All About Data - An Interview with Jeff Horne of Wicket
All About Data - An Interview with Jeff Horne of Wicket
We have access to more data than ever before, but that data is useless if we aren’t using it to inform how we interact with our members. Today, we are joined by Jeff Horne, CEO and Co-Founder of Wicket, a member data platform for associations, to discuss the gap that exists in the conversation about member engagement, and the role an association's tech stack plays. We talk about how you can make sense of all the member engagement data you’re looking at, how to use it to create a better member experience, and much more.
Jeff HorneCEO and Co-Founder, Wicket
Alex Mastrianni: Welcome to The Member Engagement Show with Higher Logic, the podcast for association professionals, looking to boost retention, gain new members and deepen member involvement.
Heather McNair: Throughout our show, we'll bring on some experts, talk shop about engagement, and you'll walk away with strategies proven to transform your organization. I'm Heather McNair.
Alex Mastrianni: I'm Alex Mastrianni and we're happy you're here. Hello everyone. Happy Wednesday. Spring has sprung here in upstate New York, and I am thrilled about it. Heather, how are you doing today?
Heather McNair: I'm great. Yeah, flowers are blooming here too allergies, along with it. But other than that, the weather is gorgeous, exciting to see. And I'm also excited to be talking about one of my all time favorite topics and a huge part of my job here at Higher Logic, data. And we have more data than we ever have before. And not just we here at Higher Logic, everyone out their associations, all sorts of organizations. It's coming from all these different sources, websites, communities, email, online advertising, kind of everywhere we can think of. And it's been really exciting over the last few years to see tools like data lakes, data warehouses, artificial intelligence, sentiment analysis, like all of these crazy fancy terms have become part of our normal day- to- day vernacular and Amazon, AWS, other services have made these things more accessible. They're giving associations who would have looked at this stuff even five years ago and I mean, those are tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to look at those things. Today, they're not. They're a couple of thousand dollars. And so it's made it a lot more accessible and given associations a chance to really better understand their members and bring all of this data together. And I kind of look in community management. My background is a great example of doing things by gut- feel. We've done things by gut feel for so long in the absence of data. And I hate to say, and I've seen this far too many times, but as much as I love, gut- feel like the next person, it can be swayed a lot by personal bias and anecdotal evidence. And that anecdotal evidence, I think a lot in the association space comes from the people whom you interact with the most. And those people may not be representative of your audience as a whole of the membership as a whole. So I'm not sure that associations are taking advantage of the tools that are available to them to really understand that whole membership audience and even customers, prospects, head of that larger audience.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. And I think people want to, I think they see what you can do when you think about personalizing something based on all this data. You know you've got all these data points and it's great and everything, but if you can't actually do something with it, then what is the point? Otherwise, it's just this big overwhelming beast, this creature out there," I know I should be doing something with this, but I don't know what it is." Even when I'm thinking about explaining to my friends or family who maybe aren't in the same industry as me, what I do on a day- to- day basis. I like to point to Netflix, right? That's an example everybody can understand, they are doing great stuff with data. I know that because I binged Gilmore Girls last fall, that now I have all these recommendations that are coming up and they are just popping up. You might like this because you watched this. And I'm just on this consistent loop of them feeding me information, feeding me shows to watch movies, TVs. And I love it. It makes my job as a viewer really easy. It makes it really easy to keep coming back to Netflix because I know I'm going to get what I like when I log into to Netflix, because they have all this data on this stuff that I've watched and they're making recommendations and it's making me a loyal viewer, a loyal customer. So I love to show that example to people when they're like," But what do I do with that? Personalizing with data? What does that even mean?"
