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How an Ancient Japanese Art Can Transform Your Association’s Tech Stack

Associations // Learn what an ancient Japanese art can teach you about integrating your association's tech stack.

Jeff Horne
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Have you heard of kintsugi? It’s the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by connecting pieces back together using golden lacquer. Most believe that it transforms one beautiful piece of pottery into something even more impressive. In fact, some collectors love this art form so much that they shatter valuable pottery just to get it repaired with the golden seams of kintsugi.

Now if you’re wondering what this has to do with your association’s technology and its member experience, stick with me. These things are more closely related than you think. In fact, we can learn a lot from this ancient art form.

Imagine if you took the same kintsugi approach to your association’s technology. If you could take every piece of software you use and connect it all in a new way, it would allow all your data to flow. This would empower you and your team to improve member engagement, turning your tech stack into something even more powerful and more valuable than the sum of each of its parts.

Data Silos: They’re Holding Your Association Back

Just as kintsugi without the golden lacquer is simply broken pottery, your technology without integrations is simply a shell of data sitting in silos. Each silo, rich with information, but rendered useless, or in the best-case scenario, difficult to use.

Data silos are a barrier in any organization. Silos slow down your processes and create friction – friction across your organization, friction between your association and its members, and friction when you want to add new technology. Silos don’t give you a full picture of your members, and they stifle your potential to engage and personalize your member interactions. With silos, it is nearly impossible to build a member-centric experience.

Software Integrations are the Golden Lacquer

Removing these barriers is easier than one might expect. It simply requires integrations. Integrations allow information to flow seamlessly between systems so that all your technology works together.

When that happens, you can automate mundane processes. You can better personalize your member experience. You can understand trends and insights to guide you in future communications, events, and marketing activities. And you can gain a wealth of knowledge by understanding your data within the context of the greater whole.

Integrations are the golden lacquer to your technology kintsugi. They glue everything together to create a valuable ecosystem that helps your association run smoothly and efficiently.

How Your Members Benefit from Your Well-Integrated Tech Stack

Your members won’t see it, but integrations will impact nearly every interaction they have with your association – from the way they access your platform to what information they see to offline activities like 1-1 calls and virtual, in-person, or hybrid events.

At the most basic level, integrations remove the small annoyances that your members might face today. For example, your members can wave goodbye to multiple logins to access different content, forums, or events. With integrations, you can enable single sign-on.

On a broader scope – and likely to impact their decision to renew their membership – your members can enjoy communications and value-add content that are tailored to their wants and needs. Integrations allow you to use member data to personalize the content they receive (as well as sending it when they want it in the format they want it). This drives engagement and makes members feel like you understand them – something they’ll take note of when their membership is up for renewal.

“Before we moved to our Higher Logic community, we used a series of tools: a library for resources, forum software, and an e-list. We’ve been able to combine everything we need into one by using Higher Logic. Every community has a library, we use daily digests, and we can allow local chapters to have their own committees with boards, committees, and events. It keeps us organized and gives our members many more ways to communicate with each other.”

Timothy Brooks
Director of Membership, American MENSA Ltd.

The benefits go beyond digital interactions as well. Imagine having a full picture of how each member has engaged with you before calling or meeting them. With that context, you could better frame your conversation so that it is more meaningful for both you and your members. This personal touch can drive excitement and loyalty to your association.

Integrations allow you to create a cohesive member-first experience that all works together, rather than fragmented, inconsistent interactions. Integrations allow you to offer your members the final, golden kintsugi pottery, rather than a handful of the broken pieces.

Software Integrations Go Beyond Your Members

If the member-benefits alone aren’t enough to convince you to focus on integrations, then think about this: integrations also benefit you, your team, and the technology that our entire industry uses.

When your technology is well connected, you aren’t locked into any one system for your needs. You can pick and choose best-in-class solutions without worrying about losing data or functionality. For example, you could use one solution or provider for your member community platform, another for your CRM, another for membership billing, one for email campaigns, and yet another for reporting, and send all the data back to your member data platform through integrations.

This approach allows technology providers to improve as well. It means that they don’t need to try to build some monolithic system that tries to do everything and is impossible to maintain. Providers can instead focus on being the best in their respective categories by developing products that are easier to use, more innovative, and better suited for your business needs.

Plus, when you can pick, choose, and plug in new technology, your association becomes much nimbler. Realizing that one application isn’t working? No problem. Remove it and find something better. Have a gap in functionality? Plug in an app to solve it. Member needs change? Change with them. Some entirely new concept gets invented or becomes trendy? No problem, you’re future-proofed. The agility that integrations provide set you up for success, no matter what happens today, tomorrow, or five years from now.

Finally, integrations remove barriers for your team. They can work with the software that they know and love, as well as test out new technology with little to no risk. They can even use connected data to automate many of their tedious, manual tasks. The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA), for example, found that automating and integrating their renewal campaigns slashed staff time spent on renewal campaigns by 50%. Not only that, but it increased the volume of communications by 23% from the previous year, boosting engagement across their email campaigns.

“Automating has made a big difference. Staff time has been saved with the upfront planning we’re now able to do. Our database is live and changes minute to minute. If someone was added to our database yesterday, they are in the campaign today. It is instant, and that is unbelievably important.”

Christine Shupe, Executive Director, VHMA

These efficiencies help your team focus on what matters most – making your members happy.

The Future Technology Setup Is Based on Ancient Art

Associations who want to retain their members, drive engagement, and boost staff morale should look back to look ahead – or look back 400+ years ago. It’s time to smash up your current tech setup and glue it all back together as a shiny new, ecosystem where data flows and software complements each other. It’s time to kintsugi-fy your technology stack.

Jeff Horne

Co-Founder & CEO, Wicket

Jeff Horne is the Co-Founder & CEO of Wicket, and a passionate advocate and change agent for software solutions available to member-driven organizations. Jeff speaks regularly on the power of modern technology for associations and nonprofits and how it can be leveraged to better engage with members, increase member acquisition and create operational efficiencies. Jeff has been working with digital technologies for associations for over 20 years through his work with Industrial, the digital agency he founded in 2000. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @jeffhorne and Wicket at @wicket_io.

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