As consumers, we know that every time we use our rewards card at a store or search for something on Amazon, these companies collect information about our inclinations and habits. Large retailers are expert at predicting our preferences and offering discounts on the products we’re actually interested in (most of the time). It’s the same on sites including Facebook and LinkedIn, which use our habits to display the posts and updates we’ve shown to favor in the past.
This all works to create a more productive and inviting environment for consumers and a win for companies such as Amazon and Facebook and their advertisers, since we are likely to use these sites more often and buy more products.
How can harnessing data about members be used to boost value, create a more welcoming environment, and cultivate a more successful REALTOR® association?
With a rich collection of data on members culled from a wide variety of association and public data sources including census and voter registration, associations can build a full profile of each member. Using this data, they can better track the use and performance of products and services, better target future offerings, and eventually save members time and money. With background data on members such as college degrees, home ownership, and previous careers or volunteer experience, associations can better determine which members are more likely to volunteer, which may make good leaders, and which may have expertise to contribute to a specific committee or workgroup.
This is the idea the Washington REALTORS® have in mind with their new member data initiative.
“We want to track utilization of benefits, such as our legal hotline, and collect data on past occupations, languages, real estate specialties, leadership roles, as well as demographic information such as age and marital status, plus all the political information available from other sources,” says the organization’s Communications Director Steve Klaniecki.
The ultimate goal of the REALTORS®’ project is to boost association value, says association CEO Steve Francks.
“Our research tells us that no single value proposition fits every member,” Francks says. “Different REALTORS® have different needs and expectations of their association, depending on their specialty, location, years in the business, management responsibility, and the like. So the more we know about our members, their relationship to the association, and their real estate background, the better we can target messages and services to the right REALTORS® at the right time in their careers. That’s how you provide value.”
Francks is working with the National Association of REALTORS® on a data pilot project that may pave the way for all associations to benefit from a member data initiative.
The backbone of the Washington project—the platform to collect and organize all of this data—is RAMCO, the AE-designed REALTOR® Association Management System Co-Operative. With this platform, associations of any size can collect and put to use a wide range of member information.
“With RAMCO, we’ll be able to see a better picture of our members,” says Kevin Juliano, digital media manager at the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®. PAR is also launching a data project initially aimed at tracking use of association programs.
“By tracking those who are involved with our board and those who use some of our member benefits, we can essentially do reverse marketing to those who aren’t taking advantage of specific programs,” says Juliano. “If we see a dip in one program, we can target members who may have not used the service and remind those who may have only used it sparingly. Ultimately, we want to share the importance of state membership and the benefits REALTORS® receive.”
By using an e-mail system called Exact Target from Salesforce, which plugs into RAMCO, PAR can automate the delivery of custom messaging to targeted groups of members.
“We hear from members that they receive too many e-mails, but then we hear from some of the same members that they didn’t know about an event or program,” says Juliano. “Our goal is to allow each member to customize his or her e-mail preferences based on several topics, general information, Preferred PARtners, events, and more.”
Like Amazon and Facebook, the Washington and Pennsylvania REALTOR® associations know every member has unique preferences and needs, and the best way to keep them engaged is to offer them what they need when they need it.