Recently I read the phrase, “find the business in your data.”  For years I have been saying, “your data is telling a story, and once you understand the story, you can change the ending.” Both ideas are similar and powerful: hidden within your data are the stories about what business your association should be in!  So often association business models are based on what we think our members and customers want, or what they said they wanted on a survey.  But we know that what people say is not the same as what they do.

The best way to understand and serve our customers is to combine what they say they are interested in (explicit interests) with what they actually demonstrate interest in (implicit interests).  For example, if an individual indicates on their profile or a survey that they are interested in governance and board effectiveness (explicit interests), but an analysis of their web activity shows they read articles on digital media and innovation (implicit interests), then we know that we want to engage with them about all of these topics.  The way to do this is to combine behavioral and social data with transactional data from the AMS or CRM in order to truly get a 360 degree view of a customer, their interests, and their engagement.  So how do associations find the business in their data?  Over the years, we have found four primary ways that analytics can do just that:

Performance Management/KPI’s: What happened?
Data Discovery: Why did it happen?
Predictive Modeling: What will happen?
Social/Behavioral Data (Big Data): How can we make happen what matters most?

The worst thing in the world for an association is to experience a slow decline in their relevancy to their audience but to not understand the reasons why.  This “boiling frog” syndrome is worse than a dramatic decline because it is easy to ignore it or think it is not important, especially if only certain areas of the association’s business are declining but overall the organization is doing well.  The best way to understand the business in our data is to start to understand the stories that are hidden there.  Progressive associations are making 2016 the year they invest in analytics as the best way to remain vibrant and grow.