Heather McNair: Yeah, absolutely. Netflix is a great example, I should use that one more often. I use Amazon a lot and I should have looked up the stat. It's 30 some percent of Amazon sales come from the recommended products. You log in, you're not even intending to buy this, you didn't even know this kitchen gadget existed. And now that I've seen it, I can't live without it. And it's going to be here tomorrow. And they're doing it with data, by watching what you're buying, what you're looking at. And the more you do the smarter, it gets the better it gets to know you. It's personalizing things. And I think, personalization has been thrown around as another buzzword, but really it's no longer a buzzword. It's an expectation. And in everything we do, we're too busy these days to have to sort through a ton of email that may or may not be relevant to us and figure out," Okay, what's actually applicable?" Everything that comes into my inbox today should be relevant to me. And if I get stuff that isn't relevant to me, frankly, it just ticks me off. I'm like,"Why are you even bothering? You should know who I am and what I do and whether or not this is relevant to me."
Alex Mastrianni: Makes it a lot easier to hit unsubscribe.
Heather McNair: It absolutely does. And there's this whole concept of years ago, and sometimes even today, organizations are still doing this, what we call spray and pray. You send an email out or send a campaign, whatever channel out to everyone. And you hope it sticks with some people. And it's progressed from segmentation into this concept of a segment of one, every single person you treat as an individual and talk to them as an individual. And when we talk about personalization, we'll talk about this today with our guests, that it's not just about how we talk to someone. It's not about customizing an email. It's actually about personalizing. They're using that data to customize the content that you're creating, customizing the things that you're offering. And I'll go back to your Netflix example, Alex. They're not only using the data they're collecting on you to serve you up an email that says because you watch Gilmore Girls, you also might like these, they're using that data to actually create new content, to create new shows that they know are going to be relevant to their different audiences. And I think there's some really powerful lessons out there of organizations, associations, they're doing the exact same thing. ASAE did a study a couple of years ago where they looked at all their community data and they found out that executives were very concerned. It was back in when GDPR was coming into existence and everyone was freaking out about it. Understandably so. And they realized how important and how often this topic was coming up. And so they went out and created a bunch of GDPR related content and their members were extremely grateful that they had done this and they were able to identify that was a really hot trigger for people because they were watching the conversations that were happening out in their community.
Alex Mastrianni: That observation can tell you so much for future programming for how successful the things you're doing are now. But going back to the overwhelming amount of stuff that you have. You've got data sitting in your database, you have your community, you have an email tool, maybe an LMS, think about all the pieces of your tech stack that play together. When they are integrated, it takes so much of that detective work out of it. It takes the difficult level way down. It makes it so much easier to actually act on that data. And that makes it easy for associations to apply those same rules of personalization without taking a ton of time or effort on their part.
Heather McNair: Yeah, absolutely. And that's why we are thrilled to introduce today's guest at Jeff Horne. And he has been sitting there patiently nodding and smiling as we're talking today. So I know he's got a lot to contribute along this topic. So Jeff is the co- founder and CEO of Wicket. And if you're unfamiliar with Wicket, it is a member data platform for associations. So he is right on this topic. And we're going to talk to Jeff about how you can make sense of all this member engagement data, how to use it, to create that better member experience that 360 degree view and a lot more than that. So welcome Jeff. We are really excited to have you here today.
Jeff Horne: Thanks. It's really great to be here. And it's just great listening to your introduction there and yeah, a lot of nodding on my side, for sure. Just in agreement with things you're saying.
Alex Mastrianni: Jeff, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Wicket?
Jeff Horne: Yeah, for sure. So Jeff Horne, I'm the co- founder and CEO at Wicket and we're based in Canada actually. So talking about weather, spring has arrived here. But it's a bit slower than it has arrived in some of your areas I expect, but as you mentioned, we're the world's first member data platform and really transforming how associations can manage their membership data and really modernizing approaches for associations to manage that data, but also to integrate it across that technology stack that you were talking about. So my role at Wicket is overall kind of vision and leadership for where we're going as a company and absolutely love engaging with great partners like Higher Logic.
Heather McNair: Well, we're really excited as I said to have you here to talk about this, because I know back before the pandemic, as I go out and talk about this topic in particular, one of the challenges that I know associations run into a lot is as they're getting all these different technical systems, the learning management system, the association management system, the website, great data coming from all of them, but they do create data silos and they don't have the tools to be able to break those down. So talked to us about data silos, how they're impacting member engagements, how you see the best approach to address those.
