How Segmentation Can Boost Members’ Engagement

Database Segmentation increases engagement

As a director of a professional association, you know that competition for your members has serious consequences for retaining current members as well as adding to your membership rolls. And if you follow my blogs, you get that the one critical factor that acts like a magnet for membership is engagement. In this article, I underscore the importance of having strong database segmentation in order to improve communications, participation, and ultimately engagement.

Boosting Engagement Via Segmentation Of Your Database

Have you ever received a mailer or email that had no relevance? Of course you have! I do all the time. Now you ask, what’s the best practice to boost engagement? Good question. Well, apart from the obvious example above. It turns out that the answer is straightforward: segmentation.

What is segmentation?

In the context of professional association membership, it simply means organizing your members into groupings of shared interests. Examples include members who joined to land a new job, or members whose main interest is attending social events. Interestingly, I read that segmentation is a concept coined in economics and
now used commonly in marketing. In the ancient past (you define your own ancient), most of the ways we used to connect with members were broad-brush push strategies. Segments were hard to define and expensive to reach.

Segmentation works best when the categories, or segments, you choose closely fit the profiles of your members.

  • Create definitions for each of your segments. If your membership includes a wide age range, one way to segment might be Gen Xers, Millennials, and Boomers. Another way to segment might be employed, retired, and seeking new jobs. Yet another may be seeking a mentor and willing to mentor.
  • It’s best not to assume you know your general membership profile. Research has shown that it pays to poll members on what they seek to gain from membership in your association.

Identify the Data you Have (and Don’t Have)

It doesn’t matter if you have the best query tool on the market, if you don’t have good data. You can’t measure engagement if you don’t have the data to measure it. So the first step in this process is identifying all the data your association currently manages (whether it’s in your primary database or elsewhere) as well as data that you’re not collecting that you should be. If your database cannot store demographic information beyond the standard fields, limits your ability to create your own fields, or puts a cap on how many fields can be created, look for another one. Good Segmentation starts with good data.

Know Your Constituents Preferences Too

I cringe when I hear that some associations are still sending out their newsletter to their entire database. Today, it’s imperative to know what your members care about and how they prefer to receive your message too. Today, many membership and donor databases have built in communication capabilities to communicate the right message to the right people at the right time. In my opinion, when your members signed up to join and or contribute to your cause, you made a promise to deliver service based on what they cared about. You should be able to query your database based on the attributes of interest of your membership.

The Research Proves Segmentation Works

I recently reviewed an eBook from the software firm Abila. In this eBook, Abila undertook a recent study that peels back the layers underpinning member engagement. They asked:

  1. What matters most to members when they join an organization?
  2. What makes members feel involved and engaged?
  3. How can organizations better communicate?
  4. Are professional member organizations engaging members in a segmented, targeted, personal way?

The study results, found here, serve up these headlines:

  • Jobs matter. Abila found that “today’s new members join organizations – first and foremost – for job opportunities. Socializing/networking and professional development also rank close to the top.” .
  • Attracting members early in their careers—within the first five years—works best.
  • On the value of some member benefits, it may be ships passing in the night. Here’s why: “Professional organizations put too much emphasis on meetings and conferences, as well as advocacy. And, they put too little emphasis on job opportunities, credentialing, and certifications, as well as standards and ethics, based on what members say they’re looking for in a membership organization.”
  • If you are not targeting age and career stage in your messaging, you may be missing key engagement opportunities. The study revealed: “There are stark differences in the way younger and early career members like to be communicated with versus older, more established members.”

Generally speaking, members view their associations as valuable—with a key caveat. The caveat: segmentation—“know thy members”—makes all the difference to members’ engagement.(Emphasis added.)

You can’t know what’s important (Careers, Generations, Preferences etc.) and how to get the information to your members, if you can’t segment your database.

Does Your Database Have the Query Abilities Needed for Segmentation?

Interesting analysis. I believe that any modern database should be able to store unlimited attributes (what school did they attend, who is their spouse etc.) But, it should be easy to query too in order to create and maintain lists dynamically. If you are struggling to know what could be, contemplate the following questions:

  • Can the database manage multiple segmented queries & lists?
  • Can it create list segments based on behavioral history or other attributes?
  • Does the platform consolidate all information (characteristics, behaviors, actions, etc.) about a unique member into one dynamic profile?
  • Can membership, development, & the executive director share this information? In real time?
  • Can the database integrate with other systems, sharing data back and forth seamlessly and dynamically in real time?
  • Does it share critical time-sensitive information with various departments via some kind of notification?
  • Does everyone have the capability to enter and update information pertinent for segmentation?

Your Constituents Demand Better Personalization 

Your members demand and deserve value-based interactions across all points of engagement. In the world today, customer centricity is the driving force of meaningful, mutually beneficial engagement.

No longer can nonprofits state that they do not have the access to the right tools. The tools you need are there. They aren’t out of your reach for any reason including dollars and cents. To engage with your constituents in a significant way, you have to be aware of what they care about and query the information quickly to send out messages. There is no excuse!

Do You Have the Best Database for the Job? 

