What does it take to be a successful marketing professional today? Well, it’s definitely changed since I worked in consumer marketing at National Geographic from 2000 to 2003. There, my primary role was to strategize and implement tactics designed to recruit and retain magazine subscribers. But today’s association marketers need to do that—and more. A shift that included greater focus on member and nonmember engagement, increased importance on regularly communicating with your members in a format of their choosing, and the introduction of a number of new communication tools requires association marketing professionals to hold these six new roles.

Channel expert. It is the marketers’ job to be informed about all of the traditional and new marketing techniques. In addition, they must understand the pros and cons of each technique to help get the best results out of any tactics tried.

Implementer. Marketers must have strong implementation and project-management skills. They should be able to make suggestions on what tactic to try, but if they are not able to make sure things get done correctly and in a timely manner, you will end up with faulty implementation and poor results.

Data analyst. Association marketing professionals must understand how to read and interpret the numbers. If they don’t know how to interpret response and financial figures, it will be impossible for the organization to know what has been successful and what has not.


Brand champion. In most associations it is the job of the head marketing professional to make sure the essence of the brand is reflected in everything it does. Part of this role is getting different departments and components to use a cohesive branding strategy so that members and potential members experience the association similarly.

Community creator. Engagement and community building are important both within an organization and within its membership.  The more engaged your colleagues, key volunteers, and partners are with your marketing efforts, the more effective they will be. And this engagement will be passed along to the members they interact with regularly, which translates into increased member engagement.

Cheerleader and politician. Part of marketing is trying new things in order to get the best response possible. However, not all people adapt to change and new things as easily as others.  It is important for association marketers to not only get people excited about new ideas but also to stand up for ideas that they think will work.

If association marketers fail to develop and champion these new roles, it’s likely their organization’s marketing efforts will be viewed as basic rather than strategic.