Strategies for Developing a Winning Association Web Site

When Aesention, Inc. was asked to redesign the web site for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the company approached the project with two objectives: make the site more actionable and interactive. When the company discovered the web site ( received a Web Marketing Association, Inc. award for the Best Associations Web Site, it was clear they achieved their objectives.

Aesention is now part of The Hiebing Group, a full-service strategic marketing firm in Madison, Wisconsin. Sandra Bradley, Interactive Director at The Hiebing Group and previously president of Aesention, was the guiding force behind the team that redesigned the award-winning web site for WMC.

WMC is a statewide, non-profit business association representing Wisconsin business. Currently, the association has nearly 4,300 members, including both large and small manufacturers, service companies, local chambers of commerce and specialized trade associations.

“WMC wanted to take its business to the next level, using the web as a major channel,” said Bradley. “The Web is becoming increasingly important for associations like WMC. Its immediacy is critical for grassroots efforts and the ability to communicate volumes of information for many target audiences makes it a cost-effective communication tool. Our goal was to help them maximize the potential of the Web for their members.”

"WMC's vision to create a website that is easy to navigate,

member-focused, and a valuable tool for business executives, company

employees, and citizens to stay informed on issues important to their

business and our economy, is the crux of our redesign efforts" said Jim

Warner, WMC's IT director.

A new look and feel tells members the association is on the move

The old WMC website was similar to many association sites in that it presented a great deal of factual information. Like many similar sites that were developed in the mid 1990s, the site was difficult to navigate and didn’t do a good job of reflecting the WMC brand. And since technologies have changed a great deal in the past decade, the old site didn’t provide the interactivity that most people look for on today’s web sites.

(WMC site pre-redesign)

“The entire site needed a refreshed design,” said Bradley. “ We wanted it to have a more emotional feel, encouraging members to interact with the information that appeared on the web site. WMC wanted to make sure that their members understood the value of belonging to the organization. This web site was just one of the ways that they’re continually evolving to better serve Wisconsin businesses.”

"WMC created a website in 1996 to simply provide information to its

membership, but today has evolved into a one-stop resource that provides

important business legislation, information on the state's political

climate, the economy, education, and health and safety," said WMC

President James S. Haney.

(Redesigned Site)

Her team added the Prosperity Project feature to the site, allowing visitors to sound off on issues that affect their business and help shape public policy. It matches WMC members to their elected officials so they can communicate about issues affecting job creation in Wisconsin.

The team collaborated with WMC to enhance the Government & Public Affairs Portal. Specifically, an online polling tool was added to the site along with a “grassroots toolkit.” These items, along with enhanced content, provide WMC with a unique ability to draw attention to issues, integrating other sites into the portal to support decision-making.

Some of the other resources available to members via the web site include a complete listing of legislative issues confronting industry, bill tracking, news briefings, member alerts, publications and product and service offerings.

The silent, but critical, functional changes make a world of the difference

Although not as evident, some of the subtle changes that Bradley and her team made to the site were also critical to the success of the redesign. The new web site is more scanable than the previous site, meaning members and others seeking information will be able to quickly find what they’re looking for on each page. It’s also much easier to navigate throughout the site – three quick clicks will take you anywhere you want to be.

The refreshed web site has only been live for a few months, but WMC has received rave reviews from its members.

"WMC's vision to create a website that is easy to navigate,

member-focused, and a valuable tool for business executives, company

employees, and citizens to stay informed on issues important to their

business and our economy, is the crux of our redesign efforts" said Jim

Warner, WMC's IT director.

“We were thrilled to work with an association that was so appreciative of our efforts,” said Bradley. “Whether an organization is starting from scratch or refreshing an existing web site, the key to success lies in truly understanding the target market needs and developing a strategic site that is an extension of your brand.”

The Hiebing Group is a full-service marketing firm based in Madison, Wisconsin, with special expertise in developing strategic integrated marketing solutions that connect brands to target markets. Founded in 1981, The Hiebing Group is an employee-owned agency with annual capitalized billings of more than $35 million.  The agency’s clients range from local to regional to national companies and organizations.  Find out more about The Hiebing Group at











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