This guest post was written by Garry Polmateer following his guest interview on Association Chat. You can view his entire original interview that inspired this post on membership value and learn more about upcoming episodes at the Association Chat website.
Figuring out membership value is hard
One useful metric in an association executive’s arsenal is being able to tell a member how much value they are getting out of the relationship with the association. While it may sound like a unicorn, the ability to generate this information is actually quite attainable with a little bit of work.
Now imagine this – in front of us is an organization with 50 people working in it.
Can you see it? Good…
Those 50 people are focused on attaining the mission of the organization. These employees show up every day with the idea that they are going to empower the organization’s members to improve their careers and lives, moving closer to the mission.
What if that staff had information available to them providing them with the ability to do their jobs better, better serving the members through tailoring each interaction, the tools based on knowledge about the association’s relationships with quantified detail? That would be helpful, right?
From Dream to Reality
While the exact details of what the output look like are unique for each organization, attempting to determine a dollar value that a member gets back from their dues investment is worth consideration.
With that kind of information coupled with descriptive text regarding what the value is comprised of, you’ve got a lot of power to leverage in engagement activities in the future.
But first thing’s first…there are 6 key steps in attaining this information.
Before we get to step one, try to do this: get buy-in from the leaders in the organization. Spend some time putting together an initiative that can be clearly communicated to your organization’s leaders so that this idea can be built into the culture moving ahead, should they desire to act on it.
A pitch could be something like this:
“I propose that we gather our data to calculate an annual value and summary of services that each member uses from our association. This can be then used for marketing segmentation purposes, updating member communications and dues statements, and shared with our stakeholders to better help with strategy when interacting with members, attracting new members, and determining which services bring value.”
It’s a lofty goal, but worth it if you can follow through.
Six Steps to Quantify Membership Value
Step 1 – Gather Information
Start with your website and public facing documents.
Inventory everything that the organization purports to give value to members. Examples may be: Discounts, lobbying, free education, and subscriptions to trade publications.
Once your initial reconnaissance is done, check in with each department to see if there are any hidden gems that aren’t marketed publicly that could be included.
Step 2 – Data Process Review
For each item that is inventoried, answer the following questions:
- Where does the data come from for this item?
- Where is this information stored for this item?
- How often is this information updated?
Step 3 – Design
With the information gathered during the first two phases, you can design a global process to manage the varying data. The goal is to automate as much as possible where it is cost-effective and define manual processes needed to fill in any gaps, along with timelines on how things should be managed on an annual basis. A basic design outline for a trackable item looks like this:
Item: Vendor Discounts Granted
Format: The vendor submits a quarterly report showing member usage of their membership services. This report has their member ID attached.
Processing: Take all 4 quarterly reports, put into one spreadsheet, pivot table a subtotal for each member. Add flavor text “Saved $X on service from Vendor”.
Repeat for each data point/service offering.
At the end, you’ll end up with either a process in the AMS, a bunch of spreadsheets, or a little of both. From there, you will need to coordinate a method to process all of this data and properly concatenate and make the results available (generally in the AMS system).
This is often something a consultant can help out with as it involves some more complicated technology depending on the desired level of automation.
Step 4 – Build
It’s always faster to draw plans first. If everyone approves them, build it. Do a trial run so you can share some of your findings with your stakeholders.
One item to note here – if this is an annual process (or any frequency), be kind to your future self and write detailed documentation. You’ll thank yourself later. Be sure all resources related to this work are well organized and easy to find. Mark your calendar with a time to execute each year.
Step 5 – Live!
Run the final operation. Enact your “downstream activities” on how you’re using the information. Pat yourself on the back, job well done. Make sure you remind your boss at your next evaluation what you did. 🙂
Step 6 – Maintenance
- Once a year (or however often is prudent), review the services offered, make updates and account for data format changes.
- Add new membership services, or remove old ones.
- Update documentation as needed. Do this with sufficient time to run the final calculations and not miss a deadline.
There are many ways to take advantage of this member communications and outreach data. It can be a great tool to help raise member retention or use as a guide for member outreach. The data can even provide statistics which can help architect new and better membership benefits. There’s a lot of work to get here, but it’s worth the effort and from it you CAN attain that true “360 degree view” of your relationship with your members!
About the Author
Garry Polmateer is managing partner for Red Argyle, a Salesforce consulting partner. Garry has over 15 years of association and consulting experience, earned the CAE credential in 2010, and has completed over 700 IT projects in his current position over the past 6 years.