Great news: the association community is thinking strategically about their websites because we had a standing-room-only audience for the It’s the End of the Website as We Know It session at ASAE’s Membership, Marketing & Communications (MMC) Conference.
Strategy is the Key to Successfully Implementing New Website Technology
We asked the attendees: “How many of you think your websites are relevant and communicate your association’s value proposition?”
Then, the bad news hit. Hardly any hands went up.
Before you start thinking about new website technology, heed the advice of my fellow panelist, ASAE CIO Reggie Henry: “The difference between a good website and a mediocre website is not the technology or structure. It's content.”
Develop a strategy before you implement technology.
Before you invest in any type of system—AMS, LMS, or, in this case, CMS—you must first have a solid foundation of strategy and processes in place. Otherwise, you will never get the expected return from your technology investment.
Reggie spoke of the consequences of moving forward without a strategy. Let’s say you invest in a new content management system or a responsive redesign of your website. But you don’t yet have a content strategy. Now, the 5,000 pages of “crap” (his word!) on your responsive website is now 40,000 pages of crap on your mobile website. Not so mobile-friendly after all.
Before investing in technology, you have to do the necessary foundational work:
- Identify your audiences and their needs
- Clarify your organization’s objectives
- Develop strategy
- Audit existing content
- Set up governance and workflow
Do the work before you get carried away by the latest technology.
Inbound marketing has been getting a lot of attention lately in the ASAE Collaborate community. Inbound marketing uses content to attract and serve a target audience. Using marketing automation software, the goal is to convert the web visitor into a lead and then a customer (or member).
Dave Martin has had success using inbound marketing at the Electronic Retailing Association, where he’s the VP, Marketing & Content. At the MMC Conference, he held 2 informal sessions with attendees who were interested in learning more about inbound marketing. I think Dave would agree with me: before you start investigating market automation software, first lay the foundation.
One way to get started is by developing personas—an inbound term for your target member types—that will guide the development of your inbound content strategy. You also must understand the different types of membership journeys that your personas take. Your understanding of personas and their journeys will help you identify and develop the type of content that will “attract, convert, close, and delight” them in their journey from visitor to prospect to member to advocate.
Another piece of the foundation is needed—an inbound mindset. As you develop this mindset, you start automatically thinking about the purpose of each piece of content, what type of interaction it could produce, and how that interaction might lead to another opportunity to provide value.
Clear the landscape of any barriers.
If content strategy is so critical to an association’s efforts to deliver value to members, why don’t all associations have one? Here are some possible reasons:
- Leadership and staff aren’t familiar with the concept of content strategy or don’t understand its importance.
- No one knows how to develop and implement an effective content strategy.
- The people who are eager to implement a content strategy lack the authority to make it happen.
- Leadership hasn’t made content strategy a priority, so the resources aren’t available to take on necessary, but time-consuming, tasks, like content audits.
And, it takes work, work that is never done. A team effort and the support of leadership is required to not only develop a strategy, but also to implement and maintain the governance and processes necessary to make it effective. Tough decisions must be made along the way.