Accrisoft Buyer's Guide for Websites & Membership Management Software
Things to know before beginning your buying process
Before choosing a website and mobile app provider and membership management software for your organization, wouldn’t you like to know more about what you’re getting into? We would like to help you navigate this crucial decision more confidently and successfully. In the following guide we want to share what we’ve learned from our customers (through online surveys, support, and problem/solution interviews) to help your organization meet its needs.
You should be asking the following questions:
Does the web design company you're hiring specialize in anything? Are they an expert in your industry?Rather than searching for web designers by "near you", look for website design companies that specialize in your industry. A company that has an expertise in your specific industry will have a deep understanding of your needs. Because they already work with many organizations similar to yours, they will have solutions pre-tailored to meet your specific requirements.
Wouldn't it be nice if your web design company educated you on best practices for your industry? And how to best utilize your website for your organization? An expert will do that.A great way to identify a few specialized companies is to do a simple search: [my industry] websites. This will often pull up companies that specialize in that industry. If you are a Chamber of Commerce, for example, you might search Google for best chamber of commerce websites or chamber of commerce web design.
Is the software intuitive and easy to use?It is one thing for membership software to have all the features and functionality that you need. It’s quite another for your team to develop proficiency using it. It’s often the case that software companies will inform you, the customer, that their software already has the functionality you need. The problem is that the software is too complicated, which doesn’t fully allow your team to benefit from the features.
Great software needs to be extremely intuitive so that your team can effortlessly and quickly figure out how to use it and are excited to do so. Also, make sure to understand what training a company will provide throughout the implementation of the software, how they will train new employees, and what self-serve training options (such as tutorial videos, online training modules, and learning management software) will be available.
Can our staff access our software anytime, anywhere, and with any type of device?Cloud-native software allows your staff to login via a web browser from any computer, tablet, or mobile device. Make sure that your team members will have access to the correct data within your database (i.e., the ability to manage items, such as membership details, web pages, reports, event information, payments/invoices, etc.).
Unique username/password logins are also important. You should have the ability to create different logins for different staff members, as well as manage their security access levels. For example, your membership and sales/marketing teams should be able to log in to their sections of the software simultaneously without accidentally accessing content from outside their department.
Is the software cloud-based?The days of keeping on-premises servers are gone. Maintaining these servers and operating systems is too costly, requiring additional personnel and continuous up-keep efforts.
Nowadays, having your own server farm to support your software is like building an electrical grid to provide your organization with electricity. Adopting a cloud-based approach is far more economical and practical. Using a cloud-based solution will free up your IT team to conduct higher-value activities, such as architecting future resolutions and optimizing existing technology.
Does the software provide a total solution?Pure nirvana is finding one software program that meets all the needs of every department.
Avoid web solutions that are overly dependent on third-party integration and feel cobbled together. When you integrate third-party membership management, website, event, email marketing, and CRM software, you create fragmented, isolated data silos that can impede productivity and overcomplicate communication. You could also end up with thousands of duplicate records and outdated, extraneous data.
Will the software better engage our members through the web and mobile app?
Your website and mobile app are the essential components to improving your members’ engagement. A quality online experience is increasingly more important to upcoming professionals between the ages of 20-40 years old since they grew up in a connected world and expect seamless online access.Here's what you should consider for your membership when building a new website:
- Will your new system allow for easy membership payments?
- Will the website allow your members to register for events and keep up to date with your content?
- How will your members be able to reach out to you from the website?
- Do forms data automatically upload into databases? Additionally, do you get an email notification?
- Will you be able to communicate with your members effectively through thank you pages, email replies, and other means?
Is the website and mobile app native to the software?It is vital that your website software is a built-in feature of your membership software, not an integrated third-party software product.
Using third-party website software that is not native to the membership software will result in continual data integration when either software program upgrades. Often, you will have to work with separate companies—one to provide the membership software and the other to deliver the website and integration. Integrating the website software requires significant customization, and this knowledge is often proprietary to the website company. Finally, third-party integration can produce data silos, resulting in data fragmenting between your website software and membership software.
Will all my data be consolidated, improved and transferred to our new software?You may have member information on file for the past several years, or decades even. You may have hundreds of web pages and photo albums on your current website. You could even have folders full of Excel spreadsheets keeping your records. Whatever state your data is in, you will need to consider the task of transferring it into your next system.
When transferring to either a new website or membership software, you need to make sure your existing data is not forgotten, lost, or haphazardly thrown into place. Make sure to thoroughly question the prospective companies about their expertise in migrating data and their plan to do so.
Will my organization receive regular monthly upgrades as part of our subscription fee?
The monthly subscription should include regular software upgrades and updates. Further, these updates should take place every month, not on an annual basis, at no additional cost.
Can I try it before I buy?
Make sure that the software provider that you are considering can provide you with a comprehensive trial experience before your purchase. This trial should involve every department being set up with the software (within limits, of course) so that they can take it out for a test drive before committing to it. This process will also give every department the ability to gauge how intuitive the software is based on their needs. Most importantly, it will increase staff buy-in and decrease the likelihood of them feeling as though it was forced on them after purchase.
Will our members be able to access their benefits anytime from anywhere and on any type of device?Your organization's membership benefits need to be highly accessible to your members. Young and upcoming professionals have high expectations for the quality of online connectivity you provide because they grew up in an always-connected world. If you don’t provide your members with an incredible online experience, they will leverage the power of the Internet to find it somewhere else. An excellent online experience is the foundation of the next generation of membership organizations.
How is support handled?Make sure the website includes ongoing support and that the terms are clearly defined.
Some important questions to ask include:
- What are active support hours?
- How often can I contact support? Can I contact support by call or email?
- Are there any associated costs?
Another important question to ask is, "Will we have to rely on a support or development team to make updates to my website?" The amount of control you will have when adjusting the site copy, images, and menus is critical. Your new website should be easy for your team to manage so that you are not reliant on your developers for content that you should be able to control yourself.
Is there a money-back guarantee?Did you know that Tesla offers a 7-day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee on all their cars? Well, your new membership software should also extend this type of guarantee.
The purchase of your new membership software and website/mobile app is a considerable investment. You should not feel like you’re betting your future on a product that you've only viewed a couple of times in the context of a salesperson's demo.
When speaking with your potential new membership and website provider, make sure to confirm that they have a no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee. Your new software provider should be willing to mitigate your risk and, instead, take on the risk themselves by offering a money-back guarantee. That way, if the software neither meets nor exceeds your expectations, you can return it at no charge.