Although in-person meetings may see an uptick this year, attendance levels are not likely to reach pre-pandemic levels for another one or two years. If you’re an association, that’s a long time to wait for event revenue to return to normal levels. Coupled with that, nearly half of associations have experienced a decline in membership, along with a corresponding decline in membership revenue.
While some segments of the economy have returned to “business as usual” (or at least some version of it), “normal” is still a long way off for many professional associations.
At Lead Marvels, we partner with professional associations to build lead generation programs as a source of new, non-dues revenue. As we have demonstrated with many of our association partners, including the Association for Corporate Counsel, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and the American Public Transportation Association, lead generation programs represent a new and substantial revenue opportunity for professional associations, while providing a unique channel to deepen member engagement.
But, among some association executives, the phrase “lead generation” means different things to different people and often seems to have a certain stigma associated with it. This is unfortunate because, when approached in an intelligent, value-driven way, a strategically run lead generation program will benefit members, corporate sponsors, and the association.
The following are some of the most common misconceptions about lead generation that we sometimes run into:
Consider this: There is an important truth behind this concern – A lead generation program that “sells out” its members by sharing their contact info without consent and provides no value is, by definition, a bad program. However, not all lead gen programs are devoid of member value.
The fact is, your members want to be informed about the latest products and services available to them. It’s why they spend time visiting your website, reading your magazine, attending your conference, and so on. And your corporate partners are willing to spend their precious advertising dollars to support your organization because it offers them a chance to promote their products and services that help them engage with your members.
Many corporate sponsors also have valuable thought leadership content that they use for business development purposes. And the truth is, members want and need this relevant and useful information and most are willing to complete a registration form when the information aligns with an area of need. If members don’t want their contact information shared, they can decide not to register for the content. A member only becomes a lead voluntarily when they choose to provide their contact information in exchange for the valuable content provided by a sponsor, and most are.
According to a report from Edelman and LinkedIn, 71% of B2B decision-makers rely on thought leadership content to stay up to date with professional trends and to generate new ideas for their businesses.
Consider this: We get it. You’re an association with a mission to advocate for and serve your members, not a media company. But think about it – If you’ve ever held a sponsored webinar or hit “send” on a co-branded email, then, in a way, you’re already in the lead gen business. Even an exhibit hall at a tradeshow or annual conference is essentially an in-person lead generation program. Booth sponsors speak to conference-goers and collect business cards, which translate into sales and marketing leads for exhibitors and sponsors.
Though some associations may not envision themselves as sources of lead gen, that’s not the perception of corporate sponsors. In fact, 97% of marketers believe that in-person events have a major impact on achieving business outcomes. Why? Because the majority say live events are effective at generating leads. A successful lead generation strategy can offer your sponsors a similar engagement strategy 365 days a year.
Consider this: While it’s true that your sponsors may not be knocking on your door, asking you for “lead generation” in those precise words, what every sponsor is looking for are business development opportunities. And lead gen, at its core, is a driver of business growth and development.
The companies we work with, perhaps the same ones that sponsor your association, buy lead gen programs from us in order to accelerate business growth. Lead generation provides sponsors a true way to measure their return on investment and align their marketing budgets with projected sales.
Business development is an important area of need for your corporate sponsors. Generating leads is cited as the number one marketing priority by the majority of marketers. And, since content is one of the most effective ways to generate leads, 66% of marketers plan to increase their content investment in the next year.
Consider this: We understand that there are a number of attractive options available for associations to launch new revenue streams and, by all means, some of them should be pursued. But it’s true that associations would do themselves a disservice to treat every opportunity equally and attempt to capture them all. It’s important to be strategic when considering which opportunities to prioritize.
Not all revenue opportunities are equal, of course, and any initiative will have some level of organizational opportunity cost. However, an effectively implemented and managed lead gen program checks off many of the boxes that associations are looking for when it comes to new revenue opportunities, including:
Consider this: While it is true that building a customized lead gen platform for your website from scratch can take a significant amount of development and planning time as well as investment, associations can partner with a third party to launch a lead gen solution that can be driving incremental revenue in a mere matter of weeks.
That’s what Lead Marvels does. We partner with associations and build white-labeled digital resource libraries for your website. The implementation and the platform are fully managed by Lead Marvels, so there’s minimal burden on the association’s internal resources. Lead Marvels also offers fully managed sales support. Plus, there’s no cost to the association ever.
When approached intelligently, a strategic lead gen program creates a virtuous circle: Members get access to a steady stream of high-demand resources, sponsors get intent-based leads for business development, and associations earn incremental, non-dues revenue, as well as deeper member engagement and insights.
Lead Marvels is experienced in building digital resource libraries that supply a stable source of non-dues revenue for associations. It’s a turnkey solution that lets your members find high-quality, helpful content at their convenience.