Other posts on the Gartner CRM Summit 2007 can be found here.

One of the Gartner presenters made the point that CRM strategy can be implemented without technology, but that without technology, it is not easily scalable. Put another way, while you can implement a good customer relationship management strategy on note cards, it’s going to be pretty hard to manage thousands or tens of thousands of customers that way.

I think a lot of associations face this issue, without realizing it. I run into a lot of associations that are managing their data on Excel spreadsheets or home-grown Access or Filemaker databases. There is nothing inherently wrong with managing your data this way. But as the speaker above points out, scalability becomes a problem rather quickly. Even with just a few hundred members, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of all the little details: membership join and renew, name and contact information, meeting attendance, committee participation. You can see why having a “real” association management system (AMS) can be beneficial.

I think what organizations in this situation need to realize is that having a real AMS is a cost of doing business and the board should be educated on how much these systems cost, what it takes to manage them, and most importantly, why it’s important to have a solid data management system in place.

For those associations that may still be running on home-grown systems, there are now many options available at a relatively low cost. Products such as affiniscape, Avectra’s netForum OnDemand and Memberclicks are all designed to provide high functionality at a relatively low price.

Full disclosure: EDM is an independent third-party consulting firm. This means we have no financial relationship with any of the vendors mentioned in this blog. We provide unbiased opinions on what we see.