A Comprehensive 6-Step Plan for Data-Driven Member Engagement and Growth

In today’s data-driven world, associations continually seek ways to maximize their impact and growth. So, by harnessing the power of data analytics, associations can make informed decisions that drive financial success, increase member engagement, and foster organizational growth. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step process to leverage data effectively for your association’s benefit.

Why Should Your Association Invest in Data and Analytics?

Before we delve into the practical steps of using data to drive growth for associations, it’s essential to understand why data is so crucial and what benefits it brings. If you’re reading this, you might already know this but here’s a quick list to also sell the concepts internally to your team:

1. Informed Decision-Making: Firstly, data and analytics enable associations to make well-informed decisions by providing insights into member preferences and behavior, helping leaders optimize their strategies and tactics to stay relevant with members.

2. Improved Data Quality and Governance in Associations: Secondly, data projects, including data governance and quality initiatives, play a critical role in enhancing the value and quality of data for associations. These initiatives reduce operational confusion, mitigate compliance and reputation risks, and ensure data is treated as a valuable asset specific to the association’s needs and objectives.

3. Personalization and Member Engagement: Moreover, data-driven insights allow associations to personalize their interactions with members, tailor content, and improve member engagement, ultimately leading to a better member experience.

4. Predictive Analytics: Using advanced analytics, associations can predict member behaviors, such as purchases or churn, helping them focus their efforts on improving retention and growing revenue.

5. Enhanced Personalization and Marketing: Lastly, by leveraging data and advanced analytics, associations can create better member segments, improve targeted marketing campaigns, and deliver relevant messages to specific audiences, ultimately improving marketing and advertising performance.

Overall, these benefits highlight how data and analytics can help associations adapt to changing member needs, drive growth, and optimize their operations and strategies.

How Does Data and Analytics Tangibly Help Associations?

The infographic below shows 5 key ways that data and analytics can help professional Associations and societies optimize processes and grow.

5 key benefits of data and analytics for Associations

A Roadmap to Data-Driven Growth for Associations: 6 Essential Steps

Roadmap to Data-Driven Growth for Associations

Step 1: Define Your Association’s Goals and Impact Metrics

Before diving into data analysis, it’s crucial to understand the desired outcomes of your association. This may include financial growth, member response, and expansion of influence. 

Ask yourself: What outputs are you expecting? 

When it comes to assessing the success of your association, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) take the lead as the most reliable method. Then, when it comes to identifying the right KPIs, it all begins with your objectives and desired outcomes. Your goals will serve as the compass, directing you toward the aspects you should measure to determine the overall success of your program. Whether you are focused on boosting member engagement, optimizing revenue, or securing additional event sponsorships, KPIs will be your go-to resource for evaluating the success of your association.

Additionally, metrics are essential for setting clear expectations and measuring the priority of your association’s goals. Also, these metrics should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Some KPI metrics most relevant to associations and societies might include the following:

Association Objective/GoalsKPIs
Financial Growth– Annual revenue growth rate
– Percentage increase in non-dues revenue
– Membership dues growth rate
Member Response and Engagement– Member engagement
– Event attendance percentage increase
– Net Promoter Score (NPS) improvement
Association Expansion– Number of new chapters or branches
– Number of new geographic markets 
– Membership expansion to additional countries
Educational Impact– Percentage increase in the number of educational programs 
– Average satisfaction rating of educational programs
– Percentage growth in the number of certified members
Advocacy and Influence– Number of successful legislative changes advocated for or against
– Recognition or endorsements from influential organizations 
– Media mentions or appearances achieved

What other KPIs are important for you? Share on social.

It is important to note that setting too many KPIs can lead to poor outcomes. Sure, you can measure many important metrics, but then it’s good to settle on A. a “north star” metric that is the top priority for your organization to rally around and B. a handful of other KPIs, ideally leading indicators of success, to focus on that feed into that north star.

