APWA is responsible for the education and training of the public works industry. From public to private sector organizations, APWA trains the workforce that keeps the roads open during heavy snows, fixes potholes, provides communities with safe water, and ensures trash and recycling are picked up. In essence, these are the people who keep the lights on and allow us to enjoy the conveniences of modern society.
This gives the APWA team an immense sense of pride. Their Director of Marketing & Communications, Jared Shilhanek, said, “Our members are everyday heroes. If they weren't doing their job, we wouldn’t have the same quality of life.”
As a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, APWA serves communities by equipping public work professionals with the knowledge and resources they need to succeed in the industry. Shilhanek said, “We aren't all about revenues, we're about our members, and making sure that we're supporting them and what they do in their communities, which feels great. And it makes it so easy for our team to come in and do our work each morning.”
APWA's annual Public Works Expo (PWX) is its largest event, bringing in roughly 6,000 public works professionals every year. As a leader in the sector, APWA has a committed and growing number of members and regular attendees. But as the competitive landscape shifts, APWA has made it a priority to stay in the lead, offering the best courses, speakers, and resources while expanding digital marketing initiatives to ensure registrations continue to increase year over year.
Starting with the low-hanging fruit
APWA began working with Feathr in 2019 to bring their marketing analytics and campaigns into one single, easy-to-use platform. To increase adoption and impact, they wanted clear analysis housed in the same platform where they ran cost-effective, modern digital ad campaigns.
Previously, they had used multiple tools to reach out to prospective members or attendees, but each piece felt disconnected from the others, and none offered an integrated solution for effectively following up with their already sizable audience of website visitors.
Shilhanek said, "We can target visitors that are already on our website and show them our new product offerings. We can point them to our new live events. We can introduce them to our chapter networking opportunities. We can make more sound marketing decisions based on their behaviors on our site.“
Retargeting campaigns are one of the highest converting campaigns in digital advertising, and APWA wanted to leave no stone unturned with their current audience. By targeting those who already visited their site and by creating a sense of urgency through an early-bird discount, APWA was able to bring in the results they’ve come to anticipate in Feathr.
Over $58,000 in revenue with less than $300 spent
Every association and nonprofit already has an audience. APWA made engagement with this group its highest priority, and it produced results worth talking about.
“We have a very reliable audience that we know is interested,” said Shilhanek. “So with that in mind, we linked the retargeting campaign to our PWX conference microsite. We know that area of our website gets a lot of traffic, and many of those folks that are already close to committing. So it often just takes that one final nudge.”
With only $297 spent on media, the APWA team brought in $58,324 in PWX conference registrations. Conversion rates this high are nearly impossible outside of highly targeted campaigns like the early-bird campaign they built within Feathr.
A personal and consistent customer success manager (CSM)
When asked what APWA has come to rely on the most from Feathr, the answer for Shilhanek was easy:
“Can I lean on our CSM? With Madeline, every time I have a question she's quick to jump in. She’ll either shoot me an email or say, ‘Hey, let's talk about this. Let's grab two minutes on the calendar.’ And every time I've ever spoken with her — whether it’s some deep involved question or just navigating the dashboard — she's got the answer.”
The key to any software solution is adoption. It doesn’t matter how great the platform is if it isn’t used to its maximum potential. This is why every Feathr account has a single, devoted CSM attached to it — one person who’s along for the entire journey.
“And she doesn't just talk away the problems,” said Shilhanek. “I think that's what I value the most from Feathr’s approach. Everybody I've ever talked to wasn't pushy — they're informative. They've helped rather than talked over me. I've always felt like there was careful, critical thought that went into our campaign, and it has a large impact on the results.”
Sustained engagement and revenue generation
2022 wasn’t the first or last year of APWA’s partnership with Feathr. Going forward, Shilhanek is looking forward to using new opportunities within the platform to continue growing APWA’s audience:
“We've got a built-in score of exhibitors that come our way. And the ability to serve them additional exposure opportunities is huge. The more we get people familiar with sponsored retargeting, which we can run within Feathr, the more it can become a really significant revenue generator.”
APWA has already begun to sell sponsored retargeting to some of their long-term partners. But new developments in digital advertising like lookalike and historical geofencing may offer even more ways to increase the size of their potential pool of registrants.
With results like 2022’s, part of the plan going forward will be to recreate past success. But much of what sets APWA’s campaigns apart is their commitment to offer only the best for their members while investing in the newest technologies to engage and reach a growing number of members and attendees. This is why 2023 only looks brighter for the APWA team.