslaught is going to continue for some time. What should you do as an association marketing and communication person?

HINT: The answer is not “nothing.”

  • Immediately consider your audience(s) and assess the impact of COVID-19 on them personally and professionally.
  • Are you serving a high-impact (i.e. medical professionals) or high-risk (i.e. patients with underlying conditions) audience?
  • Is your information critical to their response to a global pandemic? That is a serious question. Only you know the answer. You might be the association of widget makers needed for ventilators. There is no one rule determining how important your message is.
  • Evaluate your entire queue of email sends and start weeding for the next 6-8 weeks.
  • Put nonessential messaging in a parking lot and integrate content back in when and if the rate of information allows.
  • Shorten messaging and consolidate into a periodic digest where at all possible.
  • Summarize all COVID-19 cancellations, closures, or responses into one email.
  • Make the content of your notifications related to COVID-19 available in a central place on your website.
  • Delay promoting events, products, and services now unless they are a) relevant, and b) virtual.
  • Be accurate and current. It is tempting to bury our heads in the sand some days because the news is hard to watch. However, situations are evolving rapidly, and any communicator needs to make sure your messaging is relevant and accurate.
  • Tell customers how to reach you in every communication and include any altered hours or methods availability.
  • BE CONSISTENT. Make sure your message is on point across all platforms. If an event is “tentative” in one place and “canceled” in the other, you are just barking for more phone calls.

In closing, consider adjusting your expectations and evaluate what is really important in the long run. That’s a commentary on both communication and life in general, but in regards to communication, decide which metrics are meaningful right now and lower expectations for responses or interactions. A lot of us are overwhelmed, and, while you want to know vital communications are being received, it is also possible your recipients are buried under the tidal wave of information we are all wading through right now.

Meanwhile, be safe, be well, and wash your hands.

TABS Views fusionSpan as a Partner, Not a Vendor

Susan Baumbach December 3rd, 2019 by

The Problem

Boarding schools in North America have experienced a continuous, 15-year decline in their primary enrollment categories. To combat that trend, The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) launched the North American Boarding Initiative’s “Ready for More?” campaign on July 1, 2016. The initiative’s purpose is to answer a strategic imperative from heads of school to address the decline in domestic enrollment for high- and full-paying families.

Sheila Mitchell, VP for Market Growth and Deputy Managing Director of NABI

The goals are to:

  • Increase domestic high- and full-paying student applications by 10% over 5 years
  • Increase domestic high- and full-paying student enrollment by 10% over 5 years

The five-year initiative, ending in September 2020, educates families about the transformative benefits of boarding school while dispelling common myths that boarding schools are only for children of privilege or for troubled teens. This initiative is responsible for the first of its kind category-level campaign on boarding schools in North America.

TABS Views fusionSpan as a Partner, Not a Vendor

The Solution:

NABI launched a new website,, and simultaneously launched Salesforce and Pardot to capture and nurture leads.

Sheila Mitchell, VP for Market Growth and Deputy Managing Director of NABI, previously used Pardot, HubSpot, and Marketo, but preferred Pardot and chose fusionSpan as her implementation partner.

Sheila wanted the following abilities:

  • To use logic to build a nurture sequence,
  • To segment audiences, and
  • To review analytics at a granular level

As a bonus, by having Pardot and Salesforce integrated, major data governance issues were covered and she had high confidence in the reliability of the data. She views Pardot and Salesforce as “sustainable platforms that are robust and stand the test of time.”

Even though the initiative is not complete, success is becoming clear.

  • A 2% overall increase in enrollment of the target audience from open day 2016 to present
  • A 7% increase in enrollment of 9th-grade domestic boarders, a critical entry point for the majority of boarding schools
  • Stemmed the 15-year decline in domestic enrollment. Without TABS, based on previous attrition, there would have been a 3% decrease in enrollment.

How it Works:

On a daily basis, Sheila receives emails from Pardot highlighting which prospects have most recently interacted with the website or completed a form. Due to the success of the campaign, she has limited time to get into the granular details of email sends. Instead, she utilizes fusionSpan to help create, test, and send emails to prospects. The Digital Strategy team at fusionSpan recently helped redesign how email preferences are managed and capture why prospects unsubscribe from emails. fusionSpan also created landing pages for historical emails that are part of an email series so that prospects can easily go back and review what they may have missed.

Pro Tip:

Sheila recommends that associations spend a significant amount of time at the beginning of implementation to thoroughly develop nurture engagement programs based on segmented lists.

Sheila welcomes the strategic guidance that fusionSpan provides and the Digital Strategy team is truly appreciative of how she pushes the boundaries with her ideas and desire to use the full capabilities of Pardot.

fusionSpan listens, understands my needs, responds quickly, and gives me more than what I ask for. They are a true partner and I value their capabilities. – Sheila Mitchell

An Introduction to Google Tag Manager

Christi Liongson June 28th, 2018 by

Google Tag Manager logoIs your organization’s website performance aligned with your business goals?  Without properly leveraging your website’s data, it is difficult to know how you can improve your web presence and improve your users’ experience.  We recommend using Google Analytics, a powerful free web analytics service, to track and report your website traffic.

If you manage your organization’s website, you may already have Google Analytics installed on your site to track the number of pageviews, unique visitors, and the general bounce rate of your site.  But you may find that you have some specific questions about your website that Google Analytics cannot address alone: Are members fully reading our blog posts?  What elements are website visitors clicking on when they are on the homepage?  How many members are downloading our resources?

By implementing Google Tag Manager on your website, you can create tracking tags and triggers to answer these questions in your analytics dashboard.  You can also use Google Tag Manager to help you create retargeting, remarketing, and Google Adwords campaigns.

What is Google Tag Manager?

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a free tool that allows you to deploy snippets of code or tracking pixels on your website or mobile application without a lot of development work.  Through GTM, you can set up and track for specific user actions such as:

  • Website events such as PDF or resource downloads, form submissions
  • Cart abandonment
  • Scroll tracking
  • Video tracking

To first install GTM onto your site, you may first need some development help to install the GTM code snippet to your site.

Once GTM is installed on your website, you can create new tags and triggers through the GTM dashboard without having to touch your website’s source code.

Key parts of Google Tag Manager

Once you are set up with a GTM account and installed the code snippet on your site, you can use the GTM dashboard to configure tags, which you can set up to collect specific information and send to Google Analytics.  You can establish triggers that cause your tag to fire when certain events occur and use variables to simplify and automate your tag configurations.  Tags are snippets of code that are added to a site to collect information and send to a third-party, such as Google Analytics.

A collection of tags, triggers, variables, and related configurations installed on a given website or mobile app is called a container.

Reading Your Analytics

Once you’ve deployed your first set of tags, simply go to your Google Analytics dashboard and on the left-hand side, navigate to Behavior > Events to see your event tracking results.

Screenshot of Google Analytics Event Reporting

VIDEO BLOG: Moving your association to focus Outside-In

justin fusionSpan Team August 4th, 2015 by

Part 2 of fusionSpan’s conversation with Elizabeth Engel and Anna Caraveli about their recent white paper: Leading Engagement from the Outside In: Become an Indispensable Partner in Your Members’ Success. Here we dive further into what steps association’s can take now to become more member focused.

