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Quick! Tell me about your association's member benefits

member benefits II

Why should I join [input name of your organization here]?

I used to fear this question. Not because I didn’t know, but because I never took the time to put together a clear and concise list of the benefits of membership. Even though I’ve been with the National Air Filtration Association (NAFA) for 10+ years, this question could make me freeze in my tracks.

After working with AMPED for a few months, they suggested I put together a list of benefits – why had I never thought of this before? At first it was a little intimidating, I could only think of three or four reasons that had been clearly defined. However, when I sat down and brainstormed (and peeked at other organizations’ lists of benefits) I realized just how much NAFA had to offer!

Go through your certifications, publications, member’s access, affiliate associations and by-laws. Look at every program in your association and realize the magnitude of benefits. Use this list while on the phone, with email and through U.S. mail. You will look like the expert you are in no time. Now I can confidently state why you should join NAFA.

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How to reach clients who have never heard of you

chasm image Veroeven

 

I've long believed in the power of inbound marketing fueled by content, but nothing solidified my understanding better than when Adrianne Machina uttered the following words below during her presentation at the 2016 Annual Conference of the American Marketing Association-Madison Chapter.

"The chasm between never heard of you and your name sounds familiar is deep and wide."
– Adrianne Machina of Tornado Marketing, speaking about the effectiveness of content marketing and an inbound lead strategy

Mind the gap
If your company’s sales and marketing strategy relies solely on cold-calling and emailing, your staff might end up like the gentleman in the picture — in danger of a fall/fail. He's unlikely to make it safely across to "your name sounds familiar."

A potential client is more likely to accept a phone call or read an email from someone they’ve heard of than from someone they haven’t.

When a potential customer is not ready to listen to a marketing message, he ignores phone calls, emails and voicemails. In these instances, cold calls and emails will rarely initiate a conversation. So what should a company do when the prospective client isn't ready to listen?

Build a bridge with content
Customers do business with people they like and trust. So how does a company cross the chasm from, “never heard of you” to “your name sounds familiar?” Build a bridge with content.

Educate them. Share an informative article with them. Entertain them. Evoke an emotional response. When they are ready, they will answer a call, complete a form or perform the desired action the marketing staff wants them to do, because they trust the company, brand, and, ultimately, the business development staff who have been grooming them.

It is the fundamental concept of an effective inbound marketing strategy: groom prospects to enter the sales and marketing funnel as strangers and exit as customers.

What is inbound marketing?
According to industry expert Hubspot: “Inbound marketing is about using marketing to bring potential customers to you, rather than having your marketing efforts fight for their attention. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.”

David Meerman Scott sums it up practically in his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: "You can buy attention (advertising.) You can beg for attention from the media (PR). You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales).  Or you can own attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publish it online for free: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, an infographic, a Twitter stream, an eBook, a Facebook page."

inbound marketingHubspot's model of Inbound Marketing Funnel

Inbound marketing in real-life
Companies that receive the most traffic are the ones that have videos and blog articles and other relevant content in the search results. Whether it is business-to-business or business-to-consumer, inbound marketing works for any industry.

Unless a business is in some ultra-niche market, it is difficult for a brand to land on page one of a favorite search engine's results, especially if all they have on a website is an about us or products page. Search engines are fickle; they "like" pages that are dynamic, and have relevant information. If you don't keep your site up with fresh information, the search engines will move on to a website that does.

Proof that content marketing works
In a 2012 study, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) found that inbound content marketing:
• attracts the most visitors of all marketing efforts
• creates higher engagement with an audience
• is the best tool in your marketing arsenal

An inbound marketing strategy develops your audience. Over time you won't have to find your audience; they will find you.

But…But…But…
There are lots of excuses for not investing in content marketing:
• Don't have time
• Don't know where to start
• Have plenty of repeat and word-of-mouth business

Consider outsourcing. Many marketing consultants already specialize in your industry, or will learn it in order produce resonating content.

Producing content doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Some companies start with posting a one-minute impromptu video on YouTube.

Have plenty of repeat and word-of-mouth business? Everyone should be in such a position. For the rest: a good inbound marketing strategy will only make it easier for customers to talk about the company, service and quality work.

Conclusion
Reaching today’s modern customer is challenging with unsolicited phone calls and emails often perceived as spam.
The chasm between “I never heard of you” and “your name sounds familiar” is deep and wide.

Will you take a chance at jumping the gap, or building a bridge?

