Back to basics: Membership CRM

09 August 2018 by Lauren Smith

We’ve recently been engaged in conversations with a number of membership associations where it became clear they didn’t have a clear idea about what a modern, integrated CRM system could do for them.


We uncovered a few cases where members had been renewed year-on-year, but not invoiced, or where members were getting access to additional services they weren't paying for. These sorts of things happen when data is in silos and no simple checks are inbuilt to the system or manual processes. These are basic operational issues.

With this in mind, we thought we would publish a few articles in a back to basics series where we discuss various aspects of systems including the benefits and challenges, as well as tips on working with your Membership CRM supplier.

What is CRM? 

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems can help you manage your membership data. They can support communications to your members, deliver actionable insights, integrate social media and simplify internal communication.

Why have a CRM system?

A CRM system provides a central place where you can store existing and prospect member data, track interactions, and share this information with colleagues. Every question asked by a member, every request made, every preference and detail on past interactions with the member is instantly available for analysis and to aid communications and conversations with them.

Every time one of your colleagues picks up the phone and talks to a member, or follows up on a new member lead, they can learn something new and potentially valuable that they can record on the system. Even better, a good CRM can prompt the colleague to ask a couple of specific questions, based on the information you currently hold (or don’t hold) – questions such as “we currently post information to you – please could I have your email address so we can email it?” or “you currently pay by cheque – could we move you to direct debit?”. Having this intelligence all in one place also means that every future interaction with them can be personalised, relevant and up-to-date.

The most fundamental things a CRM system can help you achieve are an increase in your:

Member retention rates

Make sure members aren't neglected by applying an automated process in your system that alerts you if no recent activity is detected on an account. By identifying dormant members in your database, you can also target them with compelling offers, news or updates to re-engage them or simply just remind them how they can get the best out of their membership. You could also reach out to any disengaged members and simply ask them if there is any reason they haven’t recently engaged with you. The most obvious thing you could also expect a system to do to improve retention is send automated reminders to your members when their subscription is up for renewal.

Member acquisition rates

Close second in importance to member retention is bringing on board new members to your organisation. By tracking digital behaviour, you can target potential member leads by email or PPC advertising with tailored subscription offers. You can then target them further based on how they interact with you. For example, you could send a subscription offer to all your warm leads (they may have visited your website a few times and engaged with you on social channels but not become a member yet) or target only those who opened your emails as they are more likely to convert. As all of this intelligence is recorded, promising opportunities are less likely to fall through the cracks.

Member satisfaction rates

We now live in a world where members’ expectations are higher than ever and it’s not enough to just send them a personalised email. Develop a deep understanding of your members, starting with a complete view of their history with your company and you’ll build a strong relationship founded on trust and mutual understanding. For example, have you ever rung a company and explained an issue you are having and then had to ring up again on another occasion and they want you to repeat the whole story? It is very frustrating. Companies who have invested in a good CRM will know the background of the issue already and be able to  quickly review the notes on the system to pick up from where they (or any of their colleagues) left off, without you having to repeat yourself. It’s the same for your members – people lead busy lives and the more efficient and fast you can be in cases like these, the more satisfied your members will be.

Having no CRM system in place 

The alternative to having a CRM system is that data and every detail about interactions with your members is recorded manually in notebooks or in different locations digitally. Manual methods of recording data, which is also growing exponentially for most organisations, or having multiple databases and silos of information make it all too easy for details to get lost or forgotten. Members’ requests for information can go unanswered, or even more worrying, in these days of GDPR, their request for data that you hold on them could be left unactioned. This situation also leaves you open to the risk of an employee who holds access to key member information leaving, and the information walking out of the door with them.

CRM systems help ensure accuracy and efficiency

A customer relationship management system aims to address challenges like these. It takes member data and turns it into useful, actionable insight that can transform an association by focussing on what needs to be done, easily and at the right time. It helps everyone to easily update records and to get access to the latest information. If the system is cloud-based, they can do this wherever they are, on any connected device.

Key features of a CRM system

The key features typically include contact management functionality, dashboard-style graphical information, and reports that analyse member activity, along with communication tools such as integrated email and internal instant messaging:

  • Contact management
  • Lead management
  • Instant messaging between employees
  • Email tracking and integration with Outlook and Gmail
  • File and content sharing
  • Dashboard-based analytics

Are you interested in finding out more about how a CRM system can move you one step closer to meeting your member acquisition and retention goals? If so, get in touch with us at smartimpact. We specialise in helping NFP organisations understand the possibilities a tailored membership CRM system can uncover, at whatever stage they are in their project lifecycle.