Affinity is the glue that binds membership together, whether it’s a shared interest or a common goal. From this start point, organizations and associations build their proposition (services and products for example) and decide how they add value to their members’ professional or personal lives. Within the structure of the membership there will be sub-interests or member types and this granularity is as important as the over-arching interest that everyone has. By understanding these shared connections, a stronger and more loyal membership base is achieved.
This article is centred around membership insights for that reason, I want to discuss exactly how to achieve a fully rounded picture of your members to gain insight in order to offer them what they want and then how it can prevent negative aspects of membership management such as churn.
In my last Membership article I focused on how marketing automation best practices can increase personalised approach to your membership communication. But perhaps, what if you feel you don’t know enough about your members in order to start developing or changing a marketing plan?

Using a customer data platform for membership insight

In the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report from Marketing General Incorporated, 18% of respondents cited their biggest internal challenge to growing membership was “membership too diverse, difficulty in meeting needs of different segments” and 10% said that “inadequate research to understand the market” was also a factor.

Shockingly in the same report 20% of membership organizations said that they do not use segmentation of any kind.

A Customer Data Platform (CDP) such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights is designed to build a unified customer database for an organization. A CDP brings together all your transactional, observational, and behavioral data in real time to help you maximize customer lifetime value with unlocked insights based on unified customer profiles.

I love this quote from a recent CDP blog from Shruti Shukla at Microsoft, “Top 3 customer data platform trends for 2021”:

“While empathy has traditionally been limited to in-person interactions, digital empathy requires customer insights.”


Members, like any other customer, are increasingly moving toward digital channels and this “digital transformation” of our world impacts on our ability to communicate with each other, but as businesses it presents challenges as well as opportunities. It can bring us closer together if we do it well.

This is why customer data platforms are proving so useful in today’s non-linear and omni-channel world, the need to remain close to customers no matter how or where we connect with them.

Think about how much data is being generated as a member moves between channels: attending a physical event, registering for a webinar, visiting a website page, commenting on your social media post or renewing their subscription. They are doing these actions through a variety of channels, in turn managed most probably by a variety of applications within your organization or even outsourced.

This creates a mixture of behavioural, transactional and observational data. (Simply: who, what, why, how, and when). How, as a membership organization are you handling this information? Is it in one place, i.e. do you hold a truly single customer view?

It is all layers that build up a richer picture of a member. The key is to bring it all together. And once you understand one member, you can then not only provide a more relevant and personalised value offering and communication approach, but you start to spot trends amongst your membership in order to strengthen connections across the base.
This is your affinity.

How to minimize risks such as membership churn through insight

Churn is the number of members that stop paying for your products and services in a given period of time.
According to the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report from Marketing General Incorporated, the top 3 reasons for members not renewing their membership are:

  1. Lack of engagement with the organization (43%)
  2. Budget cuts/economic hardship of company (29%)
  3. Could not justify membership costs with any significant ROI (28%)

Churn rate is one of the fundamental metrics that indicate a membership organization’s health. Members churn for different reasons (as above) and at different times of their membership lifecycle, so the key is to identify these in order to act early on.

Your churn rate is not the same as your renewal rate but is an evolving picture over time, based on behaviours and is often specific to your own member organization. Do not leave it until the start of your renewal effort cycle (typically 3 months before the end of the subscription term) in order to figure out why members are cancelling or lapsing. puts it:

“Above all, to avoid churn, we must have a deep understanding of their customers’ actions and know what keeps them coming back for more. Data is at the heart of this understanding.”

So, because churn is based on behaviour over time, using a Customer Data Platform approach, which unifies all your member data, you can identify which members are at risk of leaving. Now with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that uses innovative techniques of machine learning to spot at-risk members, maximize customer lifetime value, and use next best action recommendations. All based on the data flowing into the CDP.

Bringing insight into a membership management solution

These key reasons are why Prodware offer a member insight package with our Membership solution, we have found that member organizations and associations who have (or want to develop) a richer and deeper value proposition to their members, need this level of understanding.

Talk to me if you are on such a journey of understanding and I can help you to discover, map and leverage the rich data you hold in order to achieve long-lasting membership growth.

Article initially published on LinkedIn