The concept of a business directory is not novel in the association world. It’s an easy way of listing organizational members or sponsors. Any association software suite offers it as an option, but at the Online News Association we wanted to ensure both sponsors and members could see value in the feature—so we built our own.
Value to Organizations
For associations or non-profits that have an array or sponsors/members that are organizations, presenting them in a directory format seems like a no-brainer. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes.
A sponsor is likely looking for some sort of awareness or recognition from your audience. They could be hiring, selling a product, or offering their own knowledge. Either way, they want your audience to become theirs as well. Your users will need a useful tool to really be converted for your sponsors.
Value to Members
Life is all about meaningful connections and everyone wants to feel like they have an “in.” Especially for member organizations, if you’re giving your audience a way to connect with other businesses in a more meaningful way, that’s going to provide value.
Value to You
Sometimes the partnerships/business development teams just need an extra cherry on top to seal a deal. For us, that’s an annual listing in our industry directory. It’s a win-win, since it makes our directory more robust which increases the value to members.
Additionally, we offer a directory listing at a low cost to new sponsors. This creates a much lower barrier to entry for organizations looking to support us and get involved for the first time.
I mention in the lead that we built our own listing to make sure our stakeholders found additional value in this tool. Here are some items we included:
- Primary contact information: Users want to know how to connect. Social media is great to include, but the contact of an actual person is even better.
- Ability to include a Call to Action: We wanted to incentivize sponsors to offer something. A discount, a webinar, a download—anything. They could use it to generate leads, but it would be an exclusive for our community.
- Related lists of content: The ONA website is pretty robust for sponsors. They can sponsor events, resources and content. Their employees could have profiles as speakers or experts. All of these items would be listed on a directory listing.
- Tiers for sponsors: This was important so we could break out of alphabetical order. A sponsor could upgrade and get themselves at the top of the list.
- A taxonomy of business categories: Users wouldn’t want to sift through dozens of unrelated businesses. They like the option of focusing on an industry.