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How a Data-Driven Approach to Membership Management Boosts Member Engagement

The competition for a member’s time, attention and wallet is overwhelming and, for many associations, a seemingly endless (and losing) battle. Why has it been difficult for associations to effectively respond to this challenge, drive relevant engagement and communicate their unique value to members and prospective members?

The answer starts with how associations manage the vast amounts of internal and external data they collect.  Many associations don’t take advantage of their existing data because they are hindered by various silos of departmental data, undefined processes, an inflexible membership management database and minimal fusion of their member’s demographic, historical and transactional information with the external data from a third-party learning management system, social media platform, online community, marketing automation, call-center/contact center, etc.  As a result, associations do not capitalize on their ability to identify new opportunities to drive revenue, increase member engagement and communicate with members on their terms.

A cohesive association-wide approach to data collection, management and analysis allows associations to build a single view of the member, better understand their behaviors and uncover the valuable insight needed to develop and execute more effective engagement strategies. 

Create a Panoramic View of the Member:

To effectively engage with members and prospects, associations must understand and know their members. Successful associations leverage the new era of increasingly flexible, yet robust membership management platforms with built-in data management tools as well as data analytics and visualizations.  This functionality is a “must have” for associations looking to blend and analyze valuable member data, regardless of where the data is captured or stored, to create a panoramic view of their members.

This panoramic view of the member goes beyond the traditional demographic, transaction and historical data and helps associations understand behaviors, motivations, goals and the challenges of their members.  With this deeper understanding of a member, associations are better prepared to segment their database, identify appropriate communication channels, schedule and execute personalized campaigns and present members with engaging content and opportunities to interact with the association. 

Understanding Member Behavior Creates Content to Fuel Engagement:

Associations focused on member engagement should be hyper-focused on creating and delivering value for their members to maximize various engagement strategies. Delivering value is dependent on the ability to successfully understand and address each member’s specific needs and desires (hint: the panoramic view).  Generating relevant content—blogs, videos, webinars, research papers and continuing education options—is one way to deliver value to various membership types or prospective members.   

By examining how, when and where members consume existing content, associations learn what content is important to their members and, more importantly, what types of content generate desired success metrics and outcomes. The result is straightforward--the consistent delivery of relevant content and messages resonates with members and becomes the foundation for successful new and ongoing engagement strategies.

Analyze and Visual the Data:  

Trying to identify the right campaigns to increase member engagement isn’t new.  But now, associations can approach it differently with the help of intuitive cost-effective analytics and implementing a data-driven approach to optimize when and how they engage with members.

Leveraging a membership management suite with interactive dashboards and visualization tools is a requirement for today’s forward thinking executives. The ability to quickly and easily analyze data from multiple internal and external data sources provides instant feedback on where, when and how to improve the member’s experience. Data visualizations make it easier to examine the effectiveness of current strategies and uncover the insights needed to consistently drive value to members via programs, content and services personalized for the various segments of the association’s membership. 

Where Do Associations Go From Here?

Executing and optimizing the aforementioned steps requires commitment, patience and a dose of creativity.   However, associations have a unique advantage when it comes to increasing engagement and delivering value to their members—by joining the association, members essentially expressed a desire for personalized experiences, not generic transactions or communications.   And by instilling a data-driven approach to membership management, associations enhance their ability to identify and optimize the personalized experiences that boost member engagement and drive mutual value for associations and their members.


About the Author: Patrick Dorsey has a 20 year track record of successfully building and launching SaaS products and services.  For the last three years, he’s enjoyed disrupting the status quo in the AMS market as Impexium’s EVP of Marketing.


This article first appeared in the March 2017 Tech Toolkit in Associations Now magazine.