How to Build the Right MarTech Stack for Your Association Marketing Plan
You might have a great association marketing plan, but nothing will come of it unless you have the right tools to turn plans into actions.
These tools are your MarTech stack. Marketing technology (MarTech) is comprised of several different components, each with its own specialized function. Your challenge is to pick the right components and stack them together - this is the MarTech stack.
Components of a MarTech Stack
Each MarTech stack is different, depending on the needs of the individual association. Also, not every component of the stack is marketing-specific. Some systems may provide crucial functionality elsewhere in the organization but, if they also support your association marketing plan, then they are considered part of the MarTech stack.
Common components of an effective MarTech stack include:
Association Management Software (AMS)
The AMS is the center of the overall tech stack for most companies. Here, you’ll find all of the vital user data, including contact information and payment details. The AMS also has key functionality such as e-commerce, order processing and subscription renewal.
Detailed user data is a crucial part of any marketing strategy. You’ll need member data for direct marketing efforts, such as marketing events, programming and products. You’ll also be able to create your member personas from this data, allowing you to create more targeted marketing campaigns for new leads.
Customer Relation Management (CRM)
CRM data can overlap with AMS, although it also contains information about leads who are not yet signed up. The goal of CRM is to use data analytics to help you track and nurture relationships with individuals.
You can also use the CRM to place individuals within specially-tailored sales funnels. These funnels are based on the member personas derived from AMS data, which is why integration between these two systems is crucial.
Marketing automation platforms work in parallel with the CRM. First, this are omnichannel communication systems that can generate leads from anywhere, including social media. Once a lead is captured, it’s passed across to the CRM.
Marketing automation can also handle individual conversions. It does this by automating certain steps along the buyer’s journey, making sure that they are progressing smoothly through the relevant funnel. Sophisticated marketing automation platforms can adapt as the individual travels along their buyer journey, taking the appropriate steps to ensure that they don’t drop out of the process.
Automation is essential if you’re sending high volumes of email. That includes marketing emails to leads (in which case you’ll need to link up with marketing automation systems) and informational emails to existing members (which is driven by data from the AMS).
Email automation tools can help to improve inbox placement, manage sequencing, and help with segmentation. The right email automation tool might also have branching workflows that change depending on user actions, such as whether they open emails or click on links.
Content Management System (CMS)
The CMS introduces an element of order to the way you create and publish content. This is especially useful if most of your content comes from outside of the department – you can grant people CMS access and allow them to post directly, rather than emailing their content to the marketing team.
The CMS owner can then implement a workflow with editorial controls, as well as a publishing schedule so that each item of content appears at the right time. This makes it much easier to align your content strategy with your association marketing plan.
Event Management System (EMS)
EMS is essential if you host large live events, such as trade conferences. This system can manage everything from attendee registrations to event booking to booth rental.
All of this data is extremely useful, both for your marketing automation platform and to help refine member personas on the AMS. You can use this information to get details about levels of member engagement, as well as topics that are of interest to each person.
How to Assemble Your MarTech Stack
There’s a lot more to MarTech than just buying additional software. It all starts with your association marketing plan, and there are some offline considerations you need to address before you turn your attention to the digital side.
Your MarTech stack exists to support your association marketing plan, so start by asking what the goals are of that strategy.
In the context of association management, marketing goals fall roughly into three categories:
- Retention – driving renewals and helping members see the benefit of the association
- Recruitment – finding leads and turning them into new members
- Engagement – making members aware of services available and encouraging greater participation
When you know your goals, you can move on to the next question: does our MarTech stack support our strategy?
Association management teams have a heavy due diligence burden when it comes to investing in technology. You not only have to create a MarTech stack that delivers results, but you have to do it in the most cost-effective way possible.
This is where working with a partner like HighRoad can make all the difference. A partner with experience in association management can help find the MarTech stack components that are compatible with both your goals and your budget.
Does your marketing team have the know-how to make the most of these tools? Will they require additional training? Will you have to hire new people or bring in help from a consultancy?
Staffing can sometimes be a hidden cost when upgrading technology – after all, there’s no point in getting a new system if your people can’t use it. Perform a full skills audit and get a picture of any potential skills gaps in the team.
Finally, is the rest of the organization ready for a big change? Are the directors willing to sign off on investments? And do they have realistic expectations about the results that the new MarTech stack will deliver?
Cultural obstacles can slow down change, or cause it to be implemented in the wrong way. Make sure that all stakeholders are on board and that they understand how changes will impact them. Set realistic expectations also, so that everyone knows what kind of return on investment to expect once the association marketing plan really starts to swing into action.
With the right tools in place that align with your goals and expectations, you'll be in the best position to implement your association marketing plan.
About Aimee Pagano
Aimee joins HighRoad Solution with 15+ years of integrated marketing and communications experience, primarily in client-facing roles within the association and SaaS space. Her specialties include persona development, content strategy/management, lead gen and awareness campaign development, and website development/optimization.