How to approach a new membership website project
The aim: Deliver engaging member experiences
Membership organisations planning upgrades to their website need to make member experience their priority.
Increasing member engagement is the top goal in 2017 according to the Memberwise Digital Excellence research report. Your members expect, and deserve, optimised online experiences and a high level of digital self-service.
The problem: Many membership CRM tools are not up to the job
Inadequate online member self-service is the key challenge facing membership organisations in 2017 according to the Memberwise report:
“The key challenges in the sector are the multiple databases and data silos, inadequate integration of membership management systems (CRM/databases) and website content management systems (CMS) and inadequate online member self-service options.” Memberwise Digital Excellence research report 2017
This is because many membership databases / CRMs simply aren’t up to the job.
On-premise membership management systems date from the pre-Internet age. Their integration with other tools such as websites, email marketing and payment systems is, therefore, significantly more complicated and costly. Web components offered by on-premise vendors are often expensive, poorly implemented and lag far behind digital leaders.
Organisations who have attempted to deliver modern digital services around an older, unsuitable database face multiple challenges:
- Data becomes split across different systems with infrequent and difficult synchronisation. Data silos and ‘race conditions’ (where the same data has been updated in different places between synchronisations) can occur.
- Access to your data (if provided) is almost always at the field-level rather than at the transaction level. Transactions such as creating a new membership thus require several queries and data changes to complete. This makes integrations much more expensive to implement and more error prone as some steps may encounter issues. The result is increased manual efforts and significant limitations to the member experiences you can offer.
- Any remote access to the data is via your office internet connection rather than to a dedicated data centre. This is unreliable, again increasing support costs and manual efforts.
In summary, trying to use a system that was not originally designed for online integration is always going to present difficulties. Resources that could be used for innovation, optimisation and growth are diverted into managing these challenges.
The answer: Build a native digital platform
Enabling robust, integrated digital services requires a shift in thinking from ‘the website’ to your wider digital platform. This digital platform needs to include a native online membership database.
All-in-one systems hold you back
It can be tempting to seek a single system for your website content, membership management records and associated tasks such as events, commerce and email marketing.
The problem with the single system approach is these components have different lifespans. ‘Systems of innovation’ (e.g. your website and workflows) change more frequently than ‘systems of record’ (e.g. membership databases, accounting tools). With all-in-one packages, systems of record have to be replaced unnecessarily early and/or systems of innovation start to lag behind.
All-in-one systems also limit your options. You’re restricted to what that one supplier can provide. It’s very unlikely that every part of an all-in-one system will keep pace with specialist alternatives. When better services come along (e.g. GoCardless for Direct Debits) it’s harder (or impossible) for you to take advantage of them.
The digital platform approach
Using a combination of digital tools and services to create your own digital platform is the way forward. This approach lets you exploit the offerings of several providers, each expert in their own field. Components can be changed in isolation, significantly reducing risks and costs.
You may have concerns about managing the different parts of your own digital platform. That’s where Tall Projects comes in. We know the workflows and integrations that work, as well as those that don’t. Think of us as your integration partner. We enable you to realise the benefits of a digital platform approach while managing the difficult bits for you.
WordPress is our choice of content management system (CMS) for your website. WordPress offers a familiar interface to content managers along with almost unlimited flexibility.
- Membership management covering:
- Joining, renewals and lapsing
- Membership plans where a person or an organisation is the member
- Multiple memberships and membership types per person / organisation
- Linked members on a single membership
- Broadcast and transactional emails associated with membership activities
- Contact management (GDPR compliant)
- Event, booking and venue management
- Fundraising management, including Gift Aid claims
- Comprehensive reporting and data export options to enable data-driven decision making.
We work very closely with Sheep and our experience helps shape the Sheep product and roadmap. Most importantly, Sheep integrates directly with best-of-breed third-party services – including WordPress – to deliver the engaging online experience and self-service members expect and deserve.
What we do
Tall Projects specialises in optimising member experience for membership organisations. If you’re interested in the digital platform approach, we’d love to speak with you.
We understand price – or more accurately value for money – is important. Our approach of using proven web-native tools to build the digital platform you need ensures we capitalise on existing technology. You also avoid the large, hidden costs associated with legacy data systems and the limitations they impose.
Talk to us so we can plan, implement, maintain and optimise a digital platform that truly delivers on your strategic objectives.