"Our stacks are mismatched to our future," said Reggie Henry, Chief Information and Engagement Officer at ASAE.
The controversial albeit thought-provoking statement kicked off our HighRoad Spring VirCon 2021 virtual event last month, where Ron McGrath, HighRoad's CEO, interviewed Reggie in an exceptionally data-forward keynote.
In the talk, the two industry leaders riffed on the definition of digital maturity as it becomes more and more synonymous with organizational success.
The subtle "punch in the gut' behind digital maturity is that it will never really be met by any organization. Digital transformation will always be on the horizon based on the ever-changing smartech industry and associations' changing needs. The most organizations can do is ride the tide of maturity, and not get left behind.
So where's the tide taking associations?
HighRoad defines digital maturity by four distinct phases. But beyond these four phases, what are we really talking about when we say “digital maturity” as it relates to associations?
For starters, we’re talking about shifting our focus on systems of record (data gathering) to systems of action (data activation). It's about working toward personalization at scale. This means not only meeting your members’ and customers' needs but predicting them through active listening, smart technology, and a customer-centric mindset.
So let’s break down the four phases of digital maturity so that you can determine where your organization falls in the continuum.
Phase 1: Focus on Engagement
At this phase, your organization is communicating with intent, and you’re customizing experiences for greater impact. You’ve likely invested in or are moving toward an email automation platform, have begun integrating your AMS data for personalized email communications, and are able to segment your audience based on demographic and transactional data. You’re also able to attribute conversions at a basic level, meaning you’re reporting “beyond the click.”
Phase 2: Focus on Growth
Once you’ve solidified your engagement strategies, now your focus is on net new growth. At this phase, you're investing in omni-channel marketing automation tools that allow you to bring data together for persona-building and journey-mapping. These insights allow you to tap into new programming and revenue diversification based on your members’ needs and behaviors.
Phase 3: Focus on Data Democracy
This phase is all about connecting your data with customer centricity in mind. At this phase, you're adopting integrations and platforms that fuse all of your data sources into one. This also means making your data transparent and available across your entire organization (not just for the executive team), and establishing “smartech” goals that align marketing, sales, and technology.
Phase 4: Focus on the Future
Now that you’re seeing true ROI in phases 1-3, you're setting your organization up for the long game in phase 4. At this phase, you're creating a solid plan for growth based on your association’s metrics and market opportunities. You're implementing machine learning and active listening systems that predict customers’ and members’ needs from a programming perspective, and the needs of the industry as a whole. This enables you to explore new or diversified membership models and customer-first programming.
Level up to your consumer cousins
When you think about digital maturity, it’s easy to zero-in on what that means for your association specifically, but it’s important to take into consideration all of the digital experiences your members are having outside of their interactions with you.
As it stands, they can pay for their groceries with their watch, they can control the temperature of their home with their voice, and social media platforms deliver frighteningly accurate ads for products they didn’t even know they needed yet.
So when it comes to digital engagement, associations need to start leveling up to the experiences that your members, as consumers, come to expect in their everyday interactions.
Strategy is the real hero here
A huge misnomer is that it's all about the tech. And yes, best-of-breed tech is important but it's rendered down to a "cool, shiny new trinket" if you don't have the strategy in place to maximize it.
The sooner you stop focusing on the tech first, the better. Focus instead on your members and customers. Focus on what they need, what they want, what they like, and what they don’t like.
If you want customer-centric data, do customer-centric research. Rethink your surveys so that you’re collecting information on your members’ individual needs and desires, rather than on your performance as an organization.
Empathy map to connect with your audiences. Getting to the core of what they're going through and looking to achieve in their day-to-day is imperative to solving problems and aligning interests.
Finally, incorporate behavioral learnings into your insights. The combination of "what they say" and "the actions you see them taking" is a powerful data duo to help you rethink programming and products, and deliver them at the exact moment of need.
Tech, now you may enter
Once you have the strategy and the data in place, now you can focus on building integrated technology stacks that support your efforts.
Executing personalization at scale means implementing systems that listen differently (and better). Active listening systems gather data on what your customers actually need and want from you. This enables your organization to operate on a service mindset rather than a selling one.
When you really lean into serving instead of selling, you’ll find that your organization is in a much better position to pivot and meet your members’ and customers’ needs.
Human meet machine. Machine meet human.
Layer machine learning on top of the strategy and the data, and now you’re able to not only meet but predict what they will need in the future.
No matter where your organization falls on the continuum of digital maturity, remember to keep your customers at the center and build your technology stacks around them. Seek out “best of need” digital tools based on what you know about your members and how your organization can best meet them where they're standing.
Once you adopt this line of thinking, you’ll naturally progress toward the more advanced phases of digital maturity, using your data to guide the way.
It takes a village
The key to all of this is that your organization gets on the same page. It's not enough to "want" to move forward in terms of digital evolution. Your entire organization needs to be on board. Breaking legacy mindsets and technology allegiance can be challenging but it's an integral part of the process.
So how do you ensure that you're entire organization is invested and that each individual is an integral part of the charge to move forward? Start with our digital maturity framework. Get a collective pulse from your entire staff on where you think you stand in your digital maturity.
If you can get everyone aligned with the gap and the need, then they'll feel empowered and mutually accountable to move into the next phase as a unit.
Watch the full keynote
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