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The Best Virtual Professional Development Platforms

Posted By Ewald Consulting, Wednesday, September 9, 2020

You have likely settled into a new “normal.” Whether that be working from home or getting used to meeting clients on Zoom rather than in person, it seems that these changes are around for the long haul.

With increased time online, many have taken advantage of the boundless resources available online. Employees have been able to use their time to learn more about their professions and industries.

With so many options available online, it can seem daunting to narrow down these platforms. Read on for a rundown of some of the most popular online professional development platforms:

LinkedIn Learning
Powered by the professional social platform, LinkedIn Learning offers a wide variety of short and long courses such as tutorials on Excel and filmmaking.

This platform is a great resource for employees. For example, if an employee needs to edit a video but does not have experience in editing, LinkedIn Learning offers a 3-hour course on how to use iMovie.

Individuals can subscribe to LinkedIn Learning for $30 a month or $300 a year. There are also plans for teams and companies available at an undisclosed price.

Coursera
Coursera offers longer courses where you can earn certificates in things like applied project management, according to a blog post on Zapier. These courses are offered by various universities or organizations, meaning you can earn certificates from Yale or many other highly respected organizations.

While many courses are offered for a fee, quite a few can be audited for free.

edX
Zapier explains that edX can fly under the radar because it lacks the technological flash that many of its competitors have. However, it makes up in content as many of the instructors are revered professors from Harvard or higher-ups at major companies like Microsoft.

Alison
Alison also utilizes the knowledge of experts to teach its users. The company believes in the open use of information, meaning most of its courses are completely free with a small price tag to get a certificate if you choose to obtain one.

Udacity
Udacity partners with companies like Google to provide new and relevant topics. Some of the courses are free, but many need to be purchased.

The “nanodegree” program provides users very specific coursework. Udacity then can connect graduates with industry partners who tend to hire these graduates.

These are just a few of many learning platforms available online. If you are interested in learning more, Adam Enfroy’s blog has a comprehensive list of these platforms and what they do.

To learn more, check out our podcast, Associations Next on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Tags:  Professional Development  Technology 

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2020 Technology Trends

Posted By Ewald Consulting, Thursday, December 26, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, December 18, 2019

As we wrap up 2019 and begin planning for 2020, here are some technology trends for 2020, according to Gartner analyst and VP Rita Sallam:

  1. Augmented analytics – enables more people to gain insights from data;
  2. Augmented data management – by 2022, data management manual tasks will be reduced 45% with machine learning and automated-service-level management;
  3. NLP (natural language processing)/conversational analytics – by 2020, 50% of analytical queries will be automatically generated by search, NLP or voice;
  4. Graph – the application of graph processing and graph databases will grow 100% annually through 2022, enabling more complex and adaptive data science;
  5. Commercial AI/ML will dominate – there will be more commercial platforms rather than open source to manage artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques;
  6. Data storytelling and visualization – creating meaning from numbers to take action, by understanding the story that data are telling us.

For more insights and trends from Gartner: https://www.informationweek.com/big-data/ai-machine-learning/10-data-and-analytics-trends-for-2020/d/d-id/1336310

Tags:  social media  strategy  technology 

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Top 3 Reasons Your Conference Needs Mobile

Posted By Ewald Consulting, Thursday, October 24, 2019

What was once a deluxe conference amenity has become a necessary tool of engagement for successful events. Make your conference mobile and watch as speakers, exhibitors and attendees connect and communicate online. Excite your potential audiences before the event starts, engage with the attendees onsite and evolve throughout the process in response to change. All it takes is an app.

EXCITE YOUR AUDIENCE

In the weeks leading up to your event, a mobile app campaign drives excitement for a future experience. Downloading a conference mobile app provides a tangible teaser for a still far-off event. It gets the conference on the minds and in the hands (literally) of your audience before a meeting convenes. 

Through yet another channel, your brand, your content and your vision can reach your anticipatory audience.

Pro tip: offer an incentive to download the app. Nothing spurs attendees into action faster than the possibility of free stuff.

ENGAGE YOUR ATTENDEES

At any event, you’ve just gathered many of the best minds in your field in one space for a few hours or a few days. Now that they’re here, you need them to engage: with speakers, with exhibitors and with each other!