Jeff Horne: Yeah. So you couldn't be more right. The data silos are prevalent and it's just not just in the association sector. This is a challenge for all organizations across all different sectors in the association world in particular. I think what's happened I guess the last decade really is that associations have realized that while the traditional association management software, historically has been used to do many, many, many things within the organization, more and more, it's just this realization that there's really great software out there that's purpose- built for handling very specific functional areas, very, very well. And that software has become more and more accessible, right? You can go acquire some of the software even with ITs involvement. So that's changed the game, but to your point, often results in data silos and data silos really are exactly what they sound like. You've got data in separate systems and that data isn't connected together, or at least isn't connected together properly, perhaps. And the impact there. It's interesting. I think there's a few impacts that has. I think for organizations, one of the most fundamental and obvious impacts is its inefficient. You're having to manually try to move data around amongst those systems. So there's just an operational inefficiency to disconnected data and data silos. But I think the biggest impact is trust. It creates a lack of trust in data that when you look in any one of those systems, can you really trust that the data there is up to date that is the most up- to- date information about that member. And of course, that data being up to date in any of those systems has a direct impact on that members experience when they use that system. So it's absolutely all tied together and comes right back to the experience of the member as they engage.
Heather McNair: So I've kind of related to trust I think not only for the staff trusting that data is up to date, I'm guessing you guys have run into the issue where if the member sees information, that's incorrect about themselves that also breaks trust for them.
Jeff Horne: Absolutely. And I think it's something we hear a lot within the sector is that associations will get feedback from their members at times that you should know me. And I've given you a lot of information, at this point, you should know me. And so when they go to a system like your LMS, or maybe your conference platform or your community, if the data they see there is not the most up- to- date information that they've provided, that's a frustrating experience. Right. And it definitely decreases the trust they have that you're listening to them and that you really are trying to provide them the best possible experience as a member.
Heather McNair: Yeah. My car dealership keeps emailing me with the wrong car. Drives me crazy. They're time for service on your such and such car. I'm like, that's not the car I bought. Thanks.
Jeff Horne: Yeah. That's a great example. When you feel like the person or the organization on the other side knows you and has listened, it creates such a better connection.
Heather McNair: Yeah.
Jeff Horne: It makes you feel like you've been understood. You've been listened to, and that's very, very powerful.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. And going back to the idea of trust. As a staff person, who's getting ready to hit send on that email that maybe contains all sorts of customized information because you're like, I want to make sure that these members get this personalized feeling. I want them to feel good when they get my email. I want them to sign up for this event or this webinar or buy this book or whatever it is, make this purchase. And you've got sweaty palms and you're about to hit send. And if you don't have confidence in your systems, you're just sort of panicking I've been there. So I know having those integrated systems can make such a difference.
Heather McNair: Yeah. That's such a great point Alex. And that takes me back to our last episode. We were talking about marketing automation and marketing automation really is only as good as the data you're using to drive it.
Alex Mastrianni: Exactly. If it's not accurate, if it's not up to date, if one system's telling another system, the wrong information, what is the point? You're not going to be able to create that one- to- one experience that we talked about. Jeff question for you. Do you have any examples or stories that you could share maybe of an association you've worked with, who had some of these challenges and made some improvements to their silos or to their tech stack to maybe relieve some of those fears when it comes to putting out the wrong information and then creating that better reception on the member side?
