Marketing Experimentation: Finding the Best Way to Promote Your Association

Marketing Experimentation: Finding the Best Way to Promote Your Association

In previous posts, we’ve discussed the merits of getting a better handle on marketing — such as calculating ROI — for associations and nonprofits. One way to do this is through marketing experimentation. Keep reading to learn what this entails and how you can leverage this concept to increase membership and grow awareness of your organization.

What Is Marketing Experimentation?

Marketing experimentation is exactly what it sounds like. It’s trying out different marketing techniques to find the one that best works for your association.

This type of marketing isn’t done randomly, however. Instead, it’s approached with a plan in a scientific manner.

Think of it like a chef in a test kitchen. When they experiment with recipes, they’re not throwing things in a pot any old way. They’re actually carefully adding or subtracting ingredients or changing the cooking time while making meticulous notes about what works and what doesn’t.


How Can Associations and Nonprofits Use Marketing Experimentation?

Marketing experimentation is particularly helpful for associations and nonprofits because they typically have to make their budgets and manpower stretch further than large corporations. Before spending money on a major marketing campaign, experimenting lets you see if it will have the desired effect. You can make data-driven decisions knowing they’ll likely lead to good results.

When done properly, marketing experimentation can confirm that you’re reaching out to the right targets. Or, if you’re confident in your audience, you test content or channels for communication. This is valuable if you’re trying to grow or rebrand.

Sometimes the board of directors isn’t in agreement about next steps. Marketing experimentation can set their collective mind at ease because of its more accurate methodology. Maybe you simply want to confirm that the course you’re on is the correct one.


Tips for Making the Most of Marketing Experimentation

So, if your association has never performed any marketing experimentation, you may not know where to start. Follow these steps to try it yourself.


Set your goal

First, you want to decide what the purpose of the experimentation is. For example, your association may want to know if trying to reach younger potential members via two social media platforms is worth the effort. If not, you can focus your time and money on different channels to increase membership.


Create a hypothesis

The hypothesis is a bit like making a bet. You’re guessing that your experiment will turn out a certain way. In the membership question above, perhaps staff think the best way to connect with Millennial and Gen Z targets is through YouTube, not Facebook. But they want to prove this to reluctant Boomer board members who have a preference for the latter based on their own personal usage.


Select an audience

Next, you need to choose an audience for your marketing experiment. One way to do that for our hypothetical campaign here is to set up similar videos on both YouTube and Facebook. To make it a more even contest, you could email membership prospects asking them to check out one or the other for some valuable information related to your industry. In the email, include links to both platforms, and place the same video on each.


Decide on metrics

How are you going to measure success? In this theoretical scenario, you could use one of several metrics, such as:

  • How many views you get for each video
  • The number of comments or responses to each video
  • How many people clicked through from the video to your website
  • The number of actual memberships that resulted from each video

Conduct your experiment

The penultimate step is to post your videos and let the experiment play out. If you’ve set up the experiment well, you’ll have your metrics lined up as well as a timeframe for analyzing results.

Evaluate your results

Once you hit the deadline for the experiment, it’s time to examine the results. Which social media site was better for funneling members to your group? Do you want to try a more comprehensive marketing campaign using that platform for your next membership drive?

Remember, the more scientific you make the experiment — using SMART metrics — the better. You want to assign hard numbers to your results, like “increased sign-ups by 10 percent” or “grew conversions by 15 percent.”