Did you miss part 1 of the conversation? Make sure to check out here!

Ms. Engel is CEO and Chief Strategist at Spark Consulting. Dr. Caraveli is a managing partner at the Demand Networks, and author of a recently published a book called The Demand Perspective: Leading From the Outside.

Your association is using Twitter wrong – and that’s okay

justin fusionSpan Team June 22nd, 2015 by
Twitter LogoScanning a list of the top 100 Twitter account and you’ll find a lot of singers, actors, athletes and other celebrities. Only a handful of accounts are branded as organization accounts. Organizations that do break into the top 100 represent social media companies, news organizations, and sporting groups (while an association does come in at #60, there model isn’t something most associations could hope to replicate). Yet organizations generally spend much more time and money trying to create an engaging twitter presence. So what’s going on? Here are a few key issues most associations struggle with:


Google’s “Mobile-Friendly” Update – What Does It Mean To Your Association?

Avatar photo April 22nd, 2015 by
Yesterday, April 21, 2015, Google went live with the search algorithm that will boost the rankings of mobile-friendly pages. Let’s take a look at what this means to your Association:

When was this first announced?
Google released that they are experimenting with a new mobile friendly ranking algorithm in December 2014 and announced it officially in February 2015.

What is this algorithmic update and whom will it impact?
This update will only impact mobile searches and will give a ranking boost to mobile-friendly pages in Google’s mobile search results only.  While search results on tablets and desktops are not affected by this change, as more and more people are starting to use Mobile devices for browsing the web, this could have a big impact on your associations web presence. (more…)

How to Write A Press Release

Sheree Santantonio January 30th, 2015 by
PressReleasePicIn February of last year our good friend Alexi Turbow began a 3 part blog post series entitled Why The Press Release?. We know you all have been on the edge of your seats waiting for the next installment, so here it goes!

There are many great step-by-step articles out there on press releases, but they don’t really help with understanding how to craft content in order for your release to actually get picked up by a journalist. In this article you will find the questions and ideas I like to keep in mind when crafting a press release.  (more…)

Dear Betty: Lessons from the Ice Bucket Challenge

January 14th, 2015 by

Dear Betty: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised over $100 MILLION to date for the ALS Association. Why didn’t we think of that?!? I know we can’t just copy it outright, but is there anything associations can learn from the phenomenal success of this viral campaign?

Gentle Reader:

Ah yes, I think the entire nonprofit industry (both associations and fundraising organizations) is being bit by the little green-eyed monster of envy at the moment. Why DIDN’T we think of that?

Of course, even the great success of the Ice Bucket Challenge has not been completely without controversy, with some debating the wisdom of donating to disease specific charities, some people protesting being called out publicly, and a potential PR disaster when the ALS Association flirted briefly with trying to trademark the challenge. Not to mention the difficulties posed by a $100 million windfall to an organization with a typical annual revenue of around $19 million (not that that isn’t a problem we’d all like to have).

All that aside, of course, it was highly effective.

What can associations take away from this?

First, despite what some people might try to sell you, there is no guaranteed way to create a viral campaign. In fact, there is no such thing as creating a viral campaign – you can only create a campaign and hope it goes viral. There are some good practices you should follow that can help, but there’s never a guarantee. And viral doesn’t happen overnight or necessarily on the first try, so you have to be patient.

What else can we learn?

The Ice Bucket Challenge was fun. Take away: stop being so damn serious all the time! These people are trying to cure Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is, to coin a phrase, “as serious as a heart attack.” Trust me, your association can get away with being a little more loose and actually communicating like a human being, too.

 Video was integral to the Ice Bucket Challenge, which made it highly share-able as a result. The keys to using social media in any campaign is that your efforts need to be share-able, as well as having the ability to reach your audience quickly and across large distances. The best way to do that is by sharing video and compelling images. This also gets people involved, especially when they see one of their favorite celebrities. Now I ask you this reader, what is your association’s plan to use video? It shouldn’t be, “we don’t have one.” Nor should it be, “we have a YouTube channel full of long, boring, talking head videos.” Videos are a great way to get your members and audiences to interact with you and especially one another to help spread the word of what you are trying to achieve.

The Ice Bucket Challenge gave people options. While most who were challenged dumped a bucket of ice water over their heads AND donated, the Challenge was specifically constructed to require participants to do only one. So you could give if you had the means. And if you didn’t, you could still help spread the word about the issue. Does your association provide a variety of ways for people to be involved, or do you have to volunteer only in certain ways? Do you have to donate only in certain ways? Do you have to be a paying member to participate?

The Ice Bucket Challenge didn’t originate from a brainstorming session or strategic planning retreat at the ALS Association. Although the full history is a bit more complicated than the heartwarming story we’ve all heard featuring Pete Frates, it wasn’t an association-generated program. What is your association doing to solicit unique, creative, and interesting ideas from your members and other audiences? Your staff and volunteer leaders don’t have a monopoly on good ideas, and you don’t own the association – your members and other audiences do. Create a way for your members and audiences to be heard, and the best place to start is reaching out on social media!

What about you, Gentle Readers? Has your association changed anything about the way you operate based on the overwhelming success of another organization’s great idea? Share your experiences in the comments.

BucketDear Betty: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised over $100 MILLION to date for the ALS Association. Why didn’t we think of that?!? I know we can’t just copy it outright, but is there anything associations can learn from the phenomenal success of this viral campaign?


Gentle Reader:

Ah yes, I think the entire nonprofit industry (both associations and fundraising organizations) is being bit by the little green-eyed monster of envy at the moment. Why DIDN’T we think of that?


fusionSpan Holiday Party

Sheree Santantonio December 23rd, 2014 by
HolidayPartyFood Last Friday the fusionSpan team got together to celebrate the holidays. We shared great food, libations, and many laughs.

Our talented party planner, Linh, prepared a wonderful spread, with the help of our baker, Jessica, and chef, Sheree. We had a blast playing holiday themed games such as Stocking Surprise, the Present Unwrapping Challenge and Mystery Christmas Sketch with some wonderful prizes. Our newest addition to the team, Justin, won a 64 GB waterproof flash drive the size of a penny in the Present Unwrapping Challenge with special shout out to Jon for doing all the hard work! (more…)

My First Tech Conference

Jessica Sansaet December 19th, 2014 by
As I enter the large exhibit hall at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center, I’m immediately surrounded by hundreds of people, all here for one purpose – to see what’s “new” in the technology world. Wandering around the ASAE Technology Conference and Expo, one could stumble upon just about anything, from 3D printers to projector signs and even… a trailer?


Happy Holidays From Microstaff

Sheree Santantonio December 12th, 2014 by

The holidays are right around the corner and we wanted to take this time to say thank you to everyone who has contributed to our company’s growth.

We have had some big and exciting changes this year with our new office space located in downtown Washington D.C., and new additions to our growing staff. We could have not done it without you, and we look forward to a bright and prosperous 2015!



2015 Holiday

Dear Betty: Something Different for the Holidays

November 20th, 2014 by
Dear Betty: Is it already time for sending snowman-themed “happy holidays” greetings to my members and boxes of chocolates and cans of popcorn to my exhibitors and conference sponsors? Isn’t there something different I could do?