Jeff Horne: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I think that you've used a really good example there with email marketing and marketing automation. And you took the words right out of my mouth with it's only as good as the data that you have in that system and the trust you have in that data. So a common success story we see is with email marketing platforms, right? One of the key integrations that we see with customers that are leveraging our platform is to have a very deep integration with their email marketing system of choice, really for that purpose of synchronizing that key data in real time. And it could be a lot of different data, right? It could be just standard information, like name and what state do you live in all the way down to things like even birth date or other demographic information, active membership, all kinds of different things. And what we see there is that it allows the organization to get away from that spray and pray approach with marketing, which ends up just getting filed away into the members junk folder because you're sending them so much versus that ability to send really, really targeted segmented messaging to those users, which typically means delivering maybe fewer, but much, much higher value in terms of the message you're delivering to them. And so what we commonly see is a dramatic increase in things like open rates and engagement with tools like email marketing. So I think that's a really solid example of just some of the benefits that we see by taking this approach.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. I was recently speaking with a customer and they were telling me about how they were just looking for easy things to automate that they used to do on a manual basis. And you reminded me about when you said the birthday example, they just wanted to send an easy, happy birthday email to folks because they had that data in their system. They're like, you know what? We'll include a coupon for buying something from our online store. And they've been seeing huge spikes in sales, just from that one birthday coupon code. And they're like, we would never get these sales. If we didn't do this one simple email, that's just running in the background with zero work required. And it's just amazing to think about some of those things that you can very easily automate with the data.
Jeff Horne: Yeah. I don't think there's any better success story for an association than something that can be automated that drives revenue, that's a beautiful thing.
Alex Mastrianni: Exactly.
Heather McNair: Well let's keep going now that for a second, Jeff. Automated drives revenue. So obviously the ideal integrate every system that's creating data, that's probably a little overwhelming for a lot of associations. So what would you say key systems to integrate if my association starting from scratch, I'm going to try this tomorrow. What are the key systems I should look at integrating to start getting that 360 degree?
Jeff Horne: Now that's a great question. I think it's kind of starting, really looking from the member's perspective in the places where they are primarily engaging and working from that. So certainly from our perspective there's key systems there. Absolutely. Starting with the website of the association, the public facing website tends to be the starting place for most members for whatever journey they're going to go on, right? Maybe they are going to end up in the online community or they're going to end up in the LMS, but typically they're going to start by coming to the website and logging in. And so when we talk about integration across systems, there's a few actual elements to that. There's synchronization of data across systems, but then single sign on is another really key component, right? As a member, if I have to remember five different usernames and passwords, to be able to access the different tools within the ecosystem of tools being used by the association, that's just a really challenging experience. And it's really going to deter me from engaging as well as I could. And as often as I could, so single sign- on is a key part of that. And so what we like to see a single sign on into a website and then from there being able to launch out to other key tools such as. So learning management system is absolutely another for organizations that do professional development and provide that to their members. So a lot of professional associations, and societies, this is really key. So we see that as another key system that can really help drive an indicator of to what extent a member is engaging with one of the key value propositions of continuing education. Other key systems, absolutely online community just because there is really rich data. And if you're getting your members engaged in discussion, really, that's just an indicator that they really are getting value from their membership. And I think then from outside of that, I think in the association community, events and event management and event registration world, which in the last year has been turned upside down with COVID and the pandemic, but there's really rich data there that often most associations would feel are strong indicators of engagement if people are registering and attending events, whether they're a webinar or they're annual conference.
Heather McNair: Yeah, absolutely. And we didn't pay him to say that about online community. To go back to your SSO comment, yeah, it is. I think people tend to overlook what a barrier to participation that having even having the same password, but having to log in again to a system really is to people. It's a nuisance, but that friction tends to compound. And we've seen it with online community that if people do have to log in, again, it's an irritant and it tends to deter participation and having that seamless SSO across all your systems is absolutely key for that experience.
Jeff Horne: Yeah, I can't agree more. It really is just a critical piece and especially for a member facing tools. As an association, it might be acceptable for a staff member to have to log into another system separately, but any tool that is member- facing that you're expecting your member to log in and interact with single sign on and in my opinion would be one of the very first considerations when looking at integration. And I think that it's really important in 2021 for associations to be, as they evaluate software tools that they're looking to adopt, that they really look hard at integration capabilities of those systems and single sign on being a really, really key piece. I be telling a customer, if you're looking at systems and any one of them, doesn't support single sign on using modern standards for single sign- on. I would immediately remove that system from your list because it's really a must have today.
