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How to Get Your Association’s Board to Approve Your Marketing Automation Strategy

Posted by David Caruso

12/4/18 5:30 PM

We’ve all been on the receiving end of emails that begin with “Dear Member” and then attempt to convince us to attend an association event for which we’re already registered. For many association members, impersonal and disconnected interactions like these can lead to feelings of frustration, decreased engagement, and even lapsed memberships.

Your association’s members want – and have come to expect – personalization in their online interactions. Not everyone who is interested in an organization is interested for the same reason. Members appreciate associations that customize messages to fit their preferences through marketing campaigns based on their unique interests and needs.

By helping you understand your members’ and prospective members’ preferences and desires, marketing automation software is an invaluable part of your association’s technology plan. Using this data, your association can implement more targeted campaigns and messages to offer online paths that give each person an individualized, relevant experience. This insight into member engagement can help your association build more meaningful relationships with members.

Evaluating the need for marketing automation internally, however, is just the first step. The next big hurdle association leaders face is convincing their boards to invest in a marketing automation solution.

After over a decade of helping association executives plan and implement marketing technologies, here are our best guidelines as you prepare to talk to your board about marketing automation.


What Do Association Boards Care About?

Your association’s board is – first and foremost – charged with stewardship of the association’s resources. Board members are tasked with assessing strategic performance and aligning scarce resources with your organization’s strategic needs. This requires them to set priorities among competing demands for association resources.

Your association’s board must take responsibility for making difficult decisions in the organization’s best interests and leading the organization in a way that maintains the public’s trust in your association. Your board is ultimately responsible for the fulfillment of the association’s mission and takes legal/fiduciary accountability for its operations.

In addition to their fiscal obligations, board members must also ensure internal accountability by setting and enforcing performance standards and gathering feedback from key constituencies through direct outreach and engagement with association members and staff.

Board members are also actively involved in the organization’s advocacy efforts with significant outside groups such as government leaders, media, and current or potential funding sources.

How Does Marketing Automation Support The Priorities Of Association Board Members?

As they work to balance strategic needs with scarce resources, board members often worry about spending money on marketing.

If your association’s staff are currently spending their time on manual work such as spreadsheet uploads or coordinating data through multiple platforms to accomplish varied tasks, a marketing automation solution can actually help your organization save money by freeing up your staff to engage more deeply with higher-ROI activities.

When used strategically as part of a well-defined communication plan, your marketing automation system can also help your association improve the metrics that your board cares about most, like member acquisition, retention, and non-dues revenue. You association’s marketing automation strategy  personalized messages on a whole new level, improves communication consistency, builds loyalty and improves retention, and engages members with the resources they need and initiatives they want to support.

As an association marketer, you know what a sizeable impact the right marketing automation plan, platform, and partner can have on your organization. The problem is that if you are not versed in digital marketing, an investment in marketing (which has a bad reputation in most circles) can seem unnecessary.

Having watched and helped association executives present their marketing plans to boards for over a decade, we’ve put together some guidelines for successfully building buy-in among your board members.

5 Tips For Presenting Your Marketing Automation Plan In A Way That Connects With Association Board Members

Tip #1) Have a well-defined marketing plan.

Show that you have thought through your strategy. Marketing automation solutions work best when used as a strategic tool in a comprehensive communication and marketing strategy that defines who your association’s audience is, how you will reach them, and how you will motivate them (to give, buy, join, renew, or advocate).

Tip #2) Highlight the unique benefits.

Your board needs to know why a marketing automation platform is in the best interest of your association (and why the problem can’t be solved with another approach).

Be prepared to discuss how you will utilize marketing automation to increase membership, reduce the cost of event marketing, boost product and program sales, free up staff and volunteer time, leave less room for error, and create deeper and more valuable relationships with member and event attendees.

TIP #3) Outline the costs.

It is equally important to address the costs involved with implementing a new marketing automation solution. Be honest and upfront about the costs and how you arrived are your decision. Your board will appreciate it.

Your board will need to know how much time and money it will cost to train staff on the new system, update the software with evolving technology, and incorporate new modules as your organization grows, as well as any costs associated with online donation processing.

TIP #4) Anticipate board members’ questions.

Put yourself in their shoes. Whiteboard their objections as you plan your pitch and make sure you have an answer to each of them.

Give some thought to the questions your board members may have about the marketing automation solution you’re recommending. They may want to know about the purpose and features of each module, how the software will integrate with existing platforms, the effects the software will have on your association’s day-to-day operations, how the vendor will address any relevant privacy concerns, the amount of staff training that will be required, and how this solution will grow with your association over time.

TIP #5) Set up one-on-one meetings.

Set aside time to talk in person with a few board members before the next meeting to discuss your proposed solution. Seek out the more influential members of your board; their support can help you convince the rest of the board.

Testing your presentation out with targeted board members can also help you refine your pitch, discover blind spots that might need to be addressed, identify board members’ primary concerns and questions, and determine whether your plan needs reworking prior to being presented to the full board.

If you find that one of these board members responds favorably to your presentation, recruit them as an advocate for the new marketing automation solution. During your presentation, they can help you make your points and answer any questions the other board members might have.

Marketing automation software is an investment, and your board members want to avoid making a decision that may negatively impact your association. It is important to align your marketing automation plan with your board’s priorities.

Laying the foundations for a successful presentation by anticipating any hesitations your board may have will help them have confidence in your association’s decision to implement a marketing automation solution to help you meet your strategic goals.

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