Shopping for membership management software can be a difficult, confusing process. It’s not easy to sort through the platforms available on the market, and evaluating them can be a long and confusing process!
We’re here to help by providing 5 questions you can use to help you navigate the field of membership management software. They’ll help you cut through the many available options to zero in on the few most likely to fit your needs, and help you evaluate those systems to pick the best one!
1. What do I absolutely need my software to do?
This is a simple question, but we’ve put it at the start of our list for good reason.
There are many Membership Management Software platforms out there, and each is designed differently. Having a good idea of your core needs will be tremendously helpful when it comes to sorting through them.
Common features you might want to consider are
- Customer Resource Manager (CRM): Do you need a database to store and manage member data?
- Payment Gateway Support: If you already have an account with a payment processing gateway (Moneris, Bambora, etc.), check to see if it’s supported!
- Email & Communications Management: Member-driven organizations manage a lot of emails, and Membership Management Software can make doing so a lot easier. If you regularly manage email campaigns, this is something you’ll want to look for when picking software to evaluate!
- Misc: The right Membership Management Software (MMS) can replace nearly every piece of software you use in the course of managing your members. Learning management systems, directory builders, event managers, and more can be replaced! Make a list of the services you use most frequently, and consider adding those to your list!
2. Can I grow into the platform?
You’ve got current needs, but it’s also important to consider your future ones.
Maybe today you don’t need Email Campaigns, a Job Bank, or Store – but features like these might have value as you grow into the future.
Striking a balance between your present and future needs can be difficult. You want to avoid paying today for features you may (or may not) need tomorrow, but you also want to avoid investing time and money in a system that won’t meet your needs in a year or two!
The best way to manage this balance is to take a good look at a pricing structures. Does a given company offer a pricing system that allows you to pay for what you need now, with the option to upgrade to access the tools and features you might need later?
Pricing structures like these offer long term value. You should be able to pay for only what you need, now and into the future, and pricing systems that allow you to do so ought to be a basic criteria for your investment!
NOTE: It’s important to acknowledge that you likely don’t know what all your future needs are. Tools and features that you think you’ll never use, in a year, might offer significant value, so don’t be quick to dismiss them!
3. How will it make my life better?
This question is a great one to ask when evaluating membership management software, especially in a demo!
Every provider of membership management software is likely to tell you that their product will improve your life. Asking how requires them to show you.
During a product demonstration (so long as your salesperson has a decent understanding of your organization), this question is a great way to:
- Cut right to the value a system can offer you, bypassing unnecessary information.
- Require salespeople to justify and demonstrate the truth of their claims.
If an MMS provider doesn’t provide product demonstrations, but offers free trials instead, this question is still a useful one to keep in mind. You won’t have a person to ask, but consider using it during a free trial to search an MMS’s knowledge-base for specific tutorials.
Think of the common tasks you perform day-to-day, and rephrase ‘How will it make my life better’ into specific search terms that will bring you to guides you can use to explore and evaluate an MMS’s potential. Search terms like ‘How do I create a member’, ‘How do I process an application’, How do I automate renewals?’, should bring you to the information you need to directly experience how an MMS will improve your life at work!
4. What’s Support like?
Every membership management software system is going to provide support, but it’s important to develop your understanding of what it’s like to actually use it!
No matter which MMS you choose, you will run into problems every now and again, and it’s important that you be confident that support will help you resolve them in a timely manner. Take the time to use and explore available support options to ensure you can rely on them!
Often, MMS providers will offer more than one way to access support. You’ll want to keep each one in mind, and be sure to try them all out! Consider:
- Chat Buttons: Chat buttons are a fantastic way to access support. During free trials, be sure to try them out! Doing so will help you form an impression of how responsive, and how capable, a support team is.
- Bug Reports and Support Tickets: Ticketing systems are the industry standard for support. They require you to submit a support ticket, which is then put into a queue, and addressed by a support team. You’ll want to submit one of your own to get an impression of how long you can expect to wait for a response!
- Phone Support: Some membership management software services offer phone support. During your evaluation, try it out to see how long you can expect to wait on hold before being connected to an agent. Once you’re on the line, don’t be afraid to ask hard questions! Doing so will help you investigate the competency of support!
5. Is it regularly updated?
When investing in MMS, you’re purchasing more than software. You’re also investing in a team – one you want to be confident is working to ensure that your software is consistently on the leading edge of membership management.
Establishing that confidence requires you to evaluate how a MMS provider takes updates and product refinement.
Investigate MMS update schedules to determine their approach to development. Are they frequently coming out with new features, addressing bugs, and refining their product?
It’s also useful to look into how a company receives and responds to customer feedback. Are there channels to submit your input on features? Can you report bugs? What are the ways that you can interact with the development team, and what’s it like to do so?
Get the most from your MMS.
Shopping for MMS isn’t easy – but knowing how to do so well is helpful to getting the most out of your investment. We hope the questions above help you sort through the many products available on the market, and find the one best for you!