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How to Build a Successful Mobile Strategy for Your Association - 4/30/2014 -

Amanda Jennison
How do you start down the path of building a successful mobile strategy for your association?

By Amanda Jennison

Association professionals gathered for the April 2, 2014 Association Media & Publishing Lunch & Learn to hear from Ernie Achenbach, vice president of Bates Creative, as he discussed tips for building a successful mobile strategy for associations. Specifically, Achenbach discussed mobile apps and how associations can develop their strategy for launching them.

Achenbach kicked off the Lunch & Learn by inviting attendees to adopt this mantra for the session, saying: "I invite you to make ‘Imagine’ your mantra when thinking about mobile strategy. Imagine what you can do with the options that are out there. Imagine what you can provide constituents with by using these tools to engage your membership.”

Engage is the key word here. The purpose of building a mobile strategy is to inspire your members to engage with your brand’s content in the mobile space.

So, how do you start down the path of building a successful mobile strategy for your association? Here is a brief overview of the insights shared during the Lunch & Learn:

1. Determine your audience. It’s not enough to outline the common demographics of your audience like their age, sex, and job title. Dig a little deeper and uncover who they truly are. Browse Carl Jung’s Brand Archetypes and see which match up with your brand and member base.

When you start to imagine your audience in this context, you can begin to think about new ways to engage them in the mobile space, says Achenbach.

2. Determine your value. What’s your organization’s need to be in the mobile space? Did you know that 91 percent of all people on earth have a mobile phone, and 42 percent of American adults own a tablet? Times have changed, and that means your membership is changing along with it.

According to Achenbach, once you start to imagine the added value your presence in the mobile space will give your members, it will help you pinpoint your overall strategy.

3. Determine your experience. We are in a state of constant connectivity, he says, which means audiences expect to have access to brands 24/7/365. When a user comes in contact with your association on their mobile device, make sure you are delivering an experience. You shouldn’t just be offering readable content on mobile devices, Achenbach says. You should be providing a memorable experience that keeps members and potential members coming back for more.

Start to imagine the multi-media assets you can tap into like sound clips, video, and images to help provide additional value to the overall experience. Think about what assets you’re not currently using that could be leveraged to create a mobile experience that your members and potential members will remember, Achenbach advised the group. Use this as an opportunity to show what membership to your association feels like.

4. Determine the type of app. During the Lunch & Learn session, Achenbach went over the basic types of mobile apps that associations can leverage for their mobile strategy. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Mobile web app – This type of app runs in the mobile device’s web browser. It dynamically pulls hosted source content into an app while online. Some familiar examples include AP mobile, CNN mobile, and LinkedIn. It can also aggregate content from multiple web-hosted sources. A way to make this work for your association is to keep your website updated and pull in specific information to a section of your app.
  • Native app – This type of app is developed and downloaded for use on a particular platform or device. Content that is downloaded within this type of app can live and function offline with rich assets. It can also access web-hosted content when online.
  • Hybrid app – Some companies choose to offer a combination of a Mobile Web App and a Native App to create a uniform experience.

5. Determine your relevance. Why should your association create an app? What makes it relevant, and what are the goals you are trying to accomplish in the mobile space? What stories do you want to tell?

Achenbach shared some quick examples to show Lunch & Learn attendees what others have been accomplishing in the mobile space:

Awareness – Heifer International launched a digital version of its flagship publication as a tablet app to make a wider audience aware of the work their organization does around the globe in hopes of inspiring new audiences to get involved with their mission.

Reach – The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) launched a new publication as a mobile app to grow its reach and deliver their content to members working in developing countries around the world who can access the content through their mobile devices.

Affinity – The Corcoran College of Art + Design launched its Viewbook as a mobile app to develop and strengthen the school’s brand affinity. The app provides a whole new way for Corcoran College’s audience to experience the school and builds affinity for its brand.

Imagining why your mobile presence is relevant to your association, and members will help you strengthen the mobile strategy you’ve started to develop.

Tips for Moving Forward

Now that you have determined the audience, value, desired experience, type of app, and relevance for your expansion into the mobile space, it’s time to move forward with building your mobile strategy. Here are Achenbach’s final tips for moving forward:

Be strategic. To take on any of these digital solutions and tactics requires leadership internally and externally to inspire the team to move forward into new territory. Define the goals and prioritize them. You may not be able to accomplish every goal at first, so determine what is a must-have and how you will measure success.

Make informed design decisions. Once you have outlined your mobile strategy, you will be in a better position to make informed decisions as you move into design and development. Details such as type size, readability, color, and navigation cues are all part of the design of the mobile experience. Remember that you’ll need to plan for design to make it work on all the various sizes of devices on which you’ll deploy your content.

Embrace fluidity. You need to be agile in the digital environment. It’s a time of perpetual product advancement. Once you have entered the mobile space, analytics are available as a resource. Take a look at what content users are most engaged with and coming back to. Don’t be afraid to evolve your mobile app and make informed adjustments that best suit your audience’s needs and reflect the type of experience they want.

The first steps always seem to be the hardest. This is especially true when you are treading territory that is new to you, Achenbach. Attendees left the Lunch & Learn with tips to help them enter the mobile space and build a successful mobile strategy for their association.

Amanda Jennison is a marketing specialist for Bates Creative.


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