Don’t Let the Website Kill the Party: Part 2, Managing the Membership Matrix

6/30/2016

The second installment in our series of common ways technology can bite you…and how to avoid them.
 
Managing website content is tough.  But managing users can be a much bigger headache.  Most web-based brands have all or some combination of the following databases: 

  • Subscribers (users who signed up for a newsletter, etc.)
  • Free members (users who created an account on your site)
  • Paid members (users who have paid for more/different access)
  • Customers (users who bought something)
  • Invitees (users invited to an event)
  • Attendees (users who RSVP’d, and/or attended)
  • Users who are one of many possible combinations of the above 
If your business moves fast and involves many events, you’re not just managing websites. You’re in the customer relationship management (CRM) business.  And you need to get it right.  Putting a user on the wrong list, or leaving them off of one, can cause customer service issues that drain your time and resources.  Doing so repeatedly could be fatal to your brand or your business.
 
Today’s best event managers are contact database managers.  They know and employ the best practices and technology tools to ensure a positive user experience.  There are many list management and CRM tools out there, but you need tools that will integrate with your existing digital content platforms and/or events.
 
Here are four criteria to consider when structuring your customer relationship management strategy. 

1. Consolidate your customer data. 

When it comes to lists, less is more.  The more lists you have, the more time you will burn managing them, and the greater your potential for errors. If you are logging in to more than one place to add, delete, or change the status of a single user, you are doing it wrong.
 
Your best-case scenario is one master list containing every user of every type across all your web properties.  In this scenario, you can append the data to make your life easier.  Any different user types or segments can be identified with tags (metadata).  You can then use filters to create or find any sub-list, or any combination of lists.  As long as each user is tagged correctly, they will receive all the appropriate communications at the appropriate time.
 
Takeaway:  if you manage multiple websites/events, don’t have separate lists.  Reduce time and errors by using one tool that integrates with your web platform, and has a single dashboard to manage all your users across all your digital properties. 

2. Keep proper data “hygiene”. 

As content initiatives & events come and go, you may have rapid cycling of users through events, memberships, etc.  Because of this churn, it is critical for you to maintain proper “hygiene” in your data.  You can damage your brand if a user gets out-of-date or out-of-context emails.  And worse, if you get a reputation as a spammer, the damage to your business can be enormous. 
 
Keep your data clean and clear of misspelled or invalid (bounced) addresses, distribution or system email addresses, duplicates, etc.  Make sure you act quickly and appropriately to unsubscribes, or lapsed (inactive) users.  Maintain proper levels of encryption and security at all times.
 
Takeaway:  your customer data is your most valuable asset.  Maintain it as you would your car or house.  Employ regular maintenance habits to keep it secure, clean and working smoothly. 

3. Automate everything that can be automated 

If managing users/members includes burning your time or staff time (or both) doing tedious, repetitive tasks, you should ask yourself, “can we automate this?”
 
CRM tools offer a variety of automation features such as: 
  • Performing A/B tests (e.g. testing landing pages or messaging strategies)
  • Automating message series (e.g. welcome series or solicitation series)
  • Logic-based if-then actions (e.g. auto-sending special offers to lapsed users)
  • User profiles (e.g. adding new users to correct segments based on source/profile)
  • Maintenance (e.g. identifying duplicate names)
 
Automation has the obvious benefit of saving time.  But the less obvious benefit of automation is that it provides consistent and clean data for analytics and performance measurement.  If a campaign sends the same message in precisely the same sequence to a set of users, your campaign performance analysis will have greater validity and provide more actionable insights.
 
Takeaway: not everything can (or should) be automated.  But repetitive tasks that put a premium on precision and minimizing errors are good candidates for non-human implementation.  

4. Stay laser-focused on the user experience 

Do your users get multiple emails offering repetitive, conflicting or competing information? If they have a bad experience (even if its after a long streak of good ones), they can cause serious damage to your reputation.
 
The best way to manage the customer experience is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes.  Consider creating consumer avatars, essentially fictitious users from various user segments.  Draw these avatars from likely customer usage scenarios, and monitor the communications they receive.  This will give you a constant user perspective and allow you to catch inconsistencies and conflicts in communications and user experience issues.
 
Respond quickly and decisively to complaints. Make sure users have an open channel to communicate with you if something goes wrong.
 
Takeaway:  always have a way to view your business from a user’s perspective, and make the user experience the most important criterion on which to evaluate business practices.
 
Next week: Managing a zillion web properties?  We’ve got coping skills for you.

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Here's a video with three ways you can do things for events in Brick River (2:05)


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