Grow your Nonprofit Trade Association with a Benefit-Driven Marketing Program for Industry Vendors

By Chris Schriever

Today we explore how creating a balanced marketing program for industry vendors can grow your nonprofit trade association.

While the marketing opportunities and landscape is rapidly evolving, the basics of creating an effective program remain constant. They are what I like to call the Three Keys.

  1. Identify the Needs of your Partners
  2. Create a program that Delivers on those Needs
  3. Follow through and Grow the Relationship and your Association

Focusing equally on each of these areas will help you develop a successful program.

Identify the Needs of your Vendor Partners—What is it they’re looking for?

While the needs are vast, they are grounded within a set of common goals. Your vendor partners are looking for much more than just basic promotion. It’s less about building brand recognition—which can be achieved through the more traditional advertising channels such as digital, online and printed offerings—and more about digging a little deeper. Most vendors are looking for access to your members, connection to new potential customers and educational insights into the industry as a whole.

With a robust program, your association becomes one of their key access points to this very targeted industry. And a successful program facilitates interaction back and forth.

When it came to re-imagining the Affiliate Marketing Program for the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, we made a point to address each of these areas with a comprehensive list of benefits that expand based on the individual company’s commitment level. Commitment levels are achieved based on overall advertising and marketing spend.

Create a Program that Delivers for your Vendor Partners—So how you do you deliver Access, Connectivity and Education Insights?

Let’s break it down.

Access. It’s easy to provide, but deciding how to do so can be tricky. There are many ways to offer access to members. First, consider providing access to members through your email and mailing lists or an online Membership Database. Next, for larger partners, offer an opportunity to further connect with members through a professional networking site or membership group. Remember to limit the functionality and the depth of the exchange and the data you provide.

Connectivity. I’m sure you’ve all noticed sponsored stories on your favorite websites and blogs. This is one of the newer ways of connecting vendors with members. Though it can be tricky for your vendor partners to track the ROI, it does allow them to share their knowledge and expertise with your members. And build trust with potential customers. Consider how your association can incorporate native advertising or sponsored content within its digital properties.

Another, and perhaps simpler, way of connecting your vendor partners with members is onsite at conferences and events. Face-to-face networking remains the number one way of closing a sale and increasing sales.

Education. Encouraging vendors to participate in your educational sessions and events not only keeps them connected to your association, but ensures that they have the most up to date information and insights to do their jobs and move the industry forward.

Follow-Through to Grow the Relationship and your Association with Vendor Partners—We’ve all worked with a vendor or supplier that’s asked for too much. So how do you keep your vendor partner relationships balanced?

Throughout every step of this process, the most important thing to remember is communication. Listen to the needs of your members and vendor partners, say what you’re going to do to solve them—then do what you said you would do, in the time you said you would do it.

Before developing the Affiliate Marketing Program for ASCA, we surveyed members to better understand their needs. We then met with numerous vendor partners soliciting feedback on our programs, offerings and the opportunities available to market their products and services to ASCA members. By sitting down together, we had the chance to get their input on ways that we could improve and the things they’d like to see. Ultimately, this allowed us to build an even better program than we could have without this valuable input.

Follow these key steps and begin building a successful marketing program for your nonprofit association.

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