How To Rock With Automation In Your Software Programs

Business Process Management requires workflow automation software

It’s always crunch time in the world of Association and Nonprofit leaders: time to drive membership, mission, & sustainability. In this article, I cover workflow automation features which may bring extreme value to your Nonprofit or Association.

“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” – David Packard

Insight is Everything in Attracting An Audience 

I know few Associations that have enough staff to continuously and thoroughly sort out which strategy has worked (and which has not worked) on a personalized level for every prospect segment in terms of timing and content. I believe that most would agree that it’s important to know which of your marketing strategies has worked (and which failed) for which segment of your prospective members. Don’t you?

But, do you have the capabilities to do it? Here is the good news. Many marketing automation software programs have built in workflow automation features which can do the analytics and workload of many staff members. They have the power to provide those key data points, and more to bring your data to life.

Why Workflow Automation Works 

Why automate business processes? According to Act-On, a marketing automation software technology, it offers these benefits for bringing your prospects on board through scheduled programs:

  • It ensures that the rubber meets the road: it automatically aligns what you say with who your prospects are and their level of interest in your Association.
  • It employs “if-then” logic to follow up with prospects using messages that speak to each prospect in a personalized and appropriate way based on their previous interactions with your Association or Nonprofit.
  • It keeps your other strategic marketing steps in play while it churns out more effective campaigns to land new leads.

Business Process Management is a Blessing

Today, I believe that workflow automation features should be paramount in all software selection projects not just marketing automation programs. This includes CRM, AMS, and even Community Software too.

Simply put, I do not believe that setting up automated workflow programs to run on their own should not be relegated to just “attracting” new constituents to your community (the tribe).

One of the key things to remember with any software expenditure is that staff should think about “what’s in it for me”. Nonprofits are all about the member and donor experience. But, quite frankly, new technology introduced to the organization should not kill your staff’s ability to get things done.

I realize this shouldn’t be the case. But, many systems are there to simply store information. In other words, the data is dead and the system requires heavy lifting to get the software to become a living breathing entity with value to the staff, members, and executive team.

Workflow automation capabilities will allow your team see technology as a blessing and not a curse. Why? Because it’s going to make them look really good!

In short order, programming automation workflow will allow your staff and organization see the value because:

  • It cuts time staff now spends on creating marketing campaigns; your campaigns now can run “on autopilot” with your specifications in place.
  • It facilitates and speeds up the analysis your leadership team can perform to gain a deep insight into your marketing program by reviewing what approach is working well for which prospects, and what marketing approach needs tweaking.

Timing and Content are King and Queen for Landing Prospective Members

“As you’ve noticed, people don’t want to be sold. What people do want is news and information about the things they care about.” – Larry Weber

I would add that timing the delivery of your news and information matters, too. Prospects pondering membership or donations are much more likely to act if you are using varying platforms to provide a stream of new reasons, stories, and/or testimonials that are compelling and relevant to each prospect.

  • An automated marketing program excels at offering those extra touch points without manually developing them each time you want them delivered.
  • Messages can be targeted and delivered on time and with particular relevance.
  • With workflow automation rules you can improve staff time and productivity.
  • Engage members with the right information at the right time in their journey with your organization.

“The key ingredient to a better content experience is relevance.” – Jason Miller

Workflow Automation to Engage and Delight Members Too

In order to keep members continually delighted and engaged in your brand or community, you should demand software which helps you continually delight once they become a member, donor, or customer too. Let’s take a look at one example found within an online community software leader, Higher Logic.

Within their community software, workflow automation rules can be used to help set up automated workflow for your new member campaigns. You can set up automation rules and programs to feed your new members with relevant information as they join an organization so that they quickly see the value of becoming a member. Let’s take a look an example work flow which may be accomplished:

  1. Sign up to become a member via the CRM or AMS
  2. Schedule an email to have the member update their profile information
  3. Day 7 the system sends out an email to check in on them because they have not been back to their website
  4. 2 weeks out the community software sends out an email because their is no profile picture
  5. 4 weeks out the community software is scheduled to send out an email because they have not posted anything

Attracting new members simultaneously via marketing automation software and engaging your members at the right time with community software is  truly remarkable.

Ready to set up your Automated Workflow Programs?

If you do not have the ability to rope in new prospective members cost efficiently and effectively or continually delight them by engaging them too, perhaps your software needs updating.

Workflow automation capabilities should be viewed as a must have in all your platforms today. Unfortunately, I believe that a lot of software systems purport to be able to do this but simply don’t. If you are looking for a software solution and not just a piece of software to store data, dig deeper beyond simple features to what they system will do without user intervention.

Contact us and ask the questions that arose as you read this article. You’ll be wowed at the difference an automated system can make as you drive membership and revenue growth.

