AMS vs. CRM: Integrating Strategy and Software

AMS vs. CRM… which does your association really need?

By: The Protech Team    

Our staff has the privilege of working with professional and trade associations every day. And occasionally, we hear nonprofit professionals use the terms association management software (AMS) and customer relationship management (CRM) interchangeably, which clouds the benefits of an AMS built on top of a CRM platform. 

This misunderstanding also reveals itself during meetings with your board of directors, when you can’t adequately explain the specific functions you and your colleagues need in a software solution.  

So, to help clear up confusion, here’s a breakdown of AMS and CRM, and how integrating the two optimizes your association’s database infrastructure. 

What is CRM? 

It’s easier to explain AMS by first understanding CRM. So let’s start there. 

AWes Trochlil of Effective Database Management points out, “CRM is not a functionality or a technology; it is a strategy and philosophy. At the center of this philosophy is the customer.” This same idea is also explained at CIO.com –  

One of the most important things to keep in mind about a CRM system is that it is ultimately less important than the data you put into it. That’s one reason to think of CRM as a philosophy and set of practices for recording data about customer interactions, not just a software package you buy. 

You might be asking yourself, “Wait, I thought CRM is the platform I use to look up accounts and contact records of my members?” And, you’d be right. 

Technology giants like Microsoft, Oracle and SAP frequently tout their enterprise CRM technology, which drove the global market value to $40 billion in 2018, according to Investopedia. However, keep in mind that unless you have an experienced developer of that system, the benefits your association will gain is limited 

Why Does Your Association Need a CRM? 

It’s no coincidence that nonprofits prioritize the online member experience. It’s a data-driven decision. According to SuperOffice CRM86 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience, customercentric companies are 60 percent more profitable, and 1 in 3 customers will leave a brand they love after just one negative experience. 

But without the AMS working alongside your CRM, you’d be missing many of the membership-oriented benefits that help keep those negative experiences at bay. Which means you won’t be able to perform many of the following functions: 

  • Scale operations as your association grows 
  • Automate customer-facing business processes 
  • Optimize member engagement and customer service  
  • Implement business intelligence and analytics tools 
  • Provide revenue projections for executives 
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) 
  • Score your leads (prospective members) 
  • Implement geolocation technology 
  • Human resource management 
  • Implement marketing automation tools 
  • Implement artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and robotic process automation (RPA) tools 
  • Access data through mobile devices 
  • Social networking integrations 
  • Field services automation 

If your association considers itself to be an enterprise organization, then your AMS needs to have a fully functioning CRM to handle these administrative tasks. These data points will give your association a better view of your members. 

What is AMS? 

Generally speaking, AMS refers to the technologies, business tools and services that a nonprofit utilizes to manage and leverage data to make business decisions. In a post from Capterra, AMS can be used for generating mail lists, organizing events, tracking the interests of members and donors, and sending out mass emails to your lists.” 

With an AMS, your association can: 

Having an AMS without a CRM, or vice-versa, means your association will lack crucial data points that provide your staff with a clear picture of who your members are, what they do and what they expect in their association experience. 

(If you’re interested in learning more about association management softwareor Microsoft Dynamics CRM, contact us for a consultation)

Benefits of a CRM-based AMS for Associations 

In a recent blog post by HighRoad Solutionstheir team suggested that your staff can use AMS data to help identify leads in your CRM, improve product offerings on your website with CRM data highlighting how long a member was online, and streamline marketing automation.

One application of this is during the onboarding process. When someone signs up, they usually need some assistance in getting to know the products and services that come as part of their membership. Bombarding them with information on the first day is counter-productive. Instead, you might automate the process of sending them introductory emails at regular intervals over the first few weeks, with information about how to get started in the community. 

An AMS solution with CRM capabilities will give you access to the right tools to handle core tasks, and provide add-on components and configurations with third party applications that you need. In other words, your team can fill any gaps in your current technology stack. 

Additional Resources on AMS vs. CRM 

Take a look at some other sources on AMS and CRM here:  

Association Management Software vs. Mainstream Alternatives: Which is Best? By HighRoad Solutions 

What is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System? By Hitachi Solutions 

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) by Search Customer Experience 

Why the Growing Interest in CRM Solutions for Associations by WBT Systems

Closing Thoughts 

The AMS and CRM markets continue to grow with enterprise technology companies investing billions of dollars in cloud computing functionality and big data integrations. Knowing how CRM and AMS data interact with each other will allow you and your colleagues to drive digital transformation at your association.  

Looking to learn more on how AMS and CRM data operates in the cloud? Read our blog, “Why Your Nonprofit Needs to Embrace True Cloud Computing.”