DelightGentle Reader:

I know exactly how you feel. Sometimes it seems like the sparks from the Independence Day fireworks have scarcely gone out before Rudolph and his friends make their first appearance.

I’d like to introduce you to a concept that was, I believe, originated by Seth Godin: surprise and delight marketing. It’s ideally what you should be aiming for in interactions with your members, customers, and other audiences. (more…)

Dear Betty: Back to School!

September 19th, 2014 by
backpack Dear Betty: Fall always makes me think of back to school, school supplies, and learning new things. What do I need to add to my marketing backpack for success this fall?

Gentle Reader:

There’s nothing like that first hint of coolness in the breeze, that first crisp night, and those first few falling leaves to put one in mind of new Trapper Keepers, knee socks, and cutting up paper bags to cover one’s books, is there? (more…)

If Events Could Talk: 10 Strategies for Fueling a Powerful Voice

Avatar photo July 7th, 2014 by

Aaron WolowiecCheck out Aaron Wolowiec’s recent blog post featuring “10 strategies your association can immediately implement to boost the reputation of its signature events and, in turn, its bottom line.”

Has your association conducted a communication audit within the last three years? More specifically, are your meetings and publications teams working together to ensure your association’s events are effectively marketed?

If your events suffer from stagnant or declining attendance, sponsors or exhibitors – or if you have difficulty securing quality speakers – the answer lies not in a silo, but rather in your team.

See Aaron’s post as he elaborates on the ten strategies: Branding, Differentiation, Value Proposition, Voice, Brevity, Channels, Testimonials, Images, Sample Content, and Volunteers.

Go Small Businesses and Associations!

Avatar photo June 27th, 2014 by
I recently read an article about the advantages of a large business. I wanted to take this chance to champion the small business/association. How do we turn these advantages for large businesses into advantages for our small staff associations?

Small business (more…)

Live Streaming – Partnering for Success (Part 1)

Avatar photo June 13th, 2014 by
BlogNGS The National Genealogical Society (NGS) based in Arlington, Virginia, is always looking to add new and exciting elements to their Annual Family History Conference. After the 2013 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, the discussion to offer live streaming began. With only 10% of the their membership attending the annual conferences, the general consensus from staff and board was that having a hybrid event would be a great offering. So it was decided that the #NGS2014GEN Annual Family History Conference, held in Richmond, Virginia, would be NGS’s first hybrid event!


Dear Betty: How do we know what to include for FREE in memberships?

April 14th, 2014 by

Dear Betty:

Should everything we offer (webinars, events, discount cards, publications, etc.) be included with membership? Or should members have to pay an additional fee for some of our programs, products, and services? Should everything also be available for a fee to non-members? Or should some stuff not be offered to non-members at all? How do we know who should pay what for what?

Gentle Reader:
The answer is yes.

I know, not very helpful.

Yes, membership should generally include at least some of your programs, products, and services. Yes, members should pay for some things separately. Yes, you should offer some programs, products, and services to non-members. Yes, some of those should be offered for a fee – and some should be offered, even to non-members, for free.

How do you know what should go in which category?

First of all, you do need to offer some stuff for free to non-members. Even if it’s something as simple as a weekly “news of the profession/industry” enewsletter or the occasional free webinar, you have to give them some way to start getting to know you. That’s the beginning of their ladder of engagement, and you need that ladder, because you can’t ask them to marry you (join) before you’ve even been on a date.

Many of the programs, products, and services you offer to members should also be offered to non-members for a fee, and when you’re also charging members, likely for a higher fee than members pay. Remember, according to The Association Law Handbook, 4th edition:

…services of an association or other nonprofit membership organization must be available to those who would be competitively harmed if denied those services because they are not members. (p. 262)

And remember:

 [n]onmember charges for services should not be set so high as to deliberately compel joining the organization. (p. 263)

So of course, you’ll want to offer member and non-member rates for programs like your annual conference and your professional development and continuing education offerings. Anything that a reasonable person could argue provides a competitive advantage needs to be available to non-members.

Turning to members, how do you know what should be included with membership and what should be offered for an extra charge? Associations are all over the map on this. Some, generally associations operating on a free or freemium membership model, include very little and offer pretty much everything as an upcharge. Conversely, some associations offer the opportunity to choose a “concierge” type level of membership that allows members to write one BIG check and then participate in anything they want to. Most fall somewhere in the middle.

How should you decide?

Programs with low costs, particularly that most members use, are naturals for inclusion in membership. An association I used to work for chose to do this with our online job listings. The staff time to process the listings for display online was more than covered by the listing fees employers paid, so we included free access with membership, and found it had a terrific impact on our retention rate for student and young professional members.

Programs with high costs, or that few members use, are naturals for being offered for an extra fee. The classic example here is your annual conference. Between the facility costs and the speaker fees and the A/V and staff support and the food and beverage, your annual event is probably not cheap, and at least for most associations, a relatively small percentage of your members attend. If you suddenly increased everyone’s dues by $1000 a year and included an annual meeting registration with membership…well, I’ll let you try that first, and do let me know how it turns out.

Most things aren’t that obvious, though. So how do you choose?

You have to ask your members what they think and look at how they actually behave. List all your programs, products, and services, and ask members what are the three or five that are most important to them. Look for patterns of behavior. What do lots of people use? What do few people use? What are the associated costs and revenues of popular and less popular programs? Is there another way than participation fees to generate revenue? When you’re developing something new, ask members about pricing options in a way that forces choices: “Would you buy this new thing at price X? Price Y? What if it were included with membership, at the cost of giving up one of our other membership benefits? What would you sacrifice? What if it were included with membership, and the cost of membership increased by ZZ amount? Which option do you prefer?” Look for opportunities to bundle items or pre-sell: “Include this year’s monthly webinar series with your membership and get 12 months for the price of 10.”

This is always going to be an inexact science, governed by tradition, by the norms and history of your association, and by your members’ experiences with the other associations they belong to. But working with your members to put together a package of benefits that best supports them in their professional goals and to help them invest their resources with your association in the most effective way possible is a good place to start.

What about you, Gentle Readers? How do you decide what to offer to whom at what price?

I am a millennial. What can your association offer me?

Avatar photo April 4th, 2014 by
I wanted to bring back a popular topic that all associations, not only small staff ones, face. We originally addressed it Dear Betty: How do we leverage pop culture moments to attract people to our site? This topic is a very important issue – how to get young people, millennials, and recent grads to join. Our members aren’t getting any younger, so we need some new blood.



Dear Betty: How do we ease the pain of a dues increase?

March 18th, 2014 by

Dear Betty,

At the request of our Board, our association recently worked with a consultant to evaluate our membership structure. The consultant strongly recommended increasing our dues rates. I’m worried about the impact this will have on our retention rate. How do I explain an increase in dues to our members? How do I ease the blow for them?


Gentle Reader,

You know that old saying that the only two things in life that are certain are death and taxes? As any association professional knows, they left one thing off the list: dues increases. They’re a fact of life in associations, but that doesn’t mean your members are going to like them.

