Associations despair calling their members, clients and their prospects, leads. But if they thought of their association as a business that sells services to their clients and leads, they would not feel so touchy about it. They would develop a sales funnel and map out their members’ journeys.
Once leads are qualified and make it into your sales funnel, there are many other problems that can occur. Given the lower resources an association has to deal with, it doesn’t make sense to spend time calling prospects who are not ready to buy, especially if you can use information they’ve already provided to tell the hot leads from the cold ones. Asking potential members to repeat information about themselves is also a missed opportunity to provide personalized service and win their loyalty.
Associations need a better way to understand the individuals they’re communicating with, especially in today’s online world where most businesses rarely meet their customers face-to-face. At the same time, you need to prepare for the coming surge when face to face events happen again.
Asking members to repeat themselves shows them that you don’t care about them. Asking prospects too many questions and for the same information multiple times can cost you lost opportunities. This can hurt your retention rates, cost you referral opportunities and damage your brand loyalty.
To develop strong relationships with members, associations must view them as individual human beings with unique needs, concerns, and preferences. In fact, this is what customers everywhere have come to expect and demand.
The challenge that makes this type of personal understanding so elusive is disorganized data. Although most associations do have the data they need to understand individual leads and members better, they are not using it to improve personal interactions or improve the customer journey. This is because it’s spread out among different business tools, not organized in a way that connects each data point to an individual contact or is so hard to use that many associations and their staff cannot find the data they need at the moment they need it. Most marketers, salespeople or customer service representatives do not have time to dig up all the relevant information about everyone they’re communicating with, which causes them to miss out on opportunities to improve these interactions.
A strategy for solving this issue known as Customer Relationship Management, or CRM for short. Although you may have only heard “CRM” in terms of software created for this purpose, but software is only part of a successful Customer Relationship Management strategy, and without a strong alignment between that software and strategy, neither will succeed.
The goal of your CRM strategy should be focused on strengthening relationships between your members or prospects and your brand. Developing an effective CRM strategy requires reflection on the types of relationships that are most profitable and best support your mission. Responding appropriately to the relational expectations of your members and prospects is the key to growing your association. Your CRM strategy is a plan for how you will do that.
The solution for better relationships with individual customers is to create an individual, top-to-bottom view of all prospects and members where all the data about them lives in one place. Instead of searching through your email inbox, spreadsheets, a filing system or even just your memory to find information about a customer or lead, what if you could see all the information you have about that individual in one place? That’s exactly what a CRM can do, and it solves the problem of poor customer experiences.
With a CRM software and strategy that provide views of each customer and lead on an individual level, you can:
- Personalize marketing messages for each individual to increase your response rate, engagement, and even brand loyalty.
- Tailor the customer journey based on each lead’s behaviors to provide them with the information and interaction they need at just the right time to create more sales opportunities.
- Use information shared during the sales and marketing process to provide personalized service for new customers, increasing their willingness to spend money with you and stay for longer.
- Make the most of information gathered by customer service and sales reps to fine-tune your marketing strategy to find more people who are the right fit for your product.
- Improve the quality of your sales conversations with leads by using all the information you have gathered about their preferences, needs and pain points to show them how your product or service provides the right solution.
- Use the data collected about all your customers and leads to understand your business performance and project your future earnings based on your current pipeline. (Oops, sorry for making this distastefully “businessy”.)
To stay competitive in the expanding digital economy, where face-to-face sales and customer service is becoming rare, your association needs to find different ways to build genuine relationships. This is done by demonstrating to individual members that you are listening and anticipating their needs. Many Association Management Systems (AMSs) claim they can do this, but for me it is a WordPress site, hosted on WP Engine with a CRM as the backend.
A business-oriented CRM allows hook-ups to many social media platforms, SMS, and your web site. Many association managers do not know that there is much more to CRM than just choosing a software vendor and uploading their rolodex of contacts into it. Having a CRM in place is important, but without a strategy for putting the data inside it to work building relationships, there’s a huge, missed opportunity.
Two different types of providers have emerged: list-based systems such as Constant Contact and Mailchimp, and database-oriented systems such as Infusionsoft and HubSpot.
List-based systems offer some limited CRM capabilities such as basic contact records that allow associations to find and edit contact information for the subscribers on their list. However, these list-based systems are not well-equipped for sophisticated sales and marketing automation.
In contrast, all-in-one platforms offered similar capabilities as enterprise platforms, packages and prices tailored to meet the needs of small associations and seamless integration between CRM technology and sales and marketing automation.
We are currently examining three systems with an eye to performance/price. “Be seeing you.”