How can our association safely develop new marketing?

Association staff members, like all humans, enjoy some change from time to time. But like all humans, association staff members hate to make changes that cause problems.  When it comes to making mistakes, association staff particularly hate making them when it comes to their event marketing

If that is the case, why not just keep using the same association marketing year after year? After all, frequency and repetition are proven marketing principles.  And the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” would certainly seem to apply if the association’s previous event attendance was satisfactory.

There are two primary reasons associations like to change their event marketing frequently:

1) As mentioned above, associations just like to change things.  It seemingly keeps them fresh.  And it also shows everyone that the association staff is working hard.

2) The association might be able to change things for the better.  Just because event attendance was satisfactory doesn’t mean the association leadership wouldn’t love to see event attendance skyrocket.

The problem with making changes big enough to keep things fresh and make attendance skyrocket is that the association could make a huge mistake.  Given that situation, here is the way to safely make changes to your association’s event marketing – or any association marketing:

– Start with what you know provides satisfactory results for the association.  This can be called the “control.”  It is the benchmark against which all changes will be judged.

– Create one or more sets of marketing with the changes.  These are called the “tests.”

– Ideally the tests should change in only one major element versus the control and the other tests.  This lets you track the effect of that single variable, which will helpful as you try to interpret the results.

– The tests should be used for only a very small sample of the association’s target audience. That is because you don’t want to hurt the association’s event marketing if the test backfires.

– This sample should consist of at least 300 of the target audience if possible, as this provides good statistical reliability.  If your association target audience is so small that 300 is an impossibly large number, you can still run tests, but you need to exercise caution when interpreting the results. That is because with smaller samples a few people can dramatically effect the results.

– Your samples should be randomly chosen, but demographically similar to the overall target audience for your association.  For example, you don’t want to bias the results by choosing people in one geographic area or choosing people because they were the first 300 people on the list.  The samples should be representative of your overall audience.

– When the association event is over and you are able to evaluate the results, compare the tests to the control.

– Consider both the results in the absolute and the investment required for each test.  In other words, evaluate the association’s return on investment to see if the net gain in attendance, revenues, etc. was worth what the association put into it.  Keep in mind that test costs are sometimes less efficient on a unit basis because they are so small.  Therefore, evaluate the test costs using the unit cost based on a full rollout of the test. That will allow for a fair comparison versus the control.

– At the end of the evaluation, you’ll have a winner.  Perhaps it will be the control.  That’s fine – it means your association has been doing the right thing.  If one of the tests wins, it would become the new control for the association and it would be rolled out at the next event.  At that point, you could try to best it again with new tests.

Does your association change its marketing frequently?  Does the association test new concepts methodically using tests and a control?

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