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HigherLogic and Socious

Online Community Blog

Why Did Socious Create a New Association Management Software Platform?

Posted by Joshua Paul on Wed, Jun 01, 2016 @ 08:00 AM

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Some people think we are crazy.

They say, “Why would you launch an association management software platform in an already crowded market?” There are over 50 businesses that offer membership management tools to associations and user groups. So, why is Socious, who is known for their community building platform and expertise, investing in this space?

The simple answer lies in the modern history of both disruptive technology companies and the association world.

To use the obvious examples, why did Google launch another search engine when everyone was already using sites like Yahoo and Alta Vista?

Why did Apple release the iPhone when Nokia and Motorola dominated the cell phone market?

Why have Uber and Lyft seen meteoric growth when most people were content with taxis?

For years, we have all lived with several truths about association management software - these member database systems that are rooted in tracking member information and dues payments.

  1. They are loaded with features for your staff.
  2. They are relatively expensive, though most member-based organizations don’t use all of the functionality they are paying for.
  3. Integrations are a necessary evil.
  4. Configuring and using your AMS can be complex and time consuming.
  5. Support stinks!

I remember going to a panel discussion at the ASAE Annual Meeting, entitled “Why Associations Hate Their AMS Software.” We believe that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Just like Google, Apple, and Uber, we believe that there is a better way to do things.

That is why Socious launched MemberCloud last week.

If members care about opportunities to learn, advance their careers, and network with their peers, why would associations invest in complex back-end systems that only expose a small number of features to members?

Most membership management software looks like this:

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Since these systems were built as back-end member databases first, most of the tools and functionality are staff oriented with only a few features exposed to members, like the ability to update contact information.

This goes against the priorities of today’s associations and user groups. It is not enough to track where your members live, how to contact them, and if they are current on their dues. Today, value and engagement are major focuses.

Association executives pull their hair out trying to keep members informed and get them to participate in the organization or engage with one another. They know that this is where members get the most value and it is the value of being a member that keeps people paying their dues, attending events, and purchasing products.

In a lot of cases, their technology platforms are working against them to achieve these goals. With association management software, it’s all about the back-end bells and whistles that members can’t see and don’t care about. These platforms don’t serve either your members or your organization when engagement opportunities are an after-thought.

MemberCloud turns that traditional AMS model on its head. While you get all of the efficiency and reporting that you would expect from an association management software platform, MemberCloud gives you more member-facing features than any other association management platform.

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How Do Associations Implement Member-Facing Features Today?

When you want to bolt on a community platform to increase member engagement, you need to integrate your AMS with an online community software platform.

When you want members to be able to access your community, update their membership information, pay dues, or register for an event, you need to code a single sign-on integration connecting your website with all of these systems.

When you want to survey your members or crowdsource ideas, you either have to find tools that integrate with your membership system or spend hours exporting and manipulating data.

These are just a few examples of how associations implement member-facing features.

With MemberCloud, you get all of these features under one roof. You, your volunteers, and your members have one system to learn. You have one support channel when you need help. And most importantly, you have fewer integrations to manage and troubleshoot.

You don’t have to go back and forth between different systems trying to tie bits of data together to do your job. You don’t have to struggle to put your members first. When you use MemberCloud, it is just part of the system.

Watch the MemberCloud Video Tour

What Does It Mean to Put Members First?

For membership professionals, putting members first means taking the time to provide members with extraordinary value.

It means communicating with top-notch, relevant messages. It means placing a premium on building strong relationships with members. And it means continuing to leverage digital tools to increase the impact and awareness of your member benefits.

Your members know if you’re putting them first. They know it from the tone and frequency of your communication, the resources of your website, and the access you give them to peers and experts from their industry.

For Socious, putting members-first means partnering with associations to be the foundation on which they deliver member benefits and keep association members engaged. It means offering dozens of connected tools to give you unprecedented ability to be relevant and human to your members. It means making back-end tasks easier, so that you can spend more time developing reasons for people to join and building stronger relationships.