Think in hierarchy: Evaluate the priority of your goals

Once you’ve identified your KPIs, you’ll want to set target goals. You can select the right goals by assessing their importance using the following process.

a) Determining the Worth of each Goal

Evaluate the priority of your Associations goals

It is important to prioritize your goals. This can be done using the above plot, where you can compare the amount of money/time and effort required for you to achieve a goal. Quadrant ‘1’ above is the ideal category to fall under, as it requires the least amount of effort but yields the highest impact. 

b) Ask critical questions: Is the expected impact substantial enough to warrant the allocation of resources?

To assess the importance of your goals, it’s vital to ask critical questions that help you evaluate their potential impact. These questions should delve into the significance and alignment of your goals with your association’s overall strategy. Some key questions to consider include:

  • Is this goal in line with our association’s mission and values?
  • What will be the implications of achieving this goal? 
  • What are the risks and challenges associated with pursuing this goal?
  • Are there alternative goals that could yield more significant results or be more feasible with available resources?

So, by asking these critical questions, you can determine whether the expected impact of your goals justifies the allocation of resources. At a result, this assessment helps you prioritize your goals and allocate resources more effectively.

c) Pros and cons analysis: Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing each goal.

A pros and cons analysis involves systematically listing the potential benefits (pros) and drawbacks (cons) of pursuing a specific goal. Moreover, this analysis provides a structured framework for decision-making and helps you make informed choices. 

d) Prioritize your goals in order 

Once you have your target goals all analyzed, pick the most important one. Then the second, and so on until you have a priority list. For example: 

Challenge: An association aimed to boost its growth by increasing membership and engagement while aligning its resources and initiatives with its overarching goals.

Solution: Drawing inspiration from the British rowing team’s strategy, the association implemented a simple but powerful question: “WILL IT MAKE THE BOAT GO FASTER?” For every decision and opportunity, they applied this question, ensuring it directly contributed to their predefined growth objectives. For instance, when considering a new member engagement initiative, they assessed if it would accelerate membership growth. If the answer was yes, they proceeded. Additionally, by continuously reviewing their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and leveraging data analytics, they made agile, data-driven decisions to prioritize their goals and fuel their growth. The result was improved decision-making, alignment with goals, and ultimately, successful growth.

Step 2: Evaluate Existing Data and Data Sources

In this step, you will delve into the data that your association has already collected over time. Firstly, the goal is to recognize trends, patterns, and areas where improvements can be made. By assessing this existing data, you lay the foundation for informed decision-making and the development of data-driven growth strategies.

Categories of Available Data

Within your association lies a treasure trove of information, and now, we’ll explore some of the key categories. Undoubtedly, your association already possesses access to a wealth of data, including:

1. Membership Data: Information about current and past members, including demographics, membership levels, renewal rates, and engagement history.

2. Financial Data: Data related to the association’s financial performance, such as revenue, expenses, budgeting, and financial projections.

3. Event and Attendance Data: Details on past events, conferences, seminars, and attendance records, including registration numbers, attendee feedback, continuing education data, and event costs. These data might come from a learning management system (LMS).

4. Membership Engagement Data: Information related to marketing campaigns, email outreach, social media engagement, and the effectiveness of various communication channels.

5. Member Experience Data: Results of member surveys, feedback forms, and assessments, providing insights into member satisfaction and preferences.

6. Credential Data: Information related to the qualifications, certifications, and licenses held by members is integral to their association membership. This data encompasses records of certifications earned, expiration dates, and other credential-related details. By implementing an incentivized method for members to store their licenses and/or certifications in one place, the association gains valuable insight into continuing education requirements. Consequently, this enables a more effective matching of members with relevant education opportunities.

Case study: How did tracking credential data help our association customer unlock $237K in new revenue? Read more.⬇️⬇️⬇️
Tracking credential data helps benefit association

Which tools and resources will help you collect data?

