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Do you remember as a child playing with paint by numbers or color by numbers activities?

You had a picture that was divided into small sections. Each section was white and listed a number. A legend showed that each number corresponded to a specific color. You were to then shade or paint that area with the appropriate color. Once completed you had a full color picture.

As you got older, math teachers used similar activities that had math equations in each section instead of a number. You had to add, subtract, multiply or divide to get the correct number. Then you used the legend to match the number to the appropriate color. If you didn’t solve the equation correctly, you arrived at the wrong number and shaded that section with an incorrect color. It wasn’t until you completed all the equations and shaded every section that you would see which areas were incorrect. The colors didn’t fit within the entire picture. It looked off-kilter.

So did those numbers really matter? Seriously, did those numbers actually matter to solve the puzzle of the color picture? Or were you like me and changed the legend so that the numbers corresponded to a different color than what was originally identified? I might make all greens pink, or the reds brown. My end result looked like a piece of modern surrealistic art. Yeah, I broke the rules and made it into my own gaming experience. My finished products looked way cooler than the homogenous, standard pictures of everyone else. And my color by numbers stood out and got more attention.

So, I’m not sure numbers matter. Except when they do.

It’s what the numbers represent that matters. It’s what the numbers tell us that matters. It’s what the numbers measure that matters. It’s the insights that we pull from collecting, storing, reviewing, comparing and analyzing those numbers that matters.

We have to get better at extracting value from those numbers, the raw data. Numbers—or data–are like the raw materials or resources that we can mine for valuable insights that will drive our business growth.

The Association Strategic Scorecard: Changing What Numbers We Track

Did you see the movie Moneyball starring Brad Pitt? The Oakland Athletics baseball management started using a different set of numbers to measure if they were investing in the right players to help them win games. They dropped the traditional baseball metrics of number of RBIs, homeruns, pitcher wins and batting averages and turned to statistics with strange acronyms like WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) and WAR (wins above replacement).

The outcome? Baseball teams—like the Oakland A’s, Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, and San Francisco Giants to name a few—that embraced these advanced statistics dominated baseball. Most of baseball has now adopted these advanced metrics to track a strategic scorecard.

Today, association leaders are turning to advanced metrics to track their own strategic scorecard.

Most association leaders are well-versed in tracking historical data—number of members, retention rate, annual meeting attendance, number of annual meeting sponsors, annual meeting sponsorship totals, number of exhibitors and number of members volunteering. Today it is important to identify trends from those numbers and what they mean for the association’s future. Pinpointing leading indicators can help association leadership make good decisions about possible future occurrences.

Here are some advanced metrics that association leaders should track for growth and effectiveness.

Big-Picture, Eagle’s Eye, Helicopter View Questions to Consider First

First you’ll want to revisit some big-picture, helicopter view, questions to gain strategic insight about your association. Questions like:

  • What is the purpose of our association?
  • If our association did not exist, would the industry, profession or general membership even notice the void? If not, why not?
  • What problems do we solve for our customers?
  • How does our association describe the solution-services we offer?
  • How do we describe the value we bring to our membership? Or what is our membership value proposition?

Questions to Ask about the Association’s Data Gathering And Strategic Insights Process

Then consider if your association is tracking the right data. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Who is our target market for our association products and services?
  • Despite successful association marketing efforts in leveraging customer intelligence and insights to optimize marketing engagement campaigns, how well is our marketing customer intelligence being leveraged to drive sales enablement?
  • How well is our closure and conversion rates with programs and products like annual meeting registration, association sponsorship, percentage of new members, those members attending an annual meeting that first attended a hybrid meeting?
  • How effective is our association at reaching key member decision leaders—those that control the purse strings and have authority to say no or yes?
  • Does our front line association team have access to the right level of customer and membership intelligence that can drive opportunities and create reasons to engage in order to achieve association growth?

Often time, the association’s inability to connect the front line with the bottom line is due to the fact association staff and leaders are not using their association management system (AMS) effectively. Or the raw data and numbers are stored in separate databases that don’t talk to each other. To paraphrase a Tom Siebel mantra: “If it didn’t happen in our AMS, it didn’t happen.”

If the AMS is not equipped with relevant and sales-driving data, it is simply another example of sales-forced automation. It is not an enabling tool getting the right information, intelligence and insights into the hands of the most critical touch points across the entire customer experience. The disconnect between critical intelligence and insights create damaging gaps in the data picture, delivering partial pictures of customers to a small segment of the front-line team and executive level association leaders that most heavily impact the customer experience. This intelligence gap increases when considering that even the limited numbers delivered through current systems is not accessible in a format that is most immediately relevant to the user.

The Opportunity before Associations

While the association outlook regarding data and insights may look rather bleak, the opportunity to improve is obvious and does not require a costly master data management overhaul. Using EventsAir AMS, association leaders and staff can commit to applying big data and customer intelligence to improve overall growth and effectiveness. EventsAir also has additional resources that can help—tutors and external aids to help improve performance, quality and quantity of actionable intelligence.

Association staff, board of directors and leadership need to truly understand their customers’ business issues and become a trusted advisor. They must help their customers figure out problems that they may not even know they have—before their competitors. While most associations have a strong foundation of membership account records, they can begin to integrate other types of data and analytics needed to be more effective with marketing and selling to their customers and prospects. Once associations do that can optimize their marketing, sales and service campaigns to uncover hidden opportunities, increase the pipeline, improve retention and drive growth.

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