Sending a Clear Message
It seems that everybody complains about information overload these days. The nonstop ringing, buzzing, and vibrating of electronic devices is evidence of all the new messages and updates constantly being sent and received. And not only does information threaten to overload our electronic inboxes, but stacks of papers, magazines, and more continue to pile up on our desks. In this environment, it's getting tougher all the time to figure out which messages are truly important and find the information you need to succeed in business.
But Heating, Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) is tackling this challenge with a new marketing strategy that it hopes will help members quickly and easily find the information they are looking for. According to Susan Little, director of marketing, "We want to become better at serving whatever our members' needs are."
This new approach is centered on HARDI's four pillars - advocacy, benchmarking, education, and networking - which were defined by the HARDI board. These four pillars represent the resources HARDI offers that provide its members with a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
A SIMPLE APPROACHGetting the message out about the pillars in a clear, consistent fashion is part of Little's job. But in today's world of rapidly changing technology, making a message appear simple can be difficult.
When Little joined HARDI as the marketing director in November 2010, she began by asking members what they wanted. While HARDI has a longstanding reputation for doing great things for the industry, with all of the information they need to communicate, its members didn't feel the information they were receiving was disseminated and delivered in the most efficient manner. According to Little, she heard from members that HARDI was sending out too much information, and one member told her it was time to go back to "writing with crayons."
After listening and learning from the members, Little set up a strategy to create an infrastructure that would allow HARDI to communicate more clearly with members.
For starters, HARDI's membership database was antiquated. According to Little, using the database, she was not able to easily identify subgroups of people by criteria to communicate with. "We had the information, we just weren't able to extract it," Little said. "So we didn't have the ability to easily speak to people based on their individual interests." Meaning things just needed to be a bit simplified.
Recognizing this need to update and improve the system, HARDI did a full assessment of its association management database, and ultimately chose to switch to a new system that also includes an integrated website and content management system.
Last February, HARDI began the transition to the new system, and now, Little said, "The capabilities are dynamic." That means it's possible for members to specify which types of information they want to regularly receive from HARDI and no longer feel spammed by information. "With the new system we will be able to aggregate and deliver information specific to their interests," Little said.
A NEW LOGOAs Little continued to develop a strategy for sending clear, concise messages to members, it became obvious that HARDI had not always been consistent in how it presented itself. Little is very disciplined in her approach to marketing, and she knew that HARDI needed a more consistent brand identity to go along with its new strategy. Before she tackled the task of developing a new logo, she reviewed HARDI's old marketing materials and found multiple different renditions of the logo, none of which were used in any consistent way.
Admittedly, it's not easy to change the look of a logo that has been around for a long time and that many people identify with. But Little presented a plan to the HARDI board that called for a new logo that would convey HARDI's growth and advancement, which was ultimately well-received. The new logo uses a modern font and neutral color, plus it is governed by a style guide so it will be used consistently and appropriately across all HARDI communications.
BRANDING THE FOUR PILLARSAnother part of HARDI's communication strategy is to turn each pillar into its own easily recognized brand with a logo, tagline, and associated color. The goal behind this branding is to create easily identifiable visual cues that will enable members to quickly see and discern what they want to read or find from HARDI.
Advocacy is red, benchmarking is green, education is blue, and networking is purple. Little explained that she did extensive research on color branding to make each pillar the appropriate color. For example, the networking logo is purple because "it's a happy color," she said. "The studies I read indicated that people associate networking to socialization and camaraderie."
Each pillar has a dedicated HARDI staff person or subject matter expert that oversees the projects and outcomes. While any member of the HARDI staff is able to assist members, Little encourages members with very specific interests to call and speak directly to the appropriate staff member that oversees that subject. Jon Melchi, manager of government affairs, is the contact for advocacy. Talbot Gee, executive vice president and COO, and Alan Beaulieu, chief economist, are the contacts for benchmarking. Emily Saving, education services manager, is the contact for all education and professional development. Stephanie Lingofelter, membership development and services manager, is the contact for networking.
Little strongly encouraged new members or those who have not participated much in the past to contact Lingofelter for a new program they have put together that fully explains HARDI's products, services, and how to maximize them.
A NEW WEBSITEOf course, the transformation of HARDI's communication with members wouldn't be complete without an overhaul of the website. These days, the ease of use and simple navigation of a website are as vital for saving time and sending a clear message as anything else.
HARDI's new website is designed to be easy to navigate, with tabs for the four pillars located along the main menu bar. "It should be easy and efficient and lead to ease of finding the information they need from us," Little said.
Another aspect of the new site is myHARDI, which Little described as "Facebook for HARDI members." She noted that this social portion of the site was created as an additional means of encouraging members to lean on each other and share information.
"With all of us becoming so mobile, we really needed to create a platform for extending the pillar offerings, messaging, tools, and resources through multiple means of delivery," she said. "If you don't have multiple means of delivery for your message, you're missing someone along the way. And we're a membership-based organization - we don't want to miss anyone." She noted that Distribution Center is also tied into this strategy, since some members prefer to receive information in a magazine format.