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. This is a common misconception that clouds the real benefits that an AMS built on top of a CRM platform can bring to associations.
This misunderstanding often reveals itself during meetings with boards of directors, when team members can’t adequately explain the specific functions the organization needs in a software solution. And without a clear idea of exactly what is required, securing buy-in for new or upgraded tools becomes a much more difficult task.
To help clear up this confusion, we’ve prepared a breakdown of AMS and CRM platforms, their benefits, and how integrating the two optimizes your association’s database infrastructure:
- What is AMS Software?
- What is CRM Software?
- How AMS and CRM Work Together to Optimize Operations
- The Protech Approach: CRM-Based AMS for Associations
Read on to learn more about how the right association software systems can strengthen your own organization. Let’s begin by diving into the basics of AMS systems.
What is AMS Software?
Generally speaking, association management software (AMS) refers to the technologies, business tools, and services that an association utilizes to manage and leverage data for decision-making. For example, Capterra describes how AMS systems 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:
- Streamline workflows
- Automate daily administrative tasks for your staff
- Deeply engage with members through community forums
- Maintain website development
- Organize e-commerce history of your members (including subscriptions)
- Organize committee and chapter management tasks
- Create exhibit, sponsorship and advertising services
- Integrate learning management systems (LMS) for education and professional development for your members
- Develop fundraising channels and organize volunteer management services
- Integrate with financial management systems for seamless accounting functions
- Create surveys
- Support job boards
- Integrate with social media platforms
- Create interactive events for your members
- Develop mobile apps
Think of AMS software as the member-facing system that not only helps you to strategize your different campaigns and events, but also provides an interface for your members to interact with. If you’re interested in learning more about association management software contact us for a consultation.
What is CRM Software?
Customer relationship management (CRM) software refers to the tools and strategies that organizations use to store interaction data and strengthen relationships with their target customers, members, or supporters. For example, CRM systems can store your members’ engagement histories data, which can then be used in targeted marketing campaigns.
However, CRM isn’t just a kind of software for associations — it’s a broader way of thinking about your members and where they fit into your operations.
As Wes 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 the CRM is the platform I use to look up accounts and contact records of my members?” And, you’d be right.
However, making the most of CRM software requires that you truly understand both the technology itself and the philosophy behind it. This helps to ensure organization-wide adoption, allows you to customize the software to fit your needs, and enables you to fit it into your broader member engagement and acquisition strategies.
Any CRM, especially those at the enterprise level, can be complicated and need dedicated attention and support, such as an experienced system developer, to start generating value.
Why Does Your Association Need a CRM?
It’s no coincidence that businesses and nonprofits alike prioritize the online experiences they offer. It’s a data-driven decision. 86 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience, customer-centric companies are 60 percent more profitable, and 1 in 3 customers will leave a brand they love after just one negative experience.
This is what makes it so vital to invest in technology that is specifically designed to promote positive online experiences for your targeted audience — association members. A dedicated AMS platform is a great first step, offering member dashboards, member community functionality, and other tools tailor-made to promote the online member experience.
However, without a member-specific CRM strategy and tools to support your AMS, you’d be missing out on many potential opportunities to refine your engagement, retention, and acquisition techniques even further. Just take a look at the following functions made possible by a member-oriented CRM:
- 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 you need a fully functioning CRM to handle these administrative tasks. From engagement history to acquisition rates, the essential data stored by your CRM will not only give your association a better view of your members, but it will enable you to more effectively communicate with, engage, and retain them.
How CRM and AMS Work Together to Optimize Operations
Having an AMS system 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.
For example, in a recent blog post, HighRoad Solutions indicated that your staff can use AMS data in conjunction with a CRM to better identify leads and streamline marketing automation. Additionally, product offerings can be improved based on web engagement metrics stored in a CRM.
Consider how you could use this strategy in the member 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 counterproductive. 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, these solutions allow your team to fill any gaps in your current technology stack.
The Protech Approach: CRM-based AMS for Associations
From creating an optimal member experience to streamlining internal workflows, having both CRM and AMS tools enables you to intelligently tackle every side of your association’s operations.
The Protech team understands the individual importance of these systems and how they both come together to simplify the often difficult and complicated task of association management. That’s exactly why we’ve strived to create an AMS system built around CRM principles, strategies, and tools.
With our CRM-based AMS, you no longer have to compare these two systems and weigh their strengths and weaknesses. Instead, Protech offers a robust suite of integrated tools, including event, learning, and membership management, so that your team can gain a comprehensive understanding of your association in one, centralized system.
Built on Microsoft’s most powerful technology, Protech’s robust AMS is built to work for every association, at any level of development, enabling these associations to reach their fullest potential.
Want to learn more about Protech’s advanced CRM-based AMS? Request a demo of our simple, flexible, and robust association management solution.
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.”
Additional Resources on AMS vs. CRM
Interested in exploring more about software and strategies for your association? 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