And I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m an information junkie, so content marketing makes my heart go pitter-patter. It’s such a smart marketing strategy — be a source of knowledge for your customers, give them information they can use, keep them coming back for more, and be the one they turn to when they’re ready to spend some money. Don’t pitch me, teach me.

Marketing and social media blogs are all abuzz these days about content marketing because it works. It’s a perfect fit for associations that are already providing content to members. Members join associations for advocacy, networking, education and information. As the web becomes the primary source for news and information, associations must be the source that members depend on for their knowledge and education.

I’ve learned more from blogs (via RSS feed or twitter) in the last few years than I have from association web sites, publications or conferences, and I’m sure I’m not alone. That’s a dangerous trend for associations. Everyone’s a publisher now. Are you better than the competition for your members’ attention? When it’s time for a member to renew, there should be no question in her mind about the value of the information, knowledge and education that the association provides. Push your content out via RSS feeds, blogs (and comments), e-newsletters, LinkedIn groups, webinars, Facebook pages, and twitter. Lure your members back to your web site. Make your site remarkable and bookmarkable – the one-stop shop for knowledge. When members think (or talk) about your association, you want them to remember how much smarter and therefore successful you made them. Use your content to cement that relationship.

When prospects visit your site, give them the option of signing up for a special biweekly e-newsletter or a special RSS feed. You now have their permission to market to them, but do it wisely. Don’t try to blatantly recruit them, instead educate them and give them a sample of the valuable content you give to your members. Give them a pass to one of your webinars. Establish a relationship with them where you position yourself as a valuable source of knowledge.

Where do you get all this additional content?

  • Look to the expertise of all of your staff — what can they provide that will help your members get ahead or run their business?
  • Look to your members. Are they already creating content that can be tweaked for your purposes? If not, give them a chance to shine, talk to them about their expertise and how they can share it. This can be a win-win for everyone as long as you have editorial control so copy doesn’t get spammy.
  • Don’t limit your search to the members you already know. If you survey your members regularly on their fields of expertise (and you should upon their joining and renewal each year), you will know of others who can contribute.
  • Work with your conference speakers to create articles, webinars, or podcasts based on their sessions.
  • Can you partner with other organizations to share content?
  • Can’t afford to pay for content? What about a trade for membership dues or conference registration?
  • Consider the idea of sponsored content. Generate revenue by giving your advertisers and sponsors the opportunity to create educational webinars, videos or podcasts for your web site.

When you make your 2010 budget, you know you will budget for advocacy, conferences, trade shows and meetings. Have you allocated financial and staff resources for content creation as well?

I’ll be returning to this topic again and again because it’s interesting to see how companies are using content marketing, and to imagine how they could use it, to build relationships with customers and capture market share. I’ll do some more exploring in future posts, but I would love to see some innovative examples of how associations are using content as a recruitment or retention tool. Do you know of any?