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Still relevant after all these years - Happy 100th birthday to the press release

press release IV

Next month marks the 100th birthday of the press release. On October 28, 1906, more than 50 people lost their lives when one of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s new electric service trains jumped the track and plunged into Thoroughfare Creek near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Pennsylvania Railroad was a client of Ivy Lee, a publicity expert who is largely considered to be a father of modern public relations. Concerned about the potential for bad press and negative media speculation, Lee wrote and distributed the first-ever press release on behalf of the railroad. He issued an announcement about the incident to all major newspapers, and also invited members of the press to ride a specially-designated train out to survey and document the scene for themselves. The approach was widely applauded for being open and honest. And the strategy was considered revolutionary. Not only did it facilitate journalists doing their job of providing accurate reporting, but it helped put rumors to rest, shoring up the brand and its side of the story.

Some may argue that the press release’s time has come and gone. But, here at AMPED, we have been successfully growing the media presence of our clients in industry publications, and a key component of our strategy revolves around using press releases. They remain a great way to spread the word out about our clients, while building their credibility and branding. While no longer considered even remotely revolutionary, press releases have certainly come a long way since Ivy Lee’s time.

I have compiled ideas below to help you maximize your time and effort put into using press releases.

Writing and preparation
Today, the content of a press release is often published as it is written, especially online, so write as if you are preparing an article for your target reader’s direct consumption. Focus more on the story and less on the accomplishments and accolades. Include photos, video, infographs and other assets that will help media outlets convey your story.

Consider how your press release fits into your sales process cycle. Every press release should include a call to action. Let readers know what you want them to do.

Finally, make sure your press release is optimized for SEO by including key words and using text links back to relevant web pages.

Distribution
Use this opportunity to develop and strengthen your relationship with your industry publication contacts. Rather than sending a blanket communication to your entire contact list, send it out individually, communicating why your story matters to the audience they serve, asking if they will consider featuring your content and exploring how you might continue to work together in the future.

Finally, don’t forget about social media. Repurpose key nuggets from your press release into sharable social media content. And, certainly, amplify the effects of any resulting media coverage by promoting it through all your social media channels.

Just this morning, a colleague shared that she had received two requests for additional information from media who received a press release from us last week. The press release is not dead, but the times have changed.

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So much to learn: Tips for gaining association know-how

embracing elearning

“There is a first time for everything,” as the saying goes and my career in association management has yielded many examples of this. I have always enjoyed the wide variety of tasks and responsibilities involved in this work because there is always something new to learn. However, I’ll admit the prospect of facing anything new can make me a little anxious. Given that this was not a career I planned for while I was in school (my degrees are in political science and political management) virtually everything about association management has been a new experience at one point or another. This has meant a lot of learning on the job. Luckily over my 10+ years in this field I have been able to figure out some strategies that make taking on a new experience a little less intimidating.

Go back to school. Ok, maybe not literally but there have been many instances when I have sought out some extra educational resources to help me better understand something new. I have found this especially useful in cases where I am required to learn a new program or skill. For example, once, early in my career, I was asked to learn html coding to help design and maintain a basic website. Having no background in this kind of work I did a little research and found a great online course. It was comprised of six weekly sessions and some “homework” that I could complete based on my schedule. I walked away with a much better understanding and enough knowledge to get started. A more common occurrence is the need to learn new software or web programs. A habit I’ve gotten into is checking out the program’s online help/training component. These types of resources usually prove very beneficial as I’m initially learning how to navigate the program and later if more in depth assistance is required.

Ask someone. Working in association management means I have the privilege of working with some very amazing people! Over the years I have worked alongside attorneys, journalists, economists and graphic designers. Basically I’m surrounded by people with an amazing variety of backgrounds and skills. My colleagues are always eager to offer guidance or advice. It’s an incredible pool of knowledge! In addition to colleagues I find online forums to be helpful. Even if I’m not submitting a question myself, a quick search often yields answers to my exact inquiry.

Be confident. Learning anything, whether new skills or about a new project, can be daunting but it is possible! No matter the assignment I’m facing, I have confidence in my ability to learn new skills and to effectively apply these new skills to achieve a successful result. Taking time for some training, research or collaboration can go a long way toward making a new program or project more manageable and a successful outcome easier to achieve.

My career in association management has certainly been a series of “firsts” and these are just a few of my strategies for managing them. How about you? Any tips or tricks for handling the many new experiences and assignments we face as association management professionals?

