Building Blocks Episode 2: Event Wrap Up

Ashtan Moore / July 30, 2020

I recently had the pleasure of having Todd Unger, the Chief Experience Officer of the American Medical Association, on our event series called Building Blocks.

While Unger is the CXO of a non-profit, it’s important to note that the topics covered here apply to all organizations, whether they be non-profits, associations, or commercial organizations.

Unger brought his first decade of experience in advertising and marketing for the consumer product space to instruct how he directed outreached, measured the results, and adjusted as necessary in the non-profit arena.

Some of the key questions and answers from our webinar are below. You can watch the full video here.


What does a Chief Experience Officer do?

Todd: On my third anniversary, I put together my own definition: experience is the seamless integration of product, marketing, commerce, and service, to acquire and retain customers (and in my case, members). For me, that unification of all things is so critical in today’s environment.

What do you think has had the biggest impact on the AMA’s transformation since you signed up?

Todd: Our results. And fast results. When I first arrived, my main focus was membership. Subsequently, that’s expanded into the rest of marketing: after the first week, I was asked what I learned. And I laid out a roadmap to build what I called, at the time, a “member machine,” that could produce and retain membership. I look back at that road-map and it’s what we followed.

In the pandemic, how should associations take a first step into their own digital transformation?

Todd: Ask yourself what your business strategy is and what you need to do to grow – you need to answer that first. When people look and say “I need to build awareness, I need to bring in customers,” you can then translate that into a digital ad campaign that will tell you whether or not your proposition is correct and whether or not it’s compelling.

That’s why I love digital so much – it’s the entire gamut of marketing: from the expression, some kind of compelling proposition, getting people there, and getting them through that mix in very quick timing to see if what you’re doing works. It’s such an easy place to start.

What’s your 101 on the basics of how you demonstrate value to a prospective member or current member?

Todd: Making sure you understand that target audience. I’ve found through many businesses that it’s often overlooked. It’s something I learned early in my career at Leo Burnett: if you don’t have a good behavioral description for your target audience that’s predictive of future behavior, don’t do anything.

A person interested in advocacy is different from a person who’s interested in clinical data, who’s different from a person interested in practice improvement. This was the beginning of our model of understanding. We can’t understand how to provide value to an audience until we understand the audience.

Where should people start in understanding their audience and creating the best copy and content?

Todd: Writing and communicating in a digital environment is so important. Where do you start? You can’t ignore the laws of marketing on your way in to digital. You need that audience defined, and you need a clear brand strategy. These are things that people just skip and go right into the ad.

At the AMA, we first identified the target audience. Then what they cared about, and what moved their needle. Then we uncovered insights about their passion about being in medicine. Then we built a very clear statement to answer this: the physicians powerful ally in patient care.

Your brand strategy is a headline, and then three bullet points. If you can’t convince people with that set of words then go back to the drawing board. Before you start messing around on social media, before launching ads, you need to have that defined.

If you can’t catch someone’s interest, tell them what you do, and get them to click in 10 seconds, you will probably lose them. It’s repeated exposure to that messaging and the storytelling that brings it to life to eventually convert someone.

Quick tips

  • Set yourself up for small wins to get buy-in from the rest of the organization as you succeed; people understand the value of numbers as they go up and to the right
  • Before starting a new initiative, interview your members (or whatever your target audiences is) and understand exactly what they need, want, and expect from you
  • Showcase your members, also known as brand ambassadors, in your organic content; tell your story through their own lens by showcasing their passions
  • Do the basics, baby steps: digital marketing through email, small investments in advertising on Facebook; these are things people can do without betting the farm
  • Ensure that your brand strategy is clear; effectively communicate your value proposition to your target audiences in a simple way using your audiences’ language (product positioning)
  • Use the targeting capabilities on advertising platforms to personalize content ensuring that you’re speaking to individuals who are interested in the message you’re driving
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