Free Software Advice for nonprofits

Monetize Your Online Community Success

Non-Dues Revenue with Online Community Software

The goal of a non-profit community is not usually to make money.  For most, it is to bring your constituents together in a secure and private space where stakeholders and others can interact, share, answer questions, and stay connected on their shared mission.  Yet many non-profits struggle for revenue and are usually on the lookout for non-dues opportunities and other ways to generate income. Why?

In this article, let’s discuss some options for digital advertising and how an online community website could generate non-dues income while still maintaining its purpose and integrity.

Increasing Non-Dues Revenue Via Advertising 

The idea of monetizing the relationships with your affiliates and sponsors is not a novel idea. But, there are good ways to do it and there are bad ways to do it.

Having the strategic vision for execution of their community members and finding the right technology partner is usually the hardest part for many nonprofits. To be clear, I believe that with the best fitted software, most online communities can generate income.

The old ways include slathering the website with off-topic advertisements. Or, hosting so many ads that a website is slow to load and hard to navigate.  A fresh new way involves limited, targeted ads and unobtrusive methods to get in front of the right person at the right time.

Let’s dig into these one by one.

Limited, Targeted Ads

The easiest and quickest way to add advertisements to any public website is with Google Adsense. Google supplies simple snippets of code that you paste into many webpages exactly where you want ads to show and then pays you whenever a user clicks on one of the advertisements.

The ads come in all kinds of sizes, so you can make them as obvious or unobtrusive and you want.  You can place just one ad per page or per site or as many as you want, although Google recommends no more than three ads per page.

Advertisements are usually either targeted to the site’s content or to each visitor’s interests, so inappropriate ads are minimized.  If they do pop up, you can block them from showing again. Google gets the money!

Limited, Affiliate Links

Another alternative on public websites, is to use Affiliate links which are similar to Adsense ads. But instead of Google paying you per click, an advertiser pays you when a visitor to your online community clicks on one of the advertiser’s affiliate links and then completes an action on his website.

For example, let us say that your non-profit works with children and you place a link to an advertiser’s children’s clothing store website on your site.  If someone clicks on that link and then buys some of the advertiser’s children’s clothing items, then he pays you a portion of that sale. Affiliate links are often as simple as a short text link and can easily blend into a community website.

Again, someone else gets the money!

Keep Your Money, Don’t Burn It 

There is a better way. And, one which you don’t have to share the money with anyone either.

Let me show you the money!

Communities are inherently useful outlets to grow and increase revenue streams and can even use to effectively promote your own events too.

Think about this for a moment.

Your association is a finely segmented entity ripe for a keen marketing program. Your members share a cause, a profession, or interest in learning. They talk about what is and is not helpful within their communities at events and conferences. Bring that dialogue in house and open it up digitally 24 x 7 x 365 days a year.

Who wins? Sponsors and your association benefit.

  • Your affiliate members (Sponsors) know that the buyers journey has changed today. It’s more difficult to capture their attention.
  • Sponsors love the “always on” of their marketing message.
  • Association members know they have the right audience which can appreciate their message.
  • Savvy advertisers knows how difficult it is to find the right connection.
  • They have information your members want to hear about and they need to hear about it too.

Your website pages should and could be the most valuable real estate found on the internet. So, why not take advantage of that real estate and benefit your community of users while making some money too?

It’s a win for everyone.

Advertising Options for Communities 

One of the advantages of Inbound marketing is that it leverages search engine optimization for your site. An open forum (one that does not require a log in) can help bring valuable new members into your site for more page views too.

Since we know that content is king on a website, a natural content creator like a community of users is priceless! Below you will find some options for placement of advertising in an online branded community:

  • Sponsor blog posts with high comments and page views.
  • Place Ad space on frequent threaded discussions.
  • Offer Ad placement on most popular member communities.
  • Feature logos in calendar events.
  • Promote sponsored/hosted webinars based on hot topic content from community.
  • Sale space in a most popular eBook or training downloaded by members.

Options are what sponsors want, right!? They want more members from a thriving and target ready community not the same old people year to year.

Consider A Branded Private Community for Non-Dues Revenue

So, things to consider here:

  • Don’t assume you need to place ads with Google in order to be effective on your website.
  • Do not believe that you need to place ads everywhere to make money or justify the endeavor.
  • Do practice and utilize personalization in your ads.
  • Consider a private branded community in order to promote more personalized ads for your sponsors.
  • Start out small & see what placements work best.

Does your non-profit association desire additional revenue opportunities?

If so, let’s discuss the value of online community software options. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Get the non-dues revenue you deserve with the tools you need

The Road to Revenue Growth with Membership Management Software

Membership Database Software & Revenue Growth

How solid is your association’s dues revenue? What if there were a way to strengthen your revenue stream and boost members’ engagement simultaneously? Better yet, what if that could be accomplished without hiring more staff? If you said yes, in this article, I discuss how I see membership management software playing a part in achieving these things. Or, at least aspire to make it so.

