6 Tips to Improve Your Association’s Management with Data

When associations thrive, they see boosts in member recruitment and improved retention rates. They experience strong event turnout and growing engagement through other channels such as social media and discussion boards. They may even see more consistent non-dues revenue streams!

If your association isn’t quite there yet, you may be wondering where your efforts are going astray.

That’s where data comes into play. By examining your association’s member data, you can pinpoint the specific areas where your efforts are making an impact, or not. This information is vital to making informed decisions on what actions should be ceased, improved or prioritized. This holds true whether it’s your member engagement efforts or your internal operations.

We’re going to explore the many ways that your data can provide insights to improve your association’s operations through the following:

  • Better prepare your data.
  • Offer events that interest your members.
  • Communicate more effectively with members.
  • Discover opportunities to recruit new members.
  • Understand lags in membership. 
  • Identify opportunities for technological innovation.

Are you ready to make the most of your association’s data? Let’s get started.

Fine-tune your data. 

Before you can begin using your association’s data to improve management, you first need to review, clean and fine-tune your data. Simply examining your raw data will be time-consuming and is unlikely to offer many actionable insights. Plus, if you’re working with flawed or disorganized data, your actionable insights may send you in the wrong direction.

Therefore, our first tip for using data to improve your association’s management is cleaning and organizing your database beforehand. This process of working towards an error-free database is called data hygiene.

Data hygiene involves conducting an audit of your database and discovering areas with flawed information. From there, you can resolve those errors and create rules to eliminate them going forward. Start with:

  • Standardizing the entry of commonly used terms. This includes dates, addresses, titles, and numerals. This prevents duplicate, similar entries.
  • Merging duplicate entries and completing incomplete information. Ensure you have one entry for each member, representing a full picture of their interaction with your organization.
  • Segmenting members into common groups. Separating members into groups by common characteristics allows you to discover trends within your database, which you can act on later.

Need more support on data processing and creating actionable solutions? Check out AccuData’s primer on data hygiene.

Once you’ve cleaned and segmented your database, you can start examining your segments to better manage your association. 

Provide events that interest your members.

One of the biggest reasons members join associations is for professional networking opportunities. Association events are a popular way of providing those networking experiences, and you can improve these events with the right data. 

Planning and hosting an association event is a resource-intensive initiative. When you do, you want to make sure you’re providing the highest value possible to attendees. Examine your association’s data to discover:

  • Geographic locations where many of your members reside. Hosting events in those areas will make it more likely that your members will participate.
  • Topics of interest in your membership or field in general. Covering trending topics in your event makes sure your members are up-to-date on the latest news in the field.
  • Aspects of past events that have been particularly popular (or less so). For example, if you successfully incorporated new registration measures, or unsuccessfully incorporated new engagement strategies, plan your next event with that in mind.

If your association’s event management software is integrated with your CRM, it will be easy to see which of your offerings members have gravitated toward the most.

Communicate more effectively with members.

Data can improve your member communication strategies in a variety of ways. First and foremost, personalization is a powerful tool to boost member value by improving the member experience. Data is the key to getting started.

Something as simple as addressing email and direct mail communications to the member by name is a great start. However, personalization can go far beyond just changing the salutations. Consider these tips:

  • Only send members information about upcoming opportunities that they would be most interested in, indicated by factors in your database segments. This is the first email marketing design trend on this list.
  • Respect the communication preferences of members. If some of your members have opted out of email or direct mail communications, ensure those preferences are respected in all of your campaigns.
  • Discover and make the most of the many communication channels available. Examine your data to discover which platforms (email, direct mail, social media) your members are most responsive to and utilize them accordingly.

Communicating with members is a careful balance of effectively spreading the word while not going overboard with outreach. Data is key to being efficient and effective in this practice.

Discover opportunities to recruit new members.

Having and maintaining a strong member recruiting program is essential for your association to continue growing and thriving as time goes on. However, as the demographics of your membership change and technological innovations continue to evolve, recruiting is now more challenging than ever.

When it comes to recruitment, your staff has a few different challenges to overcome. These include: 

  • Locating potential new members.
  • Discovering what they’re interested in and how you can appeal to them.
  • Contacting them in a way that’s most likely to resonate.  

What might have worked when recruiting in the past may not work in today’s digital-first world. Your staff can utilize data to more efficiently recruit in the 21st century by:

  • Surveying recent additions to your membership. Use that data to discover the biggest drivers for members to join your association, and use them as selling points for potential new members.
  • Discovering new prospective members. Pay attention to information about non-members who regularly interact with your association through digital means. This could be a prospect who filled out their email to download a resource from your website.
  • Recognize which recruiting tactics are most successful. Use data to discover which of your digital outreach methods are having the highest success. This includes social media, email marketing strategies, cold calling, or even downloadable resources. Optimize those methods that have led to the biggest increase in membership. 

With data on the recent additions to your association and predictive analytics tactics, you can reasonably guess what potential new members of your association are interested in.

Understand why members lapse.

A strong member recruiting strategy is essentially useless if you have a low retention rate. Data is a valuable tool for discovering the reason behind a lapse in members and what you can do to alleviate those deterring factors.

For instance, examine your database to discover which members chose not to renew. Send a survey to those members asking what made them choose to end their membership, whether it be a lack of interest or an inability to pay the dues. Track those responses and brainstorm ways to circumvent that complication.

Furthermore, examine your records of lapsed members and look for common characteristics. 

For example, were members lapsing at a certain time period such as at the 3-year mark or the 10-year mark? If you’re using software specifically made for associations, what is the member adoption of your programs and services like? Pay attention to these common factors and consider what you can do to lessen the impact.

This same tactic is extremely useful for identifying at-risk members before they lapse. When you identify at-risk members, you can funnel them into a special engagement strategy to remind them of the value you offer and keep them around. 

Identify opportunities for technological innovation.

Your association’s data is a powerful tool to discover opportunities to improve your association’s operations with technology. 

You can use surveys or polls to discover what technology your members are most interested in interacting with or learning about. You may find that they’re most interested in learning about artificial intelligence and its impact on your industry or interacting with virtual reality experiences. At times, meeting member demands is a practice of having the right technology to do so.

You can also discover areas where your management efforts are falling short. For example, you may be putting a lot of time into certain engagement efforts but not seeing data-proven results (like your email newsletter or even a specific social media network). In that case, it might be time to discontinue or scale back the effort and incorporate another engagement method.

By examining your association’s data, you can discover the areas where your association’s long-held practices are no longer effective. Instead of staying stumped with management practices that are subpar, you’ll be able to use specific data to discover the exact failed practice and fix it.

Every interaction between members and your association can generate valuable data. Each of those data points provides a wealth of information on your association’s performance, and how it can be improved.
Consider these six tips when evaluating your association’s management efforts. With access to the right data, you’ll have solutions that are specific to your association in no time.

Author: Gabrielle Perham, MBA, Director of Marketing

Gabrielle is the Director of Marketing for AccuData Integrated Marketing. She joined the organization in 2017 and possesses more than 15 years of experience in strategic marketing, branding, communications, and digital marketing. She earned a B.S. in Marketing and an M.B.A in Marketing Management from the University of Tampa.

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