December 14th, 2018 / Insight posted in Articles

Is your organisation digitally fit for the future?

Getting fit isn’t just good for individuals; organisations like yours also need to ensure that they are ‘fit for the future’.

Digitalisation is all around us. We interact through smart phones and online; social media keeps us connected with those we know, but also increasingly with those we have never met; and we have instant access to information that allows us to compare products and services in a way that was not possible even just a few years ago.

This shifts choice and power towards the consumer and away from organisations, and creates an increasingly competitive market place. This has significant implications for membership organisations who need to be digitally savvy in communicating and engaging with current and prospective members in a way that demonstrates real and lasting value. Members will otherwise look elsewhere and loyalty is unlikely to hold much sway with younger generations who are your future members.

On the plus side, digitalisation provides fantastic opportunities and new ways to reach out and engage with members more widely and quickly than ever before. To remain relevant, you will need to challenge your organisation’s accepted way of working and unleash the capabilities of the digital future.

Harnessing digitalisation for positive change
The pace of digital change can appear daunting and it seems hardly a week goes by without the launch of a new social media channel or app that lets us do something we had never even thought of doing before. To stay relevant, it is important to acknowledge that a digitally savvy membership is different to those you might have appealed to in the past.

It is now an accepted part of any organisation’s marketing strategy that they must share knowledge and insight for free on their websites and social media platforms. There are also web forums on virtually any subject. With this wealth of free digital information, why should your membership pay for the privilege of access via your organisation? You have to clearly demonstrate the value of membership but equally you should also be considering the opportunities to be gained by embracing an element of free digital access and communication with your members.

For example, digital engagement allows for:

  • Connection to a wider audience than before, opening up your access to new interest groups on a global basis and reducing costs by eliminating postal charges
  • Engagement with more members than at a physical event where location limits attendees
  • Engendering a feeling of inclusion and belonging for members through online participation and an opportunity for members to talk to each other as well as to the organisation itself
  • Sharing of ideas and content and increasing the ability to influence, with members contributing ideas and inspiration
  • New routes to communication such as ‘chat box’ conversations which collect useful data (using artificial intelligence) on common themes and trends as well as allowing for routine queries to be dealt with efficiently with limited human intervention
  • Learning and qualification opportunities using online training and examination facilities.

Membership organisations have a vital role when it comes to knowledge sharing. As well as disseminating information, the role should include curating, moderating and encouraging debate amongst members as well as inviting industry experts to participate in discussion.

The extent to which this is free to access is one that needs careful consideration and should be regularly visited over time.

The biggest change being embraced currently by many membership organisations is in the use of e-learning modules, videos and similar to train and share knowledge with and beyond their membership base. This digital approach allows for easy access to training and examinations in a user-friendly way that meets the members’ needs while being cheaper to roll out to a wider audience than more traditional learning routes. Membership organisations cannot afford to fall behind their competitors.

Gaining value through digitalisation
Enhancing digital platforms not only gives membership organisations the route to deliver an enhanced, focused, valued offering to their members, it also enables them to gather useful data on their members. This can ultimately improve the services they provide. Information can be used to observe trends in members’ use of particular services, gain feedback on services and satisfaction and build a clear picture of what members want.

Artificial intelligence methods are already being used by many organisations to analyse information about customer behaviours and trends, and to make connections between data sources. It can help you provide better value to your members.

For example, behavioural data on ‘click through’ and ‘open’ rates on your website will allow you to establish which news articles are most interesting to your members. By focusing more on these topics of interest, you can attract greater engagement in e-newsletters and other communication forms. This in turn can also be used to provide information on other offers or services to your members.

Get your digital ducks in a row
Kingston Smith Association Management (KSAM) is one of the largest and most established association management firms in the UK. We’ve been helping organisations like yours meet their governance and compliance obligations for more than 20 years.

We can help you define your digital transformation through powerful and effective solutions to keep you digitally fit. We can review your current approach with a view to increasing the effective use of outcomes from digital engagement opportunities.

We can also advise on specific aspects of data regulation that go hand in hand with the collection, use and storage of members’ personal data. This includes compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is already in force and the upcoming EU Regulation, expected in 2019, and replaces the current 2002 (as amended in 2009) ePrivacy Directive. This new regulation aims to reinforce trust and security in the digital market and will affect, among other things, the use of cookies on websites and consent requirements for telemarketing communications.

Organisations need to spend time investing in their websites and databases to be sure they are compliant with constantly changing regulations as well as maximising the use of the digital environment to improve performance and increase revenues while managing costs.