Features

Get Ready for the Future: An Interview with Alex DeBarr

By Sarah Sain • August 13, 2019

2019 marks an important milestone as Naylor Association Solutions celebrates 50 years serving associations and providing them with the tools to grow and thrive. To mark the occasion, Association Adviser talked with Naylor president & CEO Alex DeBarr about how associations can use new technologies to build their influence, engage with members and drive non-dues revenue.

Q: What is the biggest challenge associations are facing in today’s digital-first world?

Alex DeBarr
Alex DeBarr, Naylor Association Solutions

A: Associations face the same set of challenges as for-profit companies. It all starts with understanding the technology and new tools that can help them be more effective, more productive and more efficient. It’s not about rushing out to try to latest shiny toy. It’s about learning which new technologies will help them solve problems and capitalize on opportunities. To make those decisions with regards to new technology, associations need to clearly understand their internal challenges and their memberships so they can apply the right tools in the most effective ways.

Q. How can associations leader use technology to drive growth in their associations and better engage with members?

A: I think associations have to be aware of the need to use updated management tools that help them understand their members’ needs and wants, as well as track changes to the industries they serve. There are so many solid database and analytic tools out there that can help associations better organize their membership lists, measure member behaviors and trends, survey stakeholders, and automate and customize marketing for outreach to a specific audience. Associations need to adopt these new technologies to stay competitive in a world where the information they need is at the fingertips.

Q: Data management can be a big hurdle for many associations. Why is reliable and accurate data so important to an association?

A: It starts with a simple, old-fashioned concept – know your customer, their name, address, phone number, email address, and so on. Most associations readily admit they have simple data accuracy issues. So the question then becomes, how do you effectively engage your membership when between 10 and 20 percent of the contact information is out of date or just plain incorrect? The best place to start is to have the most accurate, up-to-date member and potential member lists – that will lead you on the clearest path to engagement.

Obviously, in this day and age, the ways in which you can engage your membership are expanding every day, as are the tools to help monitor and measure engagement. We have introduced three new digital product offerings in the last six months: our programmatic advertising network, our MarketBASE online directory/community and, most recently, our artificial intelligence-driven newsletters, which use AI to help customize content for individual readers.

The member communications-based AI NewsBrief and career-focused AI CareerBrief are powered by rasa.io, a great association-focused company launched a few years ago by Amith Nagarajan. The Smart Newsletter platform uses new technology to transform standard issue digital newsletters into the most targeted form of media and content anyone can offer. The AI tool literally learns the preferences of the reader over time and tailors the content to that reader. This obviously improves open rates and makes for a powerful way for associations to be content leaders in their markets.

Associations should always strive to lead their markets with these kinds of products. As we’ve said before in this publication, associations have never had a better time to succeed, but if, and only if, they find a way to effectively utilize the many new tools out there to understand and engage their members.

Read the full interview in the new issue of Association Adviser magazine.