Association Insights


Clicking with your Members

Jul 18 2017

By: Matt Bradford

Driving website traffic is the first and most important job

“If you build it, they will come” may work for Hollywood farmers, but that same magic rarely applies to launching a website. In reality, building an online presence requires an equal – if not greater – investment in advertising tactics that will convince your target audience to give you a click.

“When associations and non-profit organizations say they want to grow, their first knee-jerk reaction is usually to refresh their website or create a new one altogether. The thing is, they'll spend the next year doing that, go to launch, and then find that no one is coming to visit,” says Suzanne Carawan, Chief Marketing Officer with HighRoad Solution.

The trick, she adds, is to approach website launches in reverse. “Think of it like developing a new hotel in the middle of nowhere. You can spend millions of dollars making a big, fancy hotel and hope someone is going to find out about it, but that's the hard way to build return. Instead, you're better off buying beachfront property, setting up a small tiki bar, and marketing it heavily to bring people to your business. Then, you get the revenue and returning customers, and you build the hotel from there.”

Certainly, there are cost-friendly – and sometimes free – ways to start off small with a basic website or online destination. Services like WordPress, Drupal, or even Facebook and LinkedIn offer no-cost content management platforms and easy-to-learn development tools that can free up budgets to focus on digital and real world advertising.

The goal, after all, is to drive website traffic. That can be done through a mix of TV spots, radio ads, and targeted digital advertising – all of which will be stronger with compelling messages and strong offers.

“Associations need to put money into digital advertising and become really good with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and search engines like Bing which is where potential customers are looking. The idea is to spend time and money on getting people back to their website, not make an expensive website and hope people take notice,” says Carawan.

As for how to get your target's attention once you find them, the key is to advertise in a compelling way that really shows potential members and customers what you can offer. For example, says Carawan, “One association we worked with wanted more people to consider a career in the financial field. So we put ads directly in front of people online who had recently graduated with a degree in that field telling them that this association was the place to go if they wanted to find employment.”

When you send the right message and make an enticing offer, the website visits are sure to follow.  The next step is to turn those visits into sales with a personalized and engaging online experience – but those are topics for another day.

“Let's be honest: no one wakes up thinking, 'I want to visit my association's website today',” adds Carawan. “The name of the game is becoming a pro at using digital advertising, search engine marketing, print, direct mail, and other methods to convince people that you've built something worth checking out.”

Suzanne Carawan is Chief Marketing Officer with HighRoad Solution. For a copy of the 2017 State of Digital Marketing in Associations Research Report, visit where associations will find free research, toolkits and on-demand webinars.