3 Ways to Strategically Use Your Association's Database

By: Callie Walker


Your database may give you a headache from time to time, but there’s SO much valuable information there. Are you using it to your advantage?

Sure, you should be tracking the normal numbers: recruitment rates, renewal rates, event registrations, etc. But are you taking it a step further to actually advance your association?

Here are three ways to strategically use your association’s database (Yes, you’ll still have to analyze the data, but it’ll be worth it!):

1. To engage members who are slowly “dropping off”

You probably track renewal rates, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could identify members who are probably going to drop before they actually do? Well with the right data analysis, you can.

Your database likely lets you see how engaged your members really are: who’s opening your emails, who’s attending your events, who’s volunteering, etc.

Or better yet, who’s not. Could you use that information to create a special campaign forunengaged members (particularly before renewal season rolls around)? Absolutely! You could send them a coupon for a discount on your next webinar or have a staff member/board member/volunteer give them a call.

Use that information to re-engage those members - before it’s too late.

2. To convert prospects into members

You likely spend some time marketing to prospects (to grow your association’s membership), but how are you actually nurturing those prospects to convert them into members?

For example, let’s say you had an event and several prospects registered AND attended. Well could you then pull a list from your database and create an email marketing campaign for those prospect attendees? Could you let them know you hope the event was valuable and that if they want even more value, they should consider joining (and then go on to list your association’s benefits)? It’s definitely worth a shot!

3. To identify your most engaged members (and convert them into member ambassadors)

Like we mentioned in point #1, your database allows you to see how engaged your members really are. But what’s great about that is you can then identify your most engaged members and then (hopefully) convert them into member ambassadors - champions of your organization.

Take a look at who’s attending your events, who’s opening your emails, who’s volunteering, who’s reading your blog. Then reach out to those members with some kind of incentive. See if they’d be willing to help promote your event for a discount on registration. Or if they’d be willing to volunteer (and bring a friend!) for a VIP upgrade.

Don’t let that information sit idle - use it to your organization’s advantage!

Now you might be thinking, “My database is a mess. I could never capture this type of information from it.” Well if that’s the case, you might be using a spreadsheet and you may want to consider upgrading to an association management system, which will allow you to capture data that you can then analyze and create campaigns based off of.

Author: Callie Walker

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Association Marketing: The Power of Personalization

By: Teri Carden

association marketing the power of personalization royle printing association media and publishing

In the association world, we hear a lot of conversations about managing data and integrating systems. But marketing innovators Debi Sutton and Katherine Matthews of the Entomological Society of America have really knocked people’s socks off and shown how powerful it can be to put the reams of data in our association management system to work to engage with members. And the results are real. Here are a few highlights of their successes (in their own words).

Personalize. Seriously – get personal. We have tons of data at our fingertips – not just name, address, and phone number, but member interests and meeting attendance history, too. We use the information to send truly personalized communications. We don’t just spit that data back out to the member. We don’t say, “You’ve been a member since X.” or “You have an interest in Y insect.” Instead, we try to show the involvement or engagement that the member has with the Society so it makes it more interesting and makes a deeper connection. It lets the member know that we know a little bit about them. For example, we can say something like, “You haven’t presented in or attended a past meeting, however, this upcoming meeting is in your backyard.” The message isn’t just, “You live in Maryland, so come to our Maryland meeting.” Or we may pull data on what order of insect they presented on the previous year and say, “Are you still working on Coleoptera? We’d love to hear about your latest research this year.” We are incorporating background specific to the member to help him (or her) come to the realization that they should take the call to action.

Collaborate. The piles of data that make it possible to get personal with our members could make things complicated. But we build hierarchies of our lists so we know which individual will receive which message (and they are removed from other messages as a result). We work as a team on all our communications. For example, when we’re planning a campaign, we discuss, the different messages we have planned and work together as a team on creative ways to use the data to both communicate our theme and hit home the desired response. We also recognize the value of the data we collect and share our analysis with other program areas of our organization. We’re all about sharing the power of our data.