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8 Ideas for easing your stress, naturally

chocolate

STRESS! We know it all too well. We all experience it on a daily basis at work, at home, and everywhere we go. In the AMC business, many are preparing for the busy meeting season along with site visits for future events which can mean lots of travel and deadlines. Stress, in manageable doses, can actually provide the needed motivation and energy needed to survive these seasons. So…stress in and of itself is not the enemy. Our reaction to it, however, is key!

Author Andrew Bernstein said “The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about your circumstances.”

Before, I offer a few ideas on stress reduction, I must provide the disclaimer that I have in no way mastered a state of total inner peace! As one of the newest members of the AMPED team, this is my first ever blog post, which in and of itself has generated a considerable spike in cortisol levels and therefore qualifies me to speak on the topic — right?! Actually I have had a long-time passion for natural health solutions and organic, clean eating.

First a little chemistry. Stress is, in part, the result of heightened levels of cortisol. What is cortisol? DrAxe.com offers the following explanation:

“The adrenal gland, following signals from the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, is responsible for the secretion of cortisol, a type of essential glucocorticoid steroid hormone. Cortisol levels are highest in the morning around 7 a.m. and lowest at night (called a diurnal rhythm). Cortisol is also present in both chronically stressed individuals and those who are perfectly healthy. This vital hormone possesses dozens of different purposes within the body and makes numerous chemical interactions every single day.”

In fact, we depend on cortisol production in order to respond to our surroundings, stay motivated, and to stay awake. However, overproduction can lead to “brain fog”, mood swings, and fatigue and insomnia-just to name a few. Chronic, long-term elevated levels of cortisol can lead to high blood pressure, compromised immune system and a whole host of diseases. Okay, enough about cortisol for now.

Natural solutions to help curb everyday stress are numerous so I will simply mention a few I have incorporated or whose effectiveness I have closely witnessed on someone else.

1. Exercise - Most of us have experienced the positive mental effects and energy boost from regular, moderate exercise. Just a caution that the risks of overtraining are as great as doing no exercise at all.

2. Acupuncture - Can help reduce symptoms like pain, insomnia, headaches.

3. Essential Oils - Breathing in lavender, ylang ylang, bergamot, and frankincense, for instance, can effectively help with sleep, cortisol reduction, balance hormone levels and improve immunity.

4. Deep breathing exercises.

5. Humor - Laughter is, of course, the best medicine. According to the Mayo Clinic, it enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.

6. The great outdoors - Simply getting out in the natural world around us and unplugging can promote relaxation. Also, a daily dose of unfiltered sunshine hitting our skin creates a reaction that allows our skin cells to manufacture vitamin D. The growing list of diseases and conditions linked to vitamin D deficiencies warrants further investigation of specific sun exposure guidelines recommended for your skin type and where you live. Regardless, it is well documented that light therapy boosts immunity and mood, thus reducing stress.

7. Sleep - Adequate and quality sleep allow the body’s cortisol levels to naturally drop in the evening and rise again in the morning giving us energy. Those with chronically high stress will likely experience the opposite by being “wired” at night and fatigued all day.

8. Adaptogenic herbs and superfoods - They have the ability to help balance blood pressure and blood sugar levels which in turn help lower fatigue and provide a natural antidepressant.

One superfood we almost all love is Cocoa. Yes, CHOCOLATE, for example, has been used for thousands of years to promote better overall health. Keep in mind, choosing dark, minimally processed chocolate will yield the maximum benefit. (This of course goes for all food — choosing unprocessed or minimally processed fresh, organic, seasonal, grass-fed meats, and wild caught fish whenever possible will give your body the proper nourishment to combat stress.)

Avocado is another superfood that has gained popularity for good reason. It is a healthy fat, containing 20 essential nutrients including fiber, potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and folic acid. It acts as a natural hormone balancer which helps protect the heart and improve mood. Whether you love avocado or you avoid it, give the following recipe for Chocolate Avocado Spread a try and you just might change your mind! (recipe-courtesy of erikaelizabethnutrition.com).

There you have it! A few of my favorite ideas to consider as you approach the busy meeting/travel season! Lastly, credits to some of my favorite sources in natural health: JJ Virgin, Dr. Axe, holistic nutritionist Erika Peterson, Dr. Mercola and many more that influence the choices I make.

What’s one of your go-to stress reduction tips?

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