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9 Steps to Digital Transformation for Membership Organisations

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Are you ready to take your digital portfolio to the next level? Discover how to remain relevant and competitive in the digital age, using our nine simple steps.

Digital transformation is crucial for any membership organisation aiming to stay relevant, competitive, and efficient in today’s digital era. It's not just about technology, it involves the entire organisation, from member management, to event bookings, product purchases, and renewals. Here’s a detailed guide on how to navigate this transformation in nine incremental steps:



1. Understand the Business Context

Digital transformation is a significant investment that impacts every aspect of your organisation. It requires a holistic approach where all departments, from operations to finance, are involved. Start by asking yourself why digital transformation is necessary and how it aligns with your business goals. Conducting a SWOT analysis can help you understand how digital tools can aid in achieving these goals. For instance, Unite the Union discovered that online member recruitment cost £30 compared to £100 offline, justifying a shift to a digital-first approach. Similarly, UK Coaching partnered with an insurance broker to offer tailored insurance to members, creating a core revenue stream.

2. Prioritise Realistically

Setting realistic digital ambitions is crucial. Prioritising your challenges and opportunities ensures manageable goals and prevents the pitfalls of trying to do too much at once. Clarify the steps needed to reach your goals and work with a digital partner to understand delivery timelines. It is also vital to be realistic with business KPIs and digital aspirations, to ensure progress is made. The British Society of Haematology, for example, had to prioritise finding a new digital partner to support a critically unstable website before pursuing more ambitious enhancements.



3. Build from Robust Audience Data

A solid dataset is essential for understanding your audience and tailoring your digital transformation. Membership organisations need data to personalise and enhance member experiences, and to ensure efforts are leading towards the correct goals. Conduct an audit of existing data and identify gaps. Collect data on renewals, new member processes, and member behaviours to ensure your data is coherent and actionable for both individual personalisation and broader trends. The simple way to do this, is to ask your current membership clients - find out what they like and dislike, and put in place actions based on the results. Unite the Union used public panel surveys to understand how to engage a younger demographic, while UK Coaching utilised heat map analysis and surveys to improve member sign-up processes and promote premium memberships.

4. See the Patterns and Trends

Leveraging data patterns and trends can help identify hidden opportunities and strengthen your business case for digital transformation. Analyse geographical location patterns of your audience and look for renewal process patterns and messages that resonate with members. Use data for innovative solutions, such as using AI to make digital experiences more personalised for current and potential members. This approach allows you to discover opportunities that were not initially apparent.



5. Know Your Tech Landscape

Conducting a thorough audit of your current technological portfolio helps you understand its limitations and potential. Perform a technical audit of your CMS, CRM, and APIs, and conduct a SWOT analysis on your technological landscape. This will allow you to work out where initial efforts should be focused, and help separate tasks into needs and wants. For instance, Riviera Travel managed to navigate legacy system APIs to rapidly build a functional product, and then took their time in making 'nice to have' improvements.

6. Think Compliance and Security

Integrating compliance and security considerations into your digital transformation process from the start is crucial for managing risks and protecting member data. Evaluate your current compliance and security systems, follow Cyber Essentials guidelines, and consider GDPR by conducting Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIA). Decide whether to handle compliance internally or with external help, and ensure member data is protected throughout the process. Some organisations choose to have a dedicated internal compliance team, whereas some prefer to work with an expert third-party.



7. Go Beyond the Website

Digital transformation extends beyond just your website - exploring other digital avenues can drive business goals. Integrate digital marketing techniques early in the process, by considering the use of social media, paid advertising and SEO strategies. Building an audience during the transformation process, shows an organisations progressive and ambitious nature, and provides a fantastic user research audience. Applications of AI and VR should absolutely be explored, but only if there is a clear member benefit - simplicity often is best. Unite the Union successfully used targeted marketing campaigns to aid in member recruitment, by targeting groups who had been identified as having the most opportunity for membership growth during the 'data' stage of the transformation process.

8. Personalise & Amplify

Enhancing your digital presence by personalising member experiences and leveraging data for engagement opportunities can significantly impact member satisfaction. Optimise touchpoints such as renewals, events, and learning spaces, ensuring content is uniquely relevant for each individual member. Build systems for exclusivity and hierarchy in membership levels, and utilise AI for personalisation and automation. UK Coaching, for example, implemented AI-supported search functions and tailored content delivery, resulting in a unique and personalised member experience.


Long-Term Strategy

9. Remember This is a Long-Term Game

Digital transformation is an ongoing process without a definitive endpoint. Continuously adapting and refining your strategy to keep up with changes is essential to remain competitive. Regularly renew your three-year digital strategy, report successes and update KPIs, and be open to improvements. Be sure to experiment, and always embrace change.


By following these nine incremental steps, membership organisations can effectively embark on their digital transformation journey, ensuring they remain relevant, efficient, and competitive in the digital age.

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