Everything you need to know about choosing the right membership management software

Any community-based organisation needs a simple way to manage members, events, and content. But it’s not all about simplifying the administrative roles of your business – it’s also about engaging your community and opening up new sources of revenue.

In this guide, we’ll help you choose the best membership management software.

What is membership management software?

The days of rifling through mountains of paper or staring at spreadsheets until you go cross-eyed are over. Membership management software has transformed the membership business model with the tools and features needed to build a thriving online community. 

The most basic solutions only offer a way to track and manage subscribers or members. But more sophisticated ones let you communicate directly with your target audience via email, instant messaging, and more.

Beyond those basic feature sets, you have a wealth of possibilities depending on the platform you choose. If you’re building a membership management app or site, you might even use it to collect subscription fees or donations or even set up an online storefront. 

Other important functions include analytics to help you monitor the health of your community and live streaming for taking your events or training sessions online. It also helps to have one place where you can store all your content, including that shared or published by your members.

What are the benefits of membership management software?

Membership management software provides a more immersive experience for customers; one that isn’t restricted by physical location. For example, a fitness trainer or business coach could offer trainings online via live-streamed video. Naturally, that opens a world of possibilities to local membership businesses, as well as entrepreneurs wanting to start an online business.

Your customers won’t be the only ones to benefit. Choosing the right software also makes it easier to manage your business. It simplifies all those tedious administrative tasks by letting you manage your members, events, and content in one place. That in turn improves efficiency, not to mention it gives you a new way to engage your community directly. That’s much better than relying on things like email! 

Learn what your target audience wants

No two target audiences look the same. Members of a fitness community are going to have very different needs and desires compared to volunteers in a charity, for example. Since your members are the people who will ultimately determine the success of your community, it’s important you do your research first. You can try asking your existing customers by launching surveys, but here are some examples to help you get started:

  • Access to online training and events: Learning and training are no longer restricted to the classroom. If you have knowledge to share, you can use live streaming to take your classes online and even charge a fee for accessing them. 
  • Let’s say you’re running a local gym like Terry the Trainer. Chances are there will be many people who don’t live nearby but would still like to join training sessions online. Membership software that supports live streaming can help you achieve just that. 
  • A sense of community and social wellbeing: It’s only natural for people to desire a true sense of belonging. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen on the overcrowded social networks, especially with all the privacy concerns. 
  • Almost any small organisation can benefit by building a community around their brand. The same applies to charities like Action for Happiness, which wanted to create a safe and private space where members can discuss sensitive topics like mental health. 
  • An easier way to work as a team: With so many of us now working from home, it can be easy to lose focus on our professional commitments and stay productive in an age of constant distraction. 
  • You can also build an internal membership community for employees, volunteers, or students. This will make it much easier to share files and information, keep members informed about upcoming events, or simply have a chat by a virtual watercooler. 
  • A space for feedback and ideas: When a customer wants to leave feedback, they want you to see it. Chances are, they’re not going to want to send an email, and few take the time to leave an online review. 
  • You should take a customer-centric approach, drawing upon the feedback and ideas of customers themselves. With real-time messaging, upvoting, surveys, or polls, you can use your community to collect valuable feedback. Who knows – it might just reveal the next great product idea! 
  • Self-service customer support: If your organisation is growing fast or its products are quite complex, it never takes long before your customer and technical support teams find themselves struggling to keep up. 
  • A membership community is the perfect platform for boosting support by giving your customers a space where they can help each other. And, of course, there’s no better way to keep in touch than instant messaging and real-time activity feeds.

Chances are, you’ll need membership management software that does more than one of those things. With an all-in-one solution, you can make running your business easier while providing a community-driven experience your members will love.

What to choose the best membership management software

Now you’ve got a better idea of what membership management software can do, let’s look at the features and level of customisation you need. Whether you’re looking for membership site software or a membership management app, here are some of the key features and functions to look for:

  • All-in-one community management: Tool sprawl is a common term in the software world which refers to having far too many apps and systems to the point it becomes a barrier to productivity. That’s why, if at all possible, you need one solution that does everything. 
  • Membership management software is more than just a database of members. It should include everything you need to manage and engage your community. Don’t risk ending up with one app for managing your members, another for engaging with them, and yet another for streaming online events. 🤯 
  • Easy customisation and branding: Every community has an identity and a mission. On the main social networks, those two things tend to get lost in all the digital noise. But your membership management app should be yours and yours alone.

Customising your community shouldn’t come at the cost of trading off functionality. If you choose a white-label platform, you’ll be able to apply your branding, such as logos, colours and custom menu items. That way, your brand stays on the front stage.

  • Integration with your business apps: Let’s say you have a social media app, but you want to send an email to every member of a particular group. In this case, the last thing you want to be doing is manually copying over all the contact details from the app to your email software. 
  • Remember we talked about tool sprawl? Well, while you can’t expect to have one tool for literally every business operation, the right integrations can make things a lot easier. That’s why it’s always better to choose software with an open API to make it play nicely with other apps. 
  • Member analytics and management: It’s all very well giving your members a space to get to know one another and engage with your brand, but it won’t help grow your organisation if you’re getting left in the dark. 
  • Success also counts on having the right info at your fingertips. And by that, we don’t just mean a members database. We’re also talking about managing and moderating your members by setting roles and permissions. You’ll also need analytics to better understand your community and a content library for keeping everything in one place. 
  • Monetisation features and opportunities: Membership software offers a great way to keep in touch with your community, but it can also influence your revenue in more direct ways. 
  • If your platform supports web payments, you can sell products or services directly to your community. For example, a sports team might sell memorabilia via a community app. Other businesses might offer premium subscriptions, online training sessions, or exclusive loyalty discounts.

Chances are, you’re not going to achieve most, let alone all of the above, if you’re just relying on a membership site and email. These channels can help you grow your community for sure, but there’s no better way to keep everything together than by using all-inclusive membership management software

How to create a membership management app

There are lots of different ways to create and roll out membership management software, but it’s probably not something you want to do from scratch. And neither is it very practical to have different apps and platforms for trying to keep your community together. 

Yes, it is technically possible to build a community membership site with a popular content management system (CMS) like WordPress, but you’ll also need to install lots of plugins, many of which cost money. Moreover, it’s not likely to offer a great experience on the small screen. 

We recommend using a white-label app which you can customise to fit your needs and launch quickly without all the overhead of hiring software developers.

Final words

Most membership management software is designed for back-office use, which means you’ll still need a separate community platform for your members. But with our software, you can provide a mobile-centred user experience that gives you full control over your community.

Here’s a recap of our key takeaways:

  • Explore the specific needs of your audience
  • Choose an all-in-one, mobile-centric solution
  • Shortlist your feature and integration requirements

Disciple gives you complete control over your membership community to grow engagement and supercharge revenue.