Velir has learned a thing or two about how associations provide value from working with over two dozen associations on large digital initiatives. They often offer member value in tangible ways through networking events, advocacy, or certifications. But we’ve learned that offering these services isn't enough. You need to deliver them to the right members at the right time within the context of their needs and past behavior.

This hit home recently when we heard the following anecdote from one of our clients. In a conversation with one of their members, the member said, "I've been a member for over 10 years, but you don't seem to know me that well.” Because our client took that comment to heart, it started an important discussion relevant to any association: How well do you know your members and how well do your communications reflect your knowledge? Fortunately, in the last five years, there have been significant advances in marketing technologies that address both aspects of this question.

Question

Answer

How well do you know your members?

Customer Data Platform

Does your communication reflect that knowledge?

Personalization

 

We'll explore these questions to uncover what a Customer Data Platform is and how it can help associations like yours offer members value through more personalized experiences.

What is a Customer Data Platform?

The term Customer Data Platform (CDP) has, for the last several years, caused quite a bit of confusion. This is understandable because it's a newer technology that combines the features of more established technologies such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and marketing automation platforms. The problem a CDP is trying to solve, however, is very straightforward: Centralize all customer data points to act on that data.

There is a broadly accepted definition of a CDP that's been defined by the CDP Institute. It lays out three minimum requirements that a platform must satisfy to be labeled as CDP:

  • It must be packaged software (as opposed to custom-built software)
  • It must create a persistent, unified customer database
  • It must be accessible to other systems

It's not enough for a platform to meet these requirements in a trivial way, it must directly address them. Yes, a CRM or AMS system may make its data accessible to other systems, but is it built from the ground up with this intention in mind?

The reason CDP's have gained so much popularity lately is because marketers realized that when they prioritize gathering and connecting first-party customer data, they can break down information silos, make connections, and deliver personalized customer experiences that were previously impossible. CDPs provide the infrastructure to create transformational experiences for your members.

How Does a Customer Data Platform Work for an Association?

A CDP sits in the center of your marketing stack, collecting data from other systems and allowing you to act on that data. Until recently, the Association Management System (AMS) has often held this distinguished position. But to achieve the benefits that a CDP provides, an AMS often falls short in a few areas.

First, an AMS keeps track of one membership ID, its own. This means that you're on your own if you want to join data across systems. By contrast, a CDP is built from the ground up to collect and merge IDs from multiple systems including community platforms, email platforms, social media platforms, and apps.

Second, an AMS doesn’t prioritize sharing membership data with other systems. There may be an interface for retrieving member data, but there aren't turn-key integrations with common platforms such as Facebook Ads, SalesForce, Google Analytics or Marketo.

Based on CDP capabilities, Velir's CDP solution architecture often looks like this:

A chart illustrating Customer Data Platform's relationship to Paid Media, Event Management, Marketing Automation, etc.

Customer Data Platforms orchestrates data flow and unify/de-dupe IDs from all systems.

The CDP shuttles data across systems and maintains an up-to-date view of all member profile and event data. In this way, a CDP multiplies the effectiveness of other systems by ensuring that there is equal access to member data across your entire marketing technology stack.

How Does a Customer Data Platform Offer Value?

Whether or not a CDP is right for your organization depends on the value you can provide members and potential members. This calculation is one that Velir can help you work out, but here are a few examples of how members benefit when an association brings a CDP online:

  • Event recommendations tailored to past event attendance - Does your email system know what events your members have registered for or attended in the past? If it does, you avoid emailing about events they've already registered for and fine-tune future recommendations based on past attendance.
  • Data-based renewal reminders - Do you know the optimal timing and frequency of renewal reminders? With a 360-degree view of your members, you can track detailed interactions from email clicks to website renewal page visits to understand which communications drive renewals.
  • Membership tier upgrade offers - Does your website understand the right time to upsell to your members? When your website has access to a member's membership tier and past behavior, you can find the right time and context to demonstrate the value they'll receive through an upgrade. This might be right after they viewed a piece of locked content, or before an upcoming event available to premium members only.
  • Lookalike audiences - Does your paid media system understand what an ideal member looks like? CDPs can calculate the lifetime value of your members and help to convert high-value members into lookalike audiences for advertising purposes. This ensures that the most valuable potential members will see your message.
  • Emails that show you know your members - Does your email system have access to everything you know about your members?  If so, you can generate messages that make longstanding members feel like your understanding of them has grown as their commitment to your association has grown. Dispense with one-size-fits all messages and demonstrate that you know what advocacy issues they support, what learning materials they need, and what types of events they prefer.

This list of benefits grows longer as you collect more data from your users. Fortunately, associations are awash in member data which means there are plenty of opportunities to personalize experiences and increase member engagement. Customer Data Platforms are undoubtedly a key piece of that puzzle.

 Read more of our thoughts about associations and see how we help association clients.