Heather McNair: Yeah. I think that's a fantastic piece of advice. Are there other kind of pieces of advice along those lines that as people are looking at integrating their tech stacks, again, going for this ideal member experience that you offer people?
Jeff Horne: Yeah, for sure. I think that there's a lot to looking at integrating software systems together and it's evolved dramatically over the last, I guess really the last five years there's been really dramatic changes in how software systems can be integrated. One of the things as we talk to customers or prospective customers, ensuring that evaluating integration capabilities is just part of your review process. And as mentioned, SSO is key to that, but also just understanding it's easy for a software company to say," Yes, we integrate." Right? Yeah, we integrate. And so many times we'll get into situations where the customer or the association was told that this other system," Oh, yes, we can integrate." But then when we get to that point of integration they might as well have put air quotes around, we integrate because they really don't have good tooling for integration. So it should just be a really important part of that evaluation, whether you have IT staff or not just making sure that there's some key questions to ask there around integration capabilities and open API versus a closed integration ecosystem and all kinds of things there. There's also a lot of depending on the types of software tools you're using, there's a lot of ways today that allow you to connect software tools together as a consumer. Tools like Zapier, allow you to just say," I'm using MailChimp and I want this to connect to survey monkey or Eventbrite." The more you get towards software tools that are outside of the inaudible direct association ecosystem, the more opportunities you have for integrations to be easier and easier, but there's also a whole rise of what's called integration platform as a service or I- PASS, which is a whole separate discussion to get into really, but really what those tools are doing are helping to remove the complexity away from integrations and provide great monitoring tools to make sure integrations are working.
Heather McNair: Yeah. It's so funny. We should go back to what you were saying about when companies say we integrate. Definitely dive into that because we've run into it with customers that we've worked with. They're like," Oh no. They said they integrate." And oftentimes it isn't anything beyond SSO. They can say we integrate and it's really just SSO. So dig into that.
Jeff Horne: Yeah, for sure. The leading question is, do you integrate? And then there should be a series of deeper follow up questions that come from that.
Heather McNair: It's interesting that you mentioned Zapier that's the second time in an hour and a half that has come up tool tools like Zapier. Not everyone is familiar with tools like that so do you want to just touch on that briefly?
Jeff Horne: Yeah, for sure. So part of what we do at Wicket is we actually bring that type of tool in kind of into our ecosystem for our customers and really help to manage the leverage of tools like that. So there's the concept of I- PASS or integration platform as a service really is what's been happening over the past five years or so is the development of these companies that are focused on allowing software tools to connect typically via their APIs without having to be a programmer, developer and writing code to do so. So it's kind of like a no- code approach to connecting software systems. And Zapier's probably an example of the most more consumer focused version of that, where we literally it's just go sign up point and click and they put a lot of structure around that and you can just connect software tools together and get some data flowing. What we do is bring in I guess what we call more advanced I- PASS systems that really allow for building the complex workflows within them. Platforms like trade. io, we're huge fans of shuffle exchange as another I- PASS that works specifically right within the association ecosystem. That's fantastic as well. And these tools really just making it easier and easier to integrate software and they're starting to take away excuses of not having good integrations, but then it all does come back to that company on the other end. And do they have an API? Do they support modern standards for integration? Because if they don't, it's a very, very hard to get around that problem.
Alex Mastrianni: So for someone who is less technical like me, we talked a little bit about the benefits in terms of more efficiencies for your internal team, trust on the member side, when they see accurate data, personalized stuff coming through, what would you say to someone who's trying to analyze all of this? They have this 360 degree view because they have their systems talking to each other, what do they do next?
