Association management systems (AMS) as a specific software product have existed for more than 30 years. Not surprisingly, the original AMS packages were designed to serve as transactional systems, focused on managing the money related to membership dues, event registrations, and product sales. As associations added more revenue streams, AMS products added more functionality to manage those revenue streams.
This all makes perfect sense. The AMS should certainly manage all financial transactions. That’s what it is designed for and most AMSs do that quite nicely.
But with the dawn of the Internet, and a hyper-focus on member and customer engagement, it is clear that the AMS needs to move from simply a transactional system to an interactional system. It is no longer enough to track financial transactions (i.e., sales); organizations must also track significant interactions with members and customers (e.g., conversations, social media, website activity).
And with this move to capturing interactions along with transactions, associations must also move from being reactive to being proactive. Capturing interactions will help associations do that.
One of my favorite examples of capturing interactions with members comes from a client of mine. This association has a system in place for capturing inquiries made by members seeking help in a specific area. All of these inquiries are captured in the AMS. Each inquiry is categorized into one of about 18 different topic areas. Over time, this association is able to see which issues were most important to their members, based on the kind of inquiries they are receiving. For example, over the course of six months, the association saw that fundraising was a very important issue to its members. As a result of having this interactional data, the association became proactive in its communications and marketing to members.
In this example, the association developed new products and services that addressed the issue of fundraising; the association tailored their messaging to those who asked about fundraising over the past year.
Imagine the marketing message:
“Dear Ms. Smith, Thank you again for reaching out to us with your inquiry on fundraising. You’ll be pleased to hear that we have a program coming up next month that addresses the issue of fundraising…”
Do you think the recipient will read that email? Of course she will. It directly addresses a need that she specifically identified to the association.
You have to keep track of transactional data by virtue of it having money attached. You don’t have to track interactional data, but you should, because there is a lot of value in it. If your organization is to move from being reactive to proactive, add interactional data for the best results.
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