Revenue Growth & Membership Management Software

Perhaps, I am an optimist. But, I truly believe in technology’s ability to achieve great things. And, with so many new technologies being developed, I believe it is exciting news the mere choice of switching to the right membership management software can possibly deliver an ROI in revenue, membership, and sustainability well worth the investment. Here’s how.

New technologies = New Opportunities

Before I get into the membership software side of things. Let me digress a bit to discuss PYMNTS.com, a website that tracks emerging payment options. They make not that “software developers are using new technologies to create innovative business opportunities and enable merchants to optimize the ways in which they engage with shoppers today.” That’s great news for Association CEOs who get that pivoting to take advantage of the best business practices should be their prime strategy.

So what’s involved in these new technologies and how do they optimize engagement and revenue?

Engagement and Revenue Generation

PYMNTS.com interviewed membership software developer Abila’s Director of Product Management, Darryl Hopkins, who discusses a revolutionary concept in Association member management: “revenue-generating payments.”

Essentially, Hopkins covers a couple of key areas in which Association member management benefit from the new opportunities:

  • Automating membership renewals which, unsurprisingly, nets a better rate of renewal and increased funds

Membership databases are set up so that you may be able to remove the barriers to paying for membership dues. And, these systems are set up to help with the ability to automate a membership fee paid by an organization or group of individuals—a situation that Associations will find themselves facing more and more over time.

The Challenge of Competition

Future trends and patterns are emerging rapidly as new tools and platforms are developed each day. It’s pretty exciting. Even though we keep track of so many membership systems in the market today (over 100), there are many that are being released every year. And, more rapidly than ever before.

Why? Well, I could go into many reasons, but suffice it to say, associations and NFPs are faced with the challenge of keeping up to date and roll forward with the many shifts that emerge. I believe that competition is a big impetus for the desire for CRM features in many membership management systems of today.

No longer are the days when Associations can take a passive approach to recruitment of new members. There is no more “Build it and they will come mentality”. CRM features are either becoming more common place in the membership systems today or Associations are gravitating towards those systems which are natively built on CRM platforms.

Having worked with Association Executives for over a decade, I see nonprofit executives who need to do more to be competitive. And, be competitive with spending as little money as possible. And, ultimately doing more with less. The CRM features being built into membership software are imperative to drive revenue today.

No Substitute for Demonstrating You Care 

In these days, Associations can’t just take money for their various services. And, I believe that many know this. They can’t just take a payment from a member. You must be able to link it back to that particular member’s account so you can keep a rich history of who this actual member is. You need to know the what, why, where, and how of that payment. This is exactly what was uncovered too according to Hopkins research previously mentioned.

Why? Which would you prefer?

  1. A thank-you acknowledgement that says, Dear Jane, “Your membership renewal fee has been received. Enjoy your coming year with us.”
  2. Or, Dear Jane, “We are excited that you will be joining us for the third year in a row. We think you will particularly enjoy our new educational offerings this year—they are just the ticket for your new position. And please let us know what we can add to make your membership even more valuable for you.”

Obviously, you would like something like #2. The membership software is able to alert Jane to the fact that new educational offerings in her wheelhouse are coming. There are so many examples. Suffice it to say, it is these types of segmented calls to increased engagement activity that carry the opportunity for revenue enhancement.

Workflow automation and building processes that are mundane and impactful can be done via membership software today. Nonprofits should take advantage of them.

By the way, you can access the article on the Hopkins interview here.

The Role of Segmentation

My blog on how segmentation boosts engagement talks about the need to segment by age and career stage—which also matters when it comes to payment options for membership renewals and Association activities. Research has shown that while Matures and Boomers may still prefer to mail in a check, younger members expect automated payment options—and for the youngest cohort, the more up-dated your payment options, the better return your on renewals.

Also, for more information on the perspective of the young career professional when it comes to payment options, download the Smart Payment Association’s white paper on the swipe-to-tap revolution here.

The Right Software, The Right Time, The Right Revenue Increase

Is there a good time buy new software? Well, the answer to that question is unique for everyone. But, in general, why would you want to wait if you are losing opportunities to increase your services and ability to serve your members better?

You should certainly plan the timing of your purchase. But, most of the time, it truly does not matter. And, quite frankly no time is better than the present if you’re not able to increase revenue.

So, now may be the best time to review whether your current software can handle the member management functions that your Association needs to increase members’ engagement and expand your revenue.

New technologies are emerging, CRM features are baked into membership software now, financial and accounting processes are being automated, personalization of communication is becoming a reality, and many associations are doing more with less. This is a direct result of those Association Executives who have invested in their staff and provided them with the software tools that they need to succeed.

If you find your software isn’t up to those tasks, take comfort in knowing that regardless of the size of and/or budget, I believe that we can help you find the best fit software to support your goals.

Contact us to help assess your database needs and offer our advice on which database solution may be the best fit. We’d be happy to put our expertise to work to help you meet your goals.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

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