Customize. Streamline. Integrate.A case study in business systems architecture and integration
Customize. Streamline. Integrate.A case study in business systems architecture and integration
Recently, a large association approached us a with list of technical issues and desired systems capabilities. They were using a collection of third party applications that led users off of their website (and away from their branded messaging), did not share information with each other, and were unreliable in terms of functionality. Their website was disorganized and slow, leaving important information and resources difficult for members to find and access.
The association, and their members, knew their website and business systems could do more but they didn’t know where to start.
Through a combination of existing systems, custom-built applications, and a seamless integration with a redesigned website, we created value for the association, its members, potential new members, and all other website visitors.
Some Quick Info About The Association
- They are industry specific and set the professional, educational, and training standards for their industry.
- They have nearly 4,000 members and hundreds of partner companies.
- They provide education and networking opportunities, issue credentials, and hold classes and conferences for their members.
- They partner with industry related service providers to connect their members with companies seeking their specific services.
- Their two primary revenue sources are membership dues and event registration fees.
While the association is unique in the industry it serves, the systematic and technical issues it was dealing with were not. Organizations, associations, brick and mortar stores, service providers, and online business have all approached us with a fundamental question every business owner and executive should be asking:
‘How can I get and provide more value from my systems and website?’
While all businesses have their own unique needs, there are two consistent components to every answer:
- Seamless integration of business systems with a well-designed website.
- Customized or custom-built business systems tailored to a business’s unique needs.
The Association’s Problems & Needs
Before we delve into the specific issues the association was facing, it is important to remember that the association’s two primary sources of revenue are membership dues and event fees. As such, it was quickly apparent that their website needed to offer a smooth user experience with minimal lag and easy navigation.
What their site did offer was quite the opposite. Antiquated software resulted in site usability issues and, while the original site design was easy to navigate, years of adding new pages, text, and cumbersome plug-ins made important information difficult to find and the site slow to load.
The site also lacked any integration with the association’s back-end CRM system which made purchasing a membership, paying membership dues, and completing event registration a frustrating and awkward process. Remember, the association’s two primary sources of revenue are membership dues and event fees–making these processes quick, trustworthy, and consistent were key to the association’s continued success.
Other issues included:
- The member portal was facilitated by the CRM, making the user experience inconsistent (you had to go to an outside system to login to manage your profile, etc.)
- The member credentialing process was managed in an offline system and not integrated with the CRM, making it inefficient and prohibiting members from accessing their credential status report.
- A number of directories were hosted on external systems that lacked integration with CRM data and had to be manually populated and maintained.
- No referral management mechanism was available/configured. There was no incentive for members to encourage industry colleagues to join the association.
While the list of issues the association was facing seem long, it is not uncommon for a business or organization, no matter how well managed and organized, to find itself in a similar situation. Building business systems to address your specific needs can feel overwhelming and as managers and business owners, it can be tempting to put off addressing any issues.
‘How can I make my website more powerful?’
‘How can business systems make my life easier?’
A vast majority of our clients fit into one of the following two categories. They either:
- Know their system needs, but don’t have the experience, knowledge, and/or time to build it.
- Aren’t familiar with the capabilities of business systems or the options available, and feel unable to scale their business and/or eliminate repetitive, monotonous, and time consuming tasks.
The association found itself with a toe in each category. They knew what they needed their current systems to do, but they didn’t fully understand the best combination of systems to achieve their goal.
Our Custom-Built & Integrated Solutions
Website Redesign & Member Portal Integration
Our first project with the association was full website redesign, including a complete revision of their site navigation. An optimized user flow made it easier for potential new members to learn about the association and to join, as well as made it easier for existing members to find that they need and pay dues/event fees.
Once the site redesign was complete, we developed a Member Portal using a custom WordPress plug-in to tightly integrate their MemberSuite CRM and other systems via their APIs.
The CRM is the the association’s powerhouse business system. Nearly every piece of information accessed through the Member Portal either originates in or flows through their CRM making it’s interconnection with every other businesses system and integration with the website vital.
- View/update profile information.
- Pay membership dues or other invoices.
- View event registrations, register for new events.
- View current status of credential (how many CEUs earned, how many needed, renewal deadline, etc).
- View educational class resources such as electronic course exams, course surveys, etc.
- Send referrals to other potential members that are tracked to measure conversions.
The creation of a custom Member Portal also allowed for:
- The creation of a course/event calendar that syncs event details from the CRM and displays on a searchable/filterable calendar on the website to make it quick for members to find and register for the courses needed to maintain their credential.
- The creation of a custom plugin that automatically populates the business directory on the website to make listing maintenance much more efficient and accurate.
- The directory is also directly integrated into the website instead of being housed in a third party system with inconsistent branding.
- A branded and seamless integration of member resources into the primary website.
“Spend time upfront to invest in systems and processes to make long-term growth sustainable.”
Credential Management System
Another necessity for both association members and administration was a way to easily manage credentials. Using Zoho Creator, we developed an application that integrated with the CRM via API to pull relevant information like member name and contact information as well as which courses the specific member has complete and for which classes they are registered.
The Credential Management System is also designed to facilitate the processing of member classes by:
- Registration tracking
- Attendance tracking
- Electronic exam delivery
- Pass/fail of exam
- Electronic course feedback surveys
- Issuing of CEU credit
Other administrative functions of Credential Management System include:
- Maintenance of multiple credential tracks that include different course requirements to achieve.
- The ability to award CEU credit for outside educational activities.
- Reporting and analysis of registration data to understand membership demand for courses.
- Reporting and analysis of course feedback survey data to continually improve course quality.
The Credential Management System allows members to:
- View their credential status report at any time.
- Access materials for educational classes through the member portal.
- Access and complete feedback surveys required to receive course credit.
- Electronically submit credential applications and required documentation.
Referral Management System
Using Zoho Creator, the Referral Management System was created to incentivize members to refer industry colleagues for membership with the association.
- Tracking referrals sent, referral link clicks and referrals that ultimately convert to members.
- Reporting details of referrals sent, number of referral links clicked, number of member conversions.
- Details include the member referring for referrals sent and member conversions; and the potential member that clicked for link clicks.
- Provides a referral network diagram showing member referrals up to two degrees of separation (i.e. if a member refers another member and the newly referred member then refers another member the original member would be connected to the third member via the second).
The associations website is now their most powerful business tool. While the transformation of their site was extreme, the transition was seamless. Our attention to detail and personable team allowed us a true understanding of the associations frustrations and business needs.
The systems we built for the association were designed to meet their specific needs and fully integrated with each other and their new website.