  • Engage with Speakers: Speakers come prepared as subject-matter experts. Polling and survey features offered through a mobile app can turn a presentation from a one-sided lecture into an interactive event. A mobile app’s ability to collect real-time data from the audience allows speakers to connect with attendees, answer questions and shape their presentations to suit the crowd.
  • Engage with Exhibitors: Companies joining you from far and wide come with expectations to make connections. As their unique swag often demonstrate, sponsors and exhibitors want to get their name in your hands. With a mobile app, it already is. Exhibitor websites and contact information, and digital handouts become instantly available to all attendees. It’s a simple perk for the companies that might just keep them coming back for more.
  • Engage with each other: The universal advantage of in-person events is the networking opportunities inherent. However, as attendees meet new faces in the field, especially at large events, it can be difficult to keep track of these new contacts. Mobile apps provide a fully filled-in contact book and messaging system without the hassle of keeping track of business cards or asking for phone numbers. Encouraging attendees to include their picture with their profile? Even better for those of us not blessed with the gift of face/name memory!

You’ll want an app a mobile app to drive your speakers and attendees to not only to listen but to engage. Empower your audiences to connect through a technology we all know well.

EVOLVE WITH CHANGE

Despite your meeting planner’s best efforts, plans change. As rooms fill up faster than anticipated and speakers call in sick—your mobile app can alleviate the headache of last-minute change.

Rather than disparaging your beautifully branded signage and collateral with handwritten speaker updates and blacked-out sessions, leverage the power of digital technology to make quick updates looks seamless. 

Mobile app push notifications provide a sort of virtual intercom. Communication is immediate and allows your event to evolve as quickly as the outside world.

Conferences are a great opportunity for your organization to showcase the caliber of members and body of knowledge. Mobile applications will only help you improve your conference attendee’s experience and increase the ROI of your event.

Tags:  conferences  engagement  event management  marketing communications  social media  technology 

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Testing. Testing. Testing: How A/B Tests Can Elevate Your Marketing

Posted By Ewald Consulting, Thursday, August 29, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, August 27, 2019

If you are using a marketing automation system for your association’s newsletters and promotional emails, you’ve probably seen how A/B testing can help you determine what subject line language resonates best with your audience. But A/B testing can extend to so many other elements of your emails.

Time of Day
Even if you don’t have a marketing automation system, you can test what time of day works best for your audience. Send an email on three to five separate dates at a certain time (let’s say 7 a.m., when members may be eating breakfast). Check your open rates. Now, for the next three to five emails in your schedule, try sending mid-morning. Or mid-afternoon or early evening. How do your open rates compare to the previous set? If you do have marketing automation, you can schedule your mailings to concurrently test one time versus a second time.

Day of Week
Just as with time of day, you can find results for the best day of the week even if you don’t have a marketing automation system. The results may surprise you. Despite conventional wisdom that Friday is a terrible day to send emails, some organizations that we work with have really good open rates on Fridays.

Button Color
Many marketing experts say that red and orange buttons are most likely to be clicked. While that may be the case with the public at large, our testing with one client found that a bright blue button consistently works better.

Call to Action
Every email should contain a strong message that offers readers a next step (Download Our Free Ebook, Become a Member Today, Register Now for Our Event). Different people respond better to different messages. Perhaps instead of “Become a Member,” your email will get better click-throughs with “Join Our Community” or “Find Your Professional Home Base.”

Length of Message
Whether it’s an email to promote an event or an email newsletter, you can use A/B testing to help determine whether your audience responds best to a message of 100 to 200 words or a longer message. This can be helpful if a committee chair continually sends you a conference promo that resembles a Tolstoy novel in length and plot intricacy.

Length of Subject Line
Most marketing experts will tell you to keep your subject line short. But some organizations have really detail-oriented audiences, where longer subject lines test stronger.

Emojis
Not all marketing automation systems allow emojis. But if you get emails from major retailers and social media outlets, you’ve probably seen emojis in subject lines. If it works for Facebook and Yelp, maybe it can work for you. If your audience is of a certain age, emojis may not be very popular…but you won’t know unless you test.

Other
Just because something hasn’t worked in the past doesn’t mean it will never work. Maybe your members hated emojis two years ago when you tried them. But maybe they’ve become accustomed to seeing them — or perhaps the demographics of your members have changed in that time. The corollary: just because something has worked in the past doesn’t mean it will work in the present or the future. Continue to test with your audience to make sure that your emails get the best possible results.

 

 

Tags:  analytics  marketing communications  technology 

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4 Marketing Tools You Need to Elevate Your Content

Posted By Ewald Consulting, Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Updated: Monday, August 5, 2019

If the image above is overwhelming, you are not alone. It is no secret that in the last few years there has been an explosion of marketing technology available. It is estimated in 2011, around 150 tools existed for marketing; in 2019, according to Chief Marketing Tech more than 7,040 marketing technology solutions on the market.


