Membership Sales and Retention

3 Membership Database Software Myths

By Tao Stadler, Senior Membership Management Executive

In a meeting a few months ago, my CEO, Terry Dwyer, made a point about progress that strongly resonated with me and has been in my mind ever since.

In discussing a feature that we all agreed would be a dramatic improvement for our association clients, a litany of reasons why it would be hard or even impossible to accomplish came rushing forward, as though months of research had already been done and the answer was set in stone.

After a few minutes, Terry stopped the discussion and said, “All I’m hearing is reasons why we can’t do something. Why don’t we spend our time figuring out how to get it done?”

In membership database software—just as in life—there’s always a million reasons we tell ourselves to not start a big new project. Despite knowing in our guts that the benefits of the project will drastically improve our current situation and get us closer to an identified goal, we find ourselves hung up on the reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t do it, instead of focusing instead on the steps necessary to get it done.

Below are a list of the 3 most common reasons associations stop themselves from upgrading their membership database software and association websites, and the reasons why these shouldn’t be deal-breakers. How many of these have you heard in your association?

Myth 1: The data in our current software system is so bad; we’d need to spend months cleaning it up before we could make a change

Dirty membership data is very common, if not universal to some extent. And we all know the saying when it comes to membership databases, “garbage in; garbage out.” But just because you don’t like what’s in your current system doesn’t mean you should hold off on upgrading to a better membership database solution. In many ways, the two projects go hand in hand. Here are three points to consider:

  • Your conversion of membership data to the new system is the ideal time to scrub it clean. Usually, getting your data out of its system and in to a raw format is a quicker and easier scenario for cleaning things up. It’s usually easier to delete or edit large chunks of information, so that you only bring over clean and reliable data to your new membership database system.
  • Your new software provider can work with you to help clean things up. At WebLink, for example, nearly every association we work with has membership data for us to convert and bring over. It’s part of our process to talk through a client’s existing membership database, identify what should and should not be left behind, and ultimately provide the association with a new membership database and a clean set of their new membership info in place. If you are looking for a new partner, make sure conversion of membership data is a service they provide, and that they take it as seriously as it should be taken. Be leery of an AMS provider who claims membership data conversions are easy or a “minor detail.” They’re not, but when done correctly they can be the best way to go from garbage to golden.
  • Sometimes cleaning your membership data inside the system you’ve been on for many years is like trying to wash dishes with dirty water. How much can you really improve the situation, if all the tools you use to clean are just as bad as the data itself? Many times, a move to a new membership database software software system is like running a nice new basin of hot, soapy water.

Myth #2: We just can't afford a new membership database at this time

Price tags on membership management software—especially in the Software as a Service (SaaS) industry-- can be deceiving, in that you have to consider several factors when selecting a new partner:

  • How many other tools does the new database software system replace? Will it eliminate the need for other hardware or software? Can you cancel certain services because your new AMS provider includes that functionality? Are you currently paying for upgrades every year? Do you have to pay for support?
  • Will the new membership database software help with existing revenue streams? WebLink Connect features built-in tools for increasing efficiency AND dues/non-dues revenue. Do an ROI analysis and see how many hours you spend manually updating things that a more-complete membership database software would streamline. Dig deep to see why members join or drop, and look for software that will address those issues specifically. Look for tools you could use to gain and retain more members, and make a realistic projection as to how that would impact your all of your revenue.
  • Are the new revenue streams possible with your new system? If there are features that you could monetize (i.e, enhanced website visibility, data intelligence from your industry, etc...) can you turn that in to new money to offset your investment. Technology should make you money, not cost you money. Keep that in mind when you discuss new membership database software with your staff and board.

Myth #3: Membership Database Software can’t be integrated with other tools we use, like email, accounting packages, or our website

If you’ve heard this in your office, you are really overdue for a tour of the current database software systems out there. Nearly every system currently being implemented by your peers consolidates many, if not all, of the disconnected systems you may be using now. Some offer that same feature within the membership database software itself, while others offer an integration with another tool that does it.

When you start doing your homework, keep a list of separate membership databases and systems you use, and look for the one that does the best job consolidating or integrating those features. Here are some of the many items you should look to consolidate:

  • Email Communications
  • Accounting Systems
  • Event Management/Registration
  • Sales Management
  • Tasks and Projects
  • Website Management
  • Online Payments
  • Grassroots Political Advocacy
  • Mobile and Tablet Access
  • Continuing Education Credits
  • Retention Projects
  • Website Advertising

How many of the items listed above have kept you and your association from investigating new membership database software systems? Are there other obstacles blocking you from a better solution that benefits both you and your members? Contact us to talk to a WebLink professional about your current situation. You might be surprised to know that what you feel is a deal breaker really isn’t.

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