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How Can Our Association Optimize Our Event Marketing Media Plan?

Posted by Sarah Rosenberger on Dec 18, 2013 7:08:00 AM

An association’s media plan consists of several elements such as the association’s target audience, its goals for reach (how many people) and   frequency (how many times), target CPM analysis (what is the cost per impression of reaching the target audience with different vehicles such as   direct mail, print ads, web banners, etc.), and timing (spreading out the impressions or bunching them together). You might think of a marketing   calendar as the simplified result of some solid media planning. 
Many associations tend to use the same media plan year after year for their   association events’ marketing. Rather than constantly test new media plan   options, the association focuses its attention on the marketing message and the offerings at the event. That’s smart, as the marketing message and actual event programs are critical to the association’s success, but it overlooks the potential for making beneficial changes to the media plan.
Certainly, associations shouldn’t change the media plan just for the sake of   change, because doing so is just as likely to hurt as help the association event marketing. Instead, it’s important to take small steps. 
One option for the association is to create tests using subsets of the target   audience, making single-variable changes. 
Another option is to stay with the association’s “proven” media plan and optimize it by carefully collecting and analyzing data related to the plan, or by adding low-cost elements to the plan.
For example, consider the fact that some association prospects will attend the association convention with even the smallest reminder. These tend to be the association’s best members and non-member enthusiasts.
You can usually determine who these best association convention prospects are by looking at who has attended your event for several years in a row, and who has registered early in the pre-show registration period. If your association isn’t keeping attendance and registration date information in your database, these would be good things to begin tracking.
If you know who these best prospects are, you may be able to get them to register simply by sending them an email with a link to download the association convention registration brochure in pdf format. The savings in postage and printing that you generate from these best prospects can be used to increase reach and/or frequency among other association convention prospects. The net result is that your budget remains the same, but your marketing effect is increased.
Alternatively, rather than comb through data and build profiles of attendees, you could simply begin your association event marketing plan with an email/pdf option rather than a printed/mailed brochure. Those who register based on the email/pdf would not need to receive the printed brochure. Even if the cost savings for printing slightly fewer brochures is not substantial, the postage savings can add up quickly. Again, the savings can be reinvested in marketing to other prospects.
Association media plans are often overlooked when it comes to optimizing marketing for your events. While it’s not smart to make major changes without thorough testing, your association can safely make smaller changes in the media plan by analyzing and acting upon data, or making low-risk adjustments through the addition of low-cost lead elements in the plan.

Author: Dave Stevens, Stevens & Stevens LLC

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE).

About Dave Stevens

Dave_StevensDave Stevens is the Managing Partner of Stevens & Stevens, an award-winning company dedicated to helping associations improve their marketing and communications results. Stevens & Stevens annually works with nearly 100 associations in the United States, from Boston to San Francisco, Tampa to Chicago, and Indianapolis to Seattle. As a former record-setting Brand Manager of Procter & Gamble’s largest product, Dave was responsible for all marketing strategy, advertising, pricing, promotion, concept development, new product development, and new product introductions associated with the brand.

Topics: Association, Marketing

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