Your Database as a Member Relations Tool

When the economy is good it’s easy to spend your time and energy buying and implementing the latest and greatest software with all the bells and whistles. But now that things are starting to tighten up, you really have to start leveraging your database and the data you have. Here are five ways you might do that:

  • Track all of your incoming contacts to determine why you’re getting calls, e-mails, etc. Yes, even track the calls that ask “where is the next annual meeting,” because if they’re calling to ask that, it means they can’t find it on your web site. In addition, do as Jay Karen, executive director of the Professional Assn of Innkeepers International does: track those members with whom you have a positive, more personal relationship. When the time comes to seek the input of members on an idea or to get some early adopters on a program, you can query the database for all the people you’ve come to know in the membership over the years.
  • Make a list of all of your data inputs/sources. Examples might include membership, product sales, education, exhibits, advertising, sponsorship, surveys, web site stats, e-mail, call center and your political action committee. Don’t forget to include volunteerism: speaking, writing, serving on committees, participating in surveys and contributing to your blog or listserver. Get all of these sources into a data warehouse so that you can determine your best members and customers (see tip #3).
  • Gather all of your buying information and slice your database up into “classes” of buyers. Make sure your best buyers are getting lots of attention. Steve Doran, membership and marketing director for National Assn of College and University Business Officers, has done this to great effect. By analyzing 12 different points of engagement, Doran has been able to identify his very best members and customers and tailors his marketing accordingly. As a result, he has reduced his marketing expenses by more than 60% while increasing his revenue by nearly 30%. This is marketing based on data, not on anecdote or “gut,” and, surprise, surprise, 20% of his members provide 80% of his revenue.
  • Solicit feedback from multiple sources. Make sure you are taking every opportunity to ask your members and customers what they like and don’t like about your products and services. Some simple examples: Put feedback forms at the bottom of every web page; add a tagline on outgoing e-mails with a link to that form; have your database automatically send an e-mail one or two weeks after an order is filled, asking them for feedback; have anyone who is answering the phone ask the question at the end of each conversation, soliciting feedback from the caller. All of these ideas are low-cost ways to perform real-time market research.
  • Don’t be constrained by history. Just because you’ve never tried a new product or promotion doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it now. Don’t be afraid to test new offers. Try split-testing before big mailings. Try testing different product prices via different URLs.
  • Bonus tip: Contact everyone in your database who has had contact with you and your organization in the past two years. Take the opportunity to refamiliarize them with your organization. Ask them to go online and update their contact information. Sometimes merely reaching out to contacts is enough to get them to reengage with your organization.

With a tightening economy, your members and customers are scrutinizing every dollar they spend. If you use your data wisely, you’ll be able to communicate with them in a manner that resonates, and you’ll enhance the bond between them and your organization. Your database and your data can help you do this.

This article originally appeared in the December 19, 2008, issue of Association Trends. Reprinted with permission.


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