What Associations Can Gain by Closing the Digital Advertising Knowledge Gap

Gallagher_digital advertising gap September 12, 2023 By: Colleen Gallagher

With the right training and expertise, associations can leverage the full potential of digital advertising to achieve their goals, expand their reach, and fuel growth.

In today's digital age, associations of all sizes are leveraging various marketing tools to promote their events, recruit and retain members, and generally engage their target audience. However, recent survey results revealed that many small- to mid-sized associations are missing out on untapped opportunities by relying solely on traditional platforms like Google, Facebook ,and LinkedIn. These associations can boost their marketing success by venturing beyond their comfort zone and exploring the power of digital advertising on fresh platforms, which will allow them to expand their offerings and enhance their reach.

Invest in Training and Skill Building

The survey, conducted by ASAE’s Communication Professionals Advisory Council, shed light on a significant knowledge gap among association professionals when it comes to using digital advertising methods. As organic reach continues to decline, it is crucial for association staff to bridge this gap and acquire the necessary skills to connect with their members and prospects.

According to the survey, 82 percent of associations use digital advertising. While that is a significant amount, that still means that nearly two in 10 are not putting one of today’s best marketing tactics into practice. Additionally, 20 percent of those using digital advertising say they are either unsure if it’s effective or unable to measure results.

Associations must adapt and embrace innovative approaches to remain relevant and grow.
A lack of staff expertise emerged as the primary reason associations refrain from using paid digital advertising. Others claim a lack of time or budget, and some don’t know if the ROI will be there.

To harness the full potential of these methods, it is crucial for association professionals to invest in comprehensive training programs and acquire the necessary skills. By enhancing their understanding of these tools and equipping staff with the knowledge to navigate the digital advertising landscape, associations can create impactful campaigns, measure their results effectively, and allocate more substantial budgets to fuel their growth.

Expand Advertising Horizons

While LinkedIn, Google, and Facebook remain the go-to digital advertising platforms for associations, there is a growing realization that embracing nontraditional methods can unlock fresh opportunities. Only a handful of survey respondents said they have tried other options like YouTube, Hulu Ads, or online community ads. By diversifying their advertising channels, associations can promote key offerings, allowing them to tap into new markets, attract a wider audience, and build stronger connections with existing members.

Capitalize on Opportunities

The survey results revealed an encouraging trend among associations, as 85 percent expressed their intentions to increase or maintain their spending on digital advertising throughout 2023. This highlights the eagerness of association professionals to explore new avenues and capitalize on the potential offered by digital advertising. By aligning their investment with a well-informed strategy and adopting an experimental mindset, associations can unleash the power of digital advertising to boost their visibility and drive action.

In a world where digital communication dominates, associations must adapt and embrace innovative approaches to remain relevant and grow. The survey results emphasize the importance of closing the knowledge gap in digital advertising among association professionals. By breaking free from their digital comfort zones and exploring fresh platforms and methods, associations can explore untapped opportunities, broaden their reach, and drive the success of their offerings beyond event registrations where many are most comfortable putting their advertising dollars today.

A key offering so many associations provide their members is professional development. It’s important to make sure they are offering their staff the time and resources to grow in their own careers as well. There are endless opportunities, both free and paid, to learn more about digital marketing. While training will require staff to take some time away from their day-to-day job duties, the cost of not making that investment, however, is likely far greater than the time lost learning these important skills.

Colleen Gallagher

Colleen Gallagher is president and CEO of OnWrd & UpWrd in Alexandria, Virginia, and a member of ASAE’s Communication Professionals Advisory Council.