How a good AMS can help trade associations with membership

In my almost-ten-years as an association professional, I worked for three different associations whose membership was based on organizations rather than individuals (commonly referred to as “trade” associations). One of the biggest challenges that trade associations have is that very often, membership in the association hangs on the relationship with one individual at the member-company. (At my associations, we referred to these people as the prime contact, or PC.)

The relationship between the PC and the association was critical, because the PC was the one making the decision every year on whether or not to renew. And what every membership manager at a trade fears is the PC leaving the member-company and having no one else to work with at that member-company. This is where a good AMS can help.

A good AMS package will allow a membership manager to track several key things that will help here. For example:

  1. You can track multiple secondary contacts, including those contacts designated by the member-company as secondary contacts, as well as secondary contacts identified through other transactions (e.g., event registration, product sales, etc.).
  2. You can track the activities of all contacts at a given member-company, including non-transactional activities such as volunteer activity.
  3. You can track titles of all contacts at a given member-company.

With these few pieces of information, if a PC leaves a member-company, you’ll at least have a good starting point for finding a new PC, or at least a champion within the member-company. For example, if a non-PC had served on one of your committees in the past, that would be a good person to contact if the PC has left the member-company. Or contact individuals who have attended several of your educational events. These types of people already see the value of your organization, and could become a new PC or at least become a strong influencer on whoever the member-company designates as the new PC.

A good AMS can let you create ties to your member-companies that run deeper than just the relationship you have with your PC. Make sure you’re leveraging all of that data!

About Wes Trochlil

For a quarter century, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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