Why We Don’t Want to Work With All Associations

We understand that not all association executives think this way. Some boards are resistant to new ideas and some association staffs don’t have the capacity to put the emphasis on creating a remarkable member experience. For that matter, some associations are just looking to collect dues for the lowest possible cost.

We respect that and know that member-based organizations are at different places in their lifecycles.

However, we firmly believe that, in a time when members have more access to information and options for networking than at any other time in history, our members-first approach is best for the future and survival of associations and user groups.

Socious’s MemberCloud AMS solution was built specifically for forward-thinking association leaders who approach membership management from a community-building perspective.

You may like parts of the Socious philosophy and platform. However, if you aren’t committed to building community and providing value to your members online, you won’t get the full value from your investment in Socious. We don’t want you to get short-changed, so we’d rather only partner with associations that want to approach membership management from a members-first methodology.

You should not have to set up and maintain multiple integrations to get the core features you need to provide your member benefits and keep members engaged.

For many associations, integrations are a double-edged sword. They give you additional functionality, but when something breaks, you are in a world of trouble.

While integrating best-of-breed systems together is sometimes unavoidable, these integrations are still expensive to set up, challenging to troubleshoot, and often only allow limited types of data to pass between platforms.

What if you didn’t need to string multiple systems together to run your association? What if your staff didn’t need to get trained on multiple tools, all with different navigation and interfaces? What if members could participate in committees, register for events, purchase products, and pay their dues all through one seamless website?

We believe that this is how members and volunteers want their experience with your association to be. We believe that this is how your staff and board want to execute of the stewardship of your organization’s mission.

Associations no longer have to cobble together the best-of-breed membership, CMS, community, and event systems. With Socious’s MemberCloud, they can have all of that functionality in one system.

For months, we debated how to describe MemberCloud because it is more than an AMS. When people think about association management software, they envision membership registration, dues payments, and committee tracking. MemberCloud has all of that, but how do we explain what else we have?

MemberCloud has the features that you wouldn’t expect to have in your AMS, but would love have in your AMS – including your online community, email engine, surveys, website content management, crowdsourcing, conference and speaker management, and many more.

We developed MemberCloud to give you all these functions. And we developed it to eliminate the need to buy these multiple, expensive systems one by one – only to get basic tools and information you need to run your association or user group.

Many of the associations that have switched from other association management software platforms to MemberCloud have not only been able to prioritize their members, they have also saved tens of thousands of dollars by consolidating technology platforms.

Watch the MemberCloud Video Tour

Be More Data-Driven Without Losing Sleep

Providing a more streamlined member experience and reduction in integration fires is actually the icing on the cake.

The real benefit to your organization is the insight into your members and how you can use that data. Since all of your membership and engagement data both live in your MemberCloud platform, you can get actionable insight into your members that wasn’t available to associations until now.

You have the ability know who is engaged and who is not, whether your marketing campaigns are leading to engagement, and which engagement opportunities – from live events to volunteering to community discussions - are resulting in more dollars for your organization.

With new data at your fingertips, you can take action to move people from specific segments of your membership to higher engagement levels and track your success to optimize future investments.

Complex systems that make you work long into the evening or weekend don’t need to be a fact of life.

Socious is located in the gorgeous East Valley of the Phoenix area. From our office, we can see a handful of mountain ranges. Hiking through these trails is one of the things that our team enjoys with friends and family.

The views are a constant reminder that there is and should be life outside of your job. We’ve designed our solutions to make that a reality for our customers.

One of the reasons people dislike association technology is that it is hard to use. It can be complicated to run relevant reports, make changes to websites, and get events set up in time to open registration.

Many association professionals spend hours each week wrestling with their AMS software. These are smart people spending hours on relatively low-level tasks. Some even forgo spending time with family and friends to get their work done because it is difficult to do in their AMS system.

Does that sound like you? We believe that things shouldn’t be that way. Life is too short and association executives know, no matter how you slice it, that it is not the best use of their staff’s time.

