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September 6, 2022

4 Signs It’s Time to Streamline Your Association Tech Stack

Ever have that sinking feeling you’re falling behind? That you’re not using the best tools for effective, modern association communications?

Technology can transform associations

Technology is not only changing – it’s changing faster and faster. There are tools out there that can do things we couldn’t have dreamed of even five years ago (AI anyone?) and these tools have the potential to transform our organizations and the way we serve members.  

Technology is also changing the lives of members and how they seek out and use information. In the process, they’re leaving behind a vast trail of data that could better inform associations about what each member needs, and how best to serve those needs.  

Do you have the tools you need for modern member engagement?

The amount of available data is increasing exponentially. A 2021 survey by Leftonic found that 90% of all data in the world was generated just within the past two years, as online users produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day.   

This creates some questions for association communications leaders:  

  • Is your existing technology set up to take advantage of this data?  
  • How does your tech stack “stack up” against that of your competitors? 
  • Do you feel you’ve been just “getting by” with what you have?
  • Is your technology meeting the expectations of today’s members?

Your association tech stack is more important than ever

When is the “right” time to invest in updating your association tech stack?   

With technology changing so rapidly, some association leaders are reluctant to change. They might be comfortable with “the way they’ve always done things.” Or they might be concerned about the perceived risks of using newer tools that haven’t been around as long as the tools they’re used to. Some might even worry that technology is changing so rapidly that by the time the implement a new system, it’ll be behind again.

The problem with that thinking?   

  1. Most technology tools that collect, aggregate, integrate, analyze, and distribute data for better decision-making and content creation have been around long enough to have been thoroughly vetted. 
  2. Today’s systems factor in the changing landscape by providing cloud-based subscription models that are constantly updating to meet new challenges and providing new features and new experiences.

By staying put, you will only continue to fall behind, and your member experience will continue to degrade. Your staff will also lose out on efficiencies provided by new software.  Your members need and expect a convenient, streamlined, customer-centric approach to engagement – that’s the key to keeping them engaged.

Four signs it’s time to streamline your association tech stack

So how do you know it’s time for a change? Look for these signs:  

1) You have a bunch of unintegrated tools

Imagine a football team. Each player has a position with a unique role for every play. Now imagine that team has no coach, no playbook, and never practices together. It would result in almost laughable chaos and loss after loss.  

Yet this is how many associations are running their operations, assembling a tech stack that cobbles together various software and technology tools that don’t talk to or work with each other. Each tool may do a wonderful job of what you adopted it to do, but without true integration in your tech stack, each element perform as an island.

An association tech stack that’s not integrated limits your organization: 

  • The data you collect isn’t unified, which means inefficient data flow. It’s fed separately into each system. When it needs to be updated, it has to be done multiple times across the tools in your tech stack (and with busy association staff, you might not even have time to regularly update).
  • Staff spend way too much time pulling data from one place and manually entering it into another.  
  • The disconnects invite errors and old/bad data with little to no context. 
  • Data can’t be leveraged for things like automated drip campaigns because the data can’t go right to your email program. 
  • You can’t personalize or effectively target your messaging because the data needed is not readily available. Members probably find many of your emails irrelevant and unwanted. 
  • Insights you might gain from analyzing the data in each of your tools stays only in that tool. You struggle to transfer it to other systems in the organization for aggregation, comparison, and deeper insights.

2) Your staff is wasting a lot of time

What do you want your staff to spend their time doing? I doubt you want them to spend the majority of their time on data entry and cleanup. You want them to spend time creating member value and driving member engagement. That’s not happening if your association staff is spending hours, or even weeks, a month, moving, entering, and reconciling data from many different sources.   

This not only limits staff time on other critical tasks, it also limits your organization’s scalability. By spending your time serving your technology instead of the other way around, you have no room for growth.  

3) You’re not really saving any money

“But if I stick with the status quo, then we won’t need to spend money on technology.” Right?   Not really.  

Many people follow that rationale with cars. They keep a car that’s paid for, only to pour money into it over and over again, until that old car costs more than a new, reliable one. 

The “cost of no decision” – sticking to your old disconnected systems – can be far greater than making a change, for several reasons. 

  • You can’t streamline operations, so your operations budget balloons out of control.
  • You spend loads of money on support services from multiple vendors, and costs creep up as you’re charged for each little issue. 
  • You’re missing out on the potential to use your association tech stack to generate more non-dues revenue.
  • Your members have a hard time working through your online systems, or get frustrated at the varied user experiences between things like paying dues and registering for events. And this frustration could lead to members lapsing.

4) You don’t know who your members are

The point of adopting great tech is to provide a great member experience. Gathering and using data to serve members better is how you accomplish that. If you find yourself struggling to form clear pictures of your overall membership, membership segments, and interests of your members, you should know by now that your tech stack is not serving you well. 

One System to Seamlessly Drive All Member Communications

The only thing certain is change. Technology is changing, members are changing, and associations must be willing to adapt to serve members in the best ways possible. A comprehensive, unified member experience platform like Higher Logic Thrive can turn the sinking feeling that you’re using a flip phone in a smartphone world into certainty that you have the right system for maximum member engagement and growth.

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Sarah Spinosa

Sarah Spinosa is the product marketing manager for the association line of business at Higher Logic. Sarah is a veteran of the association industry, with over 15 years of marketing experience. She had been using Higher Logic products for nearly a decade prior to joining the Orange Army in February 2022. She has also worked with SaaS organizations. Sarah served on the 2023 ASAE MMCC Program Advisory Council and as an ASAE Gold Circle Award judge.

Sarah holds a BA in Political Science from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two daughters, and two rescue dogs in northern Virginia.