Some of how you handle this depends on how large the increase is and how satisfied your members are overall with the association. If it’s a small increase (either small dollar figure or small percentage) and your members are enthusiastic about your association, they may not even notice or care all that much. In other words, don’t assume you have a mountain here – you may just have a molehill.

But what if the increase is large, or your members’ attachment to you is a little…squishy? What can you do to help prevent a mass exodus when your dues rates increase?

First of all, your consultant had good reasons for recommending the increase. Which of those can you share with your members?

Related to that, what are your plans for the additional revenue you will raise? Are you going to use it to improve customer service? To upgrade your website? To create a sophisticated mobile version of your magazine? To launch a private member community? Share that vision. Don’t be shy about asking your members to invest in creating an association that will serve them better.

As an example, at a previous association, we created a new top category of dues on our income-based sliding scale specifically to offset the cost of better programming and greater outreach to students and new professionals. We were shocked at how many members voluntarily upgraded to the top category when we knew for a fact, due to our salary survey, that they did NOT earn that much.

What is the ROI (return on investment) of your members’ dues? One would hope that for $XXX in dues, they receive $XXX+ in value and benefits. Create an online interactive ROI calculator where members can plug in the value of the benefits they use and see how that compares with the dues they pay. Caution: only do this if the calculation is favorable for the vast majority of your members. And if it’s not, it’s time for a little soul-searching.

Another question for you to ask yourself is: “Is there anything we’re currently charging for that we can include in membership?” You’ll be charging more, but your members will also be getting more.

As an example, in the mid-1990s the association I worked for produced a print monthly newsletter of all open positions in the profession. When we took it online in the late 1990s, we made the online version free to all members, with the print version still available for a slightly higher subscription fee (we covered the rest of the cost of the online version via a slight increase in the non-member price to list jobs). We did this at the same time as we instituted a dues increase and saw our retention rate go up.

In a more tactical sense, don’t hit your members with the full increase all at once. Much like the District of Columbia does with property tax increases, set a percentage cap on increases (something like “no more than 15% per year”), and let members adjust into the new rates over the course of a few years. One of my clients is in the process of doing this right now as part of a larger dues model change, and they are experiencing good results.

Finally, to avoid the entire “large dues increase” problem in the future, switch to small annual increases. After the first year or two, it’s highly likely your members won’t even notice the increase from one year to the next. This is a tactic I’ve used repeatedly with both association employers and clients over the years, to good effect.

What about you, Gentle Readers? What advice can you share about easing the pain of inevitable dues increases?

Millennials! Leadership! NextGen Association Models! Puppies!

adam thocher March 3rd, 2014 by

OK, so I put some buzz words into the title of this post that will hopefully act as “link bait” for the association community, but hopefully they are not 100% off-target. It seems that every week (at least), there is another book, blog posting, magazine article, news story, and/or BuzzFeed photo journal about the next generation, and what they do (or could do) well, and where they fail, and otherwise claiming to know the truth about these mystical kids. So now that I’ve gotten all the links out of the way and missed out on a couple prime selfie-taking hours, this is going to go in a different direction.


Why the Press Release?

Avatar photo February 27th, 2014 by

Big newsSure you’ve heard of it, but what exactly is a press release? What is its purpose and how do you write one? How do you go about distributing this document once it’s been written? These questions are all going to be answered over the course of my next few posts.

At the heart of the matter is what is a press release and why do we create one? According to Collins English Dictionary, a press release can be defined as: an official announcement or account of a news item circulated to the press.  That’s only sort of helpful.

What is a press release?

To further explain, think of it like this: when your organization has something newsworthy to share with the world, for example a groundbreaking study your association is publishing, you would draft a press release to disseminate this information to media that would be the most likely to cover this study.

One thing to keep in mind about a press (also known as news) release is that that it needs to be a newsworthy story. Here are some elements to making sure your release is newsworthy:

  • Timeliness: You want to ensure that your story contains new information and will not be old news by the time the media receives your release.
  • Impact: The story detailed within the release should affect the journalist’s audience.
  • Uniqueness: Your story should be different from other stories that could be considered similar.
  • Conflict: There should be some sort of clash between people and/or forces (potentially nature).
  • Proximity: Your story should have the ability to be localized to the target audience of the journalist’s you reach out to.
  • Celebrity: If applicable, including a celebrity of some sort will be a sure way to draw more attention to your story.

I’ll delve further into the varying aspects that need to be included in a release in my next post, and show you how to take it from good to great.

Why a press release?

To answer this second question, the simple answer is: it’s the best way to distribute a story you want the media to pick up on your organization. Sure there are other ways to get a story out, but the press release allows you to give more detailed information and craft the angle you would like the media to represent when telling your story. The ideal scenario is one where the outlet you send the release to republishes at least part, if not all, of your release; however, republishing press releases word-for-word is extremely rare.

I hope this has cleared up any uncertainty on what a press release is and why we use them. In my next post, Part 2, I’ll address how to craft a release. If you would like to know anything else on releases, or have suggestions on other media-related items you would like to know more about, please be sure to use the comments section below!

Smart Marketing for Associations on Valentine’s Day

Avatar photo February 14th, 2014 by

Happy Valentines Day!

Associations that represent greeting cards, flowers and chocolates are having a great day but you can get in on the action too! According to the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, the average consumer spends $116.21 on Valentines Day and here’s what they’re spending it on:

Gifts Most Often Given on Valentines Day (Allowing for multiple gifts given)

Candy 47.5 %
Flowers 34.3 %
Cards 52.1 %
Jewelry 17.3 %
Dining / Eating Out 34.6 %
Clothing 14.4 %
Gift Cards 12.6 %
Other Gifts 11.2 %

Why not partner with one of these companies to help you get the word out about your association? Start small with a local company and see if it would be worth it to go bigger.

How to make an infograph

Avatar photo February 7th, 2014 by

First, what on earth is an infograph?Source: Wikipedia

Infographs (aka information graphics) are visual representations of information. You have probably encountered an infographic without realizing it. Examples include metro or mass transit maps, weather charts, site plans, and graphs. A good infograph will:

1. Show (large) amounts of data in a clear and concise way
2. Encourage the eye to compare different sets of data and the mind to think about the content rather than the design
3. Have a clear purpose
4. Have meaningful stats

Dear Betty: What does your crystal ball say for 2014?

December 30th, 2013 by

Dear Betty:
As we move into 2014, what trends should small staff executives be paying particular attention to? What do we need to focus on next year?

Gayathri Kher,
President, fusionSpan

Gentle Reader,

It is that time of year, isn’t it? Every December we find ourselves bombarded with trend lists: trends in marketing, in social media, in content, in content marketing, in social media marketing, in content marketing with social media, in technology, in marketing technology, ad infinitum ad nauseam.

It’s overwhelming for everyone, but, I think, especially for small staff executives. Many of these lists seem neither relevant nor even possible when you’re running an association with modest resources.

So what are some trends small staff association executives can and should think about as we turn to 2014?


The top posts from the Spark blog from 2013 include:

Do you notice a theme? They are all about our relationships with our members and other audiences, or their relationships with each other and with us. And relationship is one area where small staff associations have an edge. Small staff usually means relatively small membership and highly engaged volunteer leaders. Your members truly think of themselves as a community. Think about how you can use that strong sense of community to contribute to achieving your mission in 2014.