Data CategoryTools and Resources What data can be gathered? 
Website AnalyticsGoogle Analytics, Hotjar, and Search Console.Website Traffic, Demographic Data, Traffic Sources, Return Visitors, Page Engagement
Trends Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner, WGSN, Tableau, and Microsoft Power BITrend Data, Market Research, Industry Insights
Feedback CollectionSurvey tools like SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and UsersnapMember Feedback on events, courses, concerns
CE Tracking CE App for AssociationsContinuing Education Tracking, Credits Earned
Association Management Software (AMS)Glue Up, Bitrix24, Mindbody, and AppFolioMember Profiles, Member Interaction History, Membership Renewal Data, and Financial Data

Step 3: Utilize Data to Drive Insights and Trends

Once you’ve collected the data, it’s time to move beyond the numbers and extract actionable insights. This step involves two essential components:

Recognizing trends and patterns

This entails a careful examination of your data to identify recurring trends or patterns. Throughout this process, you’ll be looking for consistent behaviors, fluctuations, or developments over time. These trends could be related to financial performance, member engagement, demographics, or other aspects of your association’s operations.

For example:
You might discover that membership engagement tends to drop during a particular time of the year, which can guide you in scheduling more engaging events during that period. Or, you might identify an upward financial trend following a specific marketing campaign, prompting you to invest more in similar initiatives.

Identifying areas for improvement

While identifying positive trends is crucial, it’s equally important to spot areas where your association can enhance its performance. For instance, data can reveal weaknesses, bottlenecks, or underperforming segments of your organization. These areas may be related to member retention, service quality, demographic targeting, or financial efficiency.

For example:
If your data shows a declining trend in member engagement, you can focus on improving communication and content delivery to re-engage your members. If the demographic analysis reveals an underrepresented age group among your members, you can tailor marketing efforts to attract a more diverse audience.

Step 4: Understand the Reasons behind Trends

In this crucial step, you’ll delve deeper into understanding the trends identified in Step 3, which may include reduced member engagement, reduced member retention, and decreased financial output. so, to get to the root causes of these trends, you need to gather additional data through various methods:

Surveys to Identify Decline/Incline Reasons:

Conducting surveys is an effective way to directly engage with your members and gain insights into their experiences and reasons for disengagement or if there’s high engagement then how can you improve it more. Create surveys that are specifically designed to capture feedback on why members might be disengaging or not renewing their memberships. Some potential survey questions might include:

  • “What aspects of our association’s services or events do you find less engaging or valuable?”
  • “Have there been any changes in your personal or professional circumstances that affected your engagement with the association?”
  • “What improvements or changes would encourage you to become more actively engaged with our association again?”

Analyze the survey responses to identify common themes or issues that are causing the decline in engagement or retention.

Member Feedback and Suggestions:

Beyond surveys, actively seek feedback and suggestions from your current members. This can be done through various channels:

  • Feedback forms, direct emails, or even in-person discussions.
  • Encourage members to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas for improvement. Member feedback is a valuable resource for understanding the member experience.
  • Ensure that there are clear channels for members to communicate with the association, and make it easy for them to provide feedback.
  • Regularly review and categorize the feedback received to identify recurring issues or areas where improvements can be made.

Market Analysis for Product Relevance:

In this section, we focus on “Market Analysis for Product Relevance.” For associations, a “product” typically refers to offerings that provide value or benefits to their members. These products can take various forms and serve different purposes, often aligning with the association’s mission and the needs of its target audience. Here are some specific examples of products for associations:

Association OfferingData Analysis ApproachKey Data to Analyze
Educational CoursesCourse Performance Analysis, Demographic Analysis, Content AnalysisSuccess rates, completion rates, participant feedback, demographic preferences, course content effectiveness
EventsAttendance and Engagement Analysis, Topic and Timing Analysis, Cost-Benefit AnalysisAttendance records, engagement levels, member feedback, event topics, timing, and costs
PublicationsReadership Analysis, Content Effectiveness, Feedback AnalysisReadership metrics, content popularity, impact on engagement, member feedback
Membership BenefitsMembership Engagement Analysis, Retention Analysis, Cost-Value AnalysisEngagement with benefits, renewal rates, cost of benefits vs. perceived value
Certifications and CredentialsCertification Success Rates, Impact Analysis, Trend AnalysisCertification success rates, career impact, industry trends
Advocacy and Legislative ServicesPolicy Impact Analysis, Legislative Success Rates, Member Feedback AnalysisImpact on industry, success in policy change, member concerns and feedback
Online Platforms and ResourcesUser Engagement Analysis, Content Effectiveness, Member Interaction AnalysisUser engagement data, resource and tool effectiveness, member interaction patterns

