We live at time when if organisations – be it non-profit or for profit – don't apply a data-driven mindset when serving their key audiences, they are missing out on constructive insights. The risk? Becoming irrelevant to those people they should matter the most for.
With all the varied networking opportunities, learning platforms and advocacy programmes available, core associations benefits can now be accessed without belonging to an association. This makes it more important than ever for professional associations to fully harness their databases to address members’ challenges, meet their needs and drive decisions.
But how do you begin the process? You've managed to gather all this data across touchpoints – and now what?
We asked Mike Rosenberg, Director of Member Engagement for the Special Libraries Association (SLA), to share with us the association’s journey towards tackling their data challenges and becoming a data-driven organisation.
What role does data play in understanding your members, customers and attendees’ engagement?
Rosenberg: Data plays a vital role in our understanding of members’ engagement. From seeing if they have volunteered all the way to if they attended the association’s last five conferences, data can tell you a more complete story.
Can you give us an example of data you have extracted from your membership database that has helped you improve member value gap?
Rosenberg: Some key points we were able to extract were centred around a member’s history with the association. For example, if you’re able in the first sentence of an email blast to say, “Thank you for being a member since December of 1970,” you are instantly showing them value. Another key point we found was that our old online career centre technology was not working for our members. So, we decided to level up our career technology to a new vendor and it has been adding tremendous value not only to our members but to our non-dues revenue.
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How are you using data to deliver personalised experiences to your members and customers?
Rosenberg: We use our data to personalise our renewal and recruitment messages as much as possible. We use data points such as:
All the of these allow us to target messages based on the audience they are going to. You do not want to send a student a renewal message about an advanced senior level course coming up.
Valuable data can be found not only in your database, but also on social media, community forums, conference feedback, surveys etc. Do you have a strategy to leverage that data?
Rosenberg: We utilise social media, feedback, and our online platform through an online community management software to leverage data. We have found that most of our members are very active on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook but not Instagram. This allows us to focus our attention where are members are on a day-to-day basis with posts and paid advertisements.
What tech investment have you made or you are anticipating making to better understand your audience?
Rosenberg: We have recently upgraded our membership database and now outsource our conference registrations so we can utilise their tools for collection and dissemination of data relating to our attendees. As mentioned previously we have also upgraded our online career centre technologies to meet member value needs based on feedback and data. The next area we will be upgrading is within education. We are going to be introducing a new Learning Management System that will allow our members to easily access our top-of-the-line education while also allowing us as an association to better track what our members are interested in and downloading.
Can you share some insights on trends you have identified and how you have use them to improve engagement?
Rosenberg: Timing of our communications regarding renewals was a big trend. Being able to hear about when people want to get renewal notices, as well as how they want to get renewal notices, helps the association to improve its retention. Another trend we found was very high open rates for an email that comes from our career centre called “Job Flash Email”. We are attempting to take data from this and incorporate it with other emails to help improve other open rates.
What does it take for an association to become data-driven?
Rosenberg: It takes large commitment to time and energy. Levelling up your technology is not an easy task. Members do not like change and from a staff perspective you need to commit to learning and testing new systems. After that you need a starting point to jump off. This can be anything from a survey to you to just posing a question through email to find out the main pain points of your members so that you are fixing what is broken or causing members to leave.