To fully engage members, your membership management team should know as much as possible about each member and have that information at your fingertips. When members trust you to store information about them, you don’t want to jeopardize that trust by responding to or engaging with them based on inaccurate information. Having their up-to-date contact information, as well as their association involvement history and other professional preferences, helps you build a positive membership experience for them and turns them into ambassadors for your association.
On the flip side, continuing to store data they’ve asked you to delete, or maintaining duplicate records about them with conflicting or incomplete information sends the wrong message to members. Inaccurate data will cause members to lose confidence in your organization and may make them feel undervalued.
What member data should you collect?
It is important to identify the type of data that is most valuable to your association about its members. Sure, their name and email address are indispensable. But how well can your association answer these questions about your members?
- How long has this person been a member?
- How do you define their membership value, and what is their value to you?
- Are there open opportunities to engage with this member about leadership positions, sponsorships, volunteering, mentoring, content creation or event involvement?
- Is their membership about to expire?
- Have they taken any learning courses recently?
- Do they hold a special certification or degree within your industry?
- When was the last time they attended one of your events?
- Are they a board member?
- Who is their employer?
- Have they recruited other members, sponsors, volunteers or event speakers?
Why collect so much member data?
Tracking and recording this type of information lets you know how to fully engage each member segment. Data about each member’s professional background and history with your association tells you how to serve members better, and how the member might best serve your association. For example, if a member is new, information about their employer and their professional interests gives your association the opportunity to introduce them to other members with similar interests and to tell them about upcoming events or courses related to their passion.
Data about their renewal date becomes a platform upon which to remind them of the benefits of membership and to encourage them to invite their colleagues to join. If someone’s membership is about to expire, your data will tell your staff to reach out to them soon. If the member is a long-term veteran of your association, your data will remind you to thank them for continued membership and to include them in opportunities for deeper involvement or programs typically reserved for senior-level professionals.
In short, the more data you regularly collect and organize about your members, the more chances you have to deliver them meaningful content and maximize their membership experience and the less risk you have of losing them.
Organizing member data benefits your association
Collecting and maintaining clean, actionable data should be important at the organizational level too. Use as few data collection and storage systems as possible; your teams shouldn’t have to navigate between systems to gather data or risk mapping over accurate data from one system with inaccurate data from another.
Leverage comprehensive member data to make decisions about program content, association communications and strategic priorities. For example, data about communications usage or event attendance will tell you what types of content and shared expertise members value most, and what events they think are worth their time away from work. If an individual member’s engagement is not where you would like it to be, you can reference their membership record and specific member history and begin to understand how to motivate them to become a more engaged member.
Taken a step further, organized member data can show you the relationship between members with a high membership value and the types of activities or engagement they are pursuing on a regular basis. Is there a certain event they never miss? Do they read your communications or ignore a majority of them? This type of analysis can help you ascertain why they retain their membership. Be sure to offer members engagement opportunities that align with their past behavior.
Organized member data leads to more engaged members
When you can capture robust member data, you can also begin to use it in focused, proactive ways to improve their membership experience. You can quickly and easily notify members about a relevant event or new resource in their area of interest. Importantly, you can also refrain from sending them communications about programs or initiatives that are not likely to interest them. Customized communications help demonstrate that you really understand them. Or maybe you would like to analyze behavior trends within a certain group of members. The opportunities to surprise and delight your members multiply in relation to the amount and quality of data you collect.
Conversely, a dearth of current member data due to low engagement with your organization should alert your staff about improvements needed. Low member engagement might point to a gap in your communications, content, or learning opportunities. Low member engagement is likely a sign that you need to improve efforts in one or more areas of your association’s operations.
Quality of member data matters
The most important thing to remember about data is that it’s not about quantity, but quality. A lean but clean database goes way further than a full one with bad information.
Take some time to examine the type of member data your association currently collects. How does it benefit your association? At the same time, take another look at your organization’s goals. How can cleaning up your data or adding new member information to your database help your association organize itself and achieve those goals more efficiently?
Create a map of how your data (existing plus desired) can support your goals and enhance your membership experience. With a plan for collecting the necessary member data, your association will be a few steps closer to providing a more positive, enriching member experience.
Holly Marsilio is a marketing manager with Naylor Association Solutions.