Jeff Horne: Yeah, for sure. I tell you that's a great question. And there's a whole discussion of becoming a data- driven organization. And you're using this data to help start inform decision- making, outside of even just the day- to- day use of that data. I think that there's a few things that you do. So from the standpoint of a platform like Wicket, what we are showing the staff at an association who want to look at a member, we're using that data, that's coming in to basically show the member journey. The member was sent this email marketing campaign that they opened, and then they logged into our website and then they registered for an event, and then they jumped in, so it's telling that story of what's happening. So that's just from a day to day usage, understanding what any individual person is doing is extremely valuable day- to- day. But then there's the broader question of understanding member engagement, right? And that's where you look to BI software, you mentioned data warehouses earlier that are incredibly powerful tools that let you take that data and deliver insights out of it. So it could be we'll have customers that will connect really great BI software, like a Tableau or a power BI to this rich data we have in Wicket to really be able to then create insights out of it and identify trends. But then there's other really great tools within the association ecosystem, like association analytics, that is a data warehouse with this really great BI engine on top of it that can give really great insights and understanding member engagement and seeing trends. So it's about turning the data into action. And I think there's kind of the day- to- day action and usage of the data that you're learning once you're connected. And then there's also strategically looking at broader insights. You can get to understand what's happening, that then allow you to start doing things like maybe start changing how you're designing the programs you're delivering to your members.
Heather McNair: Do you have a favorite aha moment that one of your customers has had?
Jeff Horne: Yeah, that's a great question. I love hearing stories about the impact of personalization kind of coming back to where you started the conversation and that Netflix experience. And I think that what you want, what your ideal is, is that you're able to deliver the information content and resources to your members, where they are, when they need it and that's kind of like the ultimate experience. So those are the stories that we love, where the data that we were able to provide was able to provide a great experience when that user logged into the website and was able to be presented with the specific resources they needed that were based on the data and better yet was automated. So those are the stories we love to hear and to hear from customers it's just how that data can be leveraged. And a lot of the places we're going with our product are towards segmentation and segmentation is just an incredibly powerful tool that today is used in email marketing systems and other tools. But we see a lot of value in segmentation across the software ecosystem that associations operate in. And so we've got some really exciting work that's happening in that area.
Alex Mastrianni: That's awesome. Jeff, this has been great. One last question for you something that we're asking all of our guests now, this is The Member Engagement Show after all. What is your favorite engagement tactic?
Jeff Horne: That's an interesting one. I think there's a few things that I really love. I'm a big fan of modern e- commerce platforms. I really believe the future for associations as they kind of rethink the traditional model they've used and start thinking about membership differently, more towards subscription, but also the idea of really kind of being able to leverage modern e- commerce systems to really unify the shopping experience, things like getting towards that Amazon level recommendation type engine that you can get out of the great e- commerce systems today. I love. And I love the ability because it ties right back to revenue and diversifying revenue for associations. I love that, but there's some other really great software tools out there today. I'm a software person. So I get excited when I see really cool, interesting software coming that helps with engagement. So it's tools like PropFuel a tool I love it's like contextual engagement for associations where you can send an email out and ask just a single question by email, and then that kicks off a workflow and can really create a closer connection to the member to tools like rasa. io, which uses artificial intelligence to deliver tailored newsletters, pulling in content from all different sources. So there's all kinds of great stuff happening from a technology standpoint in the association ecosystem today that gets me really excited.
Heather McNair: Yeah. It is so fun to see how quickly things are advancing in this area. And the organizations like Amazon, they obviously have much bigger budgets than a lot of associations do, that every association does I think I could fairly say, but they are paving the way and they're making all of these tools more accessible to everyone. And I geek out there with you, Jeff. I'm very excited to see what's next.
Alex Mastrianni: Well, thank you again for joining us, Jeff. For our listeners out there who want to hear more from you, where can they find you on the internet or connect with you on LinkedIn? Can you share where they can find you?
Jeff Horne: Yeah, for sure. Our website is wicket. io and you can find me on Twitter at Jeff Horne and definitely find me on LinkedIn. So always great to hear from people and love having conversations about data, engagement anything happening in the association ecosystem from a technology standpoint is what I spend my days thinking about. So always excited to hear and connect with people.
Heather McNair: This was great, Jeff. Thank you so much.
Jeff Horne: Great. Thanks for having me.
Alex Mastrianni: That's going to do it for another episode of the Member Engagement Show. Thanks so much. And we'll see you next week.