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How to Start Your Data Analytics Journey



The team at Association Analytics often hears questions like, What exactly is data analytics? Why is it important? What’s the difference between analytics and reporting? To help answer these questions, we’ve laid out some helpful tips on how to get started and where to go from there.


First: Reporting vs. Analytics

Reports share information on what has already happened in your business in an organised, straightforward format. You need reports to help run your business. For example, a report is the weekly number of new members who joined your association. Analytics are typically more concerned with why your business has performed this way, what will happen in the future, and what actions you can take to influence the results. With analytics, you try to aggregate data over time and across data sources for a 360-degree view of your members and their activities. You can use this combination of data to analyse trends, gauge what members value, predict their behaviours, and take action.


Step 1: Create a Plan


The first step in starting your analytics journey is to create a plan. If you have analytics without a plan, it won’t serve your goals. As you create your plan, remember to focus on outcomes, not outputs. What questions are you trying to answer with analytics? Some examples to consider:

  • What are the main drivers of member retention?

  • What do members value most about their relationship?

  • Which products and services should be bundled with member dues vs. sold separately?

Collect Your Data Even If Its Not Perfect

Your plan should start by collecting your data. As you look at your data, be sure to prioritise and consolidate it. To make this process more efficient, look at bringing all your systems into one repository. In this initial phase, don’t get hung up on data quality. Some people think that their data needs to be perfect to get started. That isn’t the case at all. Your data needs to be good enough, not perfect. Just get started and keep refining it. Find out more about overcoming your fear of dirty data in our previous blog post.


Create a Data Task Force & Data Definitions

It’s important to socialise your analytics plan and make it a part of your work culture. We suggest you create a data task force. Bring together people throughout your organisation that have different points of view but are curious about data and want to learn. Set up meetings, meet regularly, and leverage your task force’s expertise to build a data infrastructure with definitions and consistent terms that are a common language for everyone in your organisation to understand. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Data Governance for tips. You can also use this as a great onboarding tool to educate new employees on company data.


Pace & Protect Yourself

Make sure you pace yourself as you implement and socialise your data analytics plan. You will be shifting the way people think and operate. Be patient as people adjust and learn. You don’t want risk-averse people to give up on the project.


Protect yourself from failing by focusing on the good. Perfect data is the enemy of “getting it done!” Don’t get stalled by focusing on edge cases. For example, if 80% of your data is good quality, you can still identify insightful trends with analytics. It’s a bit of a mindset shift from reporting, but an important shift to make.


Step 2: Aim for Quick Wins


Here are some high impact and easy ways to put your data analytics to work. Start simple and then challenge yourself to move to more complex scenarios.


Visualising Membership Data

Start with a one-off visualisation. Even if you’re a beginner, you can start with a simple spreadsheet to see the impact of what it’s telling you. Try starting with membership data like the number of new members or your retention rate because your colleagues are used to seeing this type of data. If you have limited resources, you can learn how to do this by watching tutorials on YouTube or Microsoft.


Use data at department and leadership meetings

Sharing some visualisations is a very impactful way to bring metrics to life. Use dashboards in meetings to entrench data into your culture. Visualisations will help you illustrate what your organisation is doing to move your mission forward and will show what you need to do to achieve your goals.



Step 3: Turn Your Insights into Action


Think about how you’re going to contribute to the association’s growth with the data. Analytics can help you find out what members like and how they interact with your organisation. For example, breaking things down in real-time can answer your questions and discover even better questions to ask.

  • Find out what your members value most.

  • Determine geographically where the bulk of your new members are coming from.

  • See if seasonality impacts engagement with a certain product.

  • Understand if there is a type of member that isn’t renewing.

  • Identify which member segments attend your meetings and conferences.

Use all of your collected data to target the right messages to the right members. Providing different member segments with content, products and services you know they value will help improve overall member engagement and optimise your marketing campaigns. Here’s some examples of how you can customise messaging to segments based on their engagement level.

  • Most Engaged Members:

  • Share the benefits of volunteering, mentoring or donating

  • Consider separate marketing by the region where your members live

  • Least Engaged Members:

  • Appeal to their specific interests with personalised content

  • Outline the benefits of participating in other activities

  • Engaged Non-Members:

  • Continue to nurture their interest with beneficial activities and opportunities

  • Discuss how similar organisations or individuals benefit from membership


No matter how far along you are in our data analytics journey, keep it moving! If you’d like to dig deeper into how data analytics can help your association, look at our new analytics guide: How to Turn Your Association's Analytics into Action.

Hundreds of associations are able to do this by using our data analytics platform, Acumen. It helps eliminate data wrangling and brings together all an association’s data in one place so they can visualise, analyse and act upon it. Schedule a conversation to learn more. Or you can check out the “how-to” webinars here.