Demonstrations of association management software usually contain a wealth of information and can sometimes be overwhelming, causing you to miss learning about some of your key objectives. So, how do you make sure you get the information you need?
Start with the end in mind; focus on the end goals of what your organization needs to accomplish. Each system you review will offer different ways to accomplish tasks. Don’t get hung up on the how something is done; stay
focused on the what needs to get accomplished.
And, be sure you ask the right questions.
- Objectives and communication – Prioritize your list of must-haves from your wish-I-hads. Separating what you need from what you want is an incredibly important step to take before the demo even starts. Invite all staff who will be active in making the purchasing decision, as well as those who will be using the software. This helps you get decision makers on board from the beginning and gain a better idea of what individuals who will be using the software need. Talk ahead of time with your staff about what they hope the system will help them accomplish.
- Integration – Does the software integrate with other software programs? Ask the demonstrator exactly what kinds of programs you can manage and integrate with the software. Your website, social media, events, email communications, financials, etc. are generally where you'll want to learn about integrations. This is important in determining if the association management software can create optimum efficiency by integrating with all of your core systems.
- Cost – How much does the solution cost? But keep in mind there are many different ways that costs can be incurred for membership management software. Don't just ask about recurring costs. What is the cost of implementation? What features are included? If your membership grows, will price go up? Also, consider the gains in efficiency or service to members that will affect your bottom line. Would new member sales or retention increase if you could use the system's features to better serve your members? What opportunities would you miss if you do not make a change?
- Customization – Some association management software solutions are "out of the box" solutions, so what they offer is what you get. But if your organization has special needs, you'll want to ask about whether or not customization is available. How can you tailor the system to meet your specific needs?
- Implementation – A demonstration is a great time to ask about the installation/implementation process. You need to know whether the vendor will be implementing or if your company will be installing this system on your own. Expectations and timelines are essential pieces of information to have and consider.
- Support – The question of support needs to be established up front. No matter how easy a system is to use, your staff will likely have questions about it, and you need to know ahead of time where to direct those questions. You should ask when support is available, the process for reaching support, and how long you should expect to wait to hear a response.
- How you would complete your daily tasks – While a demo is usually a generalization of how the system works, your organization is certainly different from others. Don’t just accept a lightly brushed overview; ask questions that are specific to your organization and what you do on a daily basis. If you plan events, ask to see how you would set one up. If it's your job to keep track of the number of members you have and how long they have been members, then ask the vendor to show you how to run this type of report.
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