Relevance is the Key to Understanding Your Audience

Consider these statistics: 107 trillion emails were sent in 2010. Over 1.5 trillion texts. There are over 152 million blogs. And by my count, some 99 kabillion Facebook posts. Depending on which study you cite, American consumers are exposed to anywhere from 300 to 3,000 marketing messages every day. There’s too much noise. So the question you have to ask yourself is: “How do you cut through the noise?” By being relevant in your communications. And you can do that with the data in your database.

Understanding relevance

If an individual is a member of your organization, presumably you already have some relevance to them. But that’s only the first step. Just because one is a member of your organization does not guarantee that he or she will be interested in the additional products, events, and services your association provides.

There are three key points to keep in mind when considering relevance. The first is that relevance changes over time. That is, what was once relevant to an individual some time in the past may not be relevant now. For example, as an individual moves through her professional career, her interest in educational topics will change. A lawyer in her first year out of law school will have different wants than a lawyer who has been practicing for 20 years. Relevance changes.

Secondly, relevance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. That is, the recipient decides what is relevant. So even if your data suggests that the recipient is in his first year of practicing law and should be very interested in that ethics course you’re offering, he may decide it’s completely irrelevant to his current needs. That is the recipient’s prerogative.

Third, different delivery methods or product types affect relevance. For example, while a member may have deep interest in a given topic or issue, she may only be interested in learning about that issue via face-to-face meetings. Other members may prefer online/virtual meetings (i.e., webinars), or listening to podcasts, or reading white papers. So delivery method is critical to relevance.

How can your data help understand relevance?

It is likely that the data you are already managing for your members and customers tells you a lot about what is relevant to them. For example, presumably you are tracking all financial transactions occurring between your organizations and your members and customers, e.g., event registration, product sales, certifications, etc. These financial transactions tell you a lot about what is relevant to your members and customers. All of your sales should be categorized by “interest area” in order to understand what issues are relevant to the buyers.

But beyond the financial transactions, associations needs to look at non-financial transactions and interactions that are occurring throughout the year, in order to better understand what is relevant to members and customers. For example, many of your members are volunteering their time to write, speak, or serve on committees within your organization. Understanding where volunteers are spending their time, and what issues are important to them, will go a long way to understanding what is relevant to them.

Not coincidentally, many database vendors are now developing “engagement scoring” tools that automatically identify relevance by individual, so that associations can better communicate with and market to its members and customers.

Putting it all together

Once you have a better understanding of what is relevant to your members and customers, you can now start tailoring your marketing messages based on that information. No longer will you use the “shotgun” approach to marketing (i.e., sending all things to all members). You can use your data to structure messages like “Dear Wes, because you’ve attended our annual conference in the past [this is data we have in the database], we’re sure you’ll be interested to hear about everything we’ve got planned this year. And even better, this year’s annual conference is right in your back yard [we know where Wes lives so we know the meeting is not too far away].”

By tailoring the message you increase the relevance to the recipient. And by using the data in your database to increase relevance to your recipients, you’ll be assured of cutting through the noise and having your message heard.


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