Finding the Right Digital Marketing Mix

By | January 9, 2024

By William Henry, content marketing manager at Feathr

One of the most established marketing principles is the rule of seven, which states that prospects must interact with a brand at least seven times before performing a desired action.

But the rule takes on new meaning in the digital era, where online information overload forces brands to seek even greater visibility—think anywhere from seven to 21 touchpoints, according to Doug Hoekstra, director, digital content at Financial Executives International (FEI).

The good news? Today’s digital marketing platforms make it easy for associations to employ strategies like retargeting, a powerful method of recapturing website traffic. With retargeting, association marketers can serve up digital ads even after a customer left the association’s website, re-engaging them on external websites through their IP address.

“The best approach is multi-pronged,” Hoekstra said. “You can target warm, bottom-of-funnel leads, like past event attendees, but you can also cast a wider, top-of-funnel net, running awareness campaigns for general audiences.”

Hoekstra’s marketing goals at FEI, an association of approximately 9,000 senior-level financial executives, are similar to most—to increase membership, event attendance, and non-dues revenue. Also like most associations, the small but powerful marketing team at FEI must take a strategic approach to digital marketing to make a big impact on the bottom line.

When the pandemic hit, for example, FEI swapped out all in-person events for digital alternatives, at the same time shifting marketing efforts to a retargeting platform.

“We heightened our focus on digital initiatives—which included an emphasis on retargeting campaigns—after everyone began to interact predominantly in the virtual landscape,” Hoekstra said. “It worked well for us.”

Today, as pandemic concerns subside, FEI is adopting a hybrid approach, resuming in-person events with virtual options in some cases and keeping others entirely virtual. The association continues to use retargeting campaigns for both in-person and virtual events.

Leverage Multiple Campaign Types and Include Sponsors

The best digital marketing platforms allow association marketers to leverage several campaign types, including geofencing, which targets visitors at a particular location (such as a competing tradeshow), and lookalike audience campaigns, which target prospects who share similar characteristics with members.

Hoekstra said an email mapping, or CRM retargeting, campaign proved especially effective for FEI, which uses Feathr, a digital marketing platform, to run its ad campaigns.

“All you need is a list of email addresses, like past conference attendees or lapsed members, to load into the platform,” he said. “Then, the platform will use backend algorithms and cookies to connect email addresses with IP addresses so you can target users of those email addresses, serving them ads while they visit different websites.”

FEI runs lapsed member campaigns one to two times a year, as well as year-round general membership campaigns targeting those who visit the association’s website. The Feathr platform sells programmatic ad media in units of 1,000 impressions with multiple billing configurations, allowing FEI to easily control costs.

“There are tags set up that remove individuals from the list once they have converted so we’re not wasting our budget,” Hoekstra said.

FEI originally signed on with a marketing platform provider to run the association’s internal retargeting campaigns. Since then, Hoekstra said the team has begun offering retargeting packages to the association’s sponsors, empowering them to get their message in front of more people.

The strategy creates new non-dues revenue streams for the association while keeping FEI’s website free of intrusive advertising.

“We want our members to come to the site and not have to worry about all of the noise,” he said. “The beauty of retargeting campaigns is that they target audiences on external websites—so members aren’t seeing a lot of ad clutter. It’s when they’re checking the weather or reading the news that they see banners advertising your association or your sponsors.”

Look for Real-Time Data and Customer-Centric Support

Of all the features associations should consider in a digital marketing platform, Hoekstra said that phenomenal customer support is among the most essential.

“Price is obviously one of the most important considerations, but ongoing customer service is huge,” he said. “We have an account representative that will walk us through anything. They can help handle even the most advanced tasks, like creating HTML5 banner ads or making sure that conversion tags are tracking correctly through Google Tag Manager.”

Hoekstra said responsive customer support is especially crucial for associations that offer retargeting campaigns to their sponsors. So is the ability to offer sponsors insight into the performance of their campaigns through real-time spending and ROI data.

“It’s great being able to provide sponsors with real-time data dashboards, saying, ‘Feel free to contact us, and we can work on tweaking the campaign in the way you see fit,’” he said. “Having the option to customize those dashboards is also helpful to avoid any confusion on the part of the sponsor.”

The team at Feathr—a marketing platform that helps associations serve up highly-targeted ads based on interests and behaviors—thanks Doug Hoekstra, director, digital content at FEI, for sharing tips on effective retargeting. For more information on how Feathr helps more than 900 associations increase awareness, grow membership, promote events, and create new revenue, visit

(Handout photo)

Finding the Right Digital Marketing Mix