Fragmented systems and databases…

A spreadsheet for one thing and a Word document for another…

Data inconsistencies and errors…

Does this sound familiar? We know how time consuming running a professional association can be, particularly if you’re carrying out a number of tasks manually. But by centralising data and automating tasks, time consuming administrative jobs can be reduced to a small number of clicks.

You may already have a system in place, in which case, it’s worth asking:

  • How many processes are you carrying out manually that could be automated?
  • Do you find it easy to extract, segment and use data to communicate with your members?
  • Are all your communication tools (i.e. email marketing system) integrated into your database?
  • Are you able to easily take online payments for registrations, services and events?
  • Do you know how your members are interacting with your online services?
  • How much time could you save each day if your database was easier to manage?

Let’s take a look at how using a streamlined membership management platform to manage your professional association can improve productivity and efficiency, freeing up your time to concentrate on the things that matter to your members.

From registration to renewal

Your membership management platform is the only sales tool that still works whilst you’re asleep so ensuring you have a seamless online registration process can facilitate the transition of prospects to members with little or no intervention from you. With this in mind, you should think about providing the following:

  • Full online registration process so members can start accessing their membership benefits immediately
  • Online payment facility to make the registration process quick and efficient
  • Ability for organisations to sign up AND the individuals within those organisations without any barriers
  • An area for members to manage their own information so that your database is up to date
  • Account information reminders for those that are already registered but try to sign up again

When asking people to register, it’s important to make sure that the process is intuitive and you get the right balance between the level of information that you NEED and the information that you WANT. When thinking about what to collect at registration, skip to the end of the process and analyse how you’re going to use that information – if you can’t think of a scenario that you would use it, then don’t include it.

Once your online registration process is set up, you can easily set up a sophisticated analytics model which will provide you with the ability to see how people are interacting with the process – how many people visited the form, whether they started filling it in and then stopped, level of conversion etc. Then once they have registered, you can also analyse how they are interacting with the online tools you provide.

Driving registration and account management online means that members, old and new, can be stored in one place with the relevant information made available at the touch of a button. Your membership data is then accessible via any internet enabled device, wherever you are. A centralised point of storage and access will eliminate inconsistencies and reports and advanced segmentation can be automated allowing data to be interpreted quickly and efficiently.

And when it comes to renewal, you can automate notifications and payments making life easier for both you and your members.

Managing membership levels

If your professional association has multiple membership levels then think about how this can be used to tailor your online content for each level. Creating content and information for each level, providing the ability for members to ‘unlock’ this content by upgrading their membership online as a way to increase revenue and benefit your members by offering a choice of the level of financial commitment they wish to make at any point in time.

But where to start?

When looking to improve your current online membership platform or even if you’re considering moving your professional membership model online for the first time, here are five top tips to help you start the process…

1. Define your objectives

A project of this nature will require investment, and it should be seen as an investment and not a cost. So, what will be the return on that? Are you intending to increase membership by a certain amount, increase revenue, improve administrative efficiency? By setting objectives at the start of the project, you can more easily measure success post-launch.

2. Carry out a data audit

Where is your data currently stored? Who has access to it? When was your data last updated? By understanding the answers to these questions, you can start to form the basis for your data structure and run a gap analysis to see what you don’t currently have that would be really useful.

3. Start with the outcomes

Make a list of all the business processes that you currently carry out including registrations, renewals, email notifications, direct mail campaigns and reporting, and map out what data is required for each of these processes. This will help you work back to what you need to collect from your members to facilitate this.

4. Consider your budget

Your membership management platform can act as a sales tool, a marketing tool, a value-added benefit for your members, a CRM and a reporting tool. What value do you place on these uses? When looking for someone to deliver your membership management tool, transparency about your available budget or budget range can really help both parties work together to understand what can be realistically achieved with the resources available.

5. Identify your stakeholders

By working with the right people throughout the process of creating your membership management platform, you will get buy in from those that are going to be important to its success. Appoint one contact that will be responsible for project management and communication who is backed by a small ‘steering’ group that can advise and assist where required – this might even include a member representative if available. This will then focus the attention of the project team and matters only need to be referred to the wider committee when the steering group does not have the authority to make the decision i.e. financial matters etc.

On the face of it, a membership management platform comes in the form of a website but to you, this should provide a whole lot more – a digital tool that becomes integral to the management of your association.

View some of our previous work with professional associations.