An Advertiser’s Guide to Association Marketing

If you’re having difficulty reaching your ideal customers, it may be time to take a fresh look at some of the new association marketing opportunities available in your industry.

Note: This article is the third installment of a three-part series about association marketing. Make sure also to check out The 5 Benefits of Aligning Your Brand With a Professional Association and Trade Media vs. Association Advertising: Which Is Better for Your Advertising Dollars?

The individuals in your prospect database will likely be exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 ads today. Think about that for a minute . . . marketing messages numbering in the thousands. Every minute of every day. Heck, nearly every second of every minute.

So how do you stand out? How do you get your message across amid all of the noise and clutter to catch their attention so that you can convert some of those potential customers into actual customers? The solution might be closer than you think.

The professional associations in your industry are populated with engaged members likely to match your ideal customer profile. Further, when these members are actively involved within their association community, they’re more likely to be in a mindset that’s receptive to the solutions you have to offer than, say, when they see your promotions in their social media feed.

For these reasons and others, many B2B advertisers are finding that associations are an effective marketing channel. There’s less competition for attention, meaning that the association ecosystem is simply not as noisy as other channels. Further, many associations are launching new and innovative programs more closely aligned with advertiser and sponsor needs.

The benefits of partnering with associations

Although the COVID-19 pandemic created significant challenges for many associations — most notably the inability to host live events due to travel restrictions — many associations are experiencing a membership resurgence.

According to Marketing General, member organizations experienced double-digit membership increases from 2020 to 2021, signaling a strong rebound for the industry. The survey also indicated an 84% membership renewal rate in 2022.

Plus, every industry has associations, making professional organizations a prevalent — and incredibly powerful — marketing tool. Association members include both seasoned executives and young professionals — ideal customers who can help you grow your business and expand your client base.

By aligning with an association, you’re tapping into the organization’s unique expertise and resources and, in the process, connecting with industry leaders while elevating your own brand. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership that can pay considerable dividends and position your organization for future success.

If you haven’t taken a fresh look at association marketing opportunities, this guide will outline some of the traditional marketing options that the associations in your industry are likely to offer, along with some innovative new programs.

Traditional association sponsorship programs

Event sponsorships

Traditionally, association sponsorship programs have centered around in-person events. Although not forecasted to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2026, business travel is increasing this year, making in-person event sponsorships a viable marketing option to consider. After all, nothing beats networking face-to-face with prospective customers.

In addition to selling exhibit space at events, associations usually offer advertisers a menu of sponsorship opportunities at their conferences and trade shows. Event sponsorship opportunities are typically offered at tiered levels. The bigger the sponsorship investment, the more visibility you’ll have at the event.

The typical silver-gold-platinum sponsorship menu can include promotions, such as:

  • Company logo on attendee lanyards, hotel keycards, banners, podium, and signs displayed around the venue and on stage

  • An invitation to introduce keynote or session speakers

  • Event app advertisements, sponsored polls, and announcements

  • Trade show floor demo sessions

  • Sponsored meals and receptions

Sometimes, associations invite sponsors to serve as a session moderator, panelist, or speaker. You earn this privilege either as part of a sponsorship package or by submitting a successful session proposal. Beyond brand awareness, these events also give sponsors the opportunity to meet attendees, expand their network, and generate leads.

Webinar and online educational event sponsorships

With so many professionals now working from home, virtual events have become an increasingly important member engagement tool for associations. Online events offer sponsors opportunities for brand awareness via logo displays, promotional videos, and verbal recognition. Some associations invite sponsors to co-develop the program or serve as a moderator, panelist, or speaker.

Display advertising opportunities

For companies looking to increase brand awareness, associations also sell advertising space in their print magazines, digital newsletters, mobile apps, and websites.

The options outlined above are some of the more traditional sponsorship opportunities that nearly every association offers. However, many forward-thinking associations are reframing their approach to corporate sponsorship to better align with the needs of sponsors and advertisers.

Innovative new association sponsorship programs

Recognizing the limitations of sponsorships revolving around an event that only last a few days, forward-thinking associations are developing new programs for advertisers that have year-round business development needs. This strategic shift presents advertisers with new avenues to reach prospective customers.

As an advertiser, you now have opportunities to align your brand with associations that will actively learn about your marketing goals and offer ways to help you achieve them.

Here are three innovative association sponsorship opportunities growing in popularity:

Education programs

To expand their professional development offerings for members, some associations are partnering with advertisers with subject-matter expertise. Together, they design and produce content-based educational programs that allow advertisers to serve as moderators, panelists, speakers, or guest instructors for webinars, workshops, virtual learning paths, industry forecasts, roundtable discussions, podcasts, and other events. This kind of collaboration often yields superior educational content for members and offers advertisers brand elevation to stand out from competitors.

Resource library

More than 100 professional associations have partnered with Lead Marvels to launch online Resource Library programs. A Resource Library is a digital hub connected to the association’s website and features your company’s thought-leadership content, such as white papers, guides, ebooks, and reports.

When an association member is interested in accessing your content, they fill out a short form with their contact information. This information is delivered to you in real time as a sales lead, connecting your organization with qualified prospective buyers. In the process, you build your stature as an industry thought leader.

A Resource Library can benefit advertisers in three ways:

  • 1.
    It aligns your brand with an association to help build trust among prospective buyers.
  • 2.
    It features your brand as a thought leader with solutions that align with member needs.
  • 3.
    It can provide your company with a steady stream of warm, qualified leads to fuel your organization's growth.

Ready to take a fresh look at association marketing?

Whether you’ve tried association marketing in the past or are new to the opportunity, it may be time to take a look. Associations in your industry are launching new, innovative programs that may better align with your company’s marketing needs.

To learn more about Lead Marvels’ Resource Library program and the associations we’ve partnered with to help drive your company’s growth, join us for a free demo.

Thank you for reading! Please check out the other articles in this series on association marketing:

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