Now all you need is the best software that supports you on your path to boosting membership. We can help you sort out the software options out there and find the perfect solution for your new member engagement strategies.

Please contact us to learn more. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Database Software Comparisons, Lists, and Reviews

AMS Software Review of ClubExpress Database

ClubExpress Software Review

Isn’t it time to get rid of that Microsoft Access database! In our ongoing “Search of a Membership Database Series”, we have prepared a quick look at ClubExpress Membership Management Software in this database software review. Please note that this summary below is not intended to provide our full report but rather should serve as a quick snapshot of the ClubExpress membership database software.

For those interested in learning more, we have prepared a detailed “Smart Report” for Executives  in the not for profit industry who would like the full view.  The full report, is available upon request and verified by our staff. The database software review provides 30 plus pages of detailed information about the database reviewed including background on the company, functional capabilities, screen shots, client reviews, pricing, & support capabilities in an easy to read question and answer format.

Review of ClubExpress

Membership Software 


I am excited to introduce ClubExpress membership software. It is exciting to me because while ClubExpress has been around for 13 plus years, it is actually new to me since I have not had the opportunity to take a deep dive into it’s capabilities. In my mind, it is an exciting new Software-as-a-Service platform designed to help membership driven organizations manage their front office and back office. In fact, they have a purported thousand plus organizations using their platform today. In my review, ClubExpress demonstrated a very capable combination of power, flexibility, and ease-of-use for smaller associations that are run by volunteers or a small, paid staff. Quite impressive!

Brief Summary: 

ClubExpress provides smaller associations (up to 5000 members) with an Internet platform to manage both front-office and back-office operations. ClubExpress combines the association web site with the membership database, secure online member signup, renewals and expiration’s, credit-card processing, membership directory, discussion forums, event calendar and online registration, E-commerce storefront, committees, documents, interests and other modules based on what clubs and associations do. The platform includes a full suite of administration tools to run the organization. There is no programming or HTML experience required; everything is controlled by menus and dialog boxes, and all changes are immediately live. We use state-of-the-art security, there’s no advertising and associations own their data at all times.

Key Features which  ClubExpress Software includes?  

  • Content Management System
  • Website with areas for the public, members, and admins
  • Each member has own login to view member-only content and update a personal profile
  • Online signups, renewals, and expiration’s
  • Any number of member types, including memberships with multiple people
  • Expand the database with additional questions; answers in 20+ formats
  • Event calendar with online registration and payment for events
  • Built-in modules for document libraries, committees, member interests, blogs, FAQ, directory
  • Surveys module to create multi-page, multi-question surveys
  • Discussion forums including list server capability
  • E-Commerce Storefront module, including support for digital content
  • Volunteering module
  • Donations module
  • Built-in merchant account or you can use your own
  • Unparalleled support for multi-tier organizations (chapters, etc., up to 4 levels incl. top)
  • Blast emailings function
  • Powerful website design tools, including templates
  • Unlimited photos and photo albums
  • More than a dozen optional modules for an additional one-time fee

Where does ClubExpress Software likely Fit?

Smaller associations (up to 5000 members), run by volunteers or with a small paid staff. Membership-based organizations, including professional and trade associations, networking groups, business groups, chambers of commerce, regional associations. It’s not just small clubs! 

ClubExpress Membership Software Visuals: 

ClubExpress Software Demonstration: 

Interested in learning more about the ClubExpress Database?

We have prepared a detailed “Smart Report” available for qualified executives interested in learning about our view of this database software. Please take some time to request your complete “Smart Report” by clicking below:

Please stay tuned to our ongoing Searching for A Smart Membership Software software reviews where we will continue to provide further insights into other Membership Database Software and Donor database software options designed for 501(c) 3 organizations.

Is ClubExpress AMS the Best Membership Software for Your Association?

We don’t espouse to the belief that there is “one best AMS” for everyone. But, ClubExpress may very well be your best fit.

However, to answer this question with certainty, we need to know more about what makes you unique. And, discuss other insights about this platform which we have curated, clients interviewed, and discuss more detailed information beyond just this summary.

Please know that our detailed analysis and expertise is available upon request. To be sure, our software analysis is not a “pretty brochure”, “marketing noise.” or a “sales pitch.”

Rather, we provide a free objective dialogue and insights designed to help nonprofit executives make a smarter software business decision.

If you are interested in some help with reviewing your options and comparisons, please check out our “vendor matching” services here.

Want More AMS Membership Software Reviews?

Please stay tuned to our ongoing “Searching for A Smart AMS Software” where we will continue to provide further insights into membership database software options designed for our 501(c) 6 membership focused organizations.

For the most recent published reviews, please click below:

And, to obtain a sample list of the database software reviews we have, you may follow the link here 

If you work for an AMS database software system and you would like us to include your firm in our software review process, please contact us.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind. Happy Software Buying!

ClubExpress Software Review

Super Tip: Join The Software Users Group

Database Software User Groups

In our search to secure the best software database, we tend to seek just the right features to help achieve our mission. Right? We buy software so that we can increase efficiency, improve our ability to serve our members and donors, and gain measurable results. Surprisingly, support, documentation, culture, and community are far down on the list. In this article, I discuss the impact of a software users group in order to increase the happiness of users and their productivity.