What if those people could spend that time building out new member benefits, engaging members, and working on more strategic initiatives for your organization, and still go home to family and friends at a reasonable hour?

That is exactly what we set out to do.

Along with our technology platform, you have the option to get a turnkey virtual AMS administrator to handle your membership management, website, community, and event system – all at your direction.

This is completely new to associations. Our MemberCloud Managed AMS service allows you to be more strategic since you’ll have a highly competent admin doing all of the in-the-trenches AMS work.

Socious is in the unique position to provide both the software that runs your association and the people to collect dues, send out member communication and campaigns, manage your website, and set up your events. In an industry where turnover is rampant, you will also have the fastest, most qualified people adding content to your community, running reports, and managing dues renewals.

If those people have a question about the software, they’ll just go to the other side of the Socious office and ask the people who developed the code or wrote the product training material.

This means that your staff can focus on what matters most – your members.

When it comes to customer support - just because you are working with a technology company, doesn’t mean you need to feel like you are dealing with robots.

In the 14 years that Socious has been serving associations and user groups, our focus has evolved.

Like most companies, we aren’t able to focus on all features and segments of the market at once. Some months, we improve our analytics capabilities. Other times, make our platform easier to use. And there are other times that we focus on streamlining our implementation process for new customers.

However, the one area where our focus has never wavered is customer support.

Much to the delight of people in the association space, where being treated like a number, long waits for simple answers, and inconsistent quality are the norm, we reject traditional support methods.

Our founders’ roots are in consulting, where responsiveness and results determine whether you have an ongoing relationship (and a paycheck). We bring the understanding that we exist as a company because of our customers to every interaction.

Socious has a unique approach to everyday support. If you’re like us, you have never liked impersonal ticketing systems, where you submit a support ticket and then wait for an anonymous support representative to get to it.

Since we don’t like being treated like this, we don’t treat our customers like this.

Instead of calling into a pool of support reps and explaining your situation, you get a dedicated account manager that knows exactly how and why your system is set up.

Simplicity, clarity, and collaboration drive our approach to your success. You can simply ask questions using email. Everyone involved in the project from your organization and your Socious account team can respond via email. This conversational approach makes follow up questions flow much more easily than other support systems.

If you think that a question may have been answered in previous conversations, just check your Socious support portal. All support questions and answers are archived and searchable, alongside all of the documentation for your specific website, community, and membership configuration.

We take your success very seriously, but we also believe that communication is clearer and more efficient if you treat people like people – not accounts or tickets. Each decision we make and every process we put in place is designed around this principle.

We want to make you feel like you’re asking your friend in the cube next to you for help, rather than feeling like it is you against your vendor.

Watch the MemberCloud Video Tour

So, Are We Crazy?

Yes and no.

Acclaimed journalist, David Brooks, once said “Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: The future can be better than the present. And I have the ability to make it so.”

When Thomas Edison first invented the light bulb, people said it would never work.

Anyone that puts all that they have into changing a market, country, or prevailing sentiment starts out feeling a little crazy. But quickly that idea – the idea that things can be improved – gains traction when you couple it with belief in the cause.

What started as a notion that associations don’t have to live with complex, back-end focused technology when all they want to do is provide value to their members and make things easier for their staff, is already starting to move from crazy to a vision for a more effective association.

Over 95 associations and user groups are already using the MemberCloud platform and services to make a difference in the lives of their members and staff.

If you help run a member-based organization and believe in designing your messages, processes, and technology around putting members first, we can show you how easy it can be to make that happen.

Take the MemberCloud Video Tour

In the meantime, let us know what you think about our approach to membership management in the comments below.

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About Socious

We help associations and user groups take a community-first approach to managing their members.

About Socious MemberCloud Association Management Software & Community Platform

Our membership management and online community software is designed to help you provide value to your members, rather than wrestle with complex and expensive back-end systems. Learn more about Socious software and services.

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