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Association marketing department talks about automated campaign success

[ROUNDUP] 2018 State of Marketing Automation: Association Benchmark Report

Our 2018 benchmark report combines our traditional email benchmarking report with a new survey focused on marketing automation.

British author James Burke once said, “You can only know where you’re going if you know where you’ve been.” Here at Higher Logic, we’ve been working hard to analyze how associations have approached marketing automation in the past and how current strategies are evolving in an effort to best utilize new opportunities for improved efficiency and growth.

We know that it can be challenging for associations to keep up in this ever-evolving space, so don’t fret – we’re here to help you make sense of it all. The wait is over. The results are in.

Our new 2018 benchmark report, the first of its kind strictly for associations, combines our traditional email benchmarking report with a new industry survey focused on marketing automation (MA). Our findings include beneficial data to help both our own clients and the larger association market gain a better understanding of industry efforts and how we can better leverage current challenges for future success.     

First and Foremost: Marketing Automation Is Here to Stay

Did you know that the volume of emails sent through marketing automation campaigns in 2017 increased by 110 percent compared to 2016 email volumes? This is worthy to note, especially if your organization falls into the 18 percent of respondents who reported having no plans to use marketing automation. In terms of keeping up, note that 52 percent of those surveyed currently use marketing automation, while 39 percent don’t use it (but almost half of those plan to use it soon). Not only are an increasing number of associations utilizing MA, but they’re starting to prioritize it. In fact:

  • 87% of associations consider marketing automation an important part of their current strategy
  • 55% of trade associations reported marketing automation as being “very important,” compared to 41% of individual member organizations (IMOs)

Marketing Automation Adoption and Implementation: Top Goals, Challenges and Motivators

When it comes to adopting a marketing automation platform, our combined findings revealed that most associations are motivated by two primary outcomes: member retention and event registration. Events were consistently a top goal across associations, as reflected in results from multiple survey questions (see Figure 9 below for more goals).


Implementing smart processes to support these business objectives isn’t always easy, as most associations aren’t finding the resources they need from platform providers. Knowledge is power, so associations can’t expect to streamline their automated marketing and communications efforts if they invest in a platform they don’t understand.

A worthy provider won’t take your money and run — they’ll set you up for success with ample onboarding resources and provide education on how to get the most out of the platform. While we’re talking about money, though, you may be surprised to find that cost is not the most important buying consideration for associations (see Figure 11 below).


The Full Report: There’s More Where that Data Came From

We’ve highlighted some key data in this roundup, but it’s simply a sneak peak of the exciting findings in our full report. Marketing automation isn’t supposed to be chaotic or daunting, so you can look forward to a report that digs into the following points (and more) in an accessible, straightforward way:

  • How (and why) we are using marketing automation now
  • What drives marketing automation adoption
  • Email performance in an automated world (metrics on annual volume, open rates, etc)
  • Challenges with launching/implementing a marketing automation platform
  • How associations are tracking key performance outcomes
  • The right outreach for improved engagement

Download the Engagement Trends Report 2020

Gabrielle Wathen

Gabrielle is the Content Marketing Manager at Flockjay. She has a background in journalism, film, and marketing. When she’s not writing, you can find her cuddling her cats Harvey and Wilbur, traveling the world, or storytelling in any way she can. Favorite food: All things cheese. Favorite place: Black Rock City, NV.