So, it’s vital to continuously gauge if your association’s offerings align with your target audience’s evolving needs. This evaluation takes into account changing industry trends, technological advancements, and shifting member preferences. Also, the goal is to identify areas for improvement and new features that cater to your members’ changing needs, ensuring your association remains responsive in a dynamic environment.

  • It’s important to assess whether your association’s offerings are still relevant and meeting the needs of your target audience.
  • Moreover, perform a comprehensive market analysis to understand your competitive landscape and market trends.
  • Evaluate your products and services in comparison to what competitors are offering and what the market demands.
  • Additionally, you can consider factors like changing industry trends, technological advancements, and evolving member preferences. Are your offerings aligned with these changes?
  • You can also identify areas where your association can enhance its services or introduce new features that cater to the evolving needs of your members.

Step 5: Crafting and Implementing Strategies for Improvement

This step revolves around leveraging the membership lifecycle framework. By understanding where members are in their journey and identifying their needs at each stage, associations can tailor strategies for enhanced engagement and satisfaction. By aligning specific improvement strategies with these areas and defining success metrics, associations can effectively elevate their overall performance and member satisfaction.

Craft Strategies Based on Membership Lifecycle

The membership lifecycle serves as a valuable framework for associations to identify key areas for strategy implementation. That is, it provides a structured approach to understanding where members are in their journey with the organization and, crucially, what their needs and pain points are at each stage. This, in turn, helps associations tailor their strategies to enhance member engagement, satisfaction, and overall success. 

Understanding the membership lifecycle

Membership lifecycle

Here’s how the membership lifecycle aids in pinpointing key areas for strategy implementation:

Examples of Association Improvement Strategies by Area of Focus

Area of ImprovementImprovement StrategiesMetrics for success criteria
New Member Acquisition– Optimize website for conversions 
– Clear communication of your associations offering
– Content creation and SEO
– Implement referral programs
– Track source of new members 
– Conversion rate 
– Total new members
Member Engagement Strategies
– Personalized communication and services
– High quality content creation
– Build knowledge sharing peer community
– Frequency of member interactions
– Time spent on platform
Improving Member Experience– Gather and act on continuous feedback 
– Provide prompt customer service
– Net Promoter Score (NPS) 
– Customer satisfaction ratings 
– Feedback
Boosting Member Retention– Enhance value proposition  
– Implement personalized retention campaigns 
– Provide ongoing value
– Churn rate 
– Membership renewal rate – – Customer lifetime value (CLV)
Enhancing Event Attendance– Effective event marketing  
– Compelling agendas 
– Feedback analysis
– Event registrations
– Attendance 
– Event engagement

So, with a clearer understanding of your data, you can now implement strategies to enhance your association.

Step 6: Monitoring and Analyzing Strategy Implementation

Member Engagement Scoring

Member Engagement Scoring is a valuable tool for associations to measure and quantify their members’ level of engagement and participation. That is, by assigning scores to various actions and interactions, associations can gain insights into member behavior, identify highly engaged members, and tailor their engagement strategies more effectively. So, here’s how it typically works:

Scoring Actions:

  • Email Interactions: Assign scores for actions such as opening an email, clicking on links within emails, or responding to specific calls to action. For instance, opening an email might earn a lower score, while responding to a survey link within an email might earn a higher score.
  • Website Visits: For example, different pages on the association’s website can be assigned varying scores based on their importance or relevance. For example, visiting the homepage might earn a lower score, while visiting a resource or event registration page might earn a higher score.
  • Association Events: Attendance at various events, whether they are annual meetings, webinars, or training sessions, can be scored differently. For example, attending a major annual conference might earn more points than attending a webinar.
  • Participation: Lastly, encourage engagement by assigning scores to activities like volunteering, committee involvement, referring new members, or completing specific tasks. The more significant the participation, the higher the score.

