Association Management Software: 5 Strategies That Work
January 17th, 2019
Association management software comes in a million different forms. Each with their own way of tackling membership payments, event management, member engagement, promotions and so on. However, all these tools are useless without the right strategy applied.
If you didn’t do your homework before you purchased your Association management software, you’re going to end up pigeonholed into using a strategy that fits the software, or software that fits your strategy. We’ve detailed 5 awesome strategies for using Association Management Software to your association’s advantage so you don’t waste your time and frustration finding the tool for you.
Looking for software? Check out our list of some fine chamber and association software to find the one that best suits you!
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A Brief History of Association Management Software
Association management can trace its roots all the way back to the middle ages when craftsmen and merchants grouped themselves into similarly processioned skilled labor called Guilds. Guilds were loosely formed of volunteers that aimed to organize their industry and profession so that they may learn from one another and pass on skills to friends and apprentices.
Management of these guilds were undertaken by guild masters and volunteer administrative staff that managed who was or was not a member of the guild, hold events for locals to attend in order to expose more consumers to the tradesmen of the guild, and when things got more exclusive, to collect dues from guild members to ensure membership.
Guilds eventually matured and evolved into the modern day university system, chambers of commerce, trade unions, associations, and clubs, using a similar format of management until the computer and internet age. At this point in time, membership was no longer locked to the locals who could attend physical events, meetings, and lectures.
The internet allowed members to join from around the country, or even around the world. Members could be informed of and kept informed of the association’s events, news, and more all while being billed without the need of physical mail. This changed the checkerboard for the management’s role in an association forever.
This is where association management software stepped in. Originally just a mess of excel sheets, entrepreneurs saw the value in combining all the necessary tools into platforms that serve for a digital translation of association management.
Exclusive Messaging and Offers
When it comes to associations, the prime goal of management is like any other member-based organization. Increase new members, and keep existing members. To do so requires strategic messaging and offer standpoint. That means you as the management need to offer something that is exclusive to members of your organization.
It all starts with what you can offer to your members that they cannot easily find elsewhere. Depending on the type of association you are, generally, you’d be serving a sector of industry or profession. This is the point at which you must prevail among all others. You need to have a good network with your industry’s leaders and influencers. Only then could you really bring something to the table in the form of exclusive offers to members.
This is where events play a large part in their valuable role. Events act as both an incentive’s offer for current members and as a way to entice non-members into joining should the event speak to their desires.
The events you run should be either exclusive members or inclusive to non-members. And it’s events themselves that act as a beta-test for your association’s ability to split into different levels of memberships. This is a great way to make the most of your member’s engagement. Running events that allow members to interact with their counterparts and industry leaders is pretty much the main entree you can offer, but even then you can use different tactics like early bird and VIP membership pricing for limited time offers.
Combining this strategy with any one of the major association management software tools is paramount to helping your success in both obtaining and retaining new members. For example at EventBank, we give complete membership control to the user who can then create pricing models that work for their audience, including the ability to offer discount codes, create packages, and more for both memberships AND events. Learn more here.
Complete and Total Personalization
Members are the lifeblood of your association. You need to show them the kindness they deserve for being a loyal patron of your association and the best way to do that is simply to personalize their experience with you. This includes when promoting items and messaging to users via email.
“it’s the thought that counts” really does apply to this situation. And you’ll need association management software that helps get this across more than ever. In the CRM and Email Marketing world, we call this a merge tag, or custom variable. This applies to association management software, as all these tools have one thing in common.
Everything runs on lists.
A list is important for record keeping and knowing how to find your contacts, sure. But their real value comes from other tool’s ability to call on each individual cell from the corresponding columns and rows that belong to each contact.
This allows email distribution tools to create fully personalized emails that cater directly to each member without having to start from scratch each time. For instance, each time you say Dear [first name], the first name of the contacts that belong to the email destination that the email campaign is being sent to, will populate the area in brackets. This can be done for the contact’s industry, company, location, and literally anything else.
EventBank’s platform is a suite of tools like many others out there that revolve around a core CRM. This CRM holds the list so that other tools in the platform can feed on it and take a custom variable and merge tag those variables in all outgoing communication. Make sure you use these customization options at all times to make the member feel understood.
