Top Tips for Successfully Marketing Your Association’s Mentoring Program
Few years ago, Associations Now wrote about the importance of mentoring for membership retention, but what makes the program successful? No matter how well-conceived and run your association mentoring program is, its success will ultimately be determined by your ability to engage and excite your membership. The marketing of your mentoring program is going to compete with a host of other messages and priorities and you will have to work hard to gain attention and spur action.
Here are our top 6 tips for effectively promoting your mentoring program.
Enlist internal champions early
It is important to line up your internal stakeholders early – not only to sell the idea to the board, but also to secure ongoing communications support. Think ahead about the champions the program will need for success. If your organisation has State Chapters or other groups whose support you will require to communicate with members, get them on the bus now.
Get the Marketing Department on board
In our experience, Association marketing teams can get very nervous about “over-communication” with members. Make sure that you explain the mentoring initiative to your marketing department and secure their support for your communications plan in advance. Any roadblocks to your marketing once you start to roll out could seriously compromise the reach and effectiveness of your mentoring program.
Send a Personal Message from the Top
We have found that the one piece of communication that is most effective in grabbing attention is a personal email from the CEO or other (very) senior executive. The greater the seniority of the sender, the stronger the signal that this is an important initiative, and in our experience the sharper the rise in application numbers.
Communicate in waves – and keep the waves coming in
A successful association mentoring program requires significantly more than a single “announcement” email. Remember that your members are not sitting at their desks awaiting the launch of this program. You need to cut through their busy days and inboxes if you want to get engagement.
If you are planning to make your mentoring program an annual event then don’t forget that communicating the success of this year’s program is an important part of marketing for next year.
We recommend that you plan your member communication in four stages:
Let members know that the mentoring program is coming, where to look for more information and potentially how to add their names to a waiting list. This might be communicated through newsletters, Association magazine, conferences or other traditional means of member communication in the weeks leading up to your launch.
Let members know that the program has launched and is ready to accept applications. Urge people to enrol early for the best chance of a good match. This is best done with a personalized email (and bear in mind our tip to have this email come from someone senior).
Applications about to close!
Alert members when applications are about to close, urging them to act quickly. The approaching close date can be communicated in newsletters and then reinforced with a personalized email.
Program success stories
Let members know about your program success by publishing profiles of successful pairs in your newsletter and/or Association magazine. Not only does this reinforce the value your Association is adding, it also primes members for next year’s program.
Tell the Whole Story
Don’t assume that your members will have a clear understanding of how a mentoring program works or why it might be beneficial to their career. When launching your program ensure that your communications give a complete picture.
The following information should be included either in your direct emails, or through a link to a program description on your website.
Explain the why!
Provide members with a compelling reason to sign up. Explain the overarching purpose of the program. Then outline the specific benefits to both mentors and mentees.
Make clear the level and nature of the commitment required. Explain the duration of the program, the training they will be expected to attend and the likely frequency of meetings so they can decide if they have the time. Clarify whether interaction is to be face-to-face or virtual. If places are limited, explain that not every application will be successful. The better job you do setting the expectations, the less likely that you will experience dropouts once the program commences.
Call to action
Highlight the application close dates and next steps so members are very clear about what action they need to take.
Keep Talking Even After the Program is Over
Once your mentoring program has reached a successful conclusion it’s tempting to think that your marketing job is done. In fact, your marketing job for next year’s program has just begun.
Compile the results of any surveys and other data available from the mentoring program and report back to the board. Do this while the program and your sense of achievement is still fresh. Now is the time to make your case to secure funding for future programs.
And get ready to start again.
Need some inspiration? Check our case study with Australian Veterinary Association.