With such a large number of resources available it would be impossible for an organization to test them all, especially considering the multiple facets of marketing. Looking at the first image, you can see that there are generally agreed to be six areas of marketing technology: advertising and promotion, content and experience, social and relationships, commerce and sales, data, and management, all feeding into each other. If you have a strong data tool, you can then create better content and advertising for your target audience. If you have good content, you can build a social presence and create meaningful brand/client relationships online to inspire brand loyalty. No piece of marketing stands alone, but some need more attention than others to get you started, especially when it comes to content marketing. A content marketing strategy can establish your brand as a key resource and authority in the field, inspiring brand loyalty and driving membership. The cornerstone of this strategy of course is strong, relevant content that catches the reader from the start and draws them in. For many, the task of creating the content is daunting and overwhelming.

To help, we have curated some of the top content tools to help you get started. With these tools you can research hot trending topics and even make sure your headlines are optimized to drive traffic, shares and search results!

Quora
Quora is a question-and-answer website where the public will ask and answer questions. Users can collaborate by suggesting edits to answers. It is touted as “a place to share knowledge and better understand the world.” For content creators it is a great starting point to see what questions are being asked about a topic or keyword. For example, a quick search for “content marketing” on the platform returns hundreds of results including “what are some common beginner mistakes in content marketing” that could drive your next blog post, white paper or podcast.

HubSpot Blog Topic Generator
Similar to Quora, marketing and sales behemoth HubSpot has a blog topic generating tool. With a quick search of a noun, for example “analytics”, you can get a week’s worth of blog ideas.

Answer the Public
This search query data visualization tool is a little tongue-in-cheek with a repeating image of a man waiting for you to type right on its home page. Even with this humor, Answer the Public can be immensely helpful in finding the questions you want to answer with your content. Simply type in a keyword or topic in the search field and sit back as it crawls search results for the top questions asked related to your search. The results are then categorized into 5 areas: questions, prepositions, comparisons, alphabeticals and related.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
Once you have written and edited your piece, it is a good idea to run your headline through a headline analyzing tool like CoSchedule has created. You have spent the time to make sure your content is perfect — now make sure it has the perfect headline with a balance of keywords, power words and characters while measuring the sentiment of the headline.

Many content marketing tools are available to associations today; these four only scratch the surface of what you can find online. Take them as a starting point on your content marketing journey and go create!

Tags:  association management  marketing communications  technology 

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Using Technology and Creativity to Drive Association Marketing Strategies

Posted By Ewald Consulting, Thursday, August 1, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Associations have a long history dating back to the 1800s. They are the original communities and influencers for professions long before social media became prevalent. This marks my 30th year in association management and I currently am the Vice President of Marketing Communications & Technology for Ewald Consulting.

When I started my career with the Builders Association of Minnesota in 1989, our technology tools were a fax, typewriter, pagers, lots of file cabinets for paper registrations and membership applications and a DOS database with the blinking bright orange text on a small screen, big box computer. No email, no website, no cell phone, no Microsoft Office – they hadn’t been created for the mass market yet. We launched the association’s first-ever website in 1996.

In 2005 when I joined Ewald Consulting, my first major initiative was to find us a new database and migrate our clients to Affiniscape 24/7. After researching limited options, we chose a custom database built in Microsoft Access. Every Friday, I would export the client data into 24/7 so they could have searchable directories and see their data online. A few years later, Affiniscape launched its M360 platform which integrated the website with a database providing a dynamic experience for our members.

A few years later, Affiniscape was bought by YourMembership (YM) and we proceeded to transition our clients from Affiniscape to YM. A few years later, Community Brands bought YM and several other platforms to have a suite of offerings for associations. Which summarizes the current platform environment of technology platforms – thousands of options plus mergers and acquisitions is now the norm.

The marketing technology landscape is one of my favorite graphics that demonstrates the extensive proliferation of tools over the past 8 years. In 2011, there were 150 platforms. As of April 2019, there were 7040. There are plenty of tools to choose from now. So unlike the 1990s, options, access and affordability are no longer barriers to entry for associations.

Choosing a limited set of tools, learning how to implement them creatively and executing value are critical for associations to remain relevant. We are at a critical junction of technology and human behavior that will create our future depending on how we strategically implement our choices effectively with simplicity and clarity key for our customers.

With a plethora of platforms to choose from, our Marketing Communications Team is focusing on executing relevant and measurable marketing strategies for our associations. Key strategies include:

  1. Building out a content marketing strategy for the long haul. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to build awareness, generate interest from new audiences and expand our base. Our volunteers are our Subject Matter Experts (SME) for content for our conferences, blogs, social media and have a wealth of insights that are core to building our community. Generating content with context and driving conversations will keep the association vibrant and the go-to resource for professions. Going beyond conference and membership promotion is critical to drive the value proposition of being a part of the association.
  2. Reviewing the business models and clearly delineating the value proposition of being a member and buying offerings from our associations;
  3. Conducting website audits to ensure clarity, clean and creative design and coding for mobile responsiveness and effective Search Engine Optimization;
  4. Creating strong landing pages for our home pages, membership and conference pages to  have a strong and clear Call to Action, concise benefits, bullet points for scanning, original photography and call out buttons to prompt action;
  5. Implementing marketing automation to build awareness and convert prospects to customers and ensure a clear customer journey;
  6. Using an event mobile app platform for our clients’ conferences. With the technology development of Progressive Web Apps (PWA), we are looking at developing year-round mobile apps for our clients in the next year to connect our  members year round.

