Association Tech Selection in the Virtual Age: Bridging the Gaps in the Digital World

As associations adapt to the realities of a permanently virtual world, it’s essential to have the right technologies to support your staff and your members. Take a look at some of the key tools to carry your association forward.

By Joseph Ball – Business Development Manager    

How’s 2021 going so far? For most associations, it’s like 2020—the extended version. Many of us are still working from home. Most of us are planning events that are virtual—or a hybrid, with both in-person and virtual offerings. And we still face the challenge of finding creative ways to engage members and foster community connections across a digital divide.

But this year is in no way a repeat of the last. Over the past months, associations have demonstrated their creativity, resourcefulness and agility. You executed a blindingly fast pivot to transpose in-person elements to virtual platforms. And in the process, you likely discovered strengths you didn’t know you had—and revealed gaps that you now have to bridge.

Many associations have accelerated a digital transformation that was already needed—or already in process. And everyone has realized that the shift to a more virtual member experience is going to be permanent.

Now is the time use what 2020 taught you and add to your playbook. Having the right tech tools is essential.

What Does Digital Transformation Mean? Start Where You Are.

Digital transformation can be any of a range of changes that move your organization toward digital maturity. You may be looking to improve your digital capabilities for a number of reasons. Maybe you need to find technologies that:

  • Replace manual processes and make it easier for your staff to work efficiently
  • Make it easier for members and staff to connect and collaborate
  • Simplify event registration and provide a better attendee experience
  • Enable members to engage with your resources from wherever they are
  • Streamline online purchases to improve your member purchase experience
  • Offer fresh opportunities for partners and exhibitors to connect with your members—and boost your non-dues revenue through their sponsorships

It’s important to understand your needs. Then you must understand how the technologies you’re looking at will help you achieve your goals. You may realize you can move your digital transformation forward by leveraging tools that you already have in new ways. As you look closer, you may find that familiar tools are also stepping up their game to enable the capabilities required in the “new normal.”

Key Technologies to Explore

Fortunately for associations, technology innovations are already available to address critical needs in the virtual world:

  • Communication
  • Engagement
  • Revenue

In our e-book Association Tech Tools for the New Normal, Protech connected with technology partners and association and industry experts to develop a list of tools that you need to embrace.

Workplace collaboration platforms

Just like your members, your staff needs to be able to connect and work from anywhere. Workplace collaboration solutions need to be easy for your teams to use—and also provide the features that they actually need.

For example: Tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Yammer go beyond simple instant messaging to enable better team alignment, real-time connection and enhanced document and project sharing.

Marketing automation

Members expect communications to be relevant to them. An effective automation platform will save your staff countless hours and enable them to customize emails for everything from member renewals to event promotions.

For example:
ClickDimensions, one of our larger partners, offers a communications platform optimized for Microsoft Dynamics 365. They provide practical automation options in an easy-to-learn interface that integrates easily with your Protech AMS.

Online communities

As hybrid events become the norm, members may not want to give up virtual attendance, but they may not have a way to make up for those lost networking connections. An online community provides your members a opportunity to maintain their professional connections—and may provide your association new opportunities for outreach as well.

For example: Opening sections of your online community to the public can help bring in new members. Experiencing the open-access community offering can give prospective members a look at what membership can mean for them.

Mobile apps

Many associations discovered the value of mobile apps for fostering engagements during events. Take that engagement deeper by leveraging your app year-round.

For example: A native mobile app can enable members to register for events and courses, manage their membership, and connect with your teams and other members. Plus, in-app advertising provides a forum for sponsors—and a potential additional revenue source.

Learning management systems

The LMS isn’t a new idea, but associations have seen a dramatic spike in online learning. Ensure your learning programs are scalable by integrating the LMS directly with your AMS.

For example: You’ll dramatically reduce the manual management tasks your staff has to perform and streamline your member’s experience as well. A seamless integration enables your team to automate registrations and confirmations, links accreditation and certification courses with product sales and meeting sessions, and lets members accurately track their education history and progress.

Most important, you need the ability to bring all these tools together to create a positive, easy, seamless online user experience.

Your members are savvy internet users who expect that navigating and using your site will be intuitive—and that you’ll put everything they need at their fingertips. Protech’s MX solution provides that easy interaction through a Member Dashboard. Through a single login, members can:

  • See announcements, notifications and upcoming events
  • View and update their profile
  • See billing notices and make payments
  • Engage with personalized content
  • See featured products—tailored for them—and purchase them

Looking for the Bigger Picture: What’s Next?

What’s the most important tech tool for your association? Likely it’s not one that solves your short-term problems—but instead helps you plan ahead. Business intelligence and analytics tools are indispensable in the digital world.

The most important lesson we learned from 2020 is that we have to be ready for what’s next—whatever that might look like. It’s no longer enough to rely on your team’s instincts to determine your roadmap. You must base your decisions on data.

Fortunately, all the tools you’re using now provide ways to collect data. A robust analytics solution will make that information meaningful.

Find Your Way Forward

Every organization feels its own pressures and seizes opportunity in its own way. But ongoing transformation is essential for keeping your association in step with member needs and enabling you to maintain your position as the trusted leader your space.

If you’re looking for the tools that will help you tackle what’s next, read more in the e-book Association Tech Tools for the New Normal. And feel free to contact your customer success team any time. We’re here to help you move forward.