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MemberWise Digital Excellence conference review

It was pitch black as I crept out the house in the early hours of Halloween and set off to the MemberWise Digital Excellence conference in London.

I admit I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect, and had a slight fear I was in for a day of adverts and self-congratulatory presentations.

My fear was totally unfounded.

There was an open, welcoming atmosphere throughout the day. The sessions and attendees were authentic. It was an environment of supportive collaboration and information sharing.

Here are my key takeaways:

Keep project discovery and delivery separate

Digital transformation projects – and indeed any organisational changes – usually start with the realisation:

“We know we need to do something, but we don’t know what.” Aimee Bates, British Parking Association

It’s important to recognise the initial lack of information.

Start with a separate piece of discovery work to understand what the challenges and requirements really are. Tools such as personas and membership journey mapping can help here.

Keep an open mind as to how the needs can be met.

This recommendation was reiterated in the sessions from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and National Landlords Association.

Only once the real requirements are understood should we move onto project scoping and delivery. And even then, don’t expect them to remain static....

Plan for, and embrace, the inevitable change

The sessions from the Youth Hostel Association, Caravan and Motorhome Club (formerly the Caravan Club) and the National Landlords Association really highlighted how important it is for membership organisations to adapt to meet the changing needs and profiles of their members.

Change cannot be avoided or ignored. It is inevitable.

Organisations need to change to remain relevant. Hannah Ridler explained how the Caravan and Motorhome Club decided to rename, rebrand and adapt their offerings to reflect broader changes in society. A shift from caravan ownership to a desire to access the outdoors has led to the introduction of new services and a ‘pay-as-you-go’ membership offer.

Projects will change too. Even if the planning is perfect, new ideas and information will come to light during delivery and usage.

Change has to be expected, whether you like it or not.

With suitable process and a culture of collaboration, change can be successfully managed and embraced to better serve our members.

GDPR (and ePR) will change the way we work, but it’s not a disaster

A big change looming on the horizon is the implementation of GDPR on 25 May 2018. It was no surprise to see a whole track dedicated to the subject.

Ed Boal from Gregg Latchams gave an informative session packed with useful – and practical – insights:

A useful reminder is that there should be no surprises:

“If a member would be surprised by what you’re doing with their personal information then something has gone wrong.”

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Many membership organisations suffer by exposing internal complexity to members and prospects.

This was brilliantly, and honestly, illustrated in the session by Jon Smith of the Youth Hostel Association. He compared the YHA’s complex membership offer with their rising competitor’s AirBnB.

Comparison of the YHA’s joining process with AirBnB’s
Comparison of the YHA’s joining process with AirBnB’s

Interestingly, both Jon from the YHA and Nick David from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society posed the same question:

“What would we do if we were building a new organisation?”

This is great advice, and something I’ll be using time and again.

Summing up…

It was held on Halloween, but there were no demons at this conference.

I found a great collaborative experience that reaffirmed my approach to membership technology, and reminded me why I enjoy working in the membership sector so much.

Thank you to Richard Gott and his team.

Graphic recording by Chapple Cartoons.