Other initiatives we are working on include business intelligence, data collection and analysis and the implications of AI (Artificial Intelligence) for our clients. We are excited about the tremendous opportunities that nonprofit organizations now have access to and to implement best-of-class strategies to ensure their success.

We are excited to be implementing our own content marketing strategy based on our research and experience with our clients. Please email me if you have any questions at kathiep@ewald.com.

Kathie Pugaczewski is the Vice President of Marketing Communications and Technology. She has more than 30 years of association management experience with a focus on technology platform strategy, marketing communications, conference management, continuing education and certification programs. She joined Ewald Consulting in 2005. Previously, Kathie worked for the Midwest Association of Association Executives (MSAE) as Marketing Director and the Builders Association of Minnesota as Executive Vice President. She has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota and completed the Institute for Organization Management at the University of Notre Dame. In 2003, she earned her CAE designation. In 2009, she earned her Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) designation. In 2019, she earned her Certified Recognition Professional (CRP) designation and her Qualified Association Specialist (QAS) designation.

Tags:  association management  marketing communications  technology 

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Don’t get left behind! Four content trends for associations to stay relevant

Posted By Ewald Consulting, Thursday, July 25, 2019
Updated: Thursday, July 18, 2019

The world of marketing moves fast.

The industry is constantly progressing, and nothing is exempt. Standards, processes, and especially trends may change at any time. In order for organizations to survive, they need to be dynamic, quick, and up-to-date on relevant trends because if they are not able to adapt, they will get left behind.

The same applies for associations, with one key difference; they don’t necessarily require the newest, best, or flashiest tools and technology. As a result, some are far removed from the newest marketing methods and trends.

Associations often ask when faced with marketing challenges becomes, “How can we be a resourceful organization and stay relevant in the fast-changing marketing industry?” The answer is easier than one may think. To stay on top of relevant marketing trends, associations can adopt basic, necessary tools and techniques to deliver meaning and value to members.

To help get you started, here are three of the top content marketing trends associations should consider to keep up in the fast-changing industry.

  1. Writing
  2. Written content is a mainstay in the marketing industry. Even though how writing is consumed has changed over time, for example newspapers vs listicles, writing itself is timeless and serves as a foundation for other content including white papers, long form blog posts, advertisements and webinars. As associations think about the future, it is important that they have a strong, reliable writing base developed as a foundation for that content.

  3. Video
  4. Every day, 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube and 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week. Viewers are 95% more likely to remember a call to action after watching a video, compared to 10% when reading it in text form. Video is clearly a form of content that people consistently consume and remember. By producing video associations can increase brand awareness, social reach and engage with a huge number of users. When producing videos, they should be optimized for the platform they will “live” on and their use. For example, videos promoting a certification session should be high-quality and have professional production to guarantee quality sound and graphics whereas videos promoting a social event can be more “approachable” and filmed with a cellphone. Whatever the use of the video, the content should include subtitles and not just for accessibility. At least 85% of videos on Facebook are watched without sound, make sure to include this overlay text in all of your video content.

  5. Live content
  6. At the end of the day, associations are resources that focus on promoting events and conferences. Whether it’s live tweeting or recording a live Instagram video, live content provides value to members, association and builds event awareness, and also gives the association future content for professional videos, webinars, and more. With the popularity of social media, live content provides too many benefits and opportunities to not capitalize on it.

Staying up to date with content trends should be a fun way to consistently deliver meaningful content to members. While the industry will always shift, adopting basic trends is an easy way to provide value to your members. Go ahead, adopt the trends, and unleash the new possibilities for your association.

Tags:  marketing communications  social media  technology 

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KNOWLEDGE & RESOURCES

MANAGEMENT | View all Management articles
A Successful Year Starts with a Solid Budget by Bill Monn
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MARKETING | View all Marketing articles
9 Marketing Ideas for Your Organization by Kathie Pugaczewski
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MEMBERSHIP | View all Membership articles
A Holistic Approach to Membership Recruitment by Darrin Hubbard
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VOLUNTEERISM | View all Volunteerism articles
Three Ways to Stronger Volunteer Engagement by Paul Hanscom
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