Calculating Member Engagement Score Using a Scoring Model:

As members engage in these actions, their scores accumulate over time. The association can set rules for scoring, such as how frequently certain actions can be scored or whether there is a cap on total scores.

Calculating Member Engagement Score involves assigning point values to various member interactions and actions, and then accumulating these points to derive an overall engagement score for each member. Below is a sample model in a table format to illustrate how this can be done:

Engagement ActionPoint Value
Email Interactions
Open an email5 points
Click on links10 points
Complete a survey15 points
Website Visits
Visit homepage5 points
Visit resource page10 points
Register for an event20 points
Association Events
Attend annual meeting50 points
Participate in a webinar30 points
Attend training session25 points
Volunteer for an event40 points
Serve on a committee60 points
Refer a new member20 points

Benefits of Member Engagement Scoring:

  • Identify Highly Engaged Members
  • Personalization
  • Data-Driven Decision-Making
  • Segmentation

Evaluate Success using KPI’s 

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measurable metrics that organizations use to evaluate their success in achieving specific goals and objectives. So, by employing KPIs, organizations can effectively assess performance, track progress, and make data-driven decisions. The choice of KPIs significantly relies on the organization’s goals and the specific aspects it aims to measure.

Tracking Progress and Implementing Iterative Improvement

Tracking Progress and Implementing Iterative Improvement is a critical component of managing and optimizing key performance indicators (KPIs) in any organization. So, this ongoing process involves continuous assessment, adjustment, and refinement to ensure that the organization is on track to achieve its goals. To elaborate, let’s explore four key sections:

Tracking Progress and Implementing Iterative Improvement
HypothesisDefine the initial hypothesis or expectation for the strategy. For instance, the hypothesis might focus on increasing member engagement, renewals, or satisfaction.Example: The hypothesis is that implementing personalized email campaigns will increase member engagement by 15%.
Strategy ImplementedDetail the specific strategies and actions put in place based on the hypothesis. These strategies are designed to achieve the objectives set in Step 5.Example: Strategy includes creating segmented email campaigns, personalized member recommendations, and targeted event invitations.
Performance MetricsCollect and analyze performance data, including member engagement, satisfaction scores, renewal rates, event attendance, or any other relevant KPIs. These metrics will help evaluate the success of the implemented strategies.Example: Performance metrics indicate a 12% increase in member engagement, a 5% improvement in member satisfaction scores, and a 10% rise in event attendance.
Iterative ImprovementIf the strategies are achieving their intended outcomes, acknowledge the success and consider scaling. If not, describe the iterative improvement process, including analyzing what went wrong, identifying necessary adjustments, and revising the strategies. This step emphasizes adaptability and ongoing refinement. Example: If the 15% engagement increase target is not met, associations may analyze open rates, click-through rates, and member feedback to discover that the timing of emails needs adjustment. They might then revise the email schedule to enhance results.

Wrapping IT Up: Empowering Associations with Data-Driven Growth

In this comprehensive guide, we’ve unveiled the potential of data analytics to revolutionize associations. By defining clear goals, evaluating existing data, and implementing data-backed strategies, associations can enhance their member engagement, satisfaction, and retention. Moreover, the continuous process of monitoring and adapting ensures a responsive and agile approach. So, as you embark on your data-driven journey, we encourage you to explore the valuable resources available, leverage the insights gained, and take the first steps toward empowering your association with data for sustainable growth.

If you’d like help implementing some of these strategies, reach out to a specialist on ACEA’s team – we’re always excited to learn about associations and support data-driven growth.

Get in Touch!