Round Up New Members With Geofencing

Round Up June 18, 2019 By: Ed Neenan

Associations can leverage an innovative digital marketing tactic known as geofencing to reach prospective members in a particular place at a particular time, supporting new-member recruitment efforts and building brand awareness.

In today’s digital world, if you know a physical location where prospective members congregate, it’s possible to target them using digital advertisements. This marketing practice, known as geofencing, puts a virtual boundary on areas identified by the GPS technology present in most smartphones and other mobile devices.

With geofencing, you don’t need to have a physical presence at a location or event to reach people there. Since most people have their device set to “location enabled,” geofencing lets you serve up digital display ads or videos as people browse online in the defined area. A geofencing campaign might target, for example:

  • universities whose discipline-specific schools or colleges have large numbers of potential student or soon-to-be professional members.
  • office headquarters and branches where many prospective members work.
  • your association’s meetings, where geofencing can help encourage attendees to join and interact.
  • symposia, meetings, or conferences that you don’t host but know that many of your member prospects attend.

In short, you can leverage geofencing to reach niche audiences of prospective members based on a variety of location-specific options. It works in hyper-local regions, nationwide, and globally. Many trade associations already use geofencing, but if you’re just starting out, here’s what you need to know.

You can leverage geofencing to reach niche audiences of prospective members based on a variety of location-specific options.

How It Works

Once prospects cross into your geofenced area, they will begin to be targeted for your digital advertisements. As these users browse the internet, they’ll begin to see your ads. This is your opportunity to make a first impression.

Your goal is to encourage a click-through to a customized web page with elements like a prominent call to action and relevant content about your association and the advantages of membership. It’s common to offer a valuable incentive, such as a report or white paper that can be downloaded in exchange for the prospective member’s contact information.

What makes geofencing unique is its ability to retarget digital ads to prospects in several instances even after they’ve left the geofenced location.

Getting Started

It’s easy to test geofencing to see if it’s a good member prospecting tool for your association. Digital marketing firms typically offer geofencing and retargeting as part of an integrated recruitment or marketing plan with a modest cost per thousand (CPM) impressions. A small project test can be researched, planned, and launched for less than $10,000 and provide more than 250,000 impressions.

How well the test performs will depend on how well you define and plan the work. Here’s a brief checklist to use before implementing a geofencing campaign:

  • Know and document your ideal member profile or target audience.
  • Identify a list of behavioral key words. You can get these from Google Analytics, many third-party search engine optimization applications, or Google Ads (formerly Adwords) if you've run these types of ads in the past.
  • Create a list of locations where this audience might be found. You can start with mailing addresses or GPS coordinates gathered from mapping tools.
  • Develop your landing page, content, call to action, and ad assets.
  • Select a date range for the campaign, typically 30 to 45 days, to allow for ad impressions, click-throughs, retargeting, and campaign monitoring. If the campaign revolves around an event, build a timeline leading up to and extending briefly after the event.

Much of the research your membership team has already put together can be used to inform your geofencing effort. Examine your new-member prospecting process, and see where geofencing fits into your recruitment workflow.

Think Beyond Your Website

Your website is your association’s digital epicenter and a significant investment to maintain. But those efforts and expenses are meaningless if you don’t drive the right visitors to it. Geofencing can be an enhancement strategy for a digital ecosystem that includes member prospects, sponsors, third-party stakeholders, and the general public.

Your geofence-generated ad, served to the right target audience at the right time and place, may be what’s needed to get new members in the door.

Ed Neenan

Ed Neenan is a digital marketing strategist at SAI Digital in Hunt Valley, Maryland.