Results. That’s what matters. Our results are way more than just pretty rows and columns. We have had the two largest annual meetings in the history of the Society since we started taking this approach two years ago. And our membership numbers are up. Thanks to our analytics, we know there’s a correlation to what we are doing here with personalization. We’re also staying engaged with members we previously might have lost – our student members. Now we push current student members into a transitional category to keep them engaged as they leave school and move on to careers in the science.

One interesting side benefit has been an increase in social media traffic. Since we started sending highly personalized postcards and emails, we are seeing more posts on and engagement through social media about them. For example, last year, using variable data, we sent out a postcard with a sticky note on a keyboard as the main image saying “XX, See You in Austin!” The sticky note was personalized to the member and included the Society’s president’s signature on it. Everyone thought they received a note just for them! Many members tweeted to us about this postcard. Another communication that was popular on Twitter involved a personalization about which insect the recipient had presented on the previous year. Again, people thought they were the only ones getting this highly personalized message. We have a fairly strong social media presence, but now it is more two-sided, rather than us just tweeting about upcoming events.

Pace yourself. We first started our personalization effort using simple identifiers like first name. Then we started including the member’s branch or section. In the past year, we’ve gotten much more creative, using a program that allows us to customize blocks of text and other variables. We use automation and set campaigns in motion that continue until we get the desired outcome (or the individual opts out). What’s most important is to get started and embrace the concept of personalization.

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew” is our mantra around the office. Along the same vein, it’s important to “eat what you have.” You likely have far more data than you realize. It’s important to use what you have. You very possibly already have the nuts and bolts in your AMS to get out really solid personalized messages. And be sure to look at all the different databases that your organization has in place. For example, the Entomological Society of America has a member database and a scientific database (for capturing submissions for our meetings). We also have an author submission database. All of these databases provide a wealth of information. This gives us lots of fodder for customized messages. There are all kinds of little pieces of data that are often overlooked but can drive really personalized messages.

At the end of the day, don’t forget to evaluate. One of the most important questions to ask is, “Is it working for us?” The sky’s the limit with regard to personalization. You can put as much time and as much data into your communications as you have resources to allocate. But keep an eye on your messages’ individual ROI. Gauge how many opens, click-throughs, and responses to calls to action you are generating considering your investments of time, resources, and staff. Certainly you want to put in enough energy to get your members to take action and engage, but not more than is necessary to achieve your goals.

The State of Association Marketing: Doing More With Less

By: Kristen Parker

The No. 1 rule of marketing: Know your audience.

state of association marketing

It may seem a no-brainer, but too many organizations engage in failed marketing campaigns. For marketing to work, organizations must truly understand their members.

Associations seem to get it, but still have work to do.

Demand Metric, in partnership with HighRoad Solution, just released its The State of Digital Marketing in Associations 2017, which found 76 percent of associations surveyed rank their marketing efforts as somewhat or very effective.

Marketing teams need to take time to learn from their members and tailor efforts to their members’ wants and needs. Organizations seem to understand that, as more than two-thirds claim to understand their members’ needs.

Yet, just one-fourth report members perceive association marketing and communication efforts as “always relevant and professional.” But associations that have a good member understanding are twice as likely to also report their member communications and marketing efforts are perceived as “always relevant and professional.”

See the disconnect?

Other key findings:

  • Association marketing effectiveness has less to do with what tactics are being used, and more to do with how well they are used. Associations in the study are for the most part doing the same things, but some are much better at it. The difference seems related to skills or execution and not the choice of tactics.
  • More associations are leveraging social media advertising with back-to-back yearly increases in Facebook and Twitter paid advertising. There has been an increase in almost every category of marketing metrics usage from the previous year’s study. The average, estimated association marketing budget has gone from $260,000 (2015), to $240,000 (2016) and finally $205,000 in this year’s study. And now, more than ever, associations are being forced to do more with less.

“Making an effective use of any marketing tactic is certainly a function of time to learn and train, but the effect of culture and leadership are also factors,” the report says. “Marketers who function in a perpetual ‘hair on fire’ environment lack the culture that would allow them to take the time to learn how to use their tools and tactics more effectively.

“What we can learn from the study data is that a relationship exists between the depth of member understanding and overall marketing effectiveness.”

Author: Kristen Parker

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