Why the Growing Interest in CRM Solutions for Associations?

Over the last few years, inbound marketing has become a key component of association marketing strategy. With inbound marketing, associations leverage content and online behavior tracking to develop and deepen relationships with prospective members and customers. In a typical example, a website visitor provides their email address to the association in exchange for downloadable content—and so the relationship begins. The association nurtures the relationship by tracking the lead’s online activities and sharing additional relevant content with them.

There’s been a growing interest in association management systems (AMS) built on top of customer relationship management (CRM) platforms that track this type of engagement, like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. Because of the increased AMS market share of these CRM solutions, the most recent TopClass LMS release includes a standard integration with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. If you’re attending the ASAE Technology Conference next week, please stop by our booth (719) and we’ll give you a look at the latest release of TopClass LMS.

what's behind the increased interest in CRM solutions


How is a CRM different from an AMS? Traditionally, a CRM manages customer relationships while an AMS manages an association’s business processes. A CRM provides functionality beyond the scope of a traditional AMS, for example, email marketing and automation, inbound and content marketing, search engine optimization, lead scoring, and customer/member tracking. However, many of the leading AMS brands are now offering some of these same engagement tools.

Wes Trochlil, founder of Effective Database Management, may have put his finger on why associations that practice inbound marketing are also investing in these CRM solutions:

“In effect, CRM is not functionality or a technology; it is a strategy and philosophy. At the center of this philosophy is the customer…CRM is a business strategy. Good CRM-focused technology can help your organization achieve your CRM goals.”

CRM solutions turn leads into customers

The increasing use of CRM solutions by associations

CRM-focused technology takes three shapes in the association marketplace:

  • AMS built on top of Salesforce and MS Dynamics
  • AMS with souped-up CRM functionality
  • Traditional CRM, like Salesforce and MS Dynamics

According to the 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report from Marketing General, Inc., CRMs are increasing their market share in the association community. When survey participants were asked which AMS their association used, the top three spots were taken by iMIS (15 percent), Abila (14 percent), and Your Membership (6 percent). However, trailing just behind were Salesforce with 5 percent and Microsoft Dynamics with 4 percent.

However, if you only look at the trade association survey participants, the gap narrows: Salesforce came in third with 11 percent compared to first and second place iMIS and Abila with 13 percent each. 5 percent used Microsoft Dynamics.

Loretta DeLuca, founder and CEO of DelCor Technology Solutions, would probably not be surprised by these numbers. She said, “We’re seeing growing interest in CRM systems: associations are increasingly more focused on activities rooted in the sales process, and staff are using workflows to build engagement. In response, many AMS vendors are offering systems with baked-in CRM functionality.”

AMS providers always have been responsive to the needs of their clients. Now, we’re seeing many of them stepping up to the plate and adding CRM functionality to their baseline product. And, one of them (Community Brands) can now meet that particular market demand since they acquired a company that provides an AMS built on top of a CRM platform.

CRM, AMS, AMS built on top of a CRM—which is better? There’s no real answer to that question, it depends upon your association’s goals and needs. Associations now have lots of choices, and our TopClass LMS integrates with the best of them, AMS and CRM.

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