Customer Relationship Management (CRM) vs Association Management System (AMS) – Understand the difference to boost your association

By Membes | 30 March 2023

There are so many different platforms on the market to support with database management, it can be quite confusing to determine which is best for you and your association. It is such a vital decision to select the right platform to properly manage your data and also provide your team with the tools they need to work effectively.  

Technology is a major investment for your organisation so being equipped with the knowledge to make the right decision is key to getting the strongest return on investment. 

In this article, we explain what a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system does, and what an Association Management System (AMS) does, plus the key differences between the two and which one is best for you.

What is a CRM? 

CRM software manages your association’s database including current and prospective member details. It stores data to allow you to understand your network and their engagements with you to better inform you when communicating to them.

What is an AMS?

An AMS is a platform that supports associations in managing their whole organisation including member management, automation of recurring tasks such as membership sign-ups and renewals, communicating with members and supporting with event planning/management. It is designed specifically for associations to help manage every unique function of the sector. 

Key differences between CRM and AMS

Purpose behind the system: 

A CRM is a great tool for growing your customer pool by capturing their attention and building the initial relationship. It does this by allowing you to track their interactions with the organisation and staff can also record phone calls/emails to ensure contact is consistent but not overwhelming. 

An AMS is about furthering your relationship with members and providing them with easy access to your services. It is designed to improve the member experience by automating services and providing them with more control of their own account. By improving automation of your services, this then allows staff to focus on services that are less administration and more strategically valued by your community. 

Functions of the systems: 

CRM systems store all of your data including contact details, marketing communications (EDMs and social media), contact history to allow you to draw valuable analytics to better understand your customer base and potential customers. The analytics also allow you to provide comprehensive reports to determine whether your sales pipeline is effective or not in converting leads. 

It allows your team to effectively manage the relationships between these groups to increase the attractiveness of joining and/or using your services. A CRM is a highly intelligent platform that maximises the use of your data to provide you with keen insight into your organisation and how customers engage with you. 

An AMS also supports the management of the database, marketing communications and comprehensive reporting. However, it is more tailored to the needs of associations with added benefits such as digitising standard processes e.g. joining and/or renewing membership.

A good AMS will be able to easily integrate with other software you use to avoid double-handling/manually inputting data e.g. connecting with your financial software to ensure the renewal process is seamless end-to-end. There are added functions such as a website module that sits on top of your management system and can be easily updated by team. Members can login as a user to an AMS and update their own details and record their CPD tracking activities. 

Associations who host events can also utilise AMS to support in the planning and management of events by managing registrations, invitations and tracking attendance records of past events. And finally, being able to report across your whole Association is something an AMS can support with having a dashboard and quick access to see how you are tracking against your business targets.

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What is better for your Association? 

If the strategic objectives of your Association do not go beyond the need to effectively store member information, report on that information and communicate with members, then a CRM should be sufficient.  

However, if your association has strategic objectives linked to membership growth (through increased joining, retention and engagement) and improved operational efficiencies, an AMS will more effectively cater to these objectives

A quality AMS platform will usually provide key CRM functions that the average Association needs for base level objectives, while also providing additional features catering specifically to a Professional or Trade Association.

Are you interested in learning more about how the Membes’ AMS can support your organisation by meeting all of your requirements? 

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By Membes | 30 March 2023