While listening to a podcast this week, I heard a guest quip, “You can’t automate relationships!”

At first, it’s an easy statement to agree with, right? 

Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I actually do use automation a lot in my relationships and doing so has brought consistency and personalization that simply wouldn’t be there otherwise.  Quite frankly, if you’re not showing up and if you’re not relevant, there won’t be a relationship.

So here are several ways I think you CAN automatically build richer relationships with members and prospects.

1.  Automatically be more relevant

If you dump everyone into the same mailing list without noting anything about how they got there or what they are interested in, you’ll be permanently stuck in the trap of sending the same things to everyone.  

It’s like being the person at the party who drones on and on about stuff that most people aren’t interested in at all.  But if you know that this cluster of guests over in the corner are interested in this topic… and those over there would love to talk about that other topic… you’ll have insight that can make you the best conversationalist in the room.

2.  Automatically flag fading connections

When you’re new to your role, or your membership is small, it’s relatively easy to stay in touch. It’s all so exciting and the numbers are manageable.

However, as you gain experience, there’s an ever-growing array of people who need your attention. It’s easy to be caught up in the day-to-day stuff and lose connection with potential strategic partners, members who have sent you great referrals, people who could potentially book you for speaking engagements and more.

I use automated technology to tell me when it's been a while since I've spoken with someone. Every day, I get a suggested list from Contactually that suggests who I should contact. Without that automated trigger, it would be really easy to let days, weeks and months slip by unnoticed.

3. Automatically deliver an exceptional onboarding

As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so the onboarding process is one place where a member’s experience must be flawless.

The key to doing that is automation.  As soon as a member joins, they get added to specific lists.  Need access to the website?  It should automatically happen.  Packet have to go out by mail?  Zip a reminder right on over to the person responsible, or better yet, use an automated service to mail a welcome kit for you.

4. Automatically remember important dates

Without automation, I could never remember that a member was launching a new program next month.  With it, I’ll be reminded to reach out at exactly the right moment to show support or offer congratulations.

Without automation, I’d never remember that an association will be issuing an RFP for a strategic planning facilitator. With it, I’ll be watching for the RFP to be posted so that I can reply and win the business.

These examples alone show how important automation is to my daily experience of relationship-building. Does the automation DO the relationship for me?  Absolutely not.  That’s still my responsibility.

For me, the key is asking, “how do I want to show up in my business relationships?” and then looking for automation that supports doing that.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. 

Share in the comments below. 


Joy Duling is Founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership.  Since 2005, Joy and her team have helped associations, trade groups and membership-based nonprofits run their programs more easily and deliver exceptional member care.

You can find FREE tools, tips and training to help you run and grow your membership organization in The Joy of Membership Help Hub.