Speaking of, if you review ASAE’s 2008 Decision to Volunteer study, one of key points that stands out is that upcoming generations are willing and enthusiastic volunteers, but they seek different kinds of volunteer experiences that their elders, focused meaning, impact, and “getting it done.” In other words, they are mission-driven volunteers. Think about your mission and what about it inspires people, and use that to draw in people who care deeply and are strongly motivated to make a difference. Examine everything you do through the lens of: “how does this contribute to achieving our mission?” If the answer is, “it doesn’t,” you know what to do.


As the saying goes, culture eats strategy for lunch. I quote from the eponymous Fast Company article by Shawn Parr:

“Culture is a balanced blend of human psychology, attitudes, actions, and beliefs that combined create either pleasure or pain, serious momentum or miserable stagnation. A strong culture flourishes with a clear set of values and norms that actively guide the way a company operates. Employees are actively and passionately engaged in the business, operating from a sense of confidence and empowerment rather than navigating their days through miserably extensive procedures and mind-numbing bureaucracy. Performance-oriented cultures possess statistically better financial growth, with high employee involvement, strong internal communication, and an acceptance of a healthy level of risk-taking in order to achieve new levels of innovation.”

Think about your culture. Is it creating “serious momentum” based on “clear values” that produce passionate, empowered, engaged employees? Is it encouraging growth and innovation? If the answer is no, a good place to start in making it better is with Humanize, an outstanding book by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant that looks at how organizations with open, trustworthy, generative, courageous leadership make the most of the people who power them.

If you are going to jump on one tech trend in 2014, make it mobile. You do not need an app, but your website MUST render correctly and your e-commerce functions MUST work correctly on smartphones and tablets. This is non-negotiable. According to Business Insider, worldwide, more people own a smartphone than a PC at this point, and tablets are gaining rapidly as well.  Think about and plan for how you’re going to shift your online presence to accommodate that in 2014.

What trends do you, Gentle Readers, see impacting small associations in 2014 and beyond?

netFORUM Pro Consulting Giveaway

Avatar photo December 19th, 2013 by
In the spirit of giving (and with your tight budgets in mind!), this holiday season fusionSpan would like to help a small-staff association by giving away 8 hours of free netFORUM Pro consulting. fusionSpan is proud to be a Certified Implementation Partner with Avectra, an Abila Company and provides implementation assistance, training, consulting, and has develop customized software solutions for multiple small-staff clients.

To be entered into this give away, simply fill in the form below. Open to new fusionSpan clients only. The deadline to apply is 2 January 2014 and winners will be announced 3 January 2014.

Happy Holidays!


Dear Betty: Is it too late for an end of year campaign?

December 18th, 2013 by

Dear Betty,

The end of the year is approaching fast, and we’d like to take advantage of that to run some kind of holiday campaign. We know we’re getting a late start, but is there anything we can still accomplish in the remaining weeks?

Name and association withheld upon request

Source: 2012 Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report

Gentle Reader,

According to Blackbaud’s 2012 Charitable Giving Report, fundraising organizations bring in nearly 18% of their annual revenue in December. Combined with November, when many end of year fundraising campaigns kick off, it rises to 26%. For online giving, a growing contributor to fundraising, holiday campaigns bring in 30% of the year’s revenue.

Clearly, end of year fundraising = big money.

However, this being mid-December, you are running a little late to start thinking about an end of year campaign. So the first thing I want you to do is to bring up Monday, August 4, 2014 in Outlook and make a note to yourself: “Start planning 2014 end of year fundraising campaign.”

I know it seems crazy to start thinking about a holiday campaign during the dog days of summer, but that’s when you need to start planning to make sure you’ll have your campaign ready to go. You’ll want to focus on:

  • Building your email and postal mail lists
  • List hygiene
  • Collecting personal stories to accompany your appeals
  • Putting together your creative brief and collecting compelling images
  • Creating a highly specific call to action (i.e., “Your donation of $100 buys X specific thing that helps solve the problem we’re addressing”)
  • Creating and testing-testing-testing your landing page
  • Lining up a major donor or corporate supporter for a matching campaign
  • Creating your schedule of appeals
  • Setting your fundraising goals (total dollar amount raised, number of donors, average gift, etc.)
  • Planning how you’ll take advantage of #GivingTuesday
  • Figuring out how you’ll incorporate friend-raising
  • Determining how you’ll thank and recognize your donors

I also recommend signing up for John Haydon’s e-newsletter. He’s a fantastic resource for non-profit marketing, with a strong focus on fundraising and social media. Go ahead and do that now.

But again, it’s already mid-December. Is it too late to do anything?

No! There are two simple campaigns you can run in the waning weeks of 2013.

  1. A year-end sale. According to Hubspot’s “47 Stats for Remarkable Holiday Marketing,” more than 60% of people would share a link to a holiday coupon or contest on Facebook, and nearly 40% tweet about offers and deals. Also, over 40% of people visit websites directly to learn about holiday deals, particularly in advance of Cyber Monday. Now is a great time to offer deals in your online store to your most loyal supporters (which also helps you clear out inventory if you need to).
  2. Speaking of loyal supporters, the holiday season is a fantastic time to recognize and thank them. Your donors mostly hear from you when you’re asking for money, or when you’re thanking them for a specific donation (and asking for more money). On the scale of relationship-building, that puts you at the level of the teenager who asks Mom for $20 to get lunch and never gives her back any change (speaking from experience here). The holidays are the perfect time to show that your organization has matured a little and can say “thank you” without an outstretched palm.

So Gentle Readers, what other creative suggestions do you have for building relationships with supporters during the holiday season?

Social Media Planning During the Holidays

Avatar photo December 13th, 2013 by

Image: RGB Social

Around this time of year, business tends to slow down and there is an overall lack of motivation to start new projects until after the New Year. However, just because you might not be as compelled as normal to work on your social media strategy does not mean you should give in to that temptation.

A recent post by RGB Social’s Matthew Peneycad, provides six great ideas and insights in to ways you can manage social media in an easy and timely fashion, even with the holidays upon us.

One of the main items emphasized in Peneycad’s post is planning. This is a vital part to any business or association and is certainly something your organization should already be doing. If it’s not, be sure to make this one of your association’s 2014 New Year resolutions. This will ensure that throughout 2014 you know the messages you want to disseminate and when. And most importantly, when you have everything planned and approved in advance, you’ll be prepared and able to spend as much time as you want with those that matter most to you for the 2014 holidays.

I wish you all a great holiday season and will see you in 2014!

Answering Your Members’ Holiday Wishes

Avatar photo December 6th, 2013 by

I love Sarah Hill’s recent post for the MemberClicks blog on Answering your Members’ Holiday Wishes. It comes at the perfect time as we are all juggling end of year plans and projects while keeping our members in mind. Check it out:

Have you ever REALLY listened to “Santa Baby?” If you haven’t, take a listen. The amount of stuff she asks for is absurd. Now granted in the spirit of catchy holiday music the song is supposed to have a Betty Boop-esque satirical charm, but it makes me think of the articles that come out every year detailing an approximate cost of the 12 Days of Christmas in modern times.

