Branding is important – we don’t have to tell you that. But branding can also be expensive, and that’s where the problem often lies.

But good news! Branding doesn’t HAVE to be expensive. In fact, some of the best tactics out there are actually quite cost-effective.

Take a look at these tips for branding your association on a budget:

1. Identify your personas

In order to brand your association on a budget, you need to make sure you’re marketing to the right people. You don’t want to waste your time and money trying to convey a message to people who have no interest (and will never have an interest) in joining your association. That’s why you need to determine who your member personas are – and market specifically to them.

What are member personas, you ask? They’re semi-fictional representations of your ideal members (based on market research and real data about your existing members). See, if you know who your ideal members are, you can focus your marketing and branding efforts on them – getting more bang for your buck (and time).

For a step-by-step guide on how to create member personas, check out our post, 5 Steps to Personas, Prospecting, and Peace of Mind.

2. Hone in on one or two key marketing messages

Just as you need to narrow down your audience (and focus on your ideal members), you need to narrow down your marketing messages as well. If you’re trying to communicate too many things (our association does A, B, C, D, and E), people will likely forget all of the above. There’s too much information coming at them and nothing’s really sticking. That said, if you focus on one or two key marketing messages and consistently put those out over time, people will start to remember them and associate your organization with A and B, exclusively. (And THAT’S where effective branding all begins.)

3. Utilize what’s free (or pretty close to it)

Once you know who your personas are and what you’re trying to communicate to them, you can then focus on execution. And again, this doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, here are some pretty cheap (if not free) tactics for branding your association:

  • Social media – Social media is such an amazing marketing tool, and it’d be a shame not to use it. Through pictures and posts, you can create an image for your association (ahem, a brand), so that when people come to your page, they can get a feel for who your association is and, ultimately, what you’re all about. (Think of social media as a micro-website for your association.)
  • Blogging – Blogging is another great (and fairly cost-effective) way to establish your association’s brand. How do you want people to perceive your association? As a thought leader? As a fun organization to be a part of? Craft that image on your association’s blog. If you want to be perceived as a thought leader, write about industry trends and best practices. People will start coming to you for that reason and thinking about you in that manner.
  • Word-of-mouth marketing – This is the best tool in your marketing toolbox, by far! You can only market your association so much. But if you can get others to market your association – happy members who speak positively of your association – you’ll reap the rewards. To boost word-of-mouth marketing, identify who your member advocates are (those that are the most involved and satisfied with your association). Then, reach out to them and encourage them to invite their friends/colleagues to events, share your organization’s posts on social media, post on their own ABOUT your organization, etc. You can even offer them an incentive of some sort (a discounted membership rate, a discounted event rate, VIP access to something, etc.). The more they can market your association, the better off your organization (and brand) will be.  

At the end of the day, branding your association is all about recruiting new members. You want people to know who your association is so that ideally, they’ll join! For more tips on growing your association’s membership, check out our free guide, Best Practices for Online Member Acquisition.