The Impact of Software Users Group

Software Users Groups include people meeting and discussing how they use their software solution. Whether it’s a simple online forum or a large event where your surrounded by like minded individuals, you will derive measurable value in participating in the community of your software. The medium may be an in-person meet-up, conferences, training sessions and boot camps.

In my 20 years of experience in the software industry, I have seen the net benefit of software users groups on the entire community. Although anecdotal evidence, here is what I believe is the impact:

  • Users are much happier and more engaged.
  • Users use the tool more often and also get more value out of the product.
  • Users become more efficient and produce higher value with using the software.
  • Users have better expectations with regards to the software capabilities now and in the future.

Obtaining Support & Answers From The Software Users Group

It doesn’t matter what software you use. We all from time to time get frustrated, right! With access to a software users group, before picking up the phone and paying for tech support again, a software users group will provide you a third level of support to answer your question. At a bare minimum, an online community provided by a software vendor or independent users group can help you find an outlet to get situations resolved independently.

There is an interesting thing about online communities to note. You will find software users there but you may also enjoy the value of knowing that a software support team is also likely lurking to help answer your questions too. So, if you are having a tough time convincing your Executive Director to pay for membership to a software users group, tell him that one call or tip could save the organization several hundred dollars each year.

Professional Development & Education via The Software User Group

The software users groups mission is primarily to provide a means to be educated and develop your skills with the software. Like iron sharpens iron, so to do users sharpen themselves with training.

A larger convention form affords you one to one direct interaction with fellow software users from other organizations faced with similar challenges but provides access to industry experts to provide you with the training, education, and tips to save both you and your organization time and money.

Beyond the conference, many offer onsite training throughout the year. Higher Logic User Group (HUG) has frequent activities on a regional and national basis. Their group fosters and online and offline community to help users solve problems, network and improve productivity via training.

NiUG International, iMIS user’s group, hosts both workshops and conferences each year in various locations throughout the US, Australia, Canada, and Europe. The format for training usually includes a curriculum for learning in the form of in-person training classes, followed by the users conference which consists of several general breakout sessions on topical issues surrounding iMIS and related products which may be used by the community too. They have awards and after hour events for all to enjoy!

Informz,marketing automation software provider, has their own SuperFan Summit. They provide a two day educational forum for users. I was informed (pardon the pun) that this year, it will include three tracks on one session day — marketing, design, and tech — and a full day of hands-on training on day two.

From online, local, and conferences formats, professional development and education by users for users is critical to software success.

A Direct Voice to the Software Vendor 

Make your voice heard! While performing a software assessment, I hear often, “I was told the software couldn’t do that”. I play devils advocate quite a bit in the software assessment process because I know that often times organizations desire to drop kick their existing system before they have all the facts. Participating in a software users group provides you with a direct line to the software vendor to know what is on the product road map but also affords you the opportunity to ask for a feature too.

Some software users groups have a formal Product Advisory Committee (PAC). This group usually has a great working relationship with software vendor. It is generally thru this type of relationship; participating members can impact and make changes and enhancements to their product- maximizing their investment.

Recent Experiences at Users Conferences 

This past month, I was grateful to be invited to “Xperience 2016”, YourMembership’s Annual Users Conference in Florida. At this particular conference, attendees participated in multiple sessions on upcoming features and product road map announcements. The education sessions were great. Every session was packed and the questions were always applicable to almost everyone in attendance. I even overheard several folks say, “I wanted to go to that session, but I just didn’t have enough time”.

YourMembership’s company leaders were available for everyone to mingle with and talk to. So, every participant had a direct line of communication to the CEO and other Executives to voice their opinion on what was important to them. This is valuable access which will provide ongoing success for all parties participating in such a venue.

Earlier this year, I was also thankfully invited to attend the Abila Users conference in Austin. Abila’s conference was filled with complimentary software vendors who supported their product lines, training tracks for the various products, & general sessions comprised of company news and product road map announcements. At the end of the product road map session, Abila had a live “voting” for the top product enhancements expressed by the attendees along with a piece on “what items were completed” from last year.

Personally, I was pleased to go to Act-On Software, marketing automation software provider, “iHeartmarketing” users group. It gave me the opportunity to network and mingle with other Act-On users and success managers, so I could sharpen my own skills.

I am looking forward to attending Nimble Users, Nimblepalooza, Bloomerangs, BloomCon, and many other software user conferences in the future. I hope to be able to go to more!

Super Tip, Community Collaboration Counts

Yes, the features and capabilities of the software are important in your software search. I understand. But, I believe with many others that there is more to a successful software match than just the features found on that comparison score sheet.

Looking for signs of commitment by the software vendor should be equally important in your search for a partner. It is so incredibly important to look at a vendors support, documentation, community & even involvement of the software users. In my opinion, a software users group (supported by a software vendor or independent) is good evidence of long term viability and continued maturation of a software database.

Super tip: Don’t overlook the power of a software users group!

For more information, please contact us. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Membership Software Reviews