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Data be the day

December 9, 2014
Last week’s posting touched on the need for fraternals to use the information in their existing databases to help them become more effective, efficient, responsive and anticipatory organizations – making the hyper leap from serving members to actually knowing what financial service products and community service engagement opportunities will appeal to them before they do. If you are an Amazon customer – “If you liked this [book, toy, tool, gadget] you’ll LOVE this one!” – you know what I mean. data mining 4 But many businesses struggle with what they want “Big Data” to do, how they utilize the information they already have, and how they collect the additional data they need. In my view, we want to be able to mine data to:
  • Identify your “best” members. To me, this means those folks with more than one of the following characteristics:
    • They purchase the bulk of their family’s financial services products from your society;
    • They are aware that they are a member of a fraternal and supportive of the society’s mission;
    • They are actively engaged in at least one fellowship or community service activity each year;
    • They hold a leadership role in your society’s local chapter system and/or your society’s governance structure.
  • Using this information, fraternals can create a profile of prospective “best” members, both from within the ranks of their current membership and among individuals who are not yet members of the society.
  • Provide more products and services to current members who want and need them (but may not know you provide them).
  • Identify your “worst” members. These are the folks who:
    • Own one small financial service product, maybe purchased for them by their parents or grandparents and haven’t a clue that they are a member of your society;
    • Own a small policy to keep their membership in place but purchase their “real” financial services from the guy across the street;
    • Wouldn’t have a clue that they are part of an organization with a well-defined community service mission and wouldn’t want to participate even if they knew.
  • Provide your executive management team and board with the information it needs to dramatically change your society’s strategic plan and the tactics you use to achieve it. Decisions based on accurate, timely, and meaningful data have a much greater chance of being successful than those based on “gut feelings.”
The ties that bind… OK, so by now you’re totally sold on the idea of using “Big Data” in your society. Where to begin? One of the biggest obstacles to data mining is that the information in your files may not be connected. There are reams of information in your insurance database, but it in no way relates to the equally large stores of data in your community service activity files. And of course neither of these sources ties in to the information in your society’s membership database. Your ability to “connect the dots” and transform raw data into usable information to improve member service and the society’s bottom line is dependent on cleaning up these files and allowing them to “communicate” with one another. Hiring a data mining consultant may be your best option. For those societies who think that they may be too small to retain such a firm, consider collaborating with other societies that share similar characteristics and hiring a consultant to address the flaws common to all your systems. Once you’ve got the data in your various files tied together, you can start looking for trends within the membership or “clusters” of members, ranging from those highly engaged to those that simply send you a check for social membership dues. The final step in the process is analyzing and scoring individual members based on their level of engagement. Remember, not all data should be treated equal. Identifying the most important, complete, and relevant data sets will provide more meaningful and accurate results. But once you begin analyzing the information, I’ll bet the ranch that you’ll reach more than a few “a-ha” conclusions about your membership and your society’s ability to fulfill the needs of its members. For instance, you may discover that your local chapter meetings are attended almost exclusively by members aged 65 and older. And that while younger members WANT to take part in community service activities, their career and family obligations simply preclude them from doing so on Wednesday evenings from 7-9 p.m. Remember, timing is everything. How might your society change its activities to accommodate the needs of a younger demographic? You might also discover that it isn’t necessary – or realistic – to expect that a vast majority of your membership will ever physically participate in a community service activity. That doesn’t diminish the importance of those activities or the need to inform members about what the society is doing to fulfill its social mission. A member who is aware of these activities may be just as valuable – and profitable – as a member who attends every function. Measuring member engagement and establishing a correlation between financial services product purchased and participation in community service can establish the baseline for building a stronger, healthier, and more sustainable society – and that’s good for everyone. I’d love to know how your society is connecting its data dots. Please send me an email or post a comment here.