And that, of course, led me to be concerned about the budgets of my Small Staff Association leader readers. All of your members have a “Santa Baby” list, just jam packed with hugely expensive desires of your association that are just funny in their grandness.

But wait! There’s good news!

Source: Memberclicks

Designating Staff for Social Media

Avatar photo November 26th, 2013 by

urlCommunication skills are important to all aspects of life, including work. It doesn’t matter if your expertise is in political science, economics or journalism – everyone needs to be able to communicate. This means anyone within your organization can be tapped to work on your organization’s social media campaign.

How do you find the right person within your organization?

First, get to know your staff’s social media skills. If you already have a staff member who has a personal Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or blog, chances are they enjoy social media and may take an interest in handling it for your organization. They will also have the experience to hit the ground running, rather than requiring training.

Second, get a sense of your staff’s workload. Can this person take on another task in addition to their current commitments? You want to be fair and not overwhelm one person, while someone else may be looking for additional responsibilities.

Third, does this task fit in with your staff’s duties? If you have a marketing department, social media would fit perfectly into their bucket of projects. Alternatively, it may make sense for your organization to assign the writing task to a membership coordinator or assistant and have an IT person actually post the message. Maybe you have a staff who attends a lot of meetings and conferences where their involvement in social media would give your organization more exposure, for example through live tweets.

Finally, the most important quality to look for is the “want.” This person should want to do this or at least want to learn how. If the desire is not there, this project will not succeed in the long term. If the person who has the knowledge is unavailable because of a crazy workload, for instance, assign the expert as a backup to support someone less knowledgeable but with the desire to learn. This will create a collaborative team that will bring lots to the table, as well as get the job done!


Dear Betty: Why don’t our chapter members join?

November 20th, 2013 by

Dear Betty,US

We have a lot of non-members at our conference. I mean A LOT: 43% of our annual conference attendees are non-members. The thing is, the majority of them are active members of their regional chapters (we know because we asked). Why don’t they want to join us, too? What can we do to entice them to become members of the national association?

Name and association withheld upon request

Gentle Reader,

Are you sure you want them to join? Looking at your registration and membership rates, it appears that, at least for most of your membership categories, the cost of non-member registration is actually higher than member registration plus an individual membership. If all those non-member registrants were to join, it appears you’ll experience a revenue decline.

Are they sure they want to join? As I wrote recently in the Spark blog, we tend to give priority to the member relationship, but it’s not the only relationship we can have with our audiences. Stakeholders can be attendees, presenters, subscribers, authors, book purchasers, volunteers, etc. without being members. Perhaps these non-member attendees prefer one of those other roles for reasons that have nothing to do with your association or its membership offerings.

But maybe you do want them to join and don’t mind about the revenue loss, and they would want to join if only they knew. Now what?

I assume some chapter members are national members. You need to find out what’s different about them relative to the chapter members who aren’t national members. What makes that group of chapter members unique? If you can mine your data and identify that, you will know which chapter members are good prospects for national membership, because not all of them are. One initial clue: what will their employers pay for? Many employers who will pay for professional development related registrations and travel will not pay for professional memberships. If that’s frequently the case, you’ll need to try to find a creative way around that.

Also, how easy is it for people to figure out what’s the best deal? If I’m a chapter member who’s decided to attend your annual conference, and I’m on the registration page of your website, I might think, “Hmm. That’s a pretty big price difference between the member and non-member rates. I wonder what membership costs?” But if I have to go hunting around the site to find the rates, figure out which of your rather lengthy list of options is the appropriate membership for me, figure out how to do two transactions, and wonder how long I’ll have to wait to qualify for the member rate, I might just skip it, again, particularly if my employer is paying.

A better approach would be something like:

Someone selects the non-member rate, so the registration form dynamically populates or creates a pop-over with something to the effect of: “Did you know that you can join our association right now for $XXX and register for the annual conference at the same time at the member rate of $YYY, saving you $ZZZ off the non-member rate? Click here to find out more….” Clicking would send her to a combined join and registration form, where she could do the whole thing in one simple transaction

Of course, once you’ve gotten that new member to join in order to qualify for the discounted conference rate, the question becomes: how do you keep her if she decides not to attend your conference again next year? But that’s a topic for another post.

Have a question for our membership and marketing expert, Betty? Leave a comment below or email .

Engage Your First Time Attendees to Maximize Their Benefit

Avatar photo November 15th, 2013 by

Your repeat attendees are wonderful — they love you and you love them.  But, that familiarity can create a bubble that seems impenetrable to outsiders. Don’t let this happen to your event. Embrace your newcomers — make them feel special and welcomed.

Track Attendance Records

Make sure you keep good track of attendance. Use this information to tailor your message for different attendee groups — regular attendees, occasional attendees, and first timers.

Market to Potential Newcomers

Show potential first timers that you’re interested in them by devoting resources to them on your website’s registration page and in your outreach materials. You want newcomers to know that you’re ready to help them navigate your event for their best benefit.

Welcome Newcomers Right Away

As soon as you identify first time attendees, welcome them into the fold with some tips for how to get the most out of your event. If you can do this before the event – even better! Let them know the flow of the meeting, from where to pick up their badge, where the main socializing areas are, and where to find out about any ancillary networking events.

Give Newcomers Recognition

Offer to identify newcomers on their badges, but don’t pressure them, since not everyone wants to be called out. Appeal to repeat attendees to greet newcomers, and let them know how to find them. If you have the space in your program, host a reception that can help newcomers mingle with the most active participants of your group, which will help them to become more engaged participants themselves.

Guide for Newcomers

The more practice you give to your newcomer welcoming strategy, the more it will be appreciated. Publish a guide for newcomers with all of the materials you’ve created. You can include this guide with your registration packets and in your program and mobile app, and returning attendees may even find this useful.

Have other ideas about how to engage newcomers? Let us know in the comments!

Three Tips to Getting the Media Attention You Want

Avatar photo November 11th, 2013 by

Trying to get the attention of the media can seem like a daunting task, especially when you have minimal to no staff dedicated to this. But even with limited funds or staffing, it is still possible to get the media attention that you crave. Below are three ways to get started:

Hosting or attending an event

While the prospect of hosting an event might sound overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. You certainly need to dedicate time to ensure it is an event that people want to attend, but it does not need to be big or fancy. Perhaps you host a small cocktail hour at the office or a working luncheon.  This gives you the opportunity to invite and engage media and other organizations you might want to work with. This also provides a great opportunity to control your messaging.

On the flip side of this is attending events. Research what types of conferences or events are occurring in your area so you do not need to travel. This will help keep costs down, especially since conferences can be pricey to attend. Additionally, this provides another opportunity to encounter people you might want to partner with and engage media.

Work on building relationships

Relationships are important in both your personal and professional life. And while creating and maintaining relationships might seem like an obvious thing to do, it still amazes me how many people do not do this. I’m not saying you need to be best friends with everyone and call them on the phone every day, or even every week. But as long as you are making the effort to keep in touch and not only reach out when you need something, your connections will be more open to helping you.

Have a good story

As stated above, relationships are critical to getting the type of coverage you want, but even if your best friend is the managing editor of The New York Times that does not mean your story will run. If your story is not interesting or newsworthy to the general public, who your best friend is won’t matter.