Track Engagement for Each Member
Tracking a member’s engagement is an important set of metrics that separate association management software from any old CRM suite. Without explicit knowledge of what events the member has attended, how many new members that member introduces to the organization, and so on, you’ll miss out on what truly makes your organization stand out in terms of information gathering.
Association Management Software is indeed software, and that means everything you do in the real world should translate seamlessly to the digital world.
Tickets purchased online, member website profiles, email campaigns, and more are all traceable, and the ideal association management software for your association should be able to do this natively as well. You should ideally have the ability to see profiles of all your contacts, leads and members so you know who and what those individuals have done in your organization.
Maybe they sign up for events often, maybe they’re consistently late on payments, maybe they are active in email campaigns. These sets of data give you both macro and micro vision into how your organization performs. Looking at a bird’s eye view of your association, you should be able to see large swaths of member data so you can gauge your performance.
This isn’t just vanity numbers either, this data is applicable to actionable tasks like email campaigns. For instance if you want to send out a survey email only to those in your association who attended a certain event, then you can easily generate a separate email list for accounts that have been registered at the event, because only profiles who registered at that event, would ever have that data tracked on their profile.
This also gives you the great opportunity of doing goodwill gestures to long-time members or highly active members, enticing them to stay longer, and instilling trust that your promise looks out for its members and indeed cares for their achievements.
Automating is the biggest buzzword there is today, and it’s permeating every industry you can imagine. Automation saves time, money, and resources on doing mundane tasks that originally took an expensive workforce to complete.
This is not less true for association management software. While an all-in-one product that combines the necessary tools into one platform does indeed solve more than a few pain points, you won’t really be eking out the most that this software has to provide until you realize that it’s all still the same amount of work.
True value comes from the work you don’t have to do. The less time you spend on tasks, the more time you can spend on more valuable tasks instead. If time equals money, then you should be spending your time like you should be spending your money. Communication is the key method of providing value to members in an association, so this should be the prime function that needs to be automated.
Automation comes in many formats, but the main automation that should always be taken into consideration is email automation. This will exponentially spread your message at the single click of a button and utilizes personalization merge tags as discussed before. Ideally, a full automation suite for emails would include custom sequences designed to send out depending on user actions like signing up for an account online, purchases, or others.
Another sort of automation, which may or may not be in email format, that is directly valuable to any organization with membership models, is the automation of reminders for dues and renewal payments. This directly affects the revenue turnover and is the prime area for automation.
Do not buy any association management software that lacks this feature, as it’s a basic necessity to keep in the green. Using merge tags and member tracking tools, automation communication in the form of mainly emails, but could be SMS, Phone Calls, or other forms of communication can be then sent to the member based on time-frame triggers.
If it’s 2 weeks from the expiration of a member’s membership package, this would be where the association management software kicks in and send a renewal reminder to that member in hopes to get them to take action. Member late on a payment? Make sure a reminder gets sent to them so they can pay. It’s a simple feature that relies on the other parts of the whole in order to trigger and automatically remind members. It’s an easy way to keep the cash flow up to date without any dead members in your list.
Create an Ecosystem
In order to truly make the most of your association management software, you need to submit to the idea that the software needs to penetrate all levels of your organization. All levels of your organization can indeed go digital. And this is an important stage of transforming your association.
When it comes to memberships, you, of course, want a list on an excel sheet somewhere. It’s easy to use and easy to filter data. But this is only scratching the surface of the benefits of a digital world. You need to create a digital ecosystem for your association to thrive off of. Make sure that the first and last interaction with members is digital so you can track any and all major movements and metrics of your association.
As we said before, everything runs on lists. This acts at the core of your ecosystem, where any and all tools orbit and feed on.
The list holds all relevant data about your contacts, leads, and members, and the tools take from these contacts what it needs in order to personalize and automate the experience for you.
Emails need personalization from the merge tags, QR codes scanned when members attend events track it in that member’s profile, and soon other tools will recognize this member attended said event, and start to personalize and automate communication themselves. It’s an ecosystem that works to feed other parts and so on and so on.
At EventBank we do the same with our platform. By utilizing our CRM, contact data is not only kept but modified over time as user actions take place. Eventually, your ecosystem will start to churn out engaged, loyal, and new members without breaking a sweat. If you’re interested in seeing how EventBank handles customer automation, book a demo and we’ll show you how.