Andrea Huggins is senior marketing manager at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in Vienna, Virginia, and a member of ASAE’s Marketing Professionals Advisory Council.
While marketers are often brought in at the end to “market” a program, product, or service, this underutilizes the team’s talent. Involving marketing early and strategically can help associations achieve better results.
When nonmarketers think about marketing, they may think sales, spin, or social media. However, when a marketer thinks of marketing, they may think strategy, implementation, research, or analytics. This disconnect in understanding is one of the barriers to getting the most out of marketing efforts, according to a survey of association marketing professionals by ASAE’s Marketing Professionals Advisory Council.
Survey respondents reported that those in the C-suite sometimes think marketing is simply about promotions and communications, which results in marketing not being part of the conversation (or invited to the party) until it’s time for execution. The result is miscommunication and missed opportunities. Marketers need to not only be invited to the party but also help plan and promote it.
Survey respondents noted that marketers can communicate their value beyond just campaign data and design. Marketers must make the connection between their tactics (i.e., channel optimization, market insights, customer experience, and data) and the association’s level of innovation, brand positioning, and bottom-line organizational results.
It is vital that marketing expertise have a seat at the leadership table to ensure cohesiveness and support for an organization’s goals.
Knowing what marketing can bring to the table and conveying that value will help contribute to strategic initiatives. Marketing is typically one of the few departments that is “silo-proofed” because it interacts with every department at an organization to help them meet their respective needs. This leads to a broad understanding of the entire association’s short- and long-term goals. One may say that marketing has a “holistic” view, suggesting that those in this role see the organization from the outside-in, a unique perspective.
It is vital that marketing expertise have a seat at the leadership table to ensure cohesiveness and support for an organization’s goals. While IT and research teams can play an integral role in data collection and analysis, many marketing teams are built to be the reservoir for testing, dissecting, and comparing data that comes from members. Whether that is survey results, email open rates, webpage visits, or social media engagement, marketing is responsible for using this information to drive the strategic success of the organization.
However, this isn’t merely about sharing the value marketers bring to the organization; it’s also about the importance of having a marketing professional on your association’s leadership team so they can lend their expertise and guidance.
The CEO is in the unique position to help foster a culture where all departments are aligned and working cohesively. That’s why we recommend CEOs position marketing to have strategic influence, especially if the organization is focused on market orientation and prioritizes customer insight.
Also, the CEO should consider empowering marketing more by combining related responsibilities such as having marketing responsible for certain functions such as sales. Furthermore, we recommend that marketing staff establish strong interpersonal relationships that create trust and ensure their alignment around the organization’s common vision.
To the marketers out there, know your value. Be fearless in your recommendations. Trust in your own knowledge and expertise. Collaborate with your colleagues and ask your CEO for that seat at the table. While there may always be barriers, be ready to address them head on and come up with mutually beneficial solutions to ensure that marketing continues to have a seat at the leadership table.
To the CEO reading this, think about reaching out to your marketing lead and invite them for a discussion about how your organization may improve based on their experience. Now is the perfect time to jump in and surround yourself with someone up to their ears in data.
The authors want to thank Brad Rysz, CAE, vice president of marketing and communications at the Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals, for his contributions to this article.