Keeping up with technology is a never-ending challenge. Just when you think you have it all figured out, something new comes along. Even in the association world, how do you know which membership software features will help you deliver value to members? And which ones are merely shiny new tools?
We asked several association experts how membership software can help associations meet their 2017 goals. If you’re considering new association management software in 2017, keep their insight and advice in mind.
Make Data-Informed Decisions to Deliver More Value to Members
“Data is arguably the most valuable asset an organization owns,” said Loretta M. DeLuca, FASAE, founder and CEO of DelCor Technology Solutions. To make the most of this asset in 2017, maintaining and using the data in your association management system (AMS) has to be easy.
The only good data is clean data. Staff will keep data accurate, up-to-date, and complete if your membership software is user-friendly. “For decades, the ability of AMSs to store more and more data has increased exponentially, yet the ability to extract and manipulate this data to support business planning and decisions has not,” said DeLuca. Staff must also feel comfortable using queries or reports to pull data from the system.
A user-friendly interface makes it easy for staff to:
- Segment data so you can send targeted messages to subsets of members.
- Extract the data you need to analyze and understand members and their behavior.
- Produce reports to share those findings with leaders and colleagues.
Your big (and small) data gives you the opportunity to learn more about members and make informed decisions.
Offer Relevant and Timely Professional Development
For as long as associations have existed, people have joined them to network and learn. Associations didn’t have to worry too much about competition, until recently.
Now, members can go online to meet peers and further their education. They’ve become accustomed to online learning thanks to the abundance of free content such as webinars, TED Talks, and online courses offered by MOOCs like Coursera and edX. But, associations still have several advantages over the competition:
- Reputation as an authoritative, trusted source of educational content
- Relationship with their membership community
- Permission to send emails to that community
- Ability to leverage member, attendee, and customer data
Differentiate yourself from the online competition by using that data to better understand the educational needs of your members. “In the online learning arena, associations should focus on helping members work less stressfully, more profitably, and more productively,” said Mary Byers, CAE, author and association consultant.
The data in your AMS, content management system, and other databases can help you determine the type of educational content to provide based on career stage, position, interests, and behavioral patterns. Seek technology that integrates or exchanges data smoothly.
Provide a Membership Model to Fit Member Needs
Consumer experiences now drive member expectations. In an online world where members pick from menus of options and enjoy customized experiences, the traditional one-size-fits-all association membership model is losing ground.
“Over the last few years, many associations have re-evaluated and changed their membership model by creating tiered membership structures or hybrid memberships,” said Tony Rossell, author and senior vice president at Marketing General Incorporated. “In 2017, many associations will evaluate and adjust their membership product to meet the changing needs in the marketplace.”
When your members are ready for a change, will your AMS be ready? Technology should empower an association to fulfill its mission, not hold it back. Make sure your association can respond nimbly to the needs and desires of your members and prospects by using membership software that can be configured for a number of membership models and dues levels.
Increase Membership & Participation with Inbound Marketing
After you develop a new online course or membership model, you need to sell it – because we all know by now, you can’t build it and expect them to come. “In 2017, associations will finally discover that “sales” is not a dirty word. Selling is required to keep your association alive,” said Wes Trochlil, author and association software expert.
Attract the attention of prospective members with content that helps them solve problems or keeps them informed – that’s the goal of content marketing. The next strategy on the horizon for the association marketing mix is inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing helps your membership and marketing teams tailor their approach to prospect needs and deliver a solution that prospects actually want. By integrating your AMS with inbound marketing software, you can learn about and respond to the online behavior of your website visitors and email subscribers—what they read, clicked, downloaded, or shared.
Based on this behavioral data, staff can provide additional relevant content, encourage further engagement, and nurture a deeper relationship with the prospect. “Associations will have to review the people, processes, and technology they have in place to ensure that all three support this new paradigm of selling: people who aren’t afraid to ask someone to buy something, processes that support selling, and technology that improves the management of the sales process,” said Trochlil.
Safeguard Against Cybersecurity Threats
“In 2017, associations must get better at using data to learn more about their community and deliver more value to them, said Deirdre Reid, CAE, freelance and content marketing writer for the association market. “They also must step up their efforts to protect the data in their care against growing cybersecurity threats.”
As the guardian of member and customer data, your association must keep it safe from cybercriminals and other bad players. To minimize the risk of a data breach, select a membership software partner who protects your data as if their business depends upon it – because it does.
Provide security training to staff so they adopt strong security practices and can recognize phishing attempts. Make sure your business processes comply with industry-accepted security standards. Arrange for a security audit so you can identify potential security vulnerabilities.
To learn more about what 13 industry influencers have to say on emerging trends in association management, download our report, Top Association Management Experts Predictions for 2017.