For years, the association community has managed its members and entire organizations with a combination of manual-heavy processes and all-in-one subscription management solutions called association management software (AMS).
It wouldn’t have been unreasonable to see these monolithic software platforms as the epitome of efficiency in their day. After all, there’s a natural appeal to getting everything you need out of one transaction. And the benefits of having all your technology needs met by a single provider seem intuitively beneficial.
But of course, all-in-one and one-size-fits-all solutions rarely are just that, and it’s safe to say technology has begun to leave many associations behind.
In the same way that trying to please everyone can often result in you pleasing no one, an AMS’ plethora of basic capabilities pales in comparison to the specialized functionality of best-in-class SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms integrated into a well-curated technology stack.
Organizations with large member bases are now finding themselves challenged by the limitations and inflexibility of their outdated processes and legacy AMS software.
Challenges associations face in managing and monetizing members
While lagging technology seems to be the key challenge associations face in managing and monetizing their subscription customer base, the biggest challenge is actually mindset.
Many associations have been slow to adapt and they still have a very traditional approach to selling memberships that must first be overcome. It’s often all about annual, all-in-one subscriptions that are frequently managed in very manual, even paper-based ways.
But when you’re trying to manage data, deliver invoices, and collect dues on thousands or even hundreds of thousands of members, these old ways of doing things quickly become impossible to scale.
Efficient subscription management is now critical to business viability for an increasing number of associations.
Another roadblock for associations is time and money. Those that signed up with AMS platforms within the last five years or even more are justifiably reluctant to spend more time and money switching over to a more nuanced set of integrated software tools.
The rationale is simple: AMS platforms are expensive. And many associations intend to get their money’s worth out of them, no matter how unpleasant the experience.
The new normal without events is having an impact on monetization
Unfortunately, the pandemic that began in 2020 has created even further challenges for associations when it comes to managing and monetizing their member bases.
Before 2020, American associations looked poised for growth. IBISWorld projected the years 2019 to 2024 would yield higher enrollment for professional organizations due to the vibrant economy of the last several years. Instead, not only has growth stalled, but monetization potential has also dipped.
More than 70% of surveyed professional associations have indicated their revenue has decreased in 2020. One of the chief culprits? The inability to host live events.
As a result, many associations have scrambled to find ways to virtualize and digitize this important source of income and membership networking.
Better subscription management solutions a step towards digital transformation for modern associations
So what’s the solution for the modern association?
It’s all about moving past the traditional AMS solutions toward automation and optimization, says Jeff Horne, CEO of Wicket.
Wicket is a first-of-its-kind member data platform that’s changing the way associations use software to manage their members and organizations.
“AMS systems tend to do a whole bunch of things, but none of them very well,” says Horne. “With Wicket, we are coming in and disrupting that and saying, ‘we’re just going to be really good at managing your membership data. And then, we will allow that data to be integrated with all the best-in-class software.”
Modern-minded associations are getting on board. It’s a significant shift from the mindset of sticking to traditional operational methods to be sure, but it’s effective and impactful.
As long as associations stay attached to their investment in legacy technology, they’re unable to be agile for the rapidly evolving challenges of the day. A transformation to holistic business data-centered optimization is vital for associations to remain viable and sustainable under such conditions.
By getting the best in data management along with the best in marketing, the best in content and event management, the best in membership billing, and so much more, associations optimize toward better overall process management. They also find it much easier to be agile and adapt to the changing marketplace.
The path toward success for associations is clear, according to Horne.
The modern association understands that flexibility is key to their technology strategy.”
Progress in terms of monetization and growth strategy
Many professional organizations suffer gravely at the hands of their antiquated monetization mechanics. Where once paper-based billing and manual collections were the default, this old way of doing things now stands as a hindrance to progress.
An automated billing process virtually ensures invoices are sent and payments are made on time by storing members’ financial data and allowing the system to handle the work automatically. This means no more chasing down members for their annual dues.
These systems also provide all-new levels of flexibility in terms of pricing models and subscription product and plan offerings. Associations are free to craft and evolve their revenue streams to meet the needs of the market and their members.
Enhanced financial data is another key component of the picture. Organizations that use integrated technology stacks have become much better at leveraging their membership information in the last several years.
This is impactful both because data implementation has been linked with a revenue enhancement of up to 8% and because it also tends to improve the membership experience and ability to strategize and future forecast.
Combined, these transformations leave associations well-positioned to adapt to changing financial realities, potentially even securing a path toward future growth during a time of global economic uncertainty.
The transition to subscription management and monetization success
What does it look like for a forward-thinking association to transition successfully over to an integrated tech stack?
The main pain point for one of Wicket’s large North American clients was data integration.
While this association was using a variety of marketing platforms and other tools, the client couldn’t transfer data between its systems very easily due to the inefficiencies of its AMS program.
By waving farewell to its AMS and committing fully to an integrated stack of SaaS solutions, it’s now able to seamlessly share data across multiple software systems. For example, the association has been able to integrate membership data directly into its marketing tools to create a much more carefully targeted approach to sales.
Member billing automation has also played an enormous role in this association’s success.
Wicket recently integrated with Stax Bill’s adaptive subscription billing platform to solve this common pain point for its clients. With that, membership renewal for this association now occurs automatically along with in-built dunning management. As a result, the association has done away with the onerous administrative hustle of tracking down thousands of members for payment each year.
Associations like this are finding it’s much easier to be efficient and forward-thinking when they’re not bogged down by the inflexibility and heavy manual lifting necessary with legacy AMS platforms.
For them, and for associations everywhere, a digital transformation to specialized solutions that offers efficiency and adaptivity is key.
By moving toward a modern, integrated technology stack, associations ensure an optimized membership subscription management solution that will grow with them into the future.