I work with many different types of organizations and they all think their story is the next greatest thing. Maybe that’s true, but most of the time it’s not. Managing expectations is important, as well as using common sense.  Think about the trade outlets and journals your organization already works with or subscribes to. Those will be a good starting point for trying to get your story out there, and specifically to the people who will be most interested. After that, work on developing a good local angle and start reaching out to your hometown media.

All of these steps are interconnected and vital to getting the type of media coverage you want. And while none of this will happen over night, you can start taking steps now so that when you have a story you want to share, you will have the relationships and basic tools in place.

Send Alexi comments or questions on how to engage the media at .

Association Fundraising for Success: Embrace the Big Picture [Part 2]

November 6th, 2013 by

Basic as these tenets may seem, it is truly stunning to see how many organizations manage to lose sight of these essential elements as other pressures mount around efforts to achieve underlying specific dollar or participation goals that may or may not have been developed with the larger picture in mind.  These challenges aren’t unique to smaller organizations.  Similar challenges exist in many big and seemingly well-resourced organizations, where institutional complexities and secondary “noise” can pull precious resources in multiple directions—and away from their core goals.

DollarBut, some would say, “Aren’t dollar, market penetration, and participation measures what really count anyway?”  Indeed, they are often the hard, easily identifiable metrics for all the world (including bosses, boards, etc.) to see and quickly grasp.   They matter for these obvious reasons, but the point is that just delivering on these quantitative numbers may or may not indicate qualitative strategic mission success—or reveal an imbalance, as is more often the case.   I suggest you can find your own best way to achieve this equilibrium; if you do, many more metric and impact successes will follow.

It’s not easy to keep the big picture front and center in your organization.  In small shops, many hats are worn by few and times of big crisis (or good news) can swallow the entire team in response.  It requires great discipline, often the courage to reiterate (and sometimes alter) priorities with top leadership or your manager depending on your role.  You have to have the professional and personal confidence to step out of the trenches periodically and take larger stock of your particular association’s real state of affairs.

Here are some types of questions you can start asking:

  • Are our fundraising priorities coming out of and feeding back into our top goals as an organization?  Or are they only somewhat related (even ancillary), feeding one person or group’s pet program because it’s always existed?   Is that the highest and best use of our development team or others’ time?
  • Who are our real constituencies, their needs, and related opportunities?  Are our goals based on serving the largest (or most important mission-wise) swath of our constituencies possible?  If so, how?
  • Have we articulated clearly why we need the money or other resources, such as volunteering, contributing services, content, and so on?  Remember, resources with a little “r” all can carry value if you need them– often with great financial worth– if you stop to think about it.
  • Are we allocating our development resources optimally?  Can volunteers help leverage our small staff, ad budget and so on (priceless)?  Who can we tap into as our larger team in the field? (hint: there are so many options)

And I’m sure you can think of many more that fit with your particular association’s unique needs! (Share your questions in the comments section below.)

In a successful venture, regardless of sector, these questions and their answers are openly and repeatedly discussed across the organization, clearly articulated and understood by all stakeholders.  They’re also thoughtfully reviewed on a regular basis– not just every so many years when the next major strategic planning effort may occur.


When it comes to development, YOU own this piece—no matter what role you may play in the operation.   This includes bringing to the same table “bottom-up” key tactical efforts (which we’ll address in the future around messaging), creating opportunity, facilitating others’ efforts, ongoing stewardship, and broad engagement.

Most of all, you must drive realistic expectations that still stretch everyone (including your board and senior leadership) to think out of the box.   They must buy-in to a truly collective effort and be encouraged to “give” in all ways possible.   Once this full cycle is embraced and ingrained in your  constituents’ culture, you are more likely to have an energized, bigger team on your side— and a far better chance of achieving success.  Good luck!

Click here to see Part 1 of this article.

Next Month:  Delivering the Goods on Your Development Plan 

Association Fundraising for Success: Embrace the Big Picture [Part 1]

October 31st, 2013 by

It’s a delight to contribute several guest blog posts here on fundraising tips & tricks for associations, especially the many small organizations who face a myriad of support and resource challenges.

Today’s initial thoughts start at a high level, because as important as tactics and execution can be (future topics), I believe the most important factor in your success is effectively crafting, clarifying, and communicating your association’s strategic vision so that it translates to an optimal development road map.   You may not realize this is also a part of the development team’s collective job description (whatever your role), but it is absolutely key!  Everything starts (and ends) here.   It’s an iterative process, with your leveraging thought leadership at the top of the organization– as well as informing strategy from the bottom-up—based on the true realities of your market position.

It sounds pretty basic, right?  Well, maybe.  We’ve certainly heard some of these themes before, maybe even preached them ourselves.  But, finding the way to translate this philosophy into an integral part of your entire organization’s fundraising ethos and support system that is clearly understood, embraced—and then articulated– by all on your team can often be your biggest challenge.

And your team includes the entire “community” that makes up your organization and a host of stakeholders, often with their own interests in programs, resource needs, and so on—within and outside your association.  Many associations remain fundamentally built on a membership model, which inherently carries some level of say and ownership in how it does things.  The trick is to leverage this as a strength that helps you optimize development results to achieve ONE strategic vision that, hopefully, many constituencies have had a say in crafting.

Every organization should engage in a commitment to “disciplined development” that is first and foremost driven by its board and senior leadership.  This ensures engagement and financial goals are focused with laser clarity on:

  1. Strategic Mission.
  2. Organizational Priorities (what they are and equally what they are not).
  3. Fully aligned tactical fundraising execution road map based on concrete market assessment data.

Tune in next week to see Part 2 of this article on Association Fundraising for Success: Embrace the Big Picture and learn the important questions you need to start asking. 

Questions? Leave a comment below!

Dear Betty: How do we leverage pop culture moments to attract people to our site?

October 22nd, 2013 by

We are a 109-year-old organization and, while our members are not quite THAT old, they are aging and, as a result, our membership growth has stagnated. With the renewed interest in genealogy due to some recent popular television shows, we think we have an opportunity to reach out to a younger, more tech-savvy crowd. How do we get them to visit our website and maybe even join?

Illyce MacDonald, Membership Director, National Genealogical Society

Gentle Reader,

As you point out, genealogy has burst back into the popular consciousness due to shows like Genealogy Roadshow (PBS), Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC/TLC), and my personal favorite, Family Tree (HBO – I just love Christopher Guest!). How can you use this pop culture moment to generate interest in your association?

Your website is your face to the world, and encouraging people to visit is a good place to start. I did a Google search, and, while NGS does appear on the first page for “genealogy” (which is good), you do not appear high in the listings for searches on “family tree” or “family trees” (which is less good). So the first thing I would recommend you look at is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is a constantly shifting landscape, as search engines and spammers engage in an ongoing war of attrition. There are many ways to approach SEO, from some simple steps you can take immediately to a larger-scale assessment of your complete content strategy to hiring a specialty firm. One good place to start is with Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, which, just like it sounds, is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with key SEO concepts and how they might impact your site. Pay particular attention to the role of social media content in improving your SEO.


Once you come up in the listings, people have to click to your site. I want you to look at something:

This is the first page of listings from the Google search on “genealogy.” What do you notice? Many of those other site descriptions are far more exciting than yours. Make sure your public messages encourage action and invite people in.

Once people arrive at your website (, then what? It’s a pretty typical membership-focused site: buy our book, come to our conference, join. In other words, it’s inside-voicey (a very common problem for membership associations). If I saw an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, thought it was cool, searched Google for genealogy, clicked on your link, and came to your site, what would I find there that’s for me?

You need to capture that lead by offering something, likely for free, that person would be sufficiently interested in to be willing to provide some limited contact information (just name and email address at first) to get it. By doing so, They’ve taken the first step on the ladder of engagement. Now you have a lead you know is interested, and you own their contact information.

Your next job is to fill in more rungs on that ladder that encourage them to develop a deeper relationship with you. Just as you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date, the first thing you ask a new prospect to do shouldn’t be to join your association. She needs to get to know you before she decides to commit. How do you do that? That, my friends, is the subject of another post.

What about you, Gentle Readers? What other suggestions do you have for Illyce to help her capitalize on the current cultural spotlight on her association’s reason for being?

The “Dear Betty” column appears twice a month on the Small Staff – Big Impact blog.  Have an association membership or marketing question for Betty? E-mail  and your question could be featured!

Source: NGS


We are a 109-year-old organization and, while our members are not quite THAT old, they are aging and, as a result, our membership growth has stagnated. With the renewed interest in genealogy due to some recent popular television shows, we think we have an opportunity to reach out to a younger, more tech-savvy crowd. How do we get them to visit our website and maybe even join?

Illyce MacDonald, Membership Director, National Genealogical Society

Gentle Reader,

As you point out, genealogy has burst back into the popular consciousness due to shows like Genealogy Roadshow (PBS), Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC/TLC), and my personal favorite, Family Tree (HBO – I just love Christopher Guest!). How can you use this pop culture moment to generate interest in your association?

How to Win Big at Meeting Promotion

Avatar photo October 11th, 2013 by

RefYou have to get the word out about your event, and chances are you should have started your marketing campaign a few weeks ago. Don’t fret! This article will give you the inspiration to get your marketing right on track.

Identify Themes Right Away

Use your last event for guidance. What themes came up that your attendees feel need to be addressed next? Even if the themes evolve through the planning process, having something to start with will help keep the message relevant.

Identify Keynote Speakers Soon

The sooner you can identify keynote speakers and the topics of their talks, the sooner you trumpet how awesome your event will be. Market early, and market often.

Motivational Deadlines

Deadlines are necessary for proper planning to establish how many people are coming, but more attendees means more revenue. You can increase your attendance by leaps and bounds If you plan your early registration deadline as a motivational deadline. After the first deadline passes, you can announce an extension that will help you capture all of the people who were on the fence about signing up but who let the deadline slip past. This technique works especially well for events that have a submission component, such as a paper or an abstract.

Exhibitors and Sponsors

A whole article will be devoted to building exhibits and sponsorships (so stay tuned!), but in the context of promotion, you have to let your prospective attendees know who’s coming, and who’s endorsed your event. Not only can these endorsements help catalyze prospective attendees, the exposure is good for the vendors and they’ll thank you for it.

Promote, Promote, Promote

You can’t win at promotion if you don’t promote. Early and frequent outreach to your membership and potential attendees is crucial. If you’re not emailing them at least once a week, you’re not doing it enough. Make sure your subject lines carry as much information as possible, and make sure you’re not just repeating yourself. You identified your themes and your keynote speakers early. You know who your exhibitors and sponsors are. You have several deadlines to promote. There is plenty of material available to keep things fresh on a weekly basis. That said, don’t be afraid to repeat key parts of your message from time to time. Your material evolves as the event planning proceeds, so even a repeated deadline reminder can carry a paragraph about why a certain speaker is important to your industry, even if you’ve already told your audience that she’s coming.

How do YOU win at meeting promotion? Let us know in the comments section below.

Dear Betty: How do we get members to read our communications?

October 4th, 2013 by

megaphoneDear Betty,

I’m at my wit’s end! I can’t tell you how often my members tell me they don’t know the dates of our conference, had no idea our Board elections were coming up, didn’t see our call for volunteers, didn’t know that we had a career center, have never heard that we have chapters, and the like. I could swear we’ve mentioned all these things many times. How do we get our members to read the communications we send out? What can we do to improve our communication with them?

 – Rachael Hodgen, Membership Support and Technical Assistant, National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys

Gentle Reader,

Ah, the traditional lament of the association membership professional: “My members don’t read!” Raise your hand if you’ve heard this.

Now raise your hand if you’ve SAID this. (Everyone’s hands should be up by now.) And we can all also relate to hearing, “I didn’t know you did X! I really need that!” from our members…ALL THE TIME.

OK, so we’ve all been complaining about this for years. Our members have no idea what we offer them and what we’re doing to educate them isn’t working.

What do we do to fix it?

Many organizations, in an attempt to be all things to all people (or due to the temptation of all that tasty, tasty non-dues revenue), have larded up our membership “benefits” with so much tangential ‘stuff’ that our members can’t focus on the stuff that will actually help them fix their professional problems. Not to single out a particular industry, but while royalty revenue from your credit card program is nice, is it worth losing your members’ attention over the things that really matter to them and to you? Oh, and ONE call to action per communication, please. If you ask them to do too many things at once, the Paradox of Choice tells us they’ll likely choose to do nothing.

Inside Voice. How much do your members need to know about the internal workings and arrangement of your association to find stuff? If the answer isn’t “zero,” you need to rethink how you present information. Your members don’t care that the professional liability insurance you offer them lives in your financial services department, which they have to access under Member Services –> Other Services –> Affinity Programs. What does “affinity program” even mean to someone who’s not an association professional?

Spray-n-Pray. Are you targeting the particular needs of particular members, or are you still broadcasting everything to everyone? Holding a workshop on marketing? Why are you sending a thousand “come to our workshop” messages to your member companies, finance directors? They’re tuning you out, and the next time you release an operating ratios report for your industry, they aren’t going to be listening. “But our members don’t share their interests…” “But our AMS makes tracking demographics hard…” “But our bulk mail client doesn’t easily support segmentation…” No buts. Learn what your members are interested in AS INDIVIDUALS, track it, and target them appropriately.

Push versus Pull. As we all know by now, one of the key differences to social media is that it’s a PULL mechanism. That means people become subjects who pull the information they want them on their schedules. Our models are built on treating members as objects who passively receive the information we push out on our schedules. And while virtually all associations are using social media now, we haven’t changed our mindset. We’re still using these platforms as push marketing outlets. Which is, to say the least, missing the point.

So focus on what your members think is important, have one clear call to action, talk to them in their language and only about what they’re interested in, and in the places they want to go, and watch your communications turn into a two-way conversation they actually WANT to participate in!

What about you, Gentle Readers? What other suggestions do you have for Rachael to help her member conversations shine?

The “Dear Betty” column appears twice a month on the Small Staff – Big Impact blog.  Have an association membership or marketing question for Betty? E-mail  and your question could be featured!