Initial Steps for Putting Your Member Data to Work

Bornmann etc_member data to work November 1, 2022 By: Dave Bornmann, Nikki Golden, CAE, Villy Savino, and Cheryl Hudgins Williams

Associations collect a lot of data, but it’s important to actually use it to make smart business decisions and market programs and products more effectively. Here’s a look at how associations can start on that journey.

Data has long been important to associations as it drives fundamental operations like billing, renewals, and member information. In today’s digital world, data is everywhere and can be harnessed to empower teams to make more informed business decisions, better understand members, and to even predict future behavior like who might attend an event, consume a particular piece of content, or even renew membership. Here’s a look at how groups can act on their data.

Types of Data

Data falls into two large categories: demographic and behavioral. Let’s start with the different types of member demographic data:

  • The first is the traditional data that most associations track—things like name, address, employer, job role, age, sex, and gender identity.
  • An increasing number of associations are starting to also track DEI-related data. While this can be trickier to obtain from your members, it is important to make the effort. As the old saying goes, you can’t track what you don’t measure. In this case, you won’t know how well you’re doing with your DEI initiatives without having baseline data from which to measure advancements.
  • The last category will be demographic data that is unique to each association. For example, specialty focus and practice ownership are tracked by many healthcare associations.

While demographic data has always been important, more associations are realizing the benefits of leveraging their members’ behavioral data, including products purchased, events attended, trainings completed, volunteer roles held, donations given, emails opened, website pages read, and certifications earned. Considering all of these behaviors together can provide meaningful and actionable insights for association marketers, including the following:

Data-Driven Insights

Potential Action

Who are your most engaged members?

Invite them to be advocates, volunteers, speakers, mentors.

Who are your least engaged members?

Consider renewal discounts and personal outreach to reinforce member value.

Which topics most interest your members?

Send them more information on topics they’ve engaged in.

Which products lead to future sales?

Consider investing more in products that lead to increased purchases and engagement. Or create recommendations based on past purchases.

Consistency and Quality

For all data used for analysis, it is critical to ensure your organization understands how and where it is collected to ensure consistency of data entry and quality of the data itself. It’s also important to provide clear definitions and details about each data field captured as business rules can differ. For example, there can be wide variability between associations when it comes to defining a nonmember, former member, and lapsed member.

Another common data challenge is that many associations collect similar data across multiple systems. Beyond a suboptimal user experience, it creates challenges when you start to look for insights from the data and then must determine which system’s data should be used for the analysis.

Let’s look at an example of how association marketers can combine demographic and behavioral data to improve their marketing outcomes and member experience.

Say your association is hosting a finance-related topic that is relevant to younger members. Create a segmented email list that has a role type of “finance” and an age of 35 or below. Once you have that pulled together, write a subject line and email that speaks directly to this target segment. Now consider your behavioral data, in addition to your demographic data. Look to see who in your segment has an engagement score in the top 10 percent. You could go even further to see if any of that smaller group also has a title of vice president. If so, call those people and ask them if they’d be willing to be a guest speaker on the webinar.

Now you have a great webinar topic for a highly targeted segment, with very relevant marketing and a highly engaged speaker—a recipe for success. This eliminates one-size-fits-all marketing and more importantly, does away with more messages and content served up to all members on a topic not relevant to them.

Starting Point

Getting your association’s data organized and easily accessible for team members to uncover actionable insights is a journey, not a one-time event. A few steps to help you get started:

  • Identify a senior-level champion and potential data stewards.
  • Perform a high-level data audit.
  • Establish a plan for data governance and organization.
  • Ensure your association understands data privacy and compliance requirements.
  • Document your process for creating and maintaining your marketing segments.
  • Develop an ongoing process for monitoring the health of your data.

While starting this effort can be time-consuming, it can result in the long-term gain of engaging new members, providing improved service to existing stakeholders, and better delivering on your association’s critical mission.

Dave Bornmann

Dave Bornmann is chief marketing officer for Association Analytics and a member ASAE’s Marketing Professionals Advisory Council.

Nikki Golden, CAE

Nikki Golden, CAE, is a strategist with Association Laboratory in Chicago and a member ASAE’s Marketing Professionals Advisory Council.

Villy Savino

Villy Savino is vice president of technology transformation at CoreNet Global and a member of ASAE’s Marketing Professionals Advisory Council.

Cheryl Hudgins Williams

Cheryl Hudgins Williams is a senior consultant at Tecker International and a member of ASAE’s Marketing Professionals Advisory Council.