Storing data in your CRM about your members and donors is not enough. Today, having a system filled with social intelligence alongside your CRM is a must have in order to connect your members & provide your team the full view of data needed to effectively run the organization. In this article, I offer 7 valuable benefits Social CRM data can provide to help boost engagement inside your association community.
Boosting Engagement Insights
"You are the salt of the earth. But remember that salt is useful when in association, but useless in isolation.” ― Israelmore Ayivor
“Successful people carefully manage their energy and associations; they are gatekeepers.” ― Bryant McGill
These two quotes offer Association executives vastly different, but related, messages about the overarching value of CRM.
The first quote essentially makes the case to members that there is more power in participating in an Association than functioning in isolation.
The second quote sends executives a warning: neglect member engagement at the peril of running smack into a gate that locks out your Association.
The other way to view these two quotes is this: while it may be axiomatic that people join your Association perhaps because their work or hobby aligns with its mission, they also are apt to jump ship in order to join an Association whose membership engagement they value more.
The bottom line? You need to know about your member (CRM profile), what your member does (transactional data), & what they care about too (social data).
Basic CRM data is important. But, yet it's only one piece of the pie. Further, most don't realize the treasure trove of data CRM provides nor how to realize the benefits of pulling the data all together to obtain a complete picture of the engagement activity of their members.
As CRM Trends notes, “it is amazing what can happen when institutions go from treating CRM as an ad hoc ‘skunkwork’ operation to treating it as a formally constructed corporate initiative.”
The Return on Engagement Possibilities
I believe that every organization should become a “Learning Organization”. What is a “Learning Organization”? A "Learning Organization" takes signals from it’s members, donors, & customers and doubles down/up on what’s working and fixes what is not.
For many nonprofits it is time to learn that perception of return for a member is reality. In other words, the need to know, "What is in it for them?" Members want engagement, but their has to be a return for them on it.
Understanding engagement metrics alongside financial or participation data (ex. paid dues or registered for an event) provides you with a full cycle approach to business analytics which can be used for marketing, membership, training programs, etc. Complete data will allow you to make better business decisions on where to put your resources.
What are some of the returns in combining business data and the right tools? Here are some of the potential opportunities to consider.
1. Retain Members at Your Association
Most executives agree that you should make it your business to bring members together to interact, share resources, and engage on a deeper level with each other and with your Association.
With the steady growth of social media, members are your most successful recruiters. They know people with aligned interests and typically engage, almost daily, in exchanging relevant news—positive or negative.
The AMS (CRM database) has the core data. But, in order to retain members long term it's important to be able to know what they care about. Social intelligence provides that to you.
Are you giving your members continuing reasons to send out positive communiques about your Association? Do you have control over the communication in your community?
2. Recruit New Members at Your Association
If you’ve done the hard work to engage members on a deep level, it’s likely that they will spread the word and create a buzz.
What does a buzz accomplish? A feeling that your Association is the “in” place to join for those whose interests align with your mission. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?
Everyone knows that content is google's favorite friend. And, you should befriend it too in your community. Privately managed "Open forums" can help solidify the content that you create based on the interactions of your members and non-members with each other. This can lead those non-members
But CRM Trends cautions that offering any old content won’t cut it:
“Consumers … are much more sophisticated today which means that companies need content that is interesting and relevant on all platforms, in order to make that emotional and rational connection that is necessary for engagement.”
Open Forum discussions can lead more nonmembers to your organization because the discussions and dialogue are relevant and even searchable. This is the key benefit in terms of "google juice" in attracting nonmembers.
3. Give Members a Voice
In order to boost engagement, you must stay focused on providing tools which provide your members a voice. Think about the following questions:
Can your members communicate with other colleagues easily from any computer, tablet, or mobile device?
Is your members voice relegated to an one and done conference held a few times a year?
Can you capture what your members are talking about, downloading digitally, or sharing?
The chatter and discussions obtained during your offline events are valuable. The voice of your member produced during these exchanges are often lost after the conversations have stopped.
Empirical social data is helpful but quantitative social data is more useful when making mission based decisions.
4. Build an Industry Knowledge Base—and Your Reputation
Who knows more about your industry than your members? When the tribal elders of your membership share with the rest of your community everyone wins.
Encourage your members to share, among other members, knowledge that’s searchable, easily discovered, and a benefit to the entire membership base. The intellectual knowledge that is captured is valuable for the member but also the organization once it's in your domain.
5. Enable Stronger Interactions at Your Association
Public forums often start out as vehicles for exchanging knowledge, but without security and the sensitivity of participants to share certain things they can only go so far without trepidation creeping in. In order to enable stronger interactions, it's important to provide a place for secure and beneficial sharing of ideas.
With this objection overcome, you may be able to obtain even more valuable insights from your community to utilize in deeper more beneficial ways.
6. Generate Non-Dues Revenue at Your Association
Best practices segmentation, supported by effective online community software may open the door to more non-dues revenue opportunities. While nurturing stronger interactions in your community, take advantage of the audience's mind share and participation on your site.
For example, offer targeted advertising opportunities for new and existing sponsors, thereby connecting members with relevant messages and increasing your Association’s revenue.
This is two fold engagement opportunity. Your sponsors obtain a vehicle to engage, but your members do too. This approach is not as effective if you don't have the insights (data) into what is top of mind with your members so that you can provide to your sponsors.
7. Mine and Analyze Smarter Data at Your Association
I read the other day that the middle manager spends about 2 hours a day looking for data and figuring out how to pull it all together. Further, they can't figure it out since the data is usually incomplete or missing.
Your association likely gathers and reports on financial and participation activities. In other words, the staff can analyze data reflecting mem