Measuring member engagement has become a hot topic among associations and chambers of commerce looking to better understand their members and drive more revenue through sponsorships, advertising, new member sales and member retention.
Recently, Associations Now published two articles on the challenges that associations are facing in measuring member engagement. You can read the articles here and here. A recent survey by Tate & Tryon, Membership Metrics: A Review of Current and Best Practices, is mentioned in the articles and highlights the major issues that associations are dealing with when understanding member engagement. The main issues are:
- Missing or inaccurate data
- Data not formatted to permit reporting/analysis
- Insufficient resources such as staff or time
These are the same challenges we hear from associations and chambers as well. WebLink customers frequently tell us that having everything in one system with a full-featured reporting system allows them to track anything they want, measure member engagement and demonstrate value to their members. Here are some of the best practices we've learned from our customers.
1. Keep Everything in One System
This may seem like a no-brainer, but we continually see associations and chambers of commerce that use disconnected systems for managing members, prospects, events, revenue and their website. Since missing data is one of the main challenges in measuring member engagement, getting your data in one place is critical for reporting on how your members are interacting with you.
Don’t keep “secret” lists in other systems such as Excel or Word. Doing so only further fragments your data and increases the chances for inaccurate data (also one of the main challenges above).
Your association management software should allow you to create new custom fields, tags, or groups to track additional data such as subscriptions, interests, special programs and more. Having all this "extra" information tied to your members' profile data will make reporting and analysis much easier.
2. Format Data for Reporting – No More Notes!
Notes are very hard to report on without reading through all the text. Make sure your membership management software allows you to create settings and drop down choices for entering key portions of your data. This will make reporting on member activities, revenue and engagement much more effective.
Yes, you need to enter notes about discussions you have with members, but these need to be categorized with dates and drop down choices to the types of discussion so you can report on frequency and the types of conversations your having with members.
Categories, date ranges, and numbers can all be rolled up into reporting to show percentages and trends. Give yourself a fighting chance to get the information you need later by entering it in a format that helps you do just that. Again, data formatting is a main challenge listed above.
3. Integrate Your Website and Database
Today, full integration between your membership management software and your website has many benefits from allowing you to update content faster to reducing errors and providing greater value to your members. Two key areas are important, though, when measuring member engagement.
Event registrations - Having your membership management software directly integrate with your event registration lets you easily track which members and representatives have attended events. There's no need for duplicate entries and you can see event history along with all their other information.
Online member directory - Measuring and reporting on the exposure (visibility and click-throughs) your members receive from your website in another way to track engagement and benefits your member are receiving. Changes to your member data are instantly available on your website, eliminating additional errors and creating greater efficiency for your organization.
4. Create a Data-Centric Culture
The collection of data in your membership management software is a propriety asset; it IS your business. Anything and everything should be recorded in the system to give you the best possible view of your members. We’ve had clients implement initiatives to say “If it isn’t in WebLink Connect, it didn’t happen” to stress to staff members the importance of recording all member activities and interactions in one system.
Use your system’s exception reporting to find and correct members who may be missing data such as a main contact, dues billings or a business directory category. Train staff on how to use the system; make sure all staff have a login to view information important to them and to record member interactions.
5. Document your Data Entry Procedures
This ties to #4, but focuses on the “how” to enter the data rather than the “why” we think data is important. Create a list of how to enter addresses, street names, abbreviations and train you staff on your expectations.
Create a checklist for creating profiles, events, invoices, etc, showing which options to choose and when. You should be able to create an "instruction manual" for how to enter all critical and desired information so new employees can easily understand your systems. And, make sure you explain when to use notes fields vs. drop down choices and selections.
6. Use Great Reporting
Now that you have all your information in one place and have accurate data, how do you report on member engagement?
Resist the urge to create more spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are great for creating revenue modelling and performing calculations on a relatively static information base. But when you’re tracking 10 to 50 or more membership variables, you need a more dynamic reporting tool.
At a minimum you need one report to show you how much money each member is spending with you so you can review if before asking them for more.
Even better would be to include what events their representatives have attended, what committees they serve on, how many contacts you’ve had with them in the past year, how often they’ve been viewed on your website, what affinity or benefit programs they participate in and more.
WebLink customers tell us they love our Profile Involvement Report because it does just this; it gives them a quick view of everything that member is doing with the organization. Membership sales and retention staff use the report to demonstrate value to members and to understand the member's level of engagement before asking them to renew or to invest more money with the organization
While the first 5 points dealt with getting accurate information in one centralized system, having a membership management software with flexible reporting options that allows you to create reporting to suit your own organizations’ needs is just as important.
Associations and chambers of commerce must use their membership management software to create membership metrics that drive their strategic plan for revenue, membership recruitment and program development. For associations to become a critical partner in their members’ success, they need the ability to demonstrate value to members, understand what members are most valuable and make better decisions about managing the organization.
Keeping accurate data in easy-to-use and flexible membership management software is the key to it all. Learn more about WebLink’s membership management software here.