Improving Performance with Information and Insight
Published by Lehman Associates

CRM and Associations

Is CRM just a new buzz word, or does it really reflect a shift in the way associations think about engaging with members? What are the limiting factors? How will associations gain access to CRM capabilities?

CRM Capabilities

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Taking the last question first, clearly associations expected to get CRM capabilities from their association management software or other membership management system. More than half are satisfied with the CRM capabilities in their current AMS, but a significant portion are not. Fewer than 10% would prefer to use one of the CRM-specific products in conjunction with their AMS.

What about using one of those CRM solutions instead of an AMS? We’ve heard anecdotal cases where associations are considering this alternative, but are yet to see evidence that the direction is widespread. More likely, it is an expression of frustration by those whose current AMS-embedded CRM capabilities are less than satisfactory coupled with a continuing sense that the association is just “spending too much” on these AMS products and services. However, the reality is that most associations need the types of association-specific capabilities that led to the creation of AMS products – membership management, event planning, chapter support, committee structures and e-commerce.

Limiting Factors

Assuming an association has CRM tools, what are the key factors in a successful use of those tools. We see three.

  1. Data
  2. Analytics
  3. Expertise

Data: The whole idea of CRM is to known more about members and use that information to engage with them in more personal and meaningful ways. On the marketing side, that means promoting the right products and services to the right member segments with the right benefits and key messages. For communications, it is providing the information that matches interests and expectations, and providing it in a format that works for that member. Social CRM adds to the mix by incorporating not just the characteristics of the member, but also their interactions with the organization and one another, and the content they generate through those interactions. For a CRM approach to be successful, the organization has to have these data in the member record in a proper format. Increasing those interactions take place online and through third-party applications that may or may not exchange data with the AMS. Activity and response within social media or email system applications, for example, needs to be written back to the member record. This is often challenging.

Analytics: But just having the data is not enough. CRM requires a higher level of understanding from the data, not just the activities and actions. Good analytics are required to translate these data into actionable information such as key member segments, interests groupings, type of relationship and expectations with the association and so on.

Expertise: But even good analytics are only as good as the expertise of the association professional to make use of that information. We have heard many times from association contacts that they question whether their organization could make good use of CRM, advanced reporting and BI due to a lack of expertise.