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Lessons from the Pandemic, Tips for Prioritizing:

Takeaways from Astriata’s Marketing Executive Roundtable

Lessons from the Pandemic, Tips for Prioritizing
September 8, 2022

Leaders in the marketing industry came together virtually for Astriata’s Marketing Executive Roundtable.

The conversation focused on marketing and communications challenges and solutions faced at the mid-year point, in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic peak. John Dinkel, the principal of Dinkel Business Development, and Aline Lin, the CEO and creative director of Astriata, served as mediators in what was an hour-long gathering of marketers from various fields sharing tips and tools for engaging new and existing audiences, making the most of a website redesign, figuring out and balancing priorities, utilizing data, and more.

Here, we share highlights from the conversation.

Learning from the Pandemic

Interestingly, as regulations and quarantines related to the COVID-19 virus subside, many participants are looking back on the many lessons learned and seeing positives. “We’ve been able to improve what a virtual conference looks like over the last two years, but our annual in-person patient conference, which is held in one place at one time, negates much of that progress,” shared a vice president of marketing and communications for a national patient advocacy organization headquartered in Maryland. “Through our virtual conferences, we reached international participants, people who couldn’t leave their homes, people who lived in different time zones, and people who couldn’t afford to travel.” In addition, she shared, with the money saved on travel, her team could pay for more high-quality presenters, who gave talks and presentations from the comfort of their homes.

As a solution, instead of returning to the full in-person conference from the pre-COVID-19 period, the patient advocacy organization came up with a compromise: a hybrid conference that combines in-person and virtual events. “Since many of our members are immunocompromised, the offer to stay home and take part virtually makes sense,” the organization’s VP of marketing and communications added.

For the marketing and communications manager of an assisted living facility in Maryland, the pandemic taught her team the many advantages of digital, versus print, marketing materials and communications. “We used to do so many print marketing pieces,” the marketing and communications manager said. “Now, we’re seeing that with digital emails and newsletters, we can track open and click rates, which was not possible with print.” The challenge, she explained, will be in transitioning long-time donors, who are accustomed to receiving print communications. That will take planning and strategy.

Prioritizing in the Digital Age

Nearly every participant related to the reality that marketing in the digital age requires prioritizing, especially for smaller teams, who cannot “do it all.” For associations, prioritizing can involve determining what resources to devote to audience groups with diverse needs or existing members versus potential members. “We have a really loyal membership base and need to make sure we keep meeting their needs, while attempting to reach new members,” said the senior vice president of public affairs at a membership-based organization that drives positive change and innovation in the payments industry in ways that meet merchants’ interests and needs.

For the director of development and communication at a non-profit based in Baltimore, prioritizing involves focusing on the organization’s core mission to support individuals with developmental disabilities. “The bulk of our marketing is to the local business community,” the director of development and communication said. “Our goal is to connect those individuals receiving support to businesses throughout the Baltimore area, which is sort of like a brand awareness campaign.”

Although many of the participants wished they could devote more resources to digital marketing tools like paid search and search engine optimization (SEO), a number acknowledged limitations in these areas, particularly with not having a dedicated staff person to handle them. Again, the matter came down to prioritizing. “I feel like our motto is ‘more is more,’ instead of ‘less is more,’” shared the director of marketing at a member-based association for engineers. The director described her ongoing challenge of balancing tasks like quantifying digital advertising with promoting new memberships, retaining and engaging existing members, and enticing non-paying student members to eventually upgrade their membership and pay. On top of that, she says, her team launched a new website and is continuing to work out the kinks and ask themselves: who is our website really for? “Creating a site that works for members, potential members, and the general public isn’t easy,” she said.

The vice president of marketing and communications for the patient advocacy organization related to the director’s concerns. “We have an audience of both patients and caregivers, on top of other professionals in the medical field,” the vice president shared. “How do we build relationships and meet their diverse needs?” Right now, the vice president and her team are in the process of improving the navigation and usability of the foundation’s website. “Our website looks good on the surface, but the user experience isn’t great, and that needs to change.”

In addition to the website redesign, the vice president and her team face a tall order of tasks that require prioritizing. “Already in 2022, we’ve sent tons of emails and held more than 250 events, and we’ve just hit the half-way mark of the year,” she said. “We’ll burn ourselves out and never be able to market to the groups who don’t know us if we keep devoting so much time to our existing members.”

The division of resources, however, doesn’t happen easily, especially when each task can make a difference in the lives of the individuals served. “As we head into 2023, our biggest challenge will be deciding what to stop doing,” the vice president explained. “We don’t want to stop doing stuff that matters, but we’ve reached a point where we have to take a step back so we can figure out how to grow, while maintaining our existing services and meeting a multitude of needs.”

Is your own plate of marketing priorities overflowing? At Astriata, we offer a full suite of creative services, from website design and development to usability testing, digital marketing strategies and campaigns, and branding. Reach out to learn how we can help you.


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