How using data to build member profiles and create relevant customer segments can increase marketing effectiveness
Even though we are seeing some growth in the economy, membership organisations are as ever concerned about withstanding the cutbacks in corporate budgets and pressures on individuals’ discretionary spend. The corporate cutbacks implemented during the recessionary economic climate have become ‘business as usual’ and continue to present the knock-on effects to professional bodies and membership organisations while the reduced individual spend is continuing to restrict personal memberships, meaning even greater competition for share of wallet. It is essential, therefore, for membership organisations to be in a position to address their own business imperatives like pre-empting churn by knowing which members are less likely to renew their subscriptions, determining propositions to help withstand reduced demand for products and services or perhaps strategies for reversing the slowdown in recruitment of new members. Practically all will need direction on how to improve the effectiveness of marketing activity.
The solution lies in leveraging probably one of the most valuable assets of the organisation. By maximising the use of its database an organisation can turn it into a powerful marketing tool. What one knows about members can help drive a better understanding of how they use and value their membership, leading to more relevant, tailored or personalised communications, better management of the relationship and increased loyalty.
The organisation will have membership data. Some organisations will have customer or membership relationship management (CRM or MRM) systems with all data in one place. More likely is the scenario where some may be held in central systems whilst more is held in additional departmental data repositories like standalone databases or as spreadsheets. Whilst we will consider the introduction of MRM or CRM solutions in part two of this paper, irrespective of the technology the immediate objective is to turn all that data into information and that information into knowledge or insight.
The key lies in bringing together into a single view everything you know or could know about your members, prospective members, customers and other constituents, their activities, actions, purchases and behaviour. Through analysis, this will reveal who is active and who is dormant, who will only ever remain a customer for publications and training, who attends events and participates in branch affairs and when and to which campaign they have responded. It can also help determine who your next contingent of advocates may be.
Along with basic personal information, other qualifying data such as gender, age, occupation and professional qualifications are likely to be stored. Ideally the organisation will also have access to details of their behaviour, such as renewal history, event attendance, training, subscriptions and other expenditure and contact history.
There is, however, no substitute for accurate, high quality, robust and reliable data; when aiming to access the elements that go to deliver the profile of a constituent it’s the quality that will determine how much of a grey guide or ‘black & white’ specific answer can be reached.
It is essential that the data is assessed before any analytics are applied. Inaccurate data will skew the results, so it is important that there is at least awareness of the inaccuracies to help in the interpretation of the outcome.
Building profiles of the constituents will reveal how long a member stays loyal and what might be done to pre-empt churn.
It will facilitate the building of predictive models and identify the communities – the segments within the membership base, for one-to-one marketing.
Whilst most people see the benefit of segmentation, the challenge is often how the segments should be defined. One may segment, for example, geographically, by demographics, by professional qualifications or by behaviour. I suggest a combination of all of them.
Equipped with the kind of data mentioned above one can start revealing important measures. Start with trying to understand the level of engagement by assessing which of your services and products the member has used or encountered. Then evaluate how many have availed themselves of the various combinations on offer. The table below shows an example of this.
This is the same concept that we have come to recognise when buying consumer products on-line, often referred to as ‘The Amazon Effect’ – the helpful hints that tell us that people who have bought the book we are looking at have also bought these other titles, green socks and a set of gardening implements. It is known as ‘market basket analysis’ and is a totally valid model across any combination of goods or services.
The next most interesting insight is usually revealed when the organisation management considers the outcome of the analysis. This is where they apply tacit knowledge – the experiences and understanding that exists within the minds of the people who run the organisation. Using this to interpret the outcome of these analyses is the tipping point between information and true knowledge.
Gaining insight into members, customers and other contacts will help a membership organisation understand who the ‘best’ members are, what opportunities exist, how to hold on to them and find more like them. Insight also provides the other side of the coin: who the ‘worst’ are and what they are costing in lost opportunity so that they and others like them may be avoided in the future.
To provide a complete profile one must include a view of the attitudes and aspirations that drive their membership decisions – the psychographic dimension.
This can be achieved through fusing the outcome of targeted market research survey data, revealing the hearts and minds of the members, with the analysis of member and customer involvement acquired through tracking behaviour across all of the points of contact. The enhanced profiles created can be used to determine how best to manage the relationship, pre-empt churn or to determine if they are merely approaching a major milestone in their membership such as a membership level that requires examination or CPD audit and which has traditionally been a jump-off point for members like them.
Having insight into what motivates their behaviour can be used to generate a relevant communication, dynamically drive the content for a digitally produced newsletter or even direct that member to the right web page or telephone agent as part of a strategy to retain their membership or upgrade into a new level of membership.
So, we have established the importance of bringing together all the data about members and customers into a single view for analysis to drive a better managed relationship, resulting in increased loyalty and reduced churn.
What is determined about current members can also be applied to prospecting. By applying the profile knowledge to new applicants, the organisation can be better prepared for what kind of member the new applicant is likely to be and so drive a nurturing programme or member journey that is personalised.
Now entering the broader realm of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Member Relationship Management (MRM), we encounter a concept that relies on a culture that